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The lesser known factors that contribute to weight gain

When it comes to managing our weight, we often find ourselves circling back to the familiar touchstones of diet and exercise. Yet, beyond these more common paths are a host of subtle forces quietly influencing whether the body gets the message to store or burn fat as a fuel. Unveiling these covert influencers offers not just insight, but empowerment, arming us with the knowledge to make nuanced decisions that enhance our health and lifestyle. As we peel back the layers of conventional wisdom, we discover that managing weight is more commonly much more that what we eat or how much we move – it’s about understanding the hidden dynamics at play.


While we slumber, our bodies are anything but idle. Sleep regulates myriad biological processes, including appetite hormones. Lack of sleep disrupts the balance between ghrelin and leptin, hormones responsible for hunger and fullness respectively. Plus, when we’re tired, our body looks for ways it can boost our energy. Consequently, sleep-deprived individuals may find themselves reaching for snacks more frequently – particularly carbohydrate-rich foods that give the body a quick energy source. If sleep is an ongoing battle for you, I encourage you to explore what might be disrupting it for you and do your absolute best to make changes that support more restorative sleep. These tips are a good place to start.


In today’s fast-paced world, for many people stress is as ubiquitous as the air they breathe – and it is most often, ongoing. Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that can lead to overeating, as well as a preference for poor quality, carbohydrate-rich foods (think ultra-processed foods). Stress can also impact sleep and our mindset, which can make us less inclined to engage in physical activity. To address stress effectively, it is essential to consider how our perception contributes to our stress levels. Because it’s not just the external events themselves but how we interpret and react to them that determines our stress response. It can also help to incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and regular physical activity into our daily routines. Engaging in these practices can help moderate cortisol levels, improve overall mood, and enhance our capacity to make more nourishing and health supporting choices.

Gut health

Our gut hosts a complex community of bacteria that significantly influences our health, including our weight. An imbalance in this microbiota can affect food preferences, nutrient absorption, hormone regulation, neurotransmitter production, and even the extraction of nutrients from food. Factors such as antibiotic use, dietary choices, and stress can impact microbial balance, underscoring the importance of maintaining gut health through focusing on eating primarily whole real food and minimising junk.


Caffeine acts on the adrenal glands, via the brain, by stimulating the production of adrenaline. When adrenaline is released, your blood sugar elevates to provide more energy, and your blood pressure and pulse rate rise to provide more oxygen to the muscles, which tense in preparation for action. Blood is diverted away from digestion, and reproductive functions are down-regulated since they use a lot of energy and are not necessary for our immediate survival, given the impending ‘threat’.

Whether your adrenaline production is the result of real or perceived stress, or simply the result of your caffeine intake, caffeine, via stress hormones and coupled with the response of your nervous system, can lead to fat storage, because insulin — the energy/fat-storage hormone — will first convert unused glucose from your blood into glycogen and store it in your muscles and what is left over will be converted into body fat. Consider whether caffeine really is benefiting your health and try to stick to no more than one cup (one shot) of coffee a day or take a break and see if it makes a difference.

Synthetic chemical load

Over the last fifty years, the array of synthetic chemicals used in consumer products, agriculture, and industry has grown exponentially. Synthetic chemicals are now widespread in everything from the detergent that cleans our clothes to the preservatives in our food and the pesticides sprayed on our vegetables. Many of these substances are known endocrine disruptors, that mimic hormones in the body and meddle with our metabolic health. Plus, they add significant load to our liver as they require detoxification. Hormonal imbalances and an overwhelmed liver are two factors that contribute to the body getting the message to store rather than use fat, so reducing your synthetic chemical load can be an important part of any weight loss journey. While complete avoidance of these chemicals is nearly impossible, we can make informed decisions about what we choose to consume, clean our homes with and put on our skin to reduce our overall load. Do your best with this and then after a while, stretch a little further.

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