If you've got a few pounds, do not panic: Small fluctuations in weight are common, and just about anything to worry about. But if you've got 5 pounds or more in a matter of weeks or even days, it's time to take notice. "For a guy, five pounds is kind of-thing-thing-something's going on here," says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.
Cheskin explains that among women, but not so much among men. Especially if your weight has been stable for months or years, sudden weight gain is noteworthy, he adds. What could be the cause?
You're Eating Too Much Salt
Sodium consumption causes your body to retain water, Cheskin says. Water has weight and volume. So if you eat a lot of salty food several days in a row, you may pack on weight quickly, he says.
Restaurant food-and especially fast-food to be loaded with sodium. If you spent a long day away from home and you filled your days with food and drink, that could be your abrupt influx of pounds.
"There are many medications that may cause weight gain," says W. Scott Butsch, M.D., director of obesity medicine at the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, 1
5 years of obesity cases, he says.
Depression medications (including SSRIs) and heart disease drugs (beta blockers) are two common culprits, butsch explains. But prescription sleep aids, painkillers, and even some allergy-blocking antihistamines can cause "a bump in weight," he says.
Add steroid and testosterone-boosting drugs or supplements to that list, Cheskin says. These drugs act on your hormones, which could certainly be a weight increase. That includes OTC or internet-order supplements, he adds.
You're Eating (or Drinking) More
This one may seem obvious. But if you've had any more, you could say, "There's a change in your weight over a period of one or more months," Cheskin says.
"Alcohol is a consideration too," he adds. "It contains calories just like food."
It is important to recognize that these changes can be subtle. Maybe you've started attending a weekly happy hour. Or maybe you have bought new dishware, and you have not got it. "If you're eating just 500 calories more a week, over time that can add up," he says.
You're Moving Less
Even small changes to your physical activity habits can track weight gain, Cheskin says. "Maybe you drive to a lot for work, and now you're driving," he suggests.
If you've done that, you've got that weighted average. Cheskin says that muscle mass (and the strength that builds it builds) tends to keep your metabolism elevated, which helps you burn calories.
Ditch your usual gym regimen-or vary it in ways that cause you to loose muscle mass and the downshift in your metabolism.
You Recently Lost Weight
It would be really, really nice if lost weight stayed lost. But just the opposite is true.
"Our body weight and body fat are tightly regulated, and [our system] wants act to maintain balance," Butsch says. If you keep up your weight-loss routine, he adds.
So if you've just dropped some weight, it's very likely that you'll be putting some of it back on-regardless of how much you're eating or exercising.
You Have an Endocrine Disorder
Roughly one in five adults has been underactive thyroid-thus known as hypothyroidism-according to the National Institutes of Health. While this condition is much more common in women, Cheskin says "plenty of men experience hypothyroidism."
While less typical, some other hormone disorders-namely, Cushing's disease-can also cause weight gain, Butsch says. If you have any of these endocrine disorders, it probably does not. Fatigue, weakness, headache, problem thinking, and depression or irritability are all signs of hormone disorders, according to the Mayo Clinic.