In treating a person with obesity, most health care providers ‘simply’ recommend weight loss, and treatment of the health complications associated with obesity.  The possible causes or contributors to that person’s weight struggle are often overlooked.


A recent article published in Obesity Reviews gives a very comprehensive approach to detecting underlying causes of obesity.   The authors provide tips as to potential causes of obesity that need to be looked for, including (and this list is not exhaustive):

  • medications that cause weight gain, along with how much weight (eg some diabetes, antidepressant, antipsychotic, antiseizure, blood pressure meds, and steroids) – see a list of alternatives that don’t cause weight gain here)
  • insufficient sleep (can alter hunger/fullness hormones and increase cortisol levels, leading to weight gain)
  • yo-yo effect (weight regain may alter hunger and fullness hormones for up to a year afterwards)
  • smoking cessation
  • chronic stress
  • binge eating disorder
  • depression
  • hypothyroidism
  • low testosterone in men
  • menopause
  • monogenic (single gene) or syndromic obesity
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • alcohol abuse
  • hypothalamic obesity

It is important that we overcome the stigma widely held by society in general (and this includes health care providers) that obesity is ‘simply’ a consequence of eating too much and not exercising enough.  We are far less likely to have success in treatment of obesity if we are not identifying and treating the underlying causes and contributing factors. 


This article is a must-read for any health care provider helping people with weight struggles, and very informative for people struggling with excess weight as well.


Dr Sue Pedersen © 2019 

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