NL Woman: Seven sneaky causes of weight gain

Not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain
Not getting enough sleep can contribute to weight gain

According to research, noise pollution could be making us fatter. But why else are we struggling to lose weight?

Raiding the biscuit tin has probably played a part in my total failure to achieve that must-have ‘beach body’ this year, but that’s OK - thanks to scientists in Sweden, I have the perfect excuse.

You see, it’s not my fault - it’s the continuous rumble of the air-con at work that’s to blame.

Well, that’s my slightly warped interpretation of research from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which found a link between exposure to constant high noise levels of trains, planes and automobiles and the waistlines of those who lived nearby.

Tummy sizes expanded by 21mm for every five decibels louder the noise became. According to the scientists, noise pollution from traffic could be disrupting sleep and raising cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which could both be responsible for weight gain around the tummy.

Dr. Andrei Pyko, the lead study author, said: “Traffic noise may influence metabolic and cardiovascular functions through sleep disturbances and chronic stress. Sleep disturbances may affect immune functions, influence the central control of appetite and energy expenditure, as well as increase circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”

So surely having to listen to the stress-inducing constant air-con drone is behind my need to consume additional calories each day, right?

Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Fat Around The Middle (, serves up some other reasons we could be gaining weight...

n Artificial sweeteners

“Artificial sweeteners, which are found in diet drinks and foods, can make you gain weight and increase your appetite, which is ironic really, when most people are using them thinking they can help control their weight. But because they taste sweet, but have no calories, your body gets confused. When your body tastes something sweet, it expects to receive a bulk of calories, but the artificial sweeteners don’t provide the calories, so your body makes you crave those calories from other foods to make up the difference - and you can end up eating more.”

n Fad diets

“Dieting can make you put on weight because your body thinks there is a famine going on, it doesn’t know you have reduced your calories deliberately. So your body slows your metabolism and holds onto fat stores. When you go back to eating normally, the weight loss [which was probably largely down to muscle and water] goes back on just as fat, so you can actually get fatter after crash dieting.”

n Lack of sleep

“If you are not getting enough sleep, your body will produce more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and less leptin, which makes you feel full, so lack of sleep makes it much harder to lose weight. One study showed that people on a diet who slept for eight-and-a-half hours lost 55% more body fat than those who slept for just five-and-a-half hours.

“Not only does sleep deprivation make it harder for your body to let go of fat, but it also makes you hungrier the next day, triggering cravings for sweets and refined white carbohydrates as you search for something to give yourself a quick lift.”

n The menopause

“We tend to gain weight as we get older, because we lose muscle, which causes our metabolism to slow down and makes it harder to lose weight. But during and after the menopause, our bodies often put on extra weight, especially around the middle. Fat is a manufacturing plant for oestrogen, so as you go through the menopause, your oestrogen levels are falling and your body knows that any oestrogen your fat cells can produce will help protect your bones from osteoporosis.”

n Skipping breakfast

“Research has shown that people who skip breakfast can gain more weight than those who don’t. If you miss breakfast completely, your body immediately registers famine and hangs on tight to your ample stores of fat.”

n Eating on the run

“It gives your body the message that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient. Make a point of sitting down and eating your food as calmly as possible.”

:: Eating too fast

“Chew well! It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, so when you eat slowly, you have eaten less food by the time your body tells you you’ve had enough.”