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If diet and exercise alone aren’t getting you to your weight loss goal, other factors may be to blame. Some chronic conditions cause weight gain, and many prescription medications can contribute to it as well. Fortunately, you can still lose weight despite a condition or medication. Understanding which ones can interfere with your weight loss efforts is the first step toward finding solutions.

Medical and physical conditions that impact weight loss

Roughly 40% of Americans suffer from at least one chronic medical condition, and weight gain can be a symptom of diseases and disorders.

Losing weight with hypothyroidism

Research indicates that roughly 10% of the world’s population has hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). If you’re one of them, your thyroid doesn’t manufacture enough of certain key hormones. The average person with hypothyroidism gains 5 to 10 pounds.

How it impacts losing weight for men and women

The hormonal imbalance associated with hypothyroidism decreases your body’s basal metabolic rate, so you burn calories at a slower pace. This makes it challenging to lose weight via calorie deficiency through diet and exercise alone.

What you can do about it

Getting hypothyroidism under control is the first step toward losing weight with hypothyroidism. Make sure to take medications prescribed daily and to follow through on checkup appointments with your doctor to ensure the success of your treatment plan.

Counting calories is often not the best approach to weight loss with hypothyroidism because of the metabolic effects of the condition. Instead, focus on increasing your physical activity and making healthier food choices by cutting down on refined sugar and processed foods and eating more lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Losing weight with sleep apnea

Roughly 22% of men and 17% of women in the U.S. have obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time during the night. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for the condition. One study found that reducing your body mass index (BMI) by just 10% can reduce symptoms, but many people find losing weight with sleep apnea to be challenging.

How it impacts losing weight for men and women

Sleep apnea interferes with weight loss primarily because it decreases the quality of sleep. When you don’t get enough rest, your body may not produce enough of an appetite-controlling chemical called leptin. Low levels of leptin can cause you to feel hungry even after eating and contribute to overeating at mealtime. In addition, sleep apnea often causes fatigue. When you’re low on energy, you’re less likely to want to exercise.

What you can do about it

Improving your sleep quality needs to be a top priority when losing weight with sleep apnea. In addition to following the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor, ensure that your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. Adding a white noise machine or room-darkening curtains may help you rest more soundly at night. Also, consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation, as both can interfere with sleep.

Losing weight with PCOS

Approximately 6 to 12% of women in the U.S. suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder that occurs when the ovaries become enlarged due to the presence of small cysts. Weight gain is a common symptom of the condition.

How it impacts losing weight for women

PCOS often causes insulin-resistance. With this condition, your body’s cells don’t respond properly to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. In order to keep glucose levels in check, your body must manufacture more insulin. This can lead to increased hunger. In addition, your body may convert more sugar to stored fat due to insulin-resistance. Together, these effects contribute to weight gain and make losing weight with PCOS difficult.

What you can do about it

Counting calories alone is unlikely to lead to big losses if you have PCOS. Instead, you should focus on eating foods that help keep blood sugar levels in check. Avoid processed foods, especially those with added sugar. Eating too many carbohydrates on their own can cause spikes in blood glucose, so consume healthy carbs like whole grains along with other foods like lean protein and vegetables. Getting 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week can support weight loss and increase insulin sensitivity.

Losing weight after a hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure that involves removing the uterus or the uterus and the cervix. It may be necessary to treat gynecological cancers, fibroid tumors, endometriosis and other conditions. Research shows that women who have undergone hysterectomies often have higher BMIs and experience weight gain at a faster pace than women who haven’t.

How it impacts losing weight for women

Following a hysterectomy, your body undergoes a rapid drop in estrogen levels. As a result, you experience many of the same challenges as women losing weight during menopause. Your metabolic rate decreases drastically, making it more difficult for you to shed pounds. In addition, changes in estrogen levels lead to the redistribution of fat to your midsection.

What you can do about it

The right fitness routine is important when losing weight after a hysterectomy. In addition to aerobic exercise, strive to complete strength-training workouts two to three times per week to build muscle mass and encourage your body to burn fat instead of muscle tissue. A healthy diet free of processed foods and rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables is also essential. In addition, your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease menopause symptoms and support weight loss.

Medications that impact weight loss

Roughly two-thirds of all adults in the U.S. take one or more prescription drugs on a daily basis, and weight gain is a common side effect of many frequently prescribed medications.

Losing weight on antidepressants

Many people report struggling to lose weight on Zoloft and Lexapro, two selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. These drugs work by reducing how much of the brain chemical serotonin neurons absorb. As a result, levels of serotonin increase in the brain to ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

How antidepressants impact losing weight for women and men

Serotonin does more than just act as a feel-good chemical. It also plays a role in appetite control. When taking an SSRI antidepressant, you may feel hungrier or crave carbs. Some people even wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry and become prone to fatigue. These effects can make it difficult to make healthy food choices, control portion size and increase your level of physical activity to lose weight.

Losing weight on birth control

Hormonal types of birth control like birth control pills, patches and vaginal rings help prevent unwanted pregnancies by increasing levels of either estrogen and progestin or progestin on its own to prevent ovulation.

A systematic review of clinical data found that hormonal birth control doesn’t lead to major weight gain, and that water retention is the most likely cause of any small increases in weight that women experience when they begin using hormonal birth control. However, studies do suggest that birth control pills may lead to changes in body composition. One study found that women on birth control built 40% less muscle mass than those who didn’t after a 10-week strength-training fitness program. Another found that women aged 18 to 26 who used hormonal types of birth control stored more fat around their waists and hips.

How birth control impacts losing weight for women and men

The findings of scientific studies suggest that birth control pills may not interfere with your ability to lose weight but that you may find it more difficult to lose belly fat and build muscle despite adopting a healthy diet and exercise plan.

Losing weight on prednisone and other corticosteroids

Corticosteroids like prednisone are drugs used to treat inflammation. Doctors frequently prescribe them for chronic conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disorder, arthritis, skin rashes and asthma.

How steroids impact losing weight for women and men

Weight gain is a common side effect of prednisone and corticosteroids. Long-term use of corticosteroids can lead to insulin resistance, causing your body to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check. Over time, this can lead to fat storage. In this way, the challenges of losing weight on prednisone are similar to those faced by people with PCOS.

In addition to insulin-raising effects, corticosteroids can also cause your body to retain water, leading to bloating and extra pounds. The drugs also boost appetite and may cause you to overeat or snack more between meals, undermining your weight loss efforts.

What you can do about medications that interfere with weight loss

Although it may be tempting, don’t stop taking your medicine on your own to lose weight. Doing so could lead to health complications, and in some cases, simply discontinuing the drug may not even be enough to spur weight loss.

When medications interfere with losing weight for women and men, the first step toward finding a solution is a reassessment of the treatment plan. Doctors may prescribe a different medication or try other interventions. If this isn’t possible, you will need to get on a weight loss program that can help you shed pounds despite your medication.

How Forward can help you lose weight despite your health status

As your primary care provider, Forward can help you achieve your weight loss goals even if a medication or condition makes it hard for you to shed pounds. Our 12-week, doctor-led Weight Management Program starts with assessments and diagnostic tests that give us a clear picture of your overall health. In addition to developing a personalized diet and program that fits your lifestyle and culture, our team can modify your treatment plan as needed to set you up for weight loss success.

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