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Grossly Overweight, But Don't Eat Much

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I am currently a 18 y/o male that is 5'8" weighing around 240lbs. I know I grossly overweight but I am concerned about the fact that I do not eat much. On average I eat hardly anything, such as one package of ramen nooodles. I skip breakfast and never around to eat dinner. I am not physcially active which I know is bad. What my major concern is I do not have a huge appitite even though I am so big why is it that I am so fat even though I don't each much.
Signed: Grossly Overweight, But Don't Eat Much

Dear Grossly Overweight, But Don't Eat Much,


Weight gain can be an extremely frustrating thing. The usual culprit for weight gain is overeating, not exercising enough, or a combination of the two. When you take in more calories than you require, and you don’t expend through activity a sufficient amount of calories based on how much you are eating, those extra calories turn into excess weight. But there are cases where people might find that they are gaining weight despite exercising and/or eating a healthy diet on a daily basis – and various underlying causes to consider.


However, in your case before considering underlying causes FX thinks that it is important that you make certain adjustments to your eating and exercise habits. If you are skipping meals and not eating much throughout the day then it is possible that you body has moved into starvation mode. When the body worries about how much food is coming in that can be used for fuel, it automatically starts to turn the calories that do come in into fat. So it is very important that you eat more regularly throughout the day, and that you choose healthy foods while exercising good portion control. As for how physically active you are, FX suggests that you think about two things. The first is how you can start to incorporate aerobic activity at least 3-5 times per week into your schedule. You can participate in walking, running, biking, swimming, or any other activity that gets your heart rate up. In addition, if you find that you generally participate in activities where you are sitting (using the computer, watching tv, playing video games, etc.), that can definitely contribute to weight gain. Think about ways in which you can be up and around more – work PT, do volunteer work, join clubs at school, run errands with friends or family members – anything that keeps you more on the go.  


You can speak with your doctor about how to start making these changes to your diet and exercise regimen in healthy way. And if, after making these changes and working at this new lifestyle for some time, you find that you are still gaining weight, then talk to your doctor about whether there could be any underlying causes to your weight gain. Some of the following reasons people may gain weight despite a healthy diet/exercise regimen can include:


  • An underlying medical condition. Medical problems such as diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, or thyroid problems can contribute to unexplained weight gain. Hormonal imbalances can also be the culprit.
  • Medications. Certain kinds of medications, such as steroids and anti-depressants, have been linked with weight gain.  
  • A lack of essential fats. Not all fats are bad and there are certain kinds of essential fats that our bodies do need. These fats, known as Omega-3 fats, can be found in foods like fish and olive oil. Not only can they help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of arthritis and other joint problems, but if you don’t get enough of these healthy types of fats, you can end up having cravings for fatty foods that are filled with saturated fats.
  • Food allergies. For some people their food allergies are so extreme they could end up in a medical emergency if exposed to certain types of foods. But for other people, the allergy simply causes weight gain – in which case allergy tests might be useful in ruling out contributing factors to unexplained weight gain.
  • Quitting Smoking. One reason people gain weight after they quit smoking is because the cigarettes end up being replaced by foods and snacks.
  • Emotional reasons: People will often turn to foods such as chocolate, sweets, crispy foods, and fried foods when feeling down. And it is easy to lose track of eating little snacks and taking small bites here and there and being able to see how all those calories add up. Obviously, these types of foods will contribute to weight gain.
  • Eating Disorders. Binge Eating Disorder (BED).
  • Age: There are metabolic rate changes that naturally occur as a person ages. This means it can fee like an uphill battle to maintain your weight as you age because there is a tendency for the body to lose muscle mass and to increase the amount of fatty tissue that is present.
  • Stress. Many people think that stress can be a cause of weight loss because of irregular eating and lack of appetite. However, the opposite can actually be true. Stress hormones, such as Cortisol, cam block weight loss and even contribute to weight gain. Sometimes the body interprets stress in any form (emotional, physical or even diet-related) as it’s being in a famine state. When this happens, the body automatically turns as many calories as it can into fat.
  • Dieting. Yo-yo dieting and high-carb, low fat diets can actually lead to insulin resistance, and the body ends of storing all calories as fat even though the body’s cells are being starved of nutrients.  
  • Genetics. To a certain degree our body types and metabolism are genetically determined.
  • Injury or illness. Physical inactivity related to injury or illness.


If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-6475 for an appointment or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network primary care physicians and adolescent medicine specialists.

Signed: TeenHealthFX