Other Risk Factors

Diet, physical activity, and lifestyle can be affected by other risk factors. These risk factors include smoking, pregnancy, lack of sleep, age, medications, and emotional factors.

Smoking
Food often tastes and smells better after quitting smoking. For this reason, people who stop smoking may find it more difficult to control the amount of calories they’re eating. Additionally, nicotine raises the rate at which the body uses calories, so people who stop smoking use fewer calories. As a result, some people who stop smoking may gain weight. However, smoking is a serious health risk, and quitting is more important than possible weight gain. It is important, though, to be aware of the possibility of weight gain and take steps to avoid becoming overweight after quitting smoking.

Pregnancy
Women who are pregnant gain weight to support their babies’ growth and development. Weight gain during pregnancy varies depending on height and pre-pregnancy weight, but there are some general guidelines that apply to most women. In general, during the first three months, a pregnant woman should gain one to four pounds total. In months four through nine, she should generally gain two to four pounds per month.

Most women who gain the suggested amount of weight lose it fairly quickly after the birth of the baby and in the months that follow. However, some women find it difficult to lose weight after giving birth. This may lead to being overweight or obese, especially after multiple pregnancies. A low calorie diet and increased physical activity can help women lose those extra pounds, and breastfeeding for more than three months has also proven helpful for weight loss after giving birth.

Lack of Sleep
The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, but there are general recommendations for different age groups.

Age Recommended Amount of Sleep
Newborns 16–18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11–12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9–10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly) 7–8 hours a day
 

Sleep helps the body maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that cause us to feel hungry or full. The hormone that makes us feel hungry is called ghrelin, and the hormone that makes us feel full is called leptin. Not sleeping enough causes the level of ghrelin to go up and the level of leptin to go down. The result is that someone who isn’t getting enough sleep will usually feel hungrier than someone who’s well-rested.

Age
As we get older, we tend to lose muscle, especially if we don’t stay active. Muscle loss can slow down the rate at which the body uses calories. For this reason, it’s important to reduce the number of calories you eat as you get older.

Women may also struggle with weight during menopause. Many women gain about five pounds during menopause and have more fat around the waist than they did before.

Medications
Certain medications may cause weight gain. Some corticosteroids, antidepressants, and seizure medicines can slow the rate at which the body uses calories, increase appetite, or cause the body to hold extra weight. Be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements. In some cases, your provider may suggest another medicine that has less effect on weight.

Emotional Factors
Some people use food as a coping mechanism when they’re bored, sad, angry, or stressed. If these moods persist or occur often, this may result in overeating and a lack of energy balance.