September 12, 2023

Unnoticed Factors That Affect Your Weight

Insight beyond diet and exercise

Our body weight is not entirely determined by how much energy we consume by eating and drinking or calories that our body burns to function. Calories are the primary cause of weight loss and gain, sure, but could it be more complicated than that?

Photo by Annushka Ahuja

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Factors that influence our body weight

  • gut microorganisms
  • our genetic makeup
  • lifestyle & daily habits
  • education around food
  • the diet our mothers followed before and during pregnancy
  • hormonal imbalances
  • medication
  • environmental influences, such as food availability
  • cultural beliefs and attitudes towards nutrition
  • stress levels
  • more complex psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia and eating disorders

The very, very beginning

A child’s risk of being overweight or even obese is influenced by the weight the mother is at during pregnancy. The more excess weight the mother has, the higher the risk becomes for the child.

Research results have found that breastfeeding, besides its many other beneficial properties for both the mother and the child, is linked to significantly lower odds of general obesity and high body fat in young children.


Hormones play a huge role in how your body uses and stores energy. They can

  • influence appetite
  • control how quickly fat is burned
  • and regulate how much fat is stored in the body

For example, higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, can lead to weight gain, while lower levels of leptin, a hormone that signals satiety, can increase appetite and cause overeating.

Alongside leptin is ghrelin. Both hormones play a major role in appetite control.

  • Leptin is the hormone that sends signals to the brain to suppress hunger and reduce food intake,
  • while ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates hunger and increases food intake

When leptin levels are high, it signals that you’re full and don’t need to eat more; when ghrelin levels are high, it signals that you’re hungry. These hormones work together to help regulate appetite, body weight, and energy balance.

Additionally, hormones like insulin can affect how your body responds to consuming carbohydrates, making it easier for your body to store fat.

Stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, underlying medical conditions, and age and some of the factors that may lead to some kind of hormonal imbalance.

Food availability

In most countries today, you can find highly processed food and snacks with lots of saturated fat and very little nutritional value. Supermarkets, mini markets, restaurants, gas stations, they all have a big array of ‘unhealthy’ options. It is easy to just grab a snack when you’re on the go.

One might say that vegans are more fortunate on that end. The majority of snacks you will find in shops are non-vegan, sure. However, because a balanced plant-based diet requires more planning overall, it is easy for vegans too, to opt for highly processed options.


Eating sugar too often may actually leave us craving it even more.

Here is why: Eating certain foods can trigger a reward response in the brain. This is called hedonic hunger, and it is mediated by the neural reward system. Our environment, cultural influences, and marketing messages can all have a strong effect on our eating habits and decisions. It is important to find a balance in your diet in order to maintain good health and be at a stable weight and avoid any negative health consequences.

Note; That being said, it is perfectly normal to enjoy snacks and processed foods every once in a while. After all, it’s important to treat yourself now and then and satisfy your psychological needs. So, while it’s alright to indulge every now and then, make sure you find a healthy balance in your diet.

What if ‘It runs in your family’?

Some people may have more difficulty getting rid of excess weight, or even gaining weight. “It’s part of our family history,” or “It seems to be a shared trait in our family,” are phrases we hear often.

Suggesting that one’s genes and heredity may be a factor in the development of certain physical and behavioural traits is not wrong. However, simply having a weight problem in one’s family does not necessarily mean that you cannot break from it or that everyone in the family will likely also suffer from the same issue, especially if it’s not specifically genetic but biopsychosocial.

Many other conditions — such as environment, upbringing, and lifestyle — can contribute to how an individual develops and may ultimately dictate whether or not an individual develops a similar weight problem to their family members.

Our genes do play a role in our overall appearance, from physical structure to the risk of developing particular diseases. Each person may have a particular inclination for a behavioural trait or for a specific ailment that is either genetic or neurological in nature.

In the very end, though, it is in our hands whether or not we want to take action, and we shouldn’t rest easy just because we are more prone to x, y or z. Anything that is virtuous requires effort; that is the price to be paid for improvement.

Thank you for reading and supporting our love for vegan nutrition.

If you want to know more about our nutrition programs, visit activeplantbased.

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