The Scary Truth Behind What Really Happens to Your Body When You Gain Weight

Some days, it can feel like weight gain has become your worst enemy. You’re trying everything you’ve been told to keep your weight down. Nothing’s working. Despite the number on the scale, you’re starting to worry about what might happen inside your body if you keep gaining. Will you get sick? Will you ever be able to lose weight again?

The reason you’re gaining weight likely comes down to a few key factors. Read on to find out what’s really happening to your body — and how to stop these problems before they become dangerous.

Your brain chemistry changes

woman looking at brain exhibit

You might not recognize your brain anymore. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Some small studies have suggested people who are considered obese have different brain chemistry than those who aren’t. Differences in the regions of the brain in charge of habit-forming and reward might explain why weight gain and depression often go together.

Experts don’t yet fully understand the connection between mental health and gaining weight. However, many people tend to fall into a vicious cycle of trying to control their weight, only to suffer emotionally as a result.

Next: Weight gain could cause a serious medical condition you might not even know you have.

You might have trouble breathing

exhausted woman running outdoors

Your breathing might become more labored. |

Excessive weight gain sometimes leads to a condition called sleep apnea, a disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you’re asleep. Because your brain wakes you up to make sure you resume breathing normally, you might lose hours of sleep — which could lead to even more weight gain.

Next: How does excess fat “collect” inside your body?

Extra calories convert to fat

Woman measuring her belly fat with her hands

Fat is what happens when you eat more than you need to. |

How does “fat” happen? It’s not just a result of eating large amounts of fat. When you eat more calories than you need to, your liver converts both carbohydrate and fat molecules into fat and stores them in your body’s “fat cells” until you need energy.

Weight gain happens when you continue to store more energy than you’re burning off. It continues to collect in storage because it has no place to go.

Next: Is there a link between weight gain and cancer?

Cells sometimes become cancerous

Cancer cell made in 3d software

Cancer may take over. | vitanovski/iStock/Getty Images

About 40% of all cancer diagnoses in the U.S. from 2005 to 2014 were related to overweight and obesity. Gaining weight doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop any type of cancer, but it does significantly increase your risk.

Poor diet — often associated with weight gain, though not always — also increases your cancer risk. If you’re looking for a place to begin transforming your diet for better health, start with added sugars.

Next: Your heart might be in danger. Here’s why.

Your blood pressure skyrockets

Doctor checking a young man's blood pressure

Make sure you check your blood pressure regularly. | iStock/Getty Images

Weight gain puts extra stress on your heart, which can lead to dangerously high blood pressure. If you don’t get your blood pressure — and weight — under control, you could develop diabetes, have a stroke, or increase your chances of developing dementia later in life.

Next: Your blood pressure isn’t the only number that rises as your weight does.

So do your blood sugar levels

Man checking blood sugar level

Type 2 diabetes is a common side effect of obesity. |

Almost 90% of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight around makes it harder for your body to use insulin the way it’s intended to. Unfortunately, untreated high blood sugar can be dangerous — and even fatal.

Next: This heart disease-causing chemical becomes more dangerous the more you weigh.

More cholesterol collects in your blood

blood test to determine cholesterol

Getting your cholesterol checked is a must. | Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Weight gain puts you at risk for developing high cholesterol. The extra cholesterol that collects in your blood can clog your arteries, which is a major cause of heart disease and other related problems. A poor diet isn’t always the main cause of weight gain, but it’s a major contributor to high cholesterol.

If you already have high cholesterol and are trying to eat healthier while also keeping your levels in a safe range, avoid these foods no matter what.

Next: This is the main reason you’re probably gaining weight.

Why you’re probably gaining weight — and how to handle it

sneakers, weight plates, dumbbells, sandwich

You might be doing everything right, but sometimes the weight remains. | Dash_med/iStock/Getty Images

You know the obvious weight gain culprits — eating too much and not exercising being the most common reasons people struggle. However, hormone imbalances, some medications, and thyroid issues could also cause unwanted weight gain.

If you think you have any of the above issues, a trip to the doctor might be a helpful first step. If your diet’s troubling you, here are a few suggestions to help jump-start your healthy weight loss endeavors.

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