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Have you heard people say they just can’t lose weight even when they nearly starve themselves? Ever felt that way yourself?

A large number of Americans struggle to lose weight every day, despite adhering to healthy diets and regular exercise programs. So what is really going on? While diet and exercise are certainly the two biggest factors, and eating healthy and exercising will result in weight loss for the majority of people who try them, for some it’s just not enough.

In fact, there are several causes of weight gain that have nothing to do with diet or even exercise … so if you’ve been stuck in a weight-loss plateau, keep reading to find out if one of these explanations may be to blame …

1. Lack of Sleep

Too little sleep can have a big impact on your waistline, and not in a good way. How? By altering levels of hormones that regulate hunger. According to one study by University of Chicago researchers, people who slept only four hours a night for two nights had an 18 percent decrease in leptin, a hormone that signals your brain you’ve had enough food, and a 28 percent increase in ghrelin, the “hunger” hormone.

Not surprisingly, after getting such little sleep, the participants noted a 24 percent increase in appetite, with a particular desire for sugary, salty and starchy foods, like candy, chips and pasta.

A separate study also found that people who sleep less than four hours a night are 73 percent more likely to be obese than people who sleep more, while a new study in the International Journal of Obesity found that middle-aged women who have trouble sleeping may gain more weight than well-rested women.

In short, once your sleep patterns have been disrupted, your body will be prone to weight gain and overeating. Meanwhile, overeating may further throw off your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, leading to a vicious cycle that can be hard to overcome.

Creating a relaxing bedtime routine, which can include a warm bath, a foot massage, stretching, or listening to the wonderful soothing music, can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.

According to Marc Hamilton, Ph.D., a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, numerous studies show rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are doubled and even tripled in people who sit a lot.

2. Sitting Too Much — “Sittosis”

Americans spend an excess of time sitting — leading to a variety of “sittosis” conditions, not the least of which is weight gain. Even independent of how much time you spend exercising, if you spend the bulk of your day sitting you could be inadvertently packing on the pounds…

3. Intrauterine and Childhood Programming

Although the link is still being established, some studies have found a link between a mother’s weight during pregnancy and the future weight of her unborn child…

4. Depression

Depression and obesity have a reciprocal relationship in that people who are depressed are more likely to become obese, while those who are obese are more likely to become depressed. Among initially normal-weight individuals, depression increases the risk of obesity by 58 percent, according to a new study by Dutch researchers…

5. Certain Medications

Certain prescription drugs cause weight gain as a side effect. According to Consumer Reports, these include:…

6. Portion Sizes

If your portion sizes are too large, you can quickly gain weight – even if you’re eating primarily healthy foods. And if your foods aren’t always healthy, the weight gain from over-sized servings will be even quicker…

7. Obesity as a Symptom

If you’re inexplicably gaining weight, it could be a signal of another health problem. The following conditions, for instance, can cause weight gain as a symptom of a larger underlying problem:…

8. Pollution

Pollutants are all around us, many of which have an influence on your delicate hormonal and metabolic systems. Among them, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), pesticides, PBDEs, and others can predispose you to being fat.

Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological sciences in MU’s College of Arts and Science, told Science Daily:

“Certain environmental substances called endocrine-disrupting chemicals can change the functioning of a fetus’s genes, altering a baby’s metabolic system and predisposing him or her to obesity.

This individual could eat the same thing and exercise the same amount as someone with a normal metabolic system, but he or she would become obese, while the other person remained thin. This is a serious problem because obesity puts people at risk for other problems, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.”

Vom Saal pointed out that out of the approximately 55,000 manmade chemicals in use in the world, 1,000 may be endocrine disrupters.

To cut down on your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, avoid Polycarbonate, Lexan and Polysulfone plastics, which contain BPA, and instead use your own personal reusable water bottle made of HDPE (high density polyethylene) plastic, which is BPA-free! For example the “Wellness H2.0” portable water bottle features a unique filtration system that not only purifies ordinary tap water, but also enhances the water for better absorption and hydration.

Because household items like cleaning products, toiletries (fragrances, hairspray, deodorants, shampoos, etc.), air fresheners, paint, bug sprays and many others are major contributors to the toxins in your home, seeking out natural varieties of these items is essential.

Also, because indoor air can be two to 100 times MORE polluted than outdoor air, according to the EPA, having a high-quality air purifier is now as essential as having locks on your doors. A simple way to keep your home’s air clean and safe is by using an Air Treatment System, which uses photocatalysis designed to oxidize organic odors, germs, and fungi to create clean, pure air in your home. Ask your practitioner what air treatments system they use and recommend for the best home and office air quality?

9. A Virus?

Studies suggest that an adenovirus called AD-36 may be involved in some cases of obesity. There are more than 50 types of adenoviruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold and gastroenteritis. Typically, the illnesses are not serious and resolve on their own…