Factors that Contribute to Low Success

  • Fad diets often provide a false promise for people attempting to lose weight. Fad diets can be extremely restrictive, create nutritional gaps, and wind up causing More weight gain upon stopping them. We’ve all seen this, and the grocery store checkout counter usually has a full array of the next best wonder diet to try.
  • Stress, increased cortisol levels, increased ghrelin, and other outside influences can contribute to additional weight gain for some individuals.
  • Influences from the people around you can impact your motivation, including physical activity and eating patterns, and even your goal orientation.

Losing weight is one of the most commonly sought-after goals in our society. Oftentimes, when we think of losing weight when we think of improving health. Often times roughly half of Americans are trying to lose weight, with the majority of this group employingdietary changes as a means of doing so [1].

Yet, when they are first confronted with the puzzle of how to lose weight, most people don’t honestly step back and analyze their approach to eating as a whole. They try which ever fad diets promise the best results – whether that’s the quickest weight loss or greatest number of pounds lost. This is a BIG mistake many people make towards sustainable weight loss – and overall health.

A recent statistic shows that 98% of dieters gain at least some, all, or even more weight than they lost while dieting [2]. This has been a well-known trend for quite some time, and yet, more extreme diets continue to emerge and gain popularity. How can this be? What forces in society have caused us to believe that strict restriction and unhappiness are the key ingredients required for successful weight loss? Here, let us dive into the reasons people turn to fad diets. Then let’s learn how to avoid this common trap, lose weight naturally and keep it off for good.

Why Am I Gaining Weight? Psychology of Weight Gain

According to research, there are a few key reasons why people gain weight, and of course the reasons often vary significantly from person to person. In order for healthy, sustainable weight loss to take effect, one must first understand the conditions and drivers that created the weight gain in the first place. Listed below are some of the most common factors influencing why people gain weight.


Stress indeed a factor in gaining weight,but stress itself does not cause weight gain; rather, it is how we manage stress. Stress is a natural aspect of daily life today for most people. In fact stress can be to some degree, healthy. It keeps us alert and helps us avoid danger. When we have an upcoming event such as a presentation, our body may elevate its heart rate through an increase in in catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).

Such an increase in heart rate increases blood distribution to your brain, thereby enabling you to become hyper-focused and perform your task at hand successfully. However, this only works to your benefit if you’re able to control the stress and use it to become productive and overcome obstacles. Problems occur when we experience prolonged, elevated stress and lack of control. This leads to a fluctuation in hormone levels, and especially cortisol.


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How Does Cortisol Relate to Appetite?

The body’s immediate response to stress is to produce adrenaline. On a short-term basis, adrenaline suppresses appetite. As the blood flows away from your internal organs and to your muscles to prepare for “fight or flight” mode, you begin to feel less hungry. Once that adrenaline subsides, however, it leaves cortisol in its wake. On an occasional basis, spikes in cortisol aren’t bad. Yet, chronic stress can lead to frequent, severe increases in cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone.” 

Cortisol doesn’t wear off as quickly as adrenaline; instead, it lingers and signals the body to replenish its food supply. After all, in the wild, fighting off predators would require an immense expenditure of energy. Yet, we modern humans are exposed to consistent stress without control are aggressively conserving fuel – without having a real need to do so.


Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which means “breakdown.” However, in addition to regulating metabolism, controlling blood sugar levels, and performing other key functions needed for survival, it can also increase fat storage over time. In other words, our neuroendocrine system is still designed to function as it did for our ancestors and does not take into consideration that most modern individuals lead sedentary lifestyles. Thus, cortisol will still prompt you to reach for extra food when you’re unable to control elevated stress, even though your body doesn’t need it’

Stress Induced "Pleasure" Food Cravings

Another factor that plays a role in weight gain is pleasure. While consistent stress spikes cortisol levels, it can also increase appetite through a release of ghrelin. This hormone is released as the body anticipates a need for more fuel to prepare for the impending “danger.” To satisfy our appetite, we understandably reach for food. Yet, the problem lies in the fact that it is not healthy foods we seek. Instead, we crave the foods that provide immediate pleasure.


Foods that are easy to eat, highly processed, and high in sugar or unhealthy fats tend to quell appetites driven by stress-related factors. They release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that aids in controlling the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. The dopamine momentarily relieves our stress, almost allowing us to forget that it’s there. Yet, it isn’t long before the cravings come back – often even stronger than they were in the first place. This cycle sets the foundation for poor behaviors, which comprise the third reason behind weight gain.

Influence on Individual Behavior

Behavior should be the first point of focus for anyone pursuing weight loss. Yet, behavior is influenced in so many ways that it often becomes dependent on external factors. From magazines to TV shows, movies and the people around us, there are a number of outside sources which influence our actions. The behaviors we implement to combat weight gain are often a product of someone or something else – the latest fad diet recommended by a coworker, an ad for a weight loss supplement, and so forth – but are rarely spurred by natural or internal motivators. This is a major reason why even individuals who do lose weight successfully tend to gain it back. In an article published in Obesity Reviews, [3] numerous aspects of human personality were examined in relation to weight loss and failure to maintain weight loss. These components included:

  • Physical activity
  • Eating patterns
  • Weight loss goals
  • Life events and social support
  • Self-efficacy, among others

What most of these components have in common is that, when they are changed intrinsically, they yield better results. More often than not, if the decision to change came from an external source, quick results were achieved. However, once that external factor was no longer relevant, the weight was gained back rapidly. This sheds light on one of the chief components of weight loss and weight management which is also, quite frankly, the hardest one to master: self-accountability.

Thus, in order to enact lasting change, individuals must start by

identifying their true purpose for pursuing their goals. Fad diets do

not cater to these goals, but there are other shortcomings beyond

that which we’ll discuss next.

In Conclusion - Understanding Why People Gain Weight

Losing weight is a highly sought after goal. With over 70% of the U.S. population being obese or overweight, it is not uncommon to stumble upon various websites that promise the best solution with minimal effort. However, fad diets and exercise programs is the first mistake many people make on their journey to sustainable weight loss.

Understanding the reasons behind your weight gain is where you should start. There are three common factors to why people gain weight: stress, pleasure eating induced by stress, and outside influences on individual behaviors. Stress releases cortisol, a hormone that tends to linger and trigger signals to the body to replenish its food supply.

Chronic stress can consistently spike cortisol levels, forcing us to crave “pleasure foods”: foods that are highly processed, and high insugar or unhealthy fats. Lastly, outside influences such as TV shows, movies, or the people around us, tend to influence our individual behaviors including our amount of physical activity, our eating patterns, and our goals. This is why your next weight loss plan should be custom tailored to your specific needs and with your health in mind – DYW Optimal Health Plan will help you accomplish long- term, sustainable weight loss.


Sources on Weight Loss

[1] Ducharme, Jamie. “About Half of Americans Say They’re Trying to Lose Weight.” 12 Jul. 2018.

Retrieved from URL:http://time.com/5334532/weight-loss-americans/

[2] Elfhag, K., and S. Rossner. “Who Succeeds in Maintaining WeightLoss? A Conceptual Review of Factors Associated with Weight Loss
Maintenance and Weight Regain.” Obesity Reviews, vol. 6, no. 1, 2005,pp. 67–85.

[3] Elfhag, K et al. See above.