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Obesity and Weight Management

Sudden Weight Gain with No Change in Size

07/20/2010

Question:

I am a 19 year old girl, who is not exactly thin, but slightly overweight. Suddenly, I have seemed to have gained weight, but there has been no change in my size (inches). The weight I have gained is almost 20lbs; which I even think is quite unusual; and in normal circumstances such weight gain would be significantly noticeable. This is the heaviest I have been. I have been having infrequent but severe stomach cramps and pains.

I eat normally, and I have exams going on right now so I have been skipping breakfast. I have always had a problem with bowel movement and recently had a mild appendicitis infection; (shown to a doctor) and is now all better, which I think was the reason for my last menstruation cycle to be cut short to two days.

I have usually been quite active; I useto go swimming thrice a week, and play sports twice a week in a sports center a little more than a month ago; and for almost 2 years, I have been working out a gym (though it`s on and off due to responsibilities).

I am very concerned. What can it be caused by? Is it something serious, or could it all be in my head?

Thank you.

Answer:

Weight gain, without a change in size, may be the result of building lean tissue (muscle) from your physical activity. Knowing that the scale measures your whole body (including fat, muscle and water), this type of weight gain is usually fine. However, if weight gain is due to excess fat or water retention, there may be a health concern.

I would suggest that you speak with your doctor, who knows you and your medical history best, and can help you with your concerns. Stress (such as exams) can cause physical issues, including stomach/intestinal problems and even menstrual changes.

To improve your diet, I'd recommend not skipping meals. Eating breakfast fuels your brain and provides energy to help you think clearly and perform better on your exams. If you have problems with bowel movements, consider improving the fiber in your diet (try to eat whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber cereals), continue to be physically active and drink water throughout the day.

However, the bottom line is that you should speak with your doctor and make sure your concerns are not "all in your head."

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Response by:

Jane   Korsberg, MS, RD, LD Jane Korsberg, MS, RD, LD
Senior Instructor of Nutrition
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University