Can't Lose Those Extra Kilos? These Conditions Prevent Weight Loss

Weight loss is a global obsession. But what if you can't? These medical conditions make it much more difficult.

Lose It
4 min read
Can't Lose Those Extra Kilos? These Conditions Prevent Weight Loss

Despite the increasing rise of the relevance of the conversation around body positivity, body dysmorphia among the Indian youth is at an all time high. Doctors define it as a chronic mental illness in which one cannot stop finding flaws with their appearance.

Dr Samir Parikh, Director, Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, points out the detrimental effects of the disorder:

What we think about how we look also affects our views about our own self-worth and lowers our self-esteem. Such self-perceptions typically reduce our confidence in our own ability to effect change and in the long run this affects our ability to feel productive, have good relationships or do the things that we need to do with confidence and belief in our own self.

He further adds that, “With perceptions of body image being manifested in our attitudes towards each other, it is inevitable for those around us to also perpetuate the ideas relating to body types and shape that are typified by media.”

Consequently, we are left with a distorted idea of an ‘ideal’ body type and many of us fall into the trap of striving for it at all costs, irrespective of its effects on the health.


Harmful Habits Triggered by a Skewed Image of the Body

The quest for the ‘perfect body’ can lead to restrictive behaviours including dieting, fasting or excessive exercising, overeating or purging behaviour that includes self-induced vomiting, or the misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas, says Dr Parikh.

Commonly observed habits amongst individuals with eating disorders could include following rigid diets, secretly bingeing on food, throwing up after meals, or obsessively counting calories.
Dr Samir Parikh

Medical Disorders That Make Weight Loss Difficult

Medical conditions coupled with body dysmorphia makes for a deadly combination.
Medical conditions coupled with body dysmorphia makes for a deadly combination.
(Photo: iStock)

Things become especially harder for those people, who along with the external pressure to be of a certain shape, are also battling another personal battle with their own bodies. Several medical conditions make it harder to lose weight and instead lead to weight gain. If body dysmorphia is coupled with one of these conditions, an extra burden is added to the already existent one of body dysmorphia.

According to Dr DS Chadha, Director, Internal Medicine at Fortis Vasant Kunj, the disorders that make it especially difficult to lose weight are as follows:

  • Hypothyroidism: This is a condition where the thyroid gland, produces too little thyroid hormone which regulates metabolism. As a result of this condition, metabolism slows down leading to weight gain.

    How to diagnose it: a blood test

  • Type 2 Diabetes: This condition is marked by high insulin levels which have a significant role in leading to weight gain, and sometimes, development of obesity.

    How to diagnose it: a blood test

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): Many patients with this condition have insulin resistance which causes high insulin levels. This, in turn, leads to weight gain.

    How to diagnose it: Blood tests for insulin, haemoglobin and sugar levels along with an ultrasound of the abdomen, and some hormonal profiles advised by the gynaecologist

  • Cushing’s Syndrome: This condition results when the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) produce an excess amount of a steroid hormone called cortisol. This leads to a build-up of fat in characteristic sites such as the face, upper back and abdomen.

    How to diagnose it: a blood test

  • Growth Hormone Deficiency: Weight gain is one of the common symptoms of a deficiency of this kind.

    How to diagnose it: a blood test

  • Hypothalamic Obesity: This refers to obesity that is caused by physical or inborn damage to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that secretes hormones that control specific body functions such as sleep, body temperature, and hunger.

    How to diagnose it: Blood tests for hormones, serum electrolytes, an MRI/CT scan of the brain and visual fields examination can diagnose this.

  • Sleep Apnea: Though weight gain (and in some cases, obesity) is one of the important causes of sleep apnea, it also works the other way around. Sleep apnea patients, due to their disrupted sleep, tend to eat more sometimes. Since it might also lead to day-time sleepiness, their lifestyle inadvertently becomes sedentary, keeping them further away from exercise.

    How to diagnose it: Sleep studies can be used in the diagnosis of sleep apnea

  • Depression: Some people with depression overeat, which can lead to weight gain or obesity. In addition to that, some antipsychotic drugs can also cause weight gain.

  • Medicines: Certain medications, notably steroids, and also some antidepressants, antipsychotics, some high blood pressure drugs, some anti-diabetic drugs and seizure medications can also lead to increased body weight.


Along with the above specific conditions, more ordinary things like menopause, puberty, pregnancy, genetic predisposition, sleep deprivation, and even cessation of smoking can lead to weight gain, thereby making the journey to lose those extra kilos harder. Imagine finally getting over an unhealthy addiction like smoking, and to be still made to feel bad about your body.It’s awful, yes, and is one of the innumerable instances which make the conversation around body positivity a more urgent need than before.

How to be body positive not just in our actions, but also our thoughts?

Dr Parikh asserts that it’s absolutely imperative to respect your own as well as other’s bodies.

If you don’t value how you look and who you are, it is difficult for others to do so as well. And therefore, the concept of body shaming is not restricted to commenting on others, but can also include self-deprecating thoughts and ideas about ourselves.
Dr Samir Parikh

Another important point that Dr Parikh draws attention to is the whole conversation around media literacy.

The glamourization of certain body shape as ideals, dieting, and body dissatisfaction are often ingredients deeply embedded in our minds, which, in turn, indicates the strong need for media literacy to be encouraged in order to prevent further adverse consequences.

TL;DR? Well, everyone’s journey is different with their own sets of obstacles to overcome. Let’s cut each other as well as ourselves some slack (and open that darned packet of chips, if that’s your heart’s desire).

(Rosheena Zehra is a published author and media professional. You can find out more about her work here.)

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