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When a Condition Causes Obesity

Obesity can be caused by a number of factors, including environmental, psychological, sociological, economic, and even genetic. Risk factors for obesity include things like inactivity and intake of excessive calories.1

Some of these factors are completely out of a person’s control. Without safe places to recreate outdoors, or access to nutritious foods, what is a person to do?

Obesity and other health conditions

Another factor that is out of a person’s control is when obesity is caused by another medical condition.

Some conditions that may directly cause obesity include hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, sleep disorders, and many more. Conditions can also indirectly cause obesity. One example of this is arthritis, which can limit a person’s ability to exercise due to pain and joint-stiffness.1

I experience conditions that impact my weight

Personally, I experience multiple conditions that impact my ability to maintain a healthy weight.

Postural orthostatic hypotension

Postural orthostatic hypotension (POTS) is a condition that makes it difficult for me to exercise without getting dizzy, losing vision, feeling sick, and experiencing a phenomenon called "air-hunger" which is basically a feeling that no matter how deep you breathe, you can’t get enough oxygen to your lungs. It’s not great, to say the least!

POTS has impacted my ability to do many of the activities that I enjoy, including hiking, biking, yoga, and more. Yoga is one activity that is especially difficult to do with POTS because it involves a lot of changing heights, from standing to lying down to sitting for example. One of my worst POTS triggers is when I move from sitting to standing suddenly, or moving from inverted yoga poses to standing yoga poses. This makes me really dizzy, causing me to lose my vision and sometimes even come close to passing out due to my brain not getting enough oxygen to it. This drop in blood pressure upon standing is a key symptom of POTS.

Hiking is also more difficult with POTS - I have to make sure to bring LOTS of water and snacks and salt tablets to be able to keep my blood pressure in an ideal range while hiking. I’ve learned to live around these symptoms, but they still really limit my ability to exercise when I want, and how much I want.

Type 1 narcolepsy

Type 1 narcolepsy is another condition that affects my weight, for many different reasons.

As a person with type 1 narcolepsy, when my symptoms first started after a severe viral infection in college, I found myself rapidly gaining weight. No amount of food could satiate me. I couldn’t walk outside for 5 minutes without experiencing cataplexy (temporary full-body paralysis) or a sleep attack (sudden onset of sleep).

I was taking stimulants for a while to reduce my symptoms during the day for school, which suppressed my appetite. But in the evening these stimulants would wear off and I would realize suddenly that I had not eaten all day! And I became ravenous! I’d binge eat, consuming more than a day’s calories in one sitting, and still feel hungry within a few hours.

Share your experience

Do you have any medical conditions that make it difficult for you to exercise? Or any conditions that cause weight gain? I’d love to hear that I’m not the only one that struggles in this way!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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