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What Are the Causes of Sudden Waistline Enlargement?

By Wilhelm Schnotz ; Updated July 27, 2017

Rapid weight gain in the waistline can signal much more than poor dietary and exercise choices. Rapid weight gain, particularly when diet and exercise habits haven’t changed, may be symptomatic of health issues. Although patients should consult a physician to diagnose any of the hundreds of potential causes for unexplained rapid weight gain, this kind of weight gain is frequently caused by a few general categories of disorders.


The thyroid is a gland that produces chemicals that help regulate several different systems in the body, including playing a role in metabolism. If a patient’s thyroid fails or begins to produce thyroid hormones at a reduced rate, his metabolism slows down. Instead of burning calories at the rate his body normally did, fewer calories are burned, with the excess stored in body fat. Hyperthyroidism is also linked to dry skin, muscle cramps and digestive disorders, so unexplained, rapid weight gain may come along with the onset of other medical problems.


When the body is under stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol, which is also known as hydrocortisone. Although this hormone is naturally present in the body in small levels, stressors, be they emotional, physical or environmental, can trigger the adrenal glands to produce elevated levels of cortisol, which, as part of triggering a low-level fight or flight response, alters the metabolism and begins storing excess energy for future fight-or-flight needs in belly fat. Cortisol is released into the body in sync with sleep cycles, so insomnia and poor sleep habits may also contribute to an excess of cortisol levels in the body.


It’s a given that any pharmaceutical solution is going to come with side effects. Literally hundreds of forms of medication may cause weight gain. Patients who start a medicine and experience rapid waistline weight-gain should consult their doctor about continuing the medication or experimenting with an alternative.

Water Retention

Expansion of the waistline may not be caused by metabolic shifts, but by excess of water in the body. Edema, or water retention, results when capillaries leak fluid into tissue. It can be a benign effect caused by menstrual cycles or salt consumption or a symptom of issues as varied as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease and damage and poor circulation. Because of the severity of issues that may cause edema, patients should consult a physician immediately if they believe they’re suffering from it.


Patients who suffer from depression may experience a rapid fluctuation in weight, either because of changed eating and exercise habits, or as a direct symptom of the disease. Increased appetite is a symptom of depression in some patients, and may lead to rapid waistline weight gain.

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