There’s no doubt that weight loss is somewhat fetishized in modern society. We’re all supposed to be slender; what’s more, we’re all supposed to want to be slender. It’s meant to be about health but – more often than not – it’s the aesthetic appearance of a slim figure that we’re meant to be desperate for.

Any announcement that someone has lost weight is therefore usually greeted with a spontaneous round of applause. Often, this will be greeted with delight on the part of the person acknowledging their weight loss, their effort, at shedding a few pounds. But what if the person who’s voicing that they have lost weight is saying so for a more concerned reason. What if you’re losing weight without making any effort to do so?

Chances are, you’ll be either ignored for your concerns or told that you’re lucky. Nevertheless, weight loss despite no obvious change in diet or exercise habits is a cause for concern. What we tend to forget, as a society, is that our body weight is not indicative of how good we feel in a bikini – if we’re suddenly losing it, then there should be a reason for it. If that reason isn’t an attempt at better nutrition or more strain from exercise, then it’s important to get to the bottom of the cause.

Weight loss is – like headaches and tiredness – the kind of symptom that crops up so often that it is linked to thousands of possible illnesses. However, if you are losing weight with no concerted effort to do so, then there are a few prime suspects worth spending some time considering.

#1 – Stress

First and foremost, stress can cause you to lose weight due to how it impacts your appetite. If you are chronically stressed, you might not even notice that you’re eating less than you previously did, so the problem can be insidious.

One way to figure out if this is the problem is to write down everything you eat for a week and then calculate the calories; are you really eating as much as you think you are? If there’s a discrepancy, then focusing on upping your calorific intake and then dealing with the underlying causes of stress should help to improve your appetite.

#2 – Celiac Disease

Celiac disease

By Nephron (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Celiac Disease has become better known in recent years, thanks to the rise of gluten-free foods as a health choice. For Celiacs, the need to eat gluten-free isn’t just a choice; it’s a necessity, and not doing so can result in a variety of symptoms and even lead to a long-term risk of cancers.

It is possible to have Celiac that is undiagnosed for years. If this is the case, the resultant malnutrition from improperly absorbing calories from food can cause dramatic weight loss. If you’re suspicious, you can check the other symptoms and then talk to your doctor. Celiac can be found via a simple blood test, so it’s worth checking out.

#3 – Viruses

Most of us associate a virus with influenza; easily the best known virus that any of us will encounter. However, the ‘flu is but one of many viruses that we can catch – oftentimes without us even knowing. Did you know, for example, that ear infections can be caused by viruses?

Often, blood tests will be able to rule a virus in or out as a cause for weight loss. It’s also wise in the case of unexplained weight loss to run a test for another well-known virus; HIV, which is well known for its ability to have weight loss as a symptom. This is relatively simple to do; you can find HIV testing near you and then put this concern to rest.

#4 – Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the lower portion of your throat. Unfortunately, it has a tendency to struggle to regulate itself often becoming underactive (hypothyroidism) or overactive (hyperthyroidism).

When your thyroid is hyperactive, it’s producing more of the thyroid hormone than it should be. Given that this is a hormone that controls the metabolism, an overactive thyroid should be a primary suspicion in cases of weight loss. Often, the weight loss is dramatic – sufferers describe the weight as “falling off them” with no other changes. If you have any of the other symptoms of an overactive thyroid – such as a fast heart rate, twitching, or difficulty sleeping – then it’s worth checking out with a doctor. Again, a simple blood test can rule hyperthyroidism in or out of the diagnostic picture.

#5 – Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis have a tendency to cause weight loss without any changes in appetite. The conditions are best characterized as causing the body to attack itself, causing internal inflammation which can make retaining weight difficult.

One downside of this is that these conditions can be difficult to diagnose. Doctors often have to know exactly what they’re looking for to be able to make a diagnosis. A full blood panel can be the first sign that something is amiss, which can then be further investigated depending on any other symptoms you have. It takes patience to obtain an autoimmune diagnosis, but the blood test is the first step towards soliciting the answers that you need.

#6 – Other Causes

It’s worth mentioning that there are other, more serious causes of unexplained weight loss, including a number of cancers. While this is massively unlikely (especially if the weight loss is your only symptom), it does still impress the point that this is a situation that requires investigation.

While it might be beneficial for you to lose weight and you may enjoy it, it’s still not an ideal state for your body to be in. It’s still not something that happens with no obvious diet or fitness changes to a person who is otherwise in full health. So while you might welcome the loss, it’s definitely worth making sure there are no underlying causes. While it’s hugely unlikely the cause is anything to be overly concerned about, it’s still something you need to take seriously and seek medical advice on.