Not losing weight?
You make a conscious effort to follow government guidelines and experts advice on how to lose weight, yet the extra pounds won’t budge or you quickly plateau. It can turn out to be a very frustrating and disempowering process at times resulting in complete abandon of the health pursuit.
But what exactly are you be doing wrong and what can you do to reverse the situation?
While there may be several answers to these two questions, I will outline five common (and some very obvious) reasons behind your struggles with the scale.
You’re not eating REAL food
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but frozen and/or boxed meals, energy bars, and meal replacement shakes loaded with hidden sugars, artificial ingredients and preservatives are NOT real foods.
It’s common sense, right? But common sense is not always common knowledge.
Some of us may assume a frozen meal consisting of chicken and broccoli is healthy enough, at least in theory, so we fail to read the exhaustive – and at times exotic – list of ingredients.
Or maybe we are just addicted to the convenience of these quick meals that we voluntarily turn a blind eye to the obvious fact that if they are sitting on a shelf or in a freezer, for months at a time, they had to have been heavily processed (hence, processed foods).
Tricking the body into eating food-like stuff regularly without adequately replenishing vital nutrients (through REAL food consumption) depletes the body of essential vitamins and minerals needed for optimal metabolism.
As a result, the body becomes deficient in nutrients needed for fat burning, glucose control, and hormone synthesis and regulation all of which are vital for adequate weight control. The body then starts hoarding calories because it is starving for real nutrition.
You become overfed, yet malnourished.
You’re not moving enough
Let’s face it, 30 minutes of exercise out of 24 hours is virtually nothing (though it’s still better than nothing). Even us good citizens that try to live in accordance with healthy physical activity guidelines are still fairly sedentary, at best.
Just think about it: Do you work in a office? Do you spend most of the day working in a computer, in a regular desk? Do you call your colleagues on the other side of the office when you need to talk to them? Do you commute to work? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you get home and watch TV?
If you replied yes to any or all of these questions, chances are you’re not getting enough movement.
Even if you exercise at some point during the day for 60 minutes 4x a week, if you’re sitting or driving most of the day, most days of the week, you need to rethink what being sedentary actually means.
Humans evolved with plenty of physical activity throughout the day (walking, running, digging, climbing, farming…) so our bodies are accustomed to constant movement as means of keeping certain bodily functions running smoothly.
We were not made to sit for most of the day and just get by with 30 min of physical activity to somehow compensate for all the sitting.
So, please, sit this one out.
You’re not sleeping (well) enough
Your sleep quality directly impacts your metabolism by regulating the hormones responsible for hunger (ghrelin) and satiety (leptin).
When you’re sleep deprived, your body conserves energy by spending less calories throughout the day while also up-regulating ghrelin levels and down-regulating leptin levels (4).
In plain English, you’ll experience increased appetite paired with a decreased ability to feel satiated.
That’s why after a poor night’s sleep you may feel ravenous the next day, particularly leaning towards refined carbohydrates and sweets! After all, these are the quickest sources of energy for the body.
So it’s not all about willpower.
Your body has wise and powerful mechanisms of regulating food intake and energy expenditure that are often overriding your ability to keep off those morning croissants and doughnuts following a bad night’s sleep.
You’re chronically stressed
Imagine that you’re back in hunter-gatherer times – you’re going through a period of food scarcity, you’re always on high alert in case a predator jumps at you, and you also need to tend to your tribe’s needs.
Ask yourself, how would the body interpret these stressors?
Would it be more inclined towards expending the little calories it had or would it be more cautious, trying to conserve as much energy as possible in lieu of an unexpected energy-consuming event?
Fast forward a couple of generations later. While the scenario has slightly shifted, the inherent physiological stress is still the same. Your body is still interpreting the same cues (stress signals) and carrying out the same response = conserve energy, store fat.
When you are chronically stressed, cortisol levels remains constantly elevated in your bloodstream increasing fat distribution and deposition in your mid-section, while also contributing to high blood pressure, insulin resistance, decreased immune function and an overall crappy mood (5, 6).
So being chronically stressed can literally add inches to your waistline.
You may have underlying conditions
Finally, there could be underlying imbalances preventing you from losing weight. These can range from heavy metal toxicity to gut dysbiosis and thyroid issues.
When your body has a high toxic burden you’re going to experience trouble losing weight. For starters, heavy metals displace vital minerals like zinc, chromium, copper, iron, and magnesium, which may in turn affect energy production, carbohydrate tolerance, and other metabolic process (7, 8).
Another way heavy metals disrupt proper weight regulation is by remaining deeply buried into your fat cells. Toxins are stored in fat cells as a protective mechanism that prevents toxic substances from circulating in your bloodstream and wreaking havoc in your body.
So instead, toxins may remain tightly secured in your fat cells despite your best weight loss efforts.
Heavy metals can also interfere with proper hormonal balance and thyroid function further disrupting the body’s delicate balance. Specifically, mercury and thallium have been associated with decreased T4 and T3 levels, and barium with decreased T3 levels. On the other hand, cadmium has been associated with decreased TSH levels and increased T4 and T3 (9).
As you may know, the thyroid is a key player in regulating metabolism and any imbalances leading to its decreased or increased function, hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism respectively, can throw your weight off balance.
Finally, gut dysbiosis can also contribute to weight gain through a variety of mechanisms, mainly via regulation of host metabolism (10) and increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) leading to increased entry of toxins into the bloodstream and increased inflammation (11).
The gut microbiome plays a key role in modulating host physiology and any alterations can trigger a wide range of dysfunctions, including low-grade inflammation, metabolic disorders, excess lipid accumulation, and loss of insulin sensitivity, which increase the risk of developing metabolic diseases (10) .
So what CAN you do to start losing weight?
As I have outlined, you can still, in theory, be doing all of the “right things” to lose weight and still fail miserably.
Some of it may be due to lack of proper nutrition & exercise guidance; some of it may be due to the inherent craziness of life; and some of it may be due to underlying physiological imbalances.
The good news is that there’s always something you can do about it. And I promise it’s really simple – but it may take some effort in the beginning until it becomes habitual.
While losing weight may be simple in theory, it requires some effort. However, you don’t have to get overwhelmed – just start with the first one (eat real food) and slowly navigate your way through the other ones.
If you’ve done all of the above and still not luck, it may be time to seek professional help. A competent practitioner can help you identify any imbalances and devise a plan to systematically and effectively address it. I would love to hear from you and find out how I can help you in your weight loss & wellness journey.