Weight loss is a complex subject involving genetics, diet, exercise, and hormones. While the idea of lowering calories still holds true there are other factors affecting your weight and how successful you’ll be achieving long term results. Most people can lose weight; sustaining that weight loss is what becomes tricky.
Other than how many calories you consume here are some other things happening in your body that may make weight loss a bit stubborn.
1. Sleep and hormones. It is recommended that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Without it, your body’s hormones can become disrupted messing with your metabolism. Lack of sleep causes your body to produce more of your hunger hormone called ghrelin and less of your full hormone, leptin. More ghrelin + less leptin means you can gain weight or have a difficult time losing weight.
Tip: The solution is…sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night seek help from a healthcare professional.
2. Low diversity of gut microbes. Your gut is home of billions of gut microbes. Emerging research is finding a connection between these gut microbes and obesity. Microbes have different jobs scientists are just beginning to understand. For instance, certain microbes like Helicobacter pylori help regulate appetite hormones. A small French study found that another gut microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila was associated with lower levels of blood sugar, insulin and body fat. While scientists are weeding out which microbes affect weight the main point is diversity. It’s important to your overall health to have a large diversity of microbes taking up rent in your gut. Things that affect your diversity include antibiotic use, overly sanitizing hands throughout life and a diet high in processed foods.
Tip: Eat a diet high in plant based foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. See our list of high probiotic foods to get started working towards a healthy gut.
3. Chronic dieting. Dieting doesn’t work and in most cases leads to more weight gain. I do realize there is a seduction in quick weight loss and how that affects morale but the reality is dieting is wreaking havoc on your body. Researchers from UCLA reviewed 31 long term studies on the effectiveness of dieting and concluded that dieting is a consistent predictor of weight gain. Within 4 to 5 years up to two-thirds of the people regained more weight than they lost. Dieting and restricting can interfere with metabolism and lead people to feel overly focused on foods.
Tip: Stop engaging in weight loss diets. Instead become mindful of where your lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep, stress, etc) is out of balance and create goals to correct those imbalances.
4. Too much stress. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve heard this but it’s worth evaluating in your own life. Stress releases hormones like adrenaline setting you up for the “fight or flight” response. Evolutionary wise, your body is expected to exert energy during this process yet that doesn’t happen often with the stressors of today’s world. Cortisol is released to replenish the body by triggering you to eat. Stress over time can lead to chronic hunger, lack of sleep and that overall “tired wired” feeling. The lack of sleep interrupts your metabolism even further creating a hormone imbalance cycle.
Tip: Find ways to alleviate stress in your life by using coping mechanisms like deep breathing, exercise or yoga. Repair your body by eating a diet high in plant based foods and omega 3 fatty acids. You can also work on saying “no” to things that will build undo stress in your life.
5. All or nothing approach. As a dietitian this is the self sabateur I’ve seen most in my career. People either try to be perfect, “on the diet or plan” or they’re “off” with no focus on healthy eating or activity. This affects your metabolism similar to chronic dieting and leaves you in a bad relationship with food and exercise making it hard to create healthy habits. I do understand, it’s hard to let go of this all or nothing mindset and trust that you’ll find a good balance but it’s necessary to move forward with long term results and a healthy mindset towards nutrition and exercise.
Tip: Focus on eating healthy and exercising because it makes you feel better- more energy, better concentration, improved mood- vs. weight loss. Allow room for birthday cake and backyard barbecues. For most (unless there are other medical issues going on) the weight loss will come as a natural result.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Many things can affect weight loss like medications, age, medical issues, etc. Find ways to get support to help overcome these obstacles and give yourself time. Weight gain doesn’t happen in two weeks and neither does weight loss.
Meri Raffetto is the founder of Real Living Nutrition, triplet mom and author of the Glycemic Index Diet for Dummies and coauthor of the Glycemic Index Cookbook for Dummies, and Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Dummies.