There is nothing more discouraging than putting in the hard work it takes to lose weight, and not see results. Understandably, when we are devoting time, energy, and money to exercising and eating well, but are either not losing weight, or perhaps even gaining weight, this can launch us into feelings of failure, and wanting to throw in the towel.
However, if your weight loss efforts are not producing results, this is simply a sign from the body that something isn’t right, and changes are in order.
In this day and age, there is endless information from countless sources on the “right” way to approach weight loss. Is the low-fat/no-fat diet model what really works? Or perhaps I should try Paleo? What about calorie counting? Are carbohydrates the enemy, or is fat? It is beyond confusing, that is certain.
The phenomenon of not being able to lose weight despite our best efforts is often referred to as weight loss resistance. The good news is, there are some very common reasons as to why this happens:
This is perhaps the number one mistake most commonly made by those wanting to lose weight. The “low-fat/non-fat” diet model has been a craze, and touted as the best approach to weight loss efforts. Fortunately, this myth has slowly but surely been de-bunked; however, many people still fall-back on this dangerous approach to dieting.
Interestingly, not incorporating enough (good quality) dietary fat can actually lead to higher percentages of body fat, despite popular belief. The human brain is composed of up to 70% fat, and fat is critical for cognitive function, hormonal balance, cell repair and maintenance, and weight loss.
Without enough good fats in the diet, we experience cravings and excessive hunger, which almost always lead to overeating and uncontrollable cravings. When a processed food product is stripped of its natural fats, it is usually replaced with sugars and chemicals for flavor (think yogurt and dairy products). And these are the real culprits in weight gain.
Good fats to regularly include are avocado, flax oil, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, raw nuts and seeds, and fat from protein sources such as wild caught fish and grass-fed beef. Avoid rancid vegetable oils such as canola, soy, and corn oils.
Eating The Wrong Kinds Of Carbs
Another confusing subject these days is that of carbohydrates. Certain diet models proclaim that carbohydrates are the enemy of weight loss (Atkins, for example), while the low-fat model says exactly the opposite. The truth is, carbohydrates are not the enemy, but they certainly are responsible for weight gain, in many cases.
The body needs carbohydrates, just as it needs protein and fat. However, the SAD (typical American diet) is extremely high in carbs, and emphasizes all of the wrong kinds (aka, processed, packaged and refined).
The bulk of your carbohydrate content should consist of organic, local, and fresh vegetables and fruits. Next, moderate amounts of whole grains and legumes (which also contain protein), and processed carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and baked goods should largely be avoided. Incorporating starchy vegetables is an excellent alternative, such as sweet potatoes, yams and winter squashes.
One last note about carbohydrates, is that the 2-3 hour window post-exercise is the best time to eat starchy carbs such as potatoes and/or whole grains. Our metabolism after exercise is primed to digest and assimilate carbs, and this is a great tool for weight loss.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
This is so often overlooked, but the simple fact remains that without adequate sleep, we will truly struggle to lose weight. This happens on a hormonal level, as not enough sleep actually affects our sugar metabolism, along with our cortisol production (our primary stress hormone). Cortisol is largely responsible for excess belly fat, as the adrenal glands that produce our stress hormones are located atop our kidneys.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that after a night of little sleep, you feel excessively hungry and crave carbs and sugar? Again, this is due to the hormonal reaction described above, and makes weight loss quite difficult, if not impossible.
While regular exercise offers a huge range of benefit (and not just for weight loss), over-exercising can actually lead to weight gain, or be a major contributor to weight loss resistance.
Sound counter-intuitive? Consider again the cortisol hormone mentioned above, which is a fat-storage hormone. Remember, this is our primary stress hormone, and is released in periods of stress. While we typically consider stress to be mental/emotional in nature, the body perceives all types of stress equally, and over exercise can be a serious source of stress that produces a cortisol response.
The key here is to take cues from your body. Always incorporate adequate rest days, along with restorative types of movements, such as walking, restorative yoga and deep breathing or meditation. Your workouts should leave you feeling more energized than before you started, instead of leaving you more fatigued. If you feel wiped out and sluggish post-workout, changes to your fitness program are in order.
Last but certainly not least, and perhaps the trickiest factor to pinpoint, is that of toxicity. Undergoing a detox or cleanse has been all the rage recently, and can absolutely be helpful for weight loss. But it is essential that you know the proper way to carry out a detox, as it can actually be harmful if done incorrectly.
Toxicity can be another culprit of weight loss resistance, and is due to a build-up of toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis. These include environmental toxins commonly found in our air and water supply, toxins that come from personal hygiene and care products (make-up, shampoo, lotions, etc.), along with toxins found in most all processed and packaged foods.
This build-up of internal toxins can eventually lead to hormonal dysfunction (for example thyroid disorders), and other problems. Undergoing a safe and effective detoxification program can go a long way towards our weight-loss efforts.
In conclusion, there is a lot to consider with weight loss! While for some it might be simple, for many, it will become necessary to consider factors such as the ones discussed in this article. If you are dealing with weight loss resistance, try out these tips for one month and see if you note any changes. If not, consider working with an integrative health practitioner to get to the root of your particular issue, but certainly do not give up! Feeling your best and losing extra pounds is possible.