Exercising and eating right but still can’t lose weight? I hear this a lot from women in my practice. It’s likely that your body is busy working on something deeper going on inside. Instead of restricting calories, pushing yourself harder on the treadmill, or upping your reps at the squat rack, it may be time to take a look at your health as a whole to determine the possible root cause causes. I have 7 Reasons You’re Struggling to Lose Weight beyond diet and exercise that may surprise you.
As we know, the body is a complex entity made up of many different systems. When one system is affected, it can impact other areas of your body and cause unpleasant side effects. Here are seven reasons you may not be losing weight, even if you are exercising regularly and trying to eat right.
1. Your blood sugar is imbalanced
When we eat foods that causes our blood sugar to spike, the body releases insulin, which is a fat storing hormone. A little bit of insulin is good but too much and increases too often can equal storing extra fat and gaining weight. It is important to keep your blood sugar stable by eating nutrient dense carbs, healthy fats, and quality proteins at all your meals to keep your blood sugar stable. Going too low carb can also cause blood sugars to crash which can still ultimately cause an increase that triggers insulin. So it is really all about balance. Eating enough and in the right amounts is important when it comes to supporting healthy blood sugar.
2. You are inflamed
Inflammation anywhere in the body will make it hard for you to lose weight. If your body is using all its resources to fight off inflammation, it can’t focus on losing weight. Your body is too busy trying to put out the fire going on within. It is important to determine where the inflammation is coming from so that it can properly be addressed. The three common places inflammation comes from is gut infections, food sensitivities, and/or toxins. But there are other possibilities as shown in the diagram below that I posted on my Instagram page.
3. Your hormones are out of balance
Hormones are messengers that deliver important information between cells, glands, and organs. When hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are imbalanced, symptoms can occur, including weight gain and stalled weight loss. Elevated cortisol or estrogen, for example, can cause us to store more fat in our bellies. I use DUTCH testing in my practice to properly assess hormones. Balancing your hormones is complex and involves addressing everything else listed in this post- stress, gut issues, inflammation, and insulin resistance are all terrible for your hormones. If you want to help your hormones then you must address those areas.
4. Your thyroid is off
The thyroid has many valuable functions within the body, including regulating your metabolism. It is important to get your thyroid properly checked and assessed. Experiencing weight gain or stalled weight loss can be one symptom of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when the body produces too little T3 and T4 hormones or can’t convert them properly and besides weight loss issues, can also cause fatigue, dry skin, sensitivity to cold, and even heart rate issues. Thyroid imbalances are highly common yet conventional medicine rarely finds them because of insufficient testing and poor interpretation. It is important to find the root cause because the thyroid doesn’t just stop working for no reason. When women are having a hard time losing weight the number one thing they want to blame is their thyroid, while the thyroid can contribute to weight issue it may not be the direct root cause.
5. Your gut health isn’t optimal
If your gut isn’t healthy, chances are you probably don’t feel well overall. The health of your gut can significantly impact your quality of life, both negatively and positively. Having the right kind of bacteria and in the right amounts in your gut has been found to promote a healthy weight. An unhealthy gut can be one factor that leads to inflammation, hormone imbalances, and/or thyroid issues which can all make it difficult to take off excess weight. Digestive issues can also be an area of hidden stress in the body. Think that you need to have digestive symptoms to have gut imbalances? Think again! Weight loss difficulties can be one possible symptom of gut issues and shouldn’t be overlooked. This is one reason why I require all my clients to get a comprehensive stool test no matter what their symptoms.
6. You have a lot of stress
Stress is all around us. Sometimes it is stress we know we have (jobs, family, finances, traffic, relationships) and other stress can be hidden (gut infections, nutrient imbalances, hormones, food sensitivities, dehydration, poor sleep, emotional trauma). In fact, stress is really accountable for probably eighty to ninety percent of our modern day diseases and is often at the root of a lot of our common health complaints. When we are stressed out – whether mentally, emotionally, our physically – our body releases a steroid hormone called cortisol. As mentioned above, blood sugar control is important and lots of any kind of stress can also increase cortisol levels which in turn can impact cortisol (no matter how good your diet is). When your body has consistently high cortisol levels, it can start to affect your weight and cause you to store more fat in part due to its connection to insulin.
7. You have mineral imbalances, copper toxicity or heavy metal toxicity
Mineral imbalances can cause weight gain or make it hard for you to lose weight. Minerals can play a big role in if your metabolism is fast or slow.
Things like copper toxicity has also been linked with hypothyroid-like symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, memory issues, and constipation. It is important to be tested for mineral imbalances and copper toxicity and not treat yourself as some of the symptoms for both copper deficiency and copper toxicity are the same. In my practice I like to use HTMA (hair trace mineral analysis) testing to help assess mineral needs, address copper toxicity and look for heavy metals.
If you have heavy metals in your system (and most everyone does) your body may keep weight on as a protection in order to prevent the metals from staying in your blood stream. Metals are often fat soluble. Detoxing metals can be very dangerous so I always recommend working with a trained profession that can help you do it gently and correctly.
If you think one or more of the above causes may be contributing in your struggle to lose weight beyond diet and exercise, it is important to address these concerns and not work out harder or diet more. In fact, pushing yourself harder at the gym or restricting calories may exacerbate the above issues and make the situation even worse. If it seems like you’re doing everything ‘right’ but you aren’t seeing the results in your clothing and measurements, it might be time to take a closer look at your body’s overall well being. Studies show that dieting can actually harm your metabolism and do more damage to your body and ultimately make weight loss that much more difficult.
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As a registered dietitian and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, I help clients get proper functional lab testing, assist in the process of reading those results using clinical correlation (treating the patient and not just the test results), and give them proper tools (diet, supplements, and lifestyle) to start the healing process.