So many women come to see me struggling with weight loss. More specifically, their frustration has to do with an inability to lose weight despite their best efforts. They think they’re doing everything right. They avoid common triggers like sugar, exercise appropriately, get plenty of sleep and stay well hydrated, and count those calories. — but nothing seems to get rid of those last stubborn pounds – especially around their middle section. They come to me anxious and desperate to know what else they can try. “ I must be doing something wrong they say”.
All of the things they’re already paying attention to – eating right, exercise, sleep – are, of course, important. Without those things, it’s so much more likely that you’ll continue with weight loss resistance. Do you know what weight loss resistance is? It’s what makes your body hold on to weight even when you’re following all the “rules.” And it isn’t caused by just one thing.
Weight loss resistance is a symptom that something else is going on in your body — some physiological reason your body feels the need to hold on to weight. The big problem is that there are so many possible issues, it’s hard to know exactly which one is at play. That’s why it’s so important to know the more uncommon reasons for weight loss resistance. You can’t reverse an imbalance you aren’t aware of!
There are some well-known possibilities that you probably have heard about — like insulin resistance, thyroid imbalances or inflammation. I’ve written about those before, but there are so many other possibilities. And some of them – like the following five factors – are talked about so infrequently that no one really knows about them. In fact, you might find them quite surprising! Let’s take a look at these hidden reasons for weight loss resistance.
5 Surprising Reasons for Weight Loss Resistance
Here are my 5 surprising reasons for weight loss resistance that I haven’t covered before.
1. How You Feel Can Determine What You Weigh
Have you gotten lost in the downward spiral of self loathing that often accompanies unwanted weight? Do you think that calling yourself ugly names and feeling worthless will help motivate you to finally lose the weight? In fact, these negative thoughts and feelings could be a key factor in what’s holding you back.
I am a big believer in the “as you think, so goes your life” theory. Our thoughts and emotions have tremendous power over what we are able to accomplish. And that includes weight loss. Why? It’s all about stress. There is more and more research coming out showing the connection between our thoughts and our physical signs and symptoms.
You are probably well aware of the stress reaction you have when others criticize you or put you down — but did you know that when you do it to yourself, the same reaction is triggered? And the chemical response to stress inside your body can put the brakes on your metabolism, cause sugar cravings, and send you to the cabinets in search of comfort foods.
It’s well documented that women who have a history of sexual abuse are more prone to weight gain. That’s because they’ve fallen so deep into despair that they simply and often have no stop valve. They eat for protection, they eat to block out the pain. And that in turn creates a vicious cycle. A woman may feel vulnerable, so she eats too much, then beats herself up about it, making herself vulnerable all over again. She’s convinced she’s not good enough, and she tells her body that. And sadly, her body believes her.
2. Digestive Disorders Are Making it Impossible to Absorb the Nutrients You Need
Everyone is talking about the need for a strong and healthy digestive system. Gut health is essential for good health, and has a huge impact on your immune system. That’s why so many autoimmune disorders can be connected to dysbiosis – a critical imbalance of bacteria in your gut.
But poor digestive health is also one of the lesser known reasons for weight loss resistance. And 80% of the women I see have digestive issues! We know that digestion is a factor in almost everything. An imbalance in gut flora can cause you to feel lethargic and irritable. And when you’re dealing with constant fatigue or foul moods, it’s tough to make good choices about either food or exercise.
But more importantly, if your digestive system is out of whack, your body is far less able to use the nutrients you’re giving it — even if you’re making good choices. Every part of your digestive system has a key role in breaking food and liquids down into usable parts and/or moving them through your GI tract. When your system is functioning properly, nutrients end up where they are needed. But if anything along the path disrupts that natural process, your body can’t make optimal use of these nutrients. And when you can’t use nutrients properly, your metabolism – and your weight – will suffer.
But there’s hope. Studies in mice have shown that fecal transplants have a great success rate when it comes to weight loss. It’s all about changing the gut flora. While there’s no research yet to demonstrate the same results in humans, there is evidence that changing your gut flora can indeed change how your body absorbs nutrients — which in turn can make weight loss easier!
3. Perimenopause and Hormone Disruption Can Strike Much Younger Than You Think
I see women all the time who are astounded to learn that what they’ve always thought of a symptoms of menopause – which they assumed would come in their late 40s or early 50s – can actually be part of perimenopause. And perimenopause can begin more than a decade before the actual transition!
I hear these women tell me that they notice shifts in how their clothes fit, and the numbers on the scale creeping up, even though they haven’t changed a thing. That’s because the changes are happening on the inside. Subtle hormone imbalances can cause big impacts, especially when ignored too long.
Estrogen and progesterone both decline in perimenopause. Progesterone often dips more quickly, throwing off the necessary ratio between the two. This change in ratio impacts other hormones – including insulin – which triggers symptoms, including weight gain.
To make matters even more complicated, perimenopause isn’t the only reason for changes in hormone levels. Our world is full of endocrine disruptors – chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system – and it’s difficult to avoid their impact. These chemicals are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. While that might sound discouraging, it is possible to minimize exposure – we simply have to be more aware.
In fact, when women start to change their diets — even just a little bit – and with the help of nutrients for detoxification, they can get rid of those endocrine disruptors and feel so much better. It’s absolutely worth finding out about the dirty dozen, and at least eating organic when it comes to those top culprits.
4. Lack of Sunshine – and the Essential Vitamin it Makes – in Your Life
There are so many good reasons to get outside more. Connecting with nature can lower your stress levels and boost mood. And if you’re spending time outside, you’re likely to be more active than if you are sitting on the couch or at a desk for hours on end. But there’s another good reason for being out in the sun; it’s one of the best ways to be sure your body gets the vitamin D it needs. If you (briefly) skip the sunscreen, that is.
Vitamin D is well known for promoting healthy growth of teeth and bones, regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and promoting normal functioning of your immune system. But did you know it could also help you in your weight loss journey?
In 2015, a review of studies indicated that obese subjects had a much higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency, compared with other groups. Other studies have suggested that increasing vitamin D levels may aid in weight loss.
A blood test can help determine if you are deficient in this vital mineral, but here’s something else you should know: if you are already overweight, you may need more vitamin D than the average person.
And here are a few other pertinent points. Vitamin D and calcium work together to reduce production of cortisol, and less cortisol means you’ll store less belly fat. Low vitamin D levels are also associated with increased insulin resistance. When you have enough vitamin D in your bloodstream, fat-storage will slow in your fat cells, but low levels of vitamin D can cause an increase in hormones that cause your body to store fat rather than burn it. Finally, Vitamin D prompts the release of leptin, the hormone that signals satiety and tells you to stop eating.
There is even research that shows how boosting vitamin D can alleviate symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. A link between proximity to the equator and MS has been found — the farther away you are, the higher the risk of developing MS. It’s all about sunlight!
If you live in these areas far from direct sun exposure, it’s even more essential that you get your vitamin D levels tested to find out how much more you might need. I’ve found that the conventional recommendation to take 1,000 units of vitamin D may be too low for many.
5. You Are Reacting to Foods You Don’t Even Know Your Sensitive To
Food sensitivities are a lot more common than most people realize. And they can be a reason for weight loss resistance! Food intolerances won’t cause the full blown reaction that allergies do – which means you might have been eating things that are blocking your weight loss goals for years.
Reactions to foods usually begin slowly, and may become increasingly noticeable as time goes by. These sensitivities may be caused by lack of digestive enzymes, sensitivity to additives, or reaction to chemicals used in the growing process. The most common foods that result in sensitivities are eggs, gluten, dairy, soy, corn and nuts.
If you are suffering from food reactions, you will probably have symptoms beyond holding on to weight, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Skin rashes, headaches, muscle and joint pain and fatigue are other common symptoms that sometimes go unrecognized.
When you are constantly exposed to things your body can’t handle, your system over-reacts to everything. It’s like the smoke detectors in your house going off constantly — the alarm is always on. So discovering what you are reacting (or overreacting) to is key in healing digestive issues, which as I said before could be having a huge impact on your ability to lose weight.
How Can I Get My Weight Loss Moving Again?
So now that you are aware of those five unexpected reasons for weight loss resistance, you might be able to do something about it. Here are a few quick ideas to address the above issues.
- Acknowledge your emotions and be kind to yourself. You shouldn’t let anyone criticize you constantly — including yourself! If you are having difficulty letting go of negative emotions, seek out some professional help. There are many great techniques to help you learn to love and accept yourself – just as you are.
- Get outside — without the sunblock — for fifteen or twenty minutes per day, early am or late pm. I’m not saying you never need sunscreen, but it’s okay – important even – to get some unprotected exposure to sunlight. Just don’t let your skin get more than slightly pink!
- Eat fermented foods to boost beneficial bacteria in your gut. Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut — there are lots of delicious ways to support your digestive health.
- Consider supplements to balance your system. It can be tough to get all the vitamin D you need from sunshine, or to balance your GI tract with food alone. Consider taking a high-quality supplement while you get back on track.
- Be aware of endocrine disruptors. Avoid plastics, eat organic whenever possible, and pay attention to what is in your beauty products.
- Try an elimination diet to determine food sensitivities. I suggest starting with gluten and dairy. So many women I’ve worked with have seen big results just by changing their eating habits to avoid these two common irritants. I know this is so hard – especially if you are used to eating whatever you want — but it’s so important that I can’t emphasize it enough. You don’t have to remove everything forever — but trust me when I say it’s worth the effort to figure out exactly what’s putting your system on high alert.
Dig Deep into the Reasons for Weight Loss Resistance to Look and Feel Your Best
It is all too easy to get frustrated when you can’t figure out why the scale won’t budge. But there is so much more to weight loss than the old “calories in, calories out” mantra. In functional medicine, treatment depends on getting to the root cause of a problem and that’s what you’ll need to do here. You may have to be persistent when trying to determine what’s behind your weight loss resistance, but don’t give up! When you keep digging, you’ll unearth whatever has been holding you back. Knowledge is power — once you know what you’re dealing with, you have the ability to change it. And when those pounds finally drop off, you’ll discover that all that digging was worth it!