In many ways, every patient who comes to see me is different. Our bodies are unique in a million ways, and we are all at different places in our journeys towards optimal health. But there are a few key things that I hear just about every day in my practice. One that springs to mind: “I don’t understand why I can’t seem to lose weight”.
They often go on to compare themselves to other women around them, or even to those they see on TV or social media. And I get it! It’s incredibly frustrating to hear someone rave about a diet that has allowed them to drop 10 pounds in the blink of an eye, and then put the effort into the same regimen and see no change.
The reality is that there are people in the world who don’t have to work at staying thin and trim, and there are people in the world who do. For those in the latter category, the battle of the bulge can take a toll on us in many different ways, both physically and emotionally.
Those of us who struggle to lose weight are far from being alone. But everywhere we turn, we see advertisements, infomercials, and even reality television shows telling us that we can lose weight, and that all we have to do is stop eating so much and exercise more. In fact, health practitioners relay this information to their patients every day, and send them on their way with a “prescription” for what sounds like a simple solution. But it’s not.
There are many weight loss programs out there, all offering different methods and techniques to help people lose weight. I know, I joined Weight Watchers when I was 19. I followed the program to the letter, weighing and measuring every single bite of food I consumed. I exercised every day, I never cheated, and each time I got on the scale, I was devastated to see I had only lost a half pound, or worse – gained weight. But it wasn’t Weight Watchers, it was me. I had weight loss resistance.
What is Weight Loss Resistance?
Weight loss resistance occurs when a woman has a physiological/metabolic imbalance that makes losing weight and keeping it off extremely challenging, even when she puts forth her best efforts. It may be caused by a preexisting condition or a hormonal change– often, it is a combination of different factors– but until it’s addressed, no amount of working out at the gym will fix it.
This condition can be very frustrating for women. I talk to women every day in my practice who just don’t understand why they can’t lose weight, and I tell them what I know: we can fix that, and not only will the pounds come off, but they will stay off with the right daily efforts.
Is Weight Loss Resistance Genetic?
Research shows that people metabolize fat differently. That’s why some people can eat a lot of food and never gain an ounce, and others barely eat and gain a pound or more. Genetics can play a role, and studies are in progress to help us understand more about that. But it’s important to remember that our genes are not our destiny. Weight loss resistance, like many things, is influenced by epigenetics– in other words, the interaction of our genes and our environment.
So, if genes do play a role, then that means we all benefit from different types of food and exercise when it comes to weight loss, to support our personal genetic makeup. For more information on genetics and weight, please read our articles, “Set Point Weight – Fact Or Fiction?” and “Reprogram Your Genes and Cells For Healthy Weight.”
We have all heard of so many different diet and exercise plans to help us lose weight, I’m sure the next hot program is being invented as we speak! But there are a number of great, healthy, tried-and-true metabolism-boosting options — including lower-fat diets, Mediterranean style diets, higher protein diets, low-dairy diets, and many other choices. The best diet for you may depend on individual factors, including genetics. The same holds true for exercise. Some people benefit from endurance-style exercise, others from strength training, and others still from things like yoga and Pilates. The good news is, regardless of your genetic makeup, there are many dietary and lifestyle choices that can increase your ability to lose weight and keep it off.
Although society tends to group everyone into the same category when it comes to health and fitness, we are all individual, and different things work for different people. It is not just our genetic makeup, but also our emotional makeup, and our lifestyle and environmental factors that play roles too. It takes time to figure out what is at the core of weight loss issues, and that is what we do in functional medicine – we get to the bottom of it so it can be corrected.
Core Systemic Imbalances and Weight Loss Resistance
Okay, so let’s get a little bit deeper into the mechanisms behind weight loss resistance. Genetics aside, there are six core systemic imbalances that contribute to weight loss resistance in women. They are:
- Hormonal imbalance: Hormonal imbalances including insulin resistance, excess cortisol, and imbalances in estrogen, testosterone, or thyroid hormone can all contribute to weight loss resistance.
- Adrenal dysfunction & chronic stress: Adrenal fatigue or dysfunction, which occurs as a result of chronic stress (and contributes to many of the hormonal imbalances mentioned above), is one of the key culprits behind weight loss resistance.
- Neurotransmitter imbalance: When we have an imbalance in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers used by the nervous system to communicate within the body), it can influence everything from appetite to cravings and responses to food.
- Digestive/gut microbiome imbalances: Recent research has zeroed in on the fact that an imbalance in your gut bacteria can hinder weight loss.
- Systemic inflammation: Chronic inflammation influences just about every chronic illness you can think of, and may be behind many cases of weight loss resistance. This can occur because of an issue within the gut, chronic stress, diet, or illness, among other factors. Focusing on anti-inflammatory foods often helps to clear up a number of lingering health issues, including weight loss resistance.
- Impaired detoxification: If our bodies are having trouble clearing out toxins, we will always struggle with weight loss, and with overall health.
These factors and imbalances often go hand in hand, and we are likely to see a combination of them. However, one imbalance in particular may become especially prominent as we investigate what is keeping a woman from losing weight.
What’s really important is figuring out what is causing a systemic imbalance. I find that this often comes down to factor number two: adrenal dysfunction. If we (and our adrenal glands) are fatigued and stressed, this can affect just about every function and area of the body. It is often adrenal fatigue that leads to the other factors on the list, from hormonal imbalance to systemic inflammation. Adrenal dysfunction can also influence insulin resistance, which is a major culprit when it comes to weight gain and weight loss resistance.
So, when I address weight loss resistance, I always take a look at how we can support and repair a woman’s stress response system and adrenal function in order to balance hormones, improve digestion and detoxification, and start losing weight and feeling fantastic.
Quick Tips for Addressing Weight Loss Resistance
Determining the primary cause of weight loss resistance and addressing it is key. But while you continue to work on that, the following measures can help to not only jump start weight loss, but to sustain a healthy weight.
- Know your unique physiology. Work with a functional medicine practitioner to identify any metabolic imbalances, and create a nutrition and exercise plan unique to your system.
- Use specific herbs and supplements. When weight loss resistance is caused by hormonal imbalance, stress imbalance, and neurotransmitter imbalance, supportive herbs and supplements may help to boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss. The active compounds and micronutrients found in herbs and supplements can go to work at the cellular level, helping you from the inside out. As always, work with your practitioner to determine which supplements are right for you. We offer many high-quality, pharmaceutical grade supplements to enhance your health.
- Practice healthy eating. Eating three well-balanced meals and two snacks each day at regular intervals will help regulate your metabolism. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein such as organic meats, fish, nuts and legumes, offer the best nutritional support. But trust me, I know your life is busy! Having a snack shake made of pea protein and almond milk is a healthy alternative when on the go.
- Additional nutritional support. Sometimes we need more than food to get all of the vitamins and nutrients we need, especially when trying to lose weight. Chromium, zinc, vitamin C, D3, and the B vitamins are essential for a healthy metabolism. A high quality, pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin-mineral complex will support and enhance weight-loss efforts.
- Exercise. Even if you have tried to exercise and not had too much success, finding the right type of exercise is key. It should not only move your body, but you should enjoy it! Regular exercise is an integral part to good health and it will reset your metabolism and help you overcome weight loss resistance. Just focus on finding an activity and routine that you love, rather than trying to select the best “bang for your buck” fitness protocol.
- Rest, restore, and sleep. Sleep is vital to not only restore metabolism, but help all of the systems in our body function properly. Sleep allows our body to repair itself, regenerate, and helps regulate our hunger mechanism – a very important part of weight loss! There are a number of studies showing the connection between insufficient sleep and weight gain, or difficulty losing weight. We suggest trying to sleep for eight hours each night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. This can really make all the difference.
- Seek support. Whether you believe “misery loves company” or “it takes a village” or even “great minds think alike” – finding other people who are on a similar journey can go a long way in helping you feel good, stay encouraged, and achieve success.
Solving the Weight Loss Puzzle
Weight loss resistance can cause a lot of emotional turmoil. The struggle is real, and you may feel disheartened, discouraged, angry, sad, or even guilty. But these feelings will not help solve the mystery as to why you cannot lose weight. It’s easier said than done to just let those feelings go, but you will find when you turn them around into hope, belief, enthusiasm, and renew your efforts, you can find the underlying cause, address it, and the weight will come off. Remember, it’s not your fault! With the right detective work, we can always get to the bottom of weight loss resistance, and solve the problem for good.
Some of you may want help finding that solution and want a jump start. If you are, visit womenstransformationcenter.com and we can help you get off 15-20 lbs in 6 weeks.
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD