In an earlier post, we looked at some of the most common reasons why people struggle to lose weight – mainly related to exercise and nutrition. But what if you’ve tried all of those things and are still struggling? Then it’s time to consider more unusual reasons why you’re not losing weight.
Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress or low blood sugar. It’s the “fight or flight” hormone and is critical for optimal health – when it is elevated under the right circumstances. The problem becomes when cortisol is chronically elevated or continually suppressed because of non-stop daily stress or lack of sleep. It can also be a common culprit during the midlife transition for women, resulting in the “menopause belly fat” or “muffin top” that we hear about. Then you end up with cravings for sugar (and biochemistry is no match for will power), binge on junk food, get on the blood sugar and insulin roller coaster which causes more binging, and pack on the pounds.
Solution: find a way to manage your stress in a healthy way, such as meditation or a brief walk, even if it’s only 5 minutes. And learn about the best type and time for exercise during midlife so you don’t end up making things worse.
Lack of Sleep
This one can be related to hormone imbalances too, which can interfere with sleep if cortisol is elevated at the wrong time. Sleep deprivation can also affect ghrelin and leptin, hormones that help control appetite. If you’re not racking up at least 7 hours of good sleep each night, figure out why. It may require a simple change in lifestyle habits, but if you’re having trouble getting to sleep or are waking in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep on a frequent basis, consult your Physician.
Undiagnosed Food Sensitivities
If foods that you are eating on a regular basis are causing inflammation in your gut, you may have problems losing fat. Many people have food sensitivities and don’t know it because they may not have obvious symptoms, or they have mild delayed symptoms that don’t involve the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms may appear as a skin rash or sinus headache a few days after consumption, so you never put it together – especially if it’s something you eat on a daily basis. Most common culprits are gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, corn, and yeast. Dr. Mark Hyman explains it well here. I have first hand experience with this one – I was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity a few years ago when my thyroid function went AWOL and had multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by an inflamed gut. Consulting a licensed nutritionist to get everything back in balance was the best investment I ever made for myself.
Hormone Imbalances in Women
Ask any woman approaching menopause about unwanted weight gain around her middle – hormone imbalances suck. It isn’t just about estrogen, but also progesterone, testosterone, and others that you’ve probably never heard of that can get out of balance. Actually, about a dozen different hormones come into play. And there are many more symptoms than just weight gain. If you want to lose the menopause belly fat, you’ll want to figure out the best type of exercise to do and what time of day works best to do them. Many women try to cut calories too much, or ramp up the cardio exercise – both of which can make things worse. Check out Dr. John Lee’s hormone balance symptom checker here.
Poor Thyroid Function
If your thyroid is under active, every system in the body slows down, including metabolism. Symptoms can include fatigue, brain fog, muscle cramping, joint pain, brittle nails, hair loss, dry skin, feeling cold, and weight gain. And if you’ve got a thyroid problem, you’ve got an adrenal gland that isn’t up to snuff too. Been there. If you suspect that you may have an under active thyroid, consult your Physician.
As you can see from the last two posts, there can be many reasons why you’re not losing weight. Most of the time it’s fairly obvious (not enough exercise, too much food), but sometimes there can be an underlying medical reason for resistance to fat loss. If you’re trying to lose weight, keep a journal to track food intake as well as exercise as best you can. Consult a professional Personal Trainer for help with setting up an appropriate exercise program and basic nutritional advice. Many of my clients have complex medical histories and may be on multiple medications, so I frequently refer those folks to various other professionals such as licensed nutritionists or pharmacists to help get things sorted out. Consult your Physician if you’ve really tried all the obvious stuff and still aren’t getting anywhere. Don’t give up!