Many claim that weight loss is simply a matter of “calories in, calories out”, and that if we would all just “eat a bit less and exercise more” then we would all have the figures that we desire. But if that’s the case then why do so many people struggle?
Most of my weight loss clients have been trying and failing to loose weight for some time before they get in touch. They are not lazy people or greedy people, in fact most are very successful, driven individuals. Here are the five most common reasons I have observed which make long-term weight loss harder than it seems.
1. A lifetime of dieting. If you’ve been on and off diets for the last five+ years then you have reduced your RMR (resting metabolic rate). Our bodies adapt to our environment so if you consume fewer calories for a period of time then your body becomes more conservative with it’s use of them, or in other words it lowers your RMR. When you ultimately return to your old eating habits your body treats the additional calories as surplus to requirement and stores them as fat. This is why in the long term most ‘diets’ don’t work. Does this mean your fat loss efforts are doomed? No not at all but a personalised nutrition and exercise approach that includes increasing your RMR will be needed.
2. Prolonged Stress. Scientific research confirms that chronic stress is one of the prime reasons people can’t lose weight. When stress is a constant part of your life your body produces a lot of cortisol. To cut a long story short, cortisol and insulin go hand in hand and insulin is the hormone that causes fat storage, especially around waistlines. Skipping meals whilst stressed is a double whammy. This causes the body to produce adrenaline which in the short-term makes you feel great but rather than breaking down fat can make you break down muscle for energy which ultimately reduces your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn off each day). How can you reduce your cortisol levels? See my previous article Eat to Beat Stress.
3. Unbalanced endocrine hormones. Our endocrine hormones include the ones produced by the thyroid and the adrenal glands as well as our sex hormones. Any imbalance here can directly affect our underlying metabolism and have a knock on effect on how much cortisol and insulin we produce. Women have a more complex web of endocrine hormones than men which is why women tend to struggle more with sustained weight loss. For example low progesterone levels can cause PMS, weight gain, insomnia and more. If you are experiencing other hormone related symptoms in addition to your weight then a closer look at your endocrine system will be highly beneficial for you.
4. High sugar diets leading to high insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone made in our pancreas that helps the body move sugars from food into the cells of our bodies. Eating refined carbohydrate foods and sugars can lead to excess insulin as they cause sharp spikes in blood sugar and signal the body to make more to process it. Try eating some protein and fat with each meal to reduce the speed at which glucose is absorbed into your bloodstream. This will balance blood sugar levels, reduce insulin spikes and keep you satiated for longer.
5. Inflammation. I see many clients with some form of inflammation. This can be anything from recurrent cystitis, gut issues, chronic pain to arthritis. The body sees inflammation as stress and likes to hold onto fat when stressed! So here the key is to address the inflammatory conditions first and then the body will be ready to address any excess weight.
Hopefully this gives some insight as to why you might be struggling to shift those pounds. Often once we understand why something is happening it’s then much easier to address and reach our goals.