One of the most common complaints I hear is, “I can’t lose weight.” Women tell me they are eating a healthy diet and exercising yet the scale won’t budge. Weight loss resistance can occur when a woman has a hormonal or metabolic imbalance, which then makes weight loss difficult at best.
The calories-in calories-out theory has been widely disproven yet remains a dominant misconception regarding diet and weight loss. Generally, losing unwanted weight - and keeping it - off requires a variety of changes. Quick fixes are not one of them, as they don’t facilitate lasting or nourishing change. There is hope. If you are eating clean and exercising and not getting results, there are underlying causes to consider that could be stalling your weight loss efforts:
Hormonal Imbalance – Probably the most common reason. All of our hormones are interconnected and when one is out of balance it effects the others. We have many hormones, but the main disruptive culprit is cortisol. Considered the body’s main stress hormone, when cortisol dysfunction occurs, the end result is a decreased metabolic rate and sluggish thyroid gland. This can lead to weight gain especially around our mid-section. The DUTCH test or a blood test are two ways to evaluate hormone imbalance issues.
Sleep - I’ve said it before and I will say it again, sleep is absolutely foundational to our health. You need 7-8 hours of quality sleep. Lack of quality sleep creates hormone imbalances, blood sugar dysregulation, and yes weight loss resistance. Lack of sleep specifically disrupts our appetite-regulating hormones leptin/ghrelin which can lead to food cravings and poor food choices. For more specific information on sleep you can also check out my blog article A Good Night’s Sleep.
Stress – Is nature’s way of revealing our physical and mental reactions to life experiences. Acute stress can be lifesaving, however chronic stress can lead to hormone imbalance, especially elevated levels of cortisol, as highlighted above. High levels of stress can lead to weight gain and disrupted sleep, making weight loss difficult.
Underlying Food Sensitivities – As we age, many of us develop food sensitivities that can cause leaky gut, an immune response, and certainly inflammation. The most common offenders of underlying food sensitivities are gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, corn, sugar/artificial sweeteners, and eggs. The most effective way to evaluate food sensitivities is to eliminate the suspected food or food group for 2-3 weeks. I recommend keeping a journal to document foods, effects, and success.
Toxins – To put it simply, we live in a toxic world. We are often inundated with toxin exposure from our environment, our food, and our personal care products. Everything from the air we breathe to the personal care products we slather on, are exposing us to added chemicals. This increased toxic burden to our body can affect our hormones.
Gut Dysbiosis – AKA gas, bloating, sugar cravings, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea. One or many of these symptoms can be caused by our gut being out of balance. This can lead to an insufficient absorption of nutrients and inflammation which can contribute to weight loss resistance. If you are chronically having these symptoms, you should be evaluated by your health care provider.
Over Exercising – Women often feel the more they exercise, the more weight loss they’ll see. In fact, this does more harm than good. Over-exercising and over-exerting yourself puts added stress on your body, which then raises your cortisol levels. As highlighted above, chronically elevated cortisol causes further disruption in our hormones. Chronic cardio is not the answer! Moderation is key. I recommend a variety of yoga, walking, barre, strength training, and Pilates. They tend to be more effective as we age.
We’ve all been there. Weight loss resistance can be very frustrating to say the least. A great place to start: Always re-evaluate your dietary intake first. I often find women are not eating enough protein and healthy fats. If after tweaking your diet and you are exercising regularly, you’re still not getting the results you want, you should consider that one or any number of – these underlying elements could be the root cause of your weight loss resistance!
Meghan Punda is a Nurse Practitioner and Functional Nutritionist. She works with women on lifestyle and dietary issues. Meghan is passionate about educating her clients so they can reach their full wellness potential.
Why You’re Not Losing Weight: Q&A with Dr. Sara Gottfried (goop/wellness).
Is Weight Loss Resistance Real or Just a Myth? By Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP