I get a lot of queries from people who are eating low fat, low carb, low sugar diet and also exercising regularly but still reaching their desired weight goal. This problem is fairly common and can be extremely frustrating.
It is good to understand that there are many factors contributing to your overall health but first we have to find out what is the definition of the “ideal” body weight.
You will be shocked to know that there is no such thing as ideal body weight. Each one of us has a very unique body shape and composition – trying to change it can be a challenge and very frustrating.
Having said that, here are some of the “hidden” factors that could be causing you to hit the weight loss plateau:
- Yo-Yo dieting: If you have tried various diet pills and been on crash diet plans in the past – I have bad news for you. Studies have shown that yo-yo dieting may cause an immune response in fat tissue that makes fat loss more difficult. If you have been on a series of crash diet programs, your body stores more fat when you begin eating after a period of deprivation so that it has a reserve available if calorie intake decreases again.
- Solution: Consistency is key here. If you been on crash diet programs, It might take you longer to reach your desired weight goals but the right diet and lifestyle changes will take you to better health.
- Your GUT health: Many researchers believe that your gut microbiota plays a role in processing food and helping to determine how many calories and nutrients your body absorbs. One study found that those who were obese had different gut bacteria than their non-obese twins. Other studies have shown that if the gut bacteria from obese people are put into thin mice, the mice gain weight.
- Solution: Include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Include probiotic-rich and prebiotic foods in order to modify your gut bacteria.
- Toxins: Toxins are everywhere – in the environment, conventional food containing pesticides, self-care and beauty products, the water we drink… They get absorbed in our body and create havoc to the “internal” world. In his book Ultrametabolism, Dr. Mark Hyman explains that 63 scientific studies have explored the link between chemical toxins and obesity. Researchers found that toxins, specifically pesticides and PCBs, interfere with many aspects of metabolism including disrupting hormone levels, blocking thyroid receptors, stressing liver function, and damaging the mitochondria and their ability to burn calories after weight loss. Toxins may also damage hormone signals, affecting our very important hormone leptin– which is responsible for telling your brain that you’re full!
- Solution: The very first thing to do is reduce plastic usage in your kitchen that includes containers, water bottles etc. Replace with glass containers. Check cans for BPA free labeling before buying canned goods. Replace non-stick with steel, cast iron or ceramic cookware. Find chemical-free alternatives for beauty and health care products. Please reach out if you need help finding better options.
- Stress: A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University found that stress was linked to a slower metabolism in women. They found that on average, women who reported one or more stressor during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than the non-stressed women. So even if you aren’t eating more than usual, high levels of stress may cause you to gain weight.
- Solution: The very first step is to control/manage the source of your stress. Long term stress can have must deeper impact on your body than just weight gain. Breathing exercises (Pranayam), meditation can be used to manage stress. Adaptogens like Tulsi, Ashwagandha are also very good at calming your body when you are stressed out.
- Sleep: People who consistently get less than six hours of sleep, their fat cells lose their ability to properly use insulin. As their body becomes more resistant to insulin, it will produce more and more in order to function. This eventually lead to insulin resistance. University of Chicago researchers found that within just 4 days of insufficient sleep, your body’s ability to process insulin goes crazy so make sure you get your zzzs if you are trying to get healthy and fit.
- Solution: Try to have a regular bedtime. Avoid too much stimulation from electronics close to bedtime. Managing stress can also help with your sleep quality.
- Sunlight: If you are the type of person who prefers staying indoors, the chances are you are deficient in Vitamin D. Studies show that a higher body mass index and body fat percentage are associated with lower blood levels of vitamin D. The good news is this is easily fixable – some evidence shows that increasing vitamin D in the blood can reduce body fat and boost weight loss.
- Solution: Go out in the sun for at least 20 minutes every day. If that is not feasible, supplementing with a good quality Vitamin D3 can also help.
- Hormonal imbalance: You might be already aware that insulin impacts weight gain but there are other hormones who play a big role in managing body weight. The other big disruptors are thyroid, cortisol and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). If you have undiagnosed thyroid (hyper or hypoactive thyroid) functioning, there is a chance it is impacting your weight loss efforts. Other issues like PCOS, where a woman may have high testosterone levels and an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels, leads to insulin resistance and ultimately weight gain.
- Solution: If you believe you are weight gain is because of hormonal imbalance, get your levels checked and work with a healthcare professional to create a plan to rebalance your hormones.
- Water: According to a study done on mice, increased hydration lead to weight loss mainly through a decrease in feeding, and a loss of fat, through increased lipolysis. It also found out that the reverse is also true – Mild, but chronic, hypohydration is correlated with increased body weight.
- Solution: This is a simple issue to fix. DRINK MORE WATER. If you are busy and forget to drink enough water throughout the day – take help from technologies. There are apps where you can set water reminders ( My Water Balance, AquaAlert etc)
- Nutrition deficiencies: The increased availability of low-cost, high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods over the past four decades is a key component to the rise in obesity worldwide. Vitamins and minerals are critical for your body to carry key functions and support metabolism and cellular energy production. Metabolism and insulin signaling require cofactors and vitamins that are essential in the diet. Deficiencies in any of these micronutrients have the potential to impair glucose metabolism and cause insulin resistance and weight gain.
- Solution: Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Choose organic whenever possible. Get yourself tested for vitamins and trace minerals deficiencies. Work with a nutritionist that can help you with a diet plan that provides all essential nutrients through diet.
Some other factors like age (as we age, it gets more difficult to lose weight), genetics can also be contributing to your weight loss woes.
The good news is, understanding the underlying cause can help expedite your efforts and get you over the plateau. With the right diet and lifestyle changes, even the worst weight loss disruptors can be managed. Some of us have to work a bit harder than others but it’s possible for every single one of us!