Five reasons why you may be struggling with weight loss

Why is it so hard to lose weight and keep it off?    

Some claim weight loss is simply a matter of “calories in, calories out”, and weight loss is just a question of “eating less, and exercising more” but if that’s the case why do so many struggle?

Five reasons why long-term weight loss can be challenging

1. Prolonged Stress is being increasingly confirmed in scientific research as one of the prime reasons people can’t lose weight.

When stress is a constant part of your life, the body makes lots of a stress hormone hormone called cortisol. People with high cortisol levels tend to have higher insulin levels which makes the body store fat 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 will reduce your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn off each day).

How can you reduce your cortisol levels? Take time out to relax, get some fresh air, try a gentle yoga class or I recommend floating too. Epsom salts are high in magnesium which is known as the ‘relaxation’ mineral.

2. 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.

3. A lifetime of dieting

If you’ve been on and off diets for the last 20+ years then you may have have reduced your RMR (resting metabolic rate). Our bodies adapt to our environment, and so if you’re consuming less calories then after a while it will adapt to to this and this becomes your normal set point. And so when you go back to your old eating habits, your body treats the calories as surplus to requirement and stores 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.

4. 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. The endocrine hormones are one of the reasons why women struggle with sustained weight loss more than men. They have far more hormones interacting with each other in their bodies and therefore have more chance to be off-kilter! 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 this whole system can address this.

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 some of the causes of excess weight that's hard to shift. Often once we understand why something is happening it's then much easier to address and reach our goals.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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