Understanding Weight Loss Resistance
Why Losing Weight is Not Always About Diet and Exercise
Weight Loss is a complicated thing. If it weren’t, then it would be super easy for everyone one to lose weight and weight loss wouldn’t be a 64 billion dollar industry. As complicated as weight loss can be, we have been trained to believe that weight loss is as easy as cutting back on calories and exercising a little harder. As a nutritionist, and someone who has struggled with weight loss myself, I know it’s not always that simple. In fact, weight loss or the inability to lose weight, weight loss resistance, can be highly complex and multifaceted.
When working with a weight loss client, the first thing I do is look at their diet and exercise. It is an important piece for achieving weight loss and if it’s not on point, you’ll have problems. If they have a poor diet, are overeating and/or aren’t exercising, then we work on making these changes first and see what happens. Usually these types of clients are able to make pretty dramatic shifts in their weight in a relatively short amount of time and see results. But what happens when this formula doesn’t work?
What Is Weight Loss Resistance?
Interestingly, it’s not clients with poor diets who are coming to me wanting to work on weight loss. My typical weight loss clients are primarily women, who know a lot about eating right, dieting and exercise. In fact, these types of clients have often tried every type of diet, are well versed in food quality and calorie content and many of them have amazing exercise routines. Yet they can’t lose weight. Yes, you heard me right, they are eating perfectly designed, low calorie diets and exercising like a champ and the scale will not budge. This is a phenomenon called weight loss resistance, the inability to lose weight with diet and exercise alone, and it’s extremely common.
Weight loss resistance is no fun! Here are people who are really dedicated to loosing weight and creating change in their life. They are doing everything right, everything they have been told and they are not seeing results. This kind of challenge can really eat away at someone one’s self esteem, as they desperately try and understand, “what’s wrong with me”?
Although there is nothing wrong with the actions of cutting calories and increasing energy expenditure through exercise, there may be something wrong within your body, primarily your metabolism that is blocking your ability to lose weight easily. There are actually a long list of factors that contribute to weight loss resistance, and often people will have several over lapping factors making it even more difficult to understand. When working with weight loss resistance clients, I often view myself as a detective, as I work to uncover all the possible mysterious, or not so obvious factors that get in the way. Once you start to recognize some of these primary factors, you can begin to make the necessary changes needed to shift the body’s state of imbalance.
What’s Getting in Your Way?
As stated, weight loss resistance is complex and there is no one size fits all remedy. Here are some of the most common factors that I see interfere with people’s ability to lose weight;
· Hormonal Imbalances
· Gut Inflammation
Hormones! I could talk forever about the complicated relationship between hormones and weight loss. In case you don’t know what hormones are, they are chemical messengers, sending long lists of complex signals to various body systems to keep us alive and functioning. There are many types of hormones, and quite frankly, when just about any of them are out of balance there can be trouble, but the main problems I see with regards to hormones and weight loss resistance is when there are problems with thyroid hormones, blood sugar, sex hormones and cortisol.
When hormones are normally functioning, they reassure the body that everything is ok, a state of homeostasis. When hormones are either too high or too low, they signal danger in the body, a perceived stress. When the body senses any form of potential attack there will be problems with weight loss. Whether that is grossly high blood sugar levels which could potentially damage precious organ function, or high cortisol, a stress hormone, which prompts the body to maintain a fight, flight or freeze mode to preserve basic survival. Any threat to the body can translate to weight loss resistance, no matter how perfect the diet or exercise regime.
This is an especially tricky area in the world of weight loss resistance because gut inflammation is very common and also difficult for some of us to identify. As a society we don’t normally talk about what is happening within our gut. It can be extremely difficult for some people to even realize that there is something wrong. A lot of times someone will think it’s just something they ate, or perhaps stress, when the reality is there is something wrong with your digestive tract.
All that gas, heartburn, bloating, loose stools or constipation is your body’s way of alerting you to the fact that there is something wrong. And when your body is in a chronically inflamed state, as is the case when you have regular ongoing bouts of gas, heartburn, loose stools, etc., it will hold on to fat.
The human body is pretty amazing, and when it perceives stress of any kind, whether it’s hormone stress, or stress on the body from chronic gut inflammation, the body will go into “store fat mode”. It’s a survival mechanism that has been deeply programmed to keep us alive and functioning, no matter what our external conditions are. Unresolved gut inflammation will cause the body to store fat instead of burn fat, and absolutely interfere with your weight loss goals.
This is another tricky one, because similar to gut inflammation, it is not always obvious that we are experiencing toxicity as there may be no obvious symptoms. Unfortunately that sad truth is that we are all suffering from toxicity in today’s world. Plastics, pesticides, air pollutants, cleaning products, chemicals are everywhere and even if it may seem that we do not directly interface with them, they still enter into our bodies through the food we eat, water we drink and air that we breathe.
In an attempt to protect itself from toxic onslaught, your body stores toxins in your fat cells for safe keeping. This is another survival mechanism designed to keep the body functioning at all times. Ideally the body would store toxins in fat cells, so it can maintain the body’s primary detox pathways and liberate them when it had a chance to catch up with toxic exposure. But in today’s world, the toxins continuously flood your body, and the result is that you store more and more fat. For some of us, detoxing in a healthy and safe manor and actively reducing our exposure to harmful chemicals is one way we can shift this tide within the body to successfully achieve weight loss.
So now that we understand the primary weight loss barriers, what is the solution? The answer comes from changing the message we are sending the body. If that means you have chronically high cortisol from a stressful life, then we need to find a way to tell the body it is safe. If you have chronic gut inflammation, then we need to calm things down with right diet and supportive healing supplements. If your body is struggling with toxic overload, then we need to identify your exposures, minimize them, and safely and gently detox your body systems.
We can change the message we are sending the body by focusing on eating whole organic foods in their natural form, supporting the body with the targeted nutrients and creating a lifestyle that achieves both a sense of safety and a platform for growth. Bringing the body back to its natural state of health is the primary way to break through weight loss resistance and shift metabolism. Want more information on how to shift weight loss resistance? Work with me to learn more about how diet and lifestyle changes along with supportive supplements and herbs can transform your health and reframe you weight loss journey.