"I'm doing everything correctly," begins a typical client query. "I'm eating optimal protein and fiber at every meal. I exercise. I take supplements. And yet I got on the scales yesterday and... nothing."
When you give full effort, you expect consistent results. Unfortunately, fat loss isn't so linear. Your body is a chemistry lab, not a bank account, and the calories-in-calories-out model is woefully outdated because it fails to account for the numerous variables that can affect fat loss.
During my almost three decades as a nutrition and fitness expert, I've encountered plenty of folks struggling with weight loss resistance, a term I coined to describe those people who, despite their best efforts, can't consistently lose one to three pounds of fat every week.
I've pinpointed several culprits, many of them overlooked by traditional dietitians and doctors, which create weight loss resistance. If you're putting in hard work and not getting satisfying results, consider these seven obstacles that could be stalling fat loss.
Lack of Sleep
I recently wrote about seven hormones that become out of whack when you don't get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted, high-quality sleep. Subsequent lack of judgment means you're more likely to order a gargantuan dark roast and low-fat muffin the following morning, exacerbating weight loss resistance. Researchers at the University of Chicago found even with a perfect diet and exercise, you're at risk for weight gain if you fail to get eight hours of quality sleep each night. Prepare for sleep: About an hour before bed turn off electronics, take a hot bath, and use melatonin or other natural sleep aids if necessary.
Society rewards a fast-faster mentality. Call your best friend and complain about how busy you are -- all bets are she'll tell you she's busier. Stress can benefit you and even save your life, but what rewards you in the short-term can become detrimental over time because you weren't supposed to always be "on." Elevated levels of your stress hormone cortisol break down muscle and store fat. A study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found for women, "stress-induced cortisol secretion may contribute to central fat and demonstrate a link between psychological stress and risk for disease." Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or even a walk with your golden retriever: Find what works for you to reduce stress and make it a priority.
Everything from the air you breathe to the water you drink constantly bombards your body with toxins. A study in the journal Lancet found environmental toxins could trigger fat gain and even diabetes. Symptoms are often subtle: You might have a slightly lower-than-normal body temperature. Your doctor might find you have a normal thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) level but your T3 levels are chronically low. Sensitivity to smells, insulin resistance, and sex hormone imbalances can also signify a high toxic body burden. Consider a doctor-endorsed, professionally-guided detoxification program to reduce toxicity.
Despite your thyroid test numbers, you really want to know how well your body converts inactive T3 to active T3. Slightly elevated TSH or low levels of free T3 can be due to low iodine or selenium levels, chronic stress, heavy metals, and gluten intolerance. Thyroid fatigue can impact metabolic rate, sex hormone levels, overall mood and wellbeing, and the ability to build muscle. Common signs of low thyroid function include a yellow tinge to skin, thinning eyebrows in the outer third, fatigue, inability to build muscle, depression, constipation, dry skin, low body temperature, and weight loss resistance. If you suspect thyroid fatigue, get your TSH, free T3 and T4 and thyroid antibody levels checked and look for optimal, not normal, ranges.
Candida, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and other yeast and bacterial overgrowth mean your small intestine can't properly digest or absorb nutrients, leading to hunger, cravings, and inflammation that contribute to weight loss resistance. Gas and bloating, sugar cravings, heartburn, constipation, and diarrhea are sometimes signs of gut dysbiosis. Work with an integrative practitioner to eliminate overgrowth and restore gut balance.
Among their problems, food intolerances trigger leaky gut, an immune response, and inflammation. Common offenders include gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, corn, sugar and artificial sweeteners, and eggs. A study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed a gluten-free diet reduced fat gain, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Try an elimination diet for three weeks -- remember, you've got to completely remove potential food intolerances -- and see if the scales start moving again.
Without fail, you're first in line to your Tuesday night aerobics class, and you hustle for that whole hour. So why can't you lose weight?
"[The] current popular high intensity aerobic pursuit is a dead-end," says Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint. "It requires huge amounts carbohydrate (sugar) to sustain, it promotes hyperinsulinemia (overproduction of insulin), increases oxidative damage (the production of free radicals) by a factor of 10 or 20 times normal, and generates high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in many people, leaving them susceptible to infection, injury, loss of bone density and depletion of lean muscle tissue -- while encouraging their bodies to deposit fat."
To blast fat in just minutes a day, switch to burst training or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). A study in the Journal of Obesity found among its benefits, burst training significantly improves insulin resistance and aids in greater fat loss. You couldn't get those benefits with hours of aerobics classes.
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