There are a number of very common reasons why both men and women are unable lose weight despite feeling they have tried everything.
Before I write more, I am going to just preface this with – do you really need to lose weight? There is such a social pre-conception that ‘thinner is better’, among women in particular there is a strive to always wanting to lose weight when really this is misguided. However, assuming this is not you, and either you have been advised by your doctor to lose weight, perhaps you have blood tests or carried out and you have done a hip/waist ratio measurement and thus know more scientifically it would benefit you, here are some common reasons:
- An excess of carbohydrates in your diet leading to insulin resistance. This is when your cells stop responding to insulin as they should and is a precursor to type-2 diabetes. Insulin is the hormone needed to get sugar out of the blood into the cells. If the demand for this hormone is very high and very frequent for a long-period of time, cells can develop resistance to it and stop responding as they should. This results in sugar staying in the blood for longer than it should at levels higher than is healthy. Understanding what carbohydrates actually are, understanding which are the ones to eat plentifully and which to keep low as well as how to balance your blood sugar here is really important. You may need to do some blood tests to know if you are insulin resistant although there are some common signs such as abdominal fat gain which is out of proportion with other areas of your body. The good news is that insulin resistance is reversible.
- A high level of chronic ‘stress’ in your life leading also to insulin resistance. Cortisol, one of primary stress hormones, causes sugar to be released into the blood and is a very common reason for not being able to lose weight amongst those who do follow seemingly ‘great diets’. Often seen in people who never stop, do fasted training regularly when they are having to ‘push through’ and/or live in a state of heightened anxiety and fear (current top tip – stop listening to the news more than once a day!). A-type individuals and perfectionists are often in this category.
- A high level of toxin build up in the body leading to altered metabolic dysfunction. Toxins are stored primarily in fat cells and can alter a cell’s metabolism and lead to a highly pro-inflammatory state. Often the usual energy-restrictive diets simply do not work and the whole body and mind needs to be assessed holistically. There are tests to assess toxins but also assessing gut function, detoxification (eg liver function, bowel movements, ability to sweat), circulation, exposure to toxins (current and historic), immune function and skin are all important aspects where the dots need to be connected.
- A history of yo-yo dieting has led to a progressively lower basic metabolic rate. This means your body now only needs a very low number of calories to maintain weight and the only way out of this is to ear more – but – key to this is to eat the right foods for YOU that your body knows how to process. Genetics plays a role here as some people will respond better to say, higher fat diets, than others. This can be quite scary for some people so is usually best done under guidance and finding an eating pattern that is sustainable and healthy for you long-term is the goal.
- Misguided attempts at restrictive eating – this can be complex. Sometimes people don’t actually need to lose weight but think they do which is a sign of body dysmorphia and often linked to some form of disordered eating. Anorexia Nervosa aside, what it is important to realise is that any form of restriction is not sustainable long term and invariably results in binge-eating. You can see the Ancel Keys Starvation Diet Study for evidence of this. For some, it can be as simple as changing eating habits through-out the day along with some re-education on how your body works and the effect of starvation on the body. However, often there may be some longer, more complex deep-seated beliefs and psychology at play which can take a little more time to work on but if motivated to change can be done. If you notice signs in anyone young (or old but young are more vulnerable) developing disordered eating habits, do seek help early on as this is associated with much more positive and quicker changes.
Katherine is a degree qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc First Class) with additional training in Eating Disorders from the National Centre for Eating Disorders, is a NLP Practitioner and as well as carrying out 1-2-1’s with clients, lectures on Gut Dysfunction and Functional Testing in Athletes for the Centre for Integrated Sports Nutrition. To find out more how Katherine can help you please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org.