Five Reasons Why You Are Not Losing Weight
By Dr. Mary Choi
Most of us have stubborn weight that seems to stay with us no matter what. While loyalty is a commendable thing, here are five questions to ask yourself if you’re ready for that weight to leave you.
1. Are you eating too little and moving too much?
The majority of diet culture has brainwashed us to believe that by moving more and eating less, we will lose weight. Yes, a caloric deficit is important in helping our bodies shed unwanted weight, but the metabolism is an intelligent and wise machine that has been programmed for centuries to help you survive even during times of food scarcity. Chronic low-calorie consumption and increased caloric expenditure slows your metabolic rate to preserve critical bodily functions that encourage your body to hold onto fat making it difficult to lose weight. Eating less and moving more can create other unwanted changes in our bodies such as hair loss, low mood, lack of motivation, slowed heart rate, anxiety, brain fog, poor ovulation, acne, low libido, poor exercise performance and difficulty recovering from exercise.
2. Are you drinking too much coffee and not enough water?
My exhausted mom-patients tell me, “I have coffee first thing in the morning, don’t worry doc, no sugar, only cream. Then I get my kids up, pack lunches, feed them breakfast, heat my coffee up 3 times and then get ready for work. If I have another cup, it’s only to get me through the dinner rush.”
Coffee has fabulous benefits but the overconsumption of caffeine can mask our cues of dehydration. Dehydration makes us feel tired, foggy-brained, sluggish, and even hungry. So instead of reaching for water, we reach for the tried and true coffee. Constant caffeination can contribute to feeling irritable, agitated, anxious, aggravate pms symptoms (headaches, breast tenderness and mood) and negatively impact both our sleep quantity and quality. Our mood, our sleep and hydration have great effects on our appetite – how hungry we are and how satisfied we feel from our food. Too much caffeine and too little water can affect how we experience hunger, what we select to eat when hunger strikes, and how much of it we eat.
I recommend keeping your caffeine for the morning only, especially if sleep is an issue for you. The next time you have an impulse for an afternoon caffeine pick-me-up, think twice, and reach for a tall glass of water instead. Your body and metabolism will thank you.
3. Do you skip meals and graze all day?
“I don’t eat meals, I have no time. I graze all day.” I hear this often in my office from my patients. From the moment they wake up to the minutes before they head up to bed, they’re snacking. Coffee, tea, fish crackers, a few nuts, dried fruit, slices of cheese and crackers, veggies and hummus – the delicious combinations snackers can come up with are infinite. But wait, isn’t snacking and eating 5 meals a day supposed to help you lose weight and speed up your metabolism? So why aren’t you losing weight???
Old school diet mythology indoctrinated us to believe that eating multiple meals a day was the fast track to weight loss. More recent research suggests that people are likely to consume far more than they need to eat when noshing on multiple non-meals throughout the day. Snacking also stimulates hormones, such as insulin, that activate fat collection and storage making it challenging to shed those adorably stubborn love handles.
Every time you consume a morsel of food and/or drink, insulin is activated. Insulin is a hormone that tells the body to store and hold on to fat. Imagine this hormone is like a light switch. When it is turned on (with eating and drinking – even zero calorie/diet foods and keto based sweeteners) insulin will be switched on. Your body is now receiving a signal NOT to burn fat, but instead to hold on and store fat. To achieve weight loss, however, requires this hormone to be dialed down.
I am a strong advocate of intermittent fasting, space and time gapping between meals, and eating low-insulin provoking foods for weight loss. So try not to nibble during the day and sit down for three square meals.
4. Are you getting enough sleep?
With the world’s focus on productivity and pursuit of achievement, our “doing” often bleeds into our hours of sleep. Sleep disruption is one of the most common issues that my patients experience. My female patients (aged 30s, 40s, 50s) going through perimenopause and menopause reporting having sleep issues due to hormonal changes. Some have their sleep circadian rhythm disrupted by cortisol (aka. the stress hormone), and some have sleep issues due to pain and insulin dysregulation.
Restorative sleep is fundamental to unlocking weight loss. Studies show that people who sleep 6 hours vs 8 hours have a significant increase in their weight in a year’s time. Research also shows that with one night of poor sleep, we will make more ghrelin (hunger hormone) and less leptin (satiety hormone) the following day. Yes, following a night of restless sleep, you will be more hungry and less satisfied from your food. Maybe more is going on than weakening will power to maintain your diet?
My patients often feel great shame that they are unable to lose weight despite their valiant efforts and then feel like failures due to their “lack of” willpower. Will power can be recharged; you just need sleep to tame the hormone beasts that are draining your self-regulatory battery.
• Track your caffeine use. It can take 10-12 hours to fully metabolize a serving of caffeine out of your system
• Pass on the alcohol. While a night cap might help you fall asleep, alcohol affected the quality and amount of restorative sleep and causes frequent waking. You may not remember the wakings but you will feel tired and sluggish in the morning.
• Large meals before bed affect how deep and how comfortable you feel during the night.
• Intense exercise before bed will raise cortisol making it harder to settle and fall asleep. Keep movement light, calm and easy in the hours before bed.
5. Are your hormones balanced?
Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They are powerful chemicals that boss you and your organs systems around. Having too little or too much can have consequences on the whole body. Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, leptin, ghrelin, serotonin, dopamine, thyroid, growth hormone, and cortisol hormone all greatly affect how we shed weight.
These hormones control appetite, our sleep wake cycles, our stress, our mood, how hungry and satisfied we are and our metabolic burn rate. It’s not about turning these hormones higher or lower. It’s about establishing a balanced rhythm to make sure our metabolism works for us, rather than against us in order to support successful weight loss that stays off.
For women who experience weight challenges, breast tenderness, acne, headaches, irregular periods, heavy and light bleeding, cravings, sweating and mood changes during their cycles (or absent cycles), learning more about balancing fluctuating hormones may be an important exploration. Book a visit with your trusted wellness practitioner to find out about appropriate testing and how to balance your hormones.
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Dr. Mary Choi