4 Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight By Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

 
Have you been struggling with your weight, despite your best efforts or intentions? There are several factors involved in weight gain, and the very reason why you put on the pounds in the first place could be the thing that is preventing you from losing weight today. Here are the top four reasons why your battle with weight might be getting the best of you.

1. Insufficient Exercise and Poor Eating Habits

You cannot lose weight by cutting calories alone. Adequate exercise and healthy eating habits go hand in hand when it comes to weight loss. Most Americans simply don’t get enough exercise to burn up the amount of calories that they consume on a daily basis. A steady stream of calories without a means to burn them equals weight gain, plain and simple.

A healthy individual looking to maintain his or her weight needs an average of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day: A brisk walk, playing with your kids in the park, washing the car by hand. If you’re looking to lose weight, 60 minutes of cardio a day is recommended until you reach your target weight, when you can then go down to 30 minutes a day.

When deciding on a program to get healthy and lose weight, begin by closely examining the foods that you are eating. Keep a diary of what, when and how much you are eating. Looking at nutrition labels will tell you what’s in your meal and allow you to track your caloric intake as well as the fats, sugars, vitamins and minerals that you are consuming. After a week, evaluate your list, identify the problem areas and make adjustments accordingly.

A healthy eating program should be high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats, sugar and salt. Determine what your daily caloric intake should be and don’t exceed it. If you are worried about feeling hungry, prepare fruity snacks to nibble on throughout the day. They are high in fiber, naturally sweet and will keep you feeling full.

Individuals who have major health concerns, such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, diabetes or osteoporosis should work with a nutritionist to develop a healthy eating plan. If you are otherwise healthy but utterly confused by nutrition in general, a nutritionist might be just what you need to get on the proper track.

2. Syndrome X

Syndrome X is a metabolic disorder that affects one out of ever four Americans and can lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes if left untreated. Syndrome X is chiefly characterized by insulin resistance. When food is consumed by a healthy individual, the body releases insulin to escort glucose into the cells where it can be burned efficiently. When insulin resistance is present, the cells fail to recognize the glucose and deny it entry. The glucose, without a destination, is left to build up in the bloodstream. The liver detects that the cells are not getting enough glucose and pumps more out to remedy the situation, further clogging the bloodstream with sugar. Eventually all of this glucose makes its way to the liver where it is converted to fat and stored throughout the body.

While weight gain due to insulin resistance is not necessarily caused by overeating, insulin resistance is caused by obesity, lack of exercise and diets high in carbohydrates. If you suspect that you might be insulin resistant, see your doctor for a simple test. Early detection could not only be the key to your weight loss, but also important in avoiding cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the future.

3. Stress

Are you plagued by stress on a daily basis? Even little stressors have the ability to add unwanted pounds to your body, thanks to a physiological response called “fight or flight”. Back in the days of our ancestral hunters and gathers, fight or flight was necessary for survival. When facing down an angry bear, the body would increase its production of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to provide the hunter extra energy to battle his prey. After the immediate danger was over, the body would stop producing adrenaline but would continue to pump out cortisol. The cortisol served to stimulate insulin release and maintain the blood sugar levels resulting in an intense hunger. All of this was necessary for our ancient ancestor’s survival, however today we rarely have the need for such drastic responses.

While the type of stressors that we face in our everyday lives hardly compare to facing down a grizzly bear, our body’s response is exactly the same. Every time your workload becomes too much to handle or your children drive you off of the deep end, your body responds as if it was in mortal peril. Experiencing stressful events on a daily basis means that your adrenal glands could be pumping out the calming hormone cortisol on a regular basis.

After a stressful event subsides, the first thing that many of us do is reach for comfort food. This makes sense since the cortisol pumping through your body is effectively telling you to eat. The problem is, going back to its ancient roots, the fight or flight response was intended for physical threats in which massive amounts of energy were expended in order to survive. That intense hunger was supposed to trigger the hunter to replenish his body after the fight was over. Today’s stressors however, rarely involve physical activity. This means that the food you consume in response to a stressful event is not necessary. Your body experienced no event for which it needs to be replenished. The calories that you are consuming are not needed.

The simplest way to overcome this type of “overeating” is to find a way to manage your stress more effectively. When you feel it coming on, go for a walk or engage in some other type of exercise. Since your body is expecting a physical response, give it what it wants in a healthy way. You will find that your sanity can be restored quickly by exercising. If you find that managing your stress on your own seems overwhelming, make an appointment with a trained therapist to discuss stress management tools that can be tailored to your specific needs.

4. Hypothyroidism

Still don’t know why you aren’t losing weight? Ask your doctor to test your thyroid. The thyroid gland, located at the base of your skull, regulates your body’s metabolism. If thyroid hormone levels decrease, everything in your body slows down, a condition called hypothyroidism. As a result, your cells need less energy (calories). While you may feel like you’re eating normal, or even less than normal, portions of food your body will no longer need that much energy to keep going. All of the “extra” calories that you are consuming become stored as fat resulting in weight gain. A simple test can be performed to detect the levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) in your blood stream. Hypothyroidism can be treated by your doctor safely and effectively by supplementing with thyroid hormones.

Obesity is a very complex medical problem in our society and achieving an ideal weight requires a multifaceted approach. These are just four of the many reasons that you might be having difficulty shedding unhealthy pounds. Once you have decided to address this issue, I recommend working with a health care professional who understands the complexities of being overweight and is compassionate to your individual situation and success. Losing weight is not an easy task. If it was, we would all be thin.

 

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