Are you struggling to lose weight? You’re tracking your calories and making sure you’re in a caloric deficit, but nothing is changing? Perhaps there’s something else at play.
Weight loss is an extremely complex process and whilst the calories you consume vs the calories you expend play a major role, there are various other factors that can impact your ability to lose weight. In this article, we’re going to look at some common factors that can contribute to resistant weight loss.
1. Chronic Stress.
Chronic stress not only increases absolute cortisol levels, but more importantly, it disrupts the natural cortisol rhythm. This broken cortisol rhythm wreaks so much havoc on your body and your ability to lose weight. Amongst various effects, it:
• Raises blood sugar & makes it harder for glucose to get into cells
• Disrupts appetite signalling, making you hungry and craving sugar
• Reduces your ability to burn fat & increases the rate at which you store fat
• Reduces DHEA, testosterone, growth hormone and TSH levels, all of which are important for maintaining muscle mass and controlling weight gain
• Makes cells less sensitive to insulin
• Increases belly fat and contributes to the development of fatty liver
• Raises blood levels of triglycerides and fatty acids
Each one of these consequences alone could make you gain weight, but when added together they’re almost the perfect recipe for weight gain.
Time and time again I see patients who work long hours or look after kids all day, exercise themselves into the ground and don’t get enough quality sleep. On top of that, they count calories and ensure they’re in a caloric deficit, but their body is not changing. Once we work on their stress and manage their cortisol levels, everything starts to fall into place.
2. Food Intolerances and Allergies.
Food intolerances and allergies such as those to gluten, dairy and soy can trigger excess inflammation within the body. When your body is inflamed, it is almost impossible to burn fat and achieve real body transformation. This is due to various factors such as increased cortisol levels (and all the high-cortisol consequences we discussed in the last post), reduced insulin sensitivity, reduced thyroid function and so much more.
Without addressing any food intolerance or allergy therefore, you will always struggle to lose weight.
3. Imbalanced gut bacteria. Given the well-established importance of the gut for overall health, it’s no surprise that one way to support your weight loss goals is by balancing your microbiome. When your gut microbiome becomes imbalanced with an insufficient number of beneficial bacteria and a relative overgrowth of more pathogenic bacteria (aka dysbiosis), various consequences can occur. For example, certain bacteria are called “fat-promoting bacteria,” as they extract more calories from the food you eat and influence your body to gain weight and store fat. An imbalanced microbiome can also affect your body’s gene expression, causing fat-burning pathways to be turned off. Dysbiosis can also cause various other consequences such as increased inflammation, increased cravings and reduced energy levels, all of which are going to affect your weight loss goals.
Supporting your microbiome is thus essential for achieving any weight loss (or overall health) goals you may have.
Over 100,000 new chemicals/toxins have been introduced into the market since World War II. Toxins can be broken down into two categories: 1) environmental toxins (non-living) and 2) biotoxins (living).
Environmental toxins bio-accumulate within our bodies when we are exposed to heavy metals, plastics, paints, new carpets, household cleaning supplies, cosmetics, packaged foods and more. Biotoxins come in the forms of viruses, unhealthy bacteria and yeasts, parasites and mould exposure.
Many of these toxins have now been termed ‘obesogens’. The term obesogens refers to the fact that these toxins contribute to weight gain and obesity. There are various mechanisms through which obesogenic toxins can contribute to weight gain. For example, obesogens have been shown to increase both the number and the size of fat cells (adipocytes). They have also been shown to alter gene expression in a way that negatively affects metabolic function and our ability to lose weight. In addition, obesogens have been shown to alter normal hormonal regulation of appetite and satiety, resulting in increased propensity for cravings and overeating. Finally, obesogens have been shown to disrupt endocrine function leading to dysregulated thyroid function, sex hormone regulation and much more.
Toxins clearly have the potential to vastly detriment your ability to lose weight. If you’re struggling to lose weight and feel like you’ve tried everything, perhaps you should look at your toxin exposure and your detoxification pathways.
5. Suboptimal Thyroid Function.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in your throat. It makes 2 main hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These thyroid hormones regulate basal metabolism, thermogenesis, and play an important role in lipid and glucose metabolism, food intake and fat oxidation (amongst many other things). Hypothyroidism or suboptimal thyroid function is associated with decreased thermogenesis, decreased metabolic rate, dysregulated glucose and lipid metabolism, increased food intake and reduced fat oxidation. This can result in changes in body weight and composition, body temperature and total and resting energy expenditure independent of physical activity. Hypothyroidism has thus been shown time and time again to be associated with difficulty losing weight, a higher body weight and a higher prevalence of obesity.
How do you know if you are suffering from hypothyroidism or suboptimal thyroid function? Some of the most common symptoms of suboptimal thyroid function are unexplained weight gain (or resistant weight loss), fatigue, constipation, brain fog, depression, mood swings, dry skin, hair loss, and cold hands or feet. If you are suffering from any or all of these, you should consider working with a health practitioner to get a full thyroid panel (not just TSH), so that you can determine whether your thyroid might need support.