Weight Loss Resistance - An Unwanted Symptom of a Deeper Problem
By Anne Grier, RN, BSN, FNLP
If losing weight was simple, the diet industry would not be so gigantic. Losing weight is complex, it requires focus and analysis and it usually goes deeper than food and exercise, especially as women age. Many women experience weight loss resistance, or the inability to reduce their weight despite dietary and activity changes. Weight loss resistance is certainly frustrating but it’s important to realize that resistance to losing weight is actually a symptom of a deeper problem. It’s your body’s way of telling you, like all symptoms are, that something is out of balance in the body. As I learned in nutrition school, weight loss resistance is a branch, we need to search for the root in order to see health change. If we only look at our branches (symptoms) and not the root, change will not occur, an imbalance will persist. My journey After the birth of my 3rd child, the pregnancy weight was very stubborn to come off. With my first and second children losing the baby weight was easy for me. What was different this time? I was older, but what else? What was the cause of this symptom, of not losing the baby weight? My other symptoms were sluggish digestion, gas, and bloating. In the morning my belly was still distended after a night of sleeping, something new for me. After working with a functional medicine practitioner it turned out I had SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), an imbalance of gut bacteria to put it simply. I treated this issue and had to look into its roots and started seeing improvements in my digestion and weight loss resistance. I have also had to really prioritize sleep, manage my stress levels, and learn about and reduce my exposure to toxic chemicals. There are many possible pieces to the weight loss resistance puzzle from hormones to inflammation (both roots and branches) that could be playing a role as well but for today I’ll focus on these four likely problems that are contributing to the symptom of weight loss resistance: sleep, stress, gut health, and toxic chemicals. Four Areas of Focus to Help with Weight Loss Resistance Sleep I know I talk about sleep a lot. It really is a non-negotiable for good health. And it impacts weight in a big way. The two main hormones that regulate hunger and satiety; ghrelin and leptin are not in their proper amounts when sleep is compromised. Ever have a poor night’s sleep and then feel starving and unsatiated the next day? This is because the hormone ghrelin which regulates appetite is not in balance nor is the hormone leptin which tells your body when it’s satiated. After a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel a normal appetite and you’ll feel satisfied after eating. And after a poor night’s sleep, you’ll experience the opposite. Make sleep a priority. Read my previous blog post on sleep. Stress The hormone cortisol is released in times of stress. And with increased stress cortisol is released excessively and this leads to weight gain or weight loss resistance. Our bodies need to feel safe to release weight. A state of stress is not safe for the body. Cortisol also raises blood sugar and insulin, both of which need to be in a regulated state for a healthy weight. High blood sugar and insulin means the weight will not budge and fat storage occurs, especially around the abdomen. See my blog post Reduce Stress in 7 Steps. Once your cortisol is under control, weight is more likely to release. Gut Health Our bodies and our guts are full of beneficial bacteria. Our skin has a family of bacteria that protect us, our mouths have a different family of bacteria that do their job as well. Our gut has a huge variety of beneficial bacteria for each of the areas of the gut. When these gut bugs or bacteria are disturbed, it can cause negative symptoms in our health. It could be that beneficial bacteria were killed along with bad bacteria in the case of antibiotic use. It could also be that we are eating too much refined sugar which is feeding our undesirable bacteria so they are thriving and populating at a high rate. These negative bacteria can cause us to crave sugar and refined carbohydrates to perpetuate the cycle. Pets, exposure to nature, and ingesting beneficial bacteria through probiotics supplements or in food will help to balance our bacteria and keep us healthy. So get outside in nature, breathe fresh air, grow your own produce in bacteria-rich soil, or support a local farm. And eat foods like cultured dairy, kimchi, sauerkraut that have diverse species of beneficial bacteria. This will help to repopulate the good guys, decrease your cravings, and help balance your weight. Toxic Chemicals In the United States, we allow many chemical substances in our food system that are banned in other developed countries. Flavor enhancers, additives, stabilizers, preservatives, and other mysterious ingredients are found in most of our food. Conventional meat and dairy are usually pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones. Our furniture is coated in flame retardants. Plastics for food and drink are leaching Bisphenol A (BPA) into our bodies and beauty products are full of too many chemicals to list. These toxic chemicals accumulate in our bodies and contribute to poor health. Our bodies are overwhelmed and trying to protect us by storing these chemicals in our fat cells. Because of this, our bodies don’t want to release the fat that is storing these harmful toxins. Another possibly for weight loss resistance. Tips to reduce toxic chemicals:
Eat whole, real organic foods with the fewest ingredients
Avoid using plastics of any kind; water bottles, containers, bags, etc.
When purchasing furniture, carpets or mattresses look for non-toxic versions
Use the Environmental Working Group (EWG) app when purchasing products and pick those safely rated. Beauty Counter is a safe beauty product company that also fights to clean up the entire beauty industry, not just create clean products.
Make sure you are sweating, pooping and urinating very regularly to keep the toxins from accumulating in your body. We all have toxins in our bodies but we want to make sure you are moving them out on a daily basis.
Weight loss resistance can be tiring to deal with and to uncover the underlying issues. Start with the suggestions above and if still struggling I would be happy to work with you individually to look deeper into what may be causing this frustrating symptom. Please visit my health coaching page to schedule a session.