Are you hoping to lose weight in a natural, healthy, and sustainable manner? Maybe you feel like your body is resistant to weight loss. You’ve been working out more and eating less but nothing changes! Or maybe you just don’t know how to work toward weight loss outside of unhealthy crash dieting or juice cleansing.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the root causes behind resistant weight loss, my approach to healthy weight loss, and tips for losing weight in a positive and sustainable way.
It’s often not for lack of effort. I see so many clients come through my doors who have tried hard at working out and counting calories but to no avail. They want to lose the weight, but they just don’t understand why it won’t come off.
I like to think of weight gain or stubborn excess weight as a symptom which is indicative of a root cause. My job as the provider is to guide the process to uncover the root cause and then partner with my client in implementing a game plan to address the problem from the root.
When my client and I address the root cause, we often find the weight comes off naturally…without even really trying! Here are some very common root causes I see behind weight gain or resistance to weight loss.
When I talk about a stressful lifestyle, I’m talking about continually being in a sympathetic state (aka fight-flight-freeze). Often, I see clients don’t even realize they’re living with this constant and low grade stress all the time. And unfortunately, it can lead to weight gain.
High cortisol is a hallmark of those who do not find ways to constructively manage stress. High cortisol often leads to high blood sugar and high insulin levels. High insulin signals the body to store excess fat, particularly around the midsection.
In addition to high cortisol/blood sugar/insulin, those who don’t manage stress are less likely to get adequate sleep, which puts them at further risk for weight gain.
The goal is to find ways to get the body to enter the parasympathetic state (aka relaxation and repair), which will encourage balance and the possibility of weight loss.
Toxin buildup within the body makes it difficult to lose weight.
Research is clear: “Environmental toxins interfere with metabolism, overload hepatic detoxification systems, disrupt central weight-control systems, promote insulin resistance, alter circadian rhythms, activate the stress response, interfere with thyroid function, increase inflammation, damage mitochondria, and lead to obesity. Most researchers have largely ignored the effects of environmental chemicals on metabolism.”
Research now links environmental toxins to obesity and diabetes due to their causing insulin resistance and weight gain.
Common hormonal imbalances I see in my practice that lead to weight loss resistance include:
It’s important to remember that when one hormone gets out of balance, it can easily throw off the balance of other hormones. In this way, we can find that imbalances in hormones that are seemingly unrelated to metabolism might actually be behind what is ultimately slowing down the metabolism and leading to weight loss resistance.
Inflammation is a huge driver in weight gain and resistance to weight loss. I see high lab markers for inflammation for reasons you wouldn’t commonly expect. These include things such as food sensitivities, mold exposure, poor quality diet, sedentary lifestyle, parasites, infections, dysbiosis, heavy metals, lack of sleep, lymph stagnation, toxicity, and more.
The mechanism behind inflammation and weight gain has largely to do with pro-inflammatory molecules in the body called cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that activate the body’s immune response, causing inflammation. They can also interfere with insulin activity, putting you more at risk for high insulin levels and even insulin resistance.
This is perhaps the most widely known and expected reason behind weight gain or resistance to weight loss. Consistent overconsumption of sugar and carbs leads to high blood sugar, high insulin, fat storage, an overburdened liver, and even more serious conditions such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Excess sugar and processed carbs can throw hormones out of balance, increase inflammation and most certainly lead to weight loss resistance.
I don’t promote weight loss for weight loss sake, but rather for the purpose of optimizing health. And remember, weight loss is often just a natural outcome of improved health! When we address underlying root causes, the weight will begin to move to a healthy place.
Here are many of the suggestions and tips I talk through with my clients when they express a desire to shed some pounds and ultimately work on overall well-being:
Suboptimal thyroid function or thyroid imbalance can impair metabolic function. Basically, this just means your body doesn’t burn energy (calories) as well as it should. Particularly for women who are struggling with fatigue and stubborn weight gain – or resistance to loss – I suggest starting with a full thyroid panel of bloodwork. From there, work with your practitioner to address any imbalances.
Did you know research has shown that the body slows down calorie burning when it’s in a dehydrated state?! Even mild hydration can have a notable negative impact on metabolism. I suggest hydrating well throughout the day and considering electrolytes such as LMNT or Quinton minerals in order to maintain optimal hydration levels.
Skipping breakfast can lead to cravings and overeating later in the day. Additionally, it can put the body in “alarm” mode, which raises cortisol and contributes to fat storage.
Caffeine naturally raises cortisol, which increases cravings and lends to fat storage. If you’re starting your day with caffeine on an empty stomach, consider switching to a fatty creamer such as full fat coconut milk or even blending your coffee with ghee.
Never underestimate the power of taking the stairs, cleaning the home or parking in the furthest spot! Studies show that non-exercise activity significantly increases caloric burn and enhances health and lifestyle. How can you incorporate simple movement into your day?
Post-meal walks are not only good for blood sugar regulation, but studies have shown them to be an effective means to weight loss.
Those who sleep more typically eat less, particularly in the later part of the day when insulin runs high and metabolism isn’t as efficient. Sleep is healing. And it is foundational to achieving optimal weight, optimal energy and optimal health in general!
This is one that can be sneaky! If you haven’t ditched the sugary drinks yet, please do so! I can’t encourage you enough to take a look at what’s inside of your drink. Especially if you’re ordering out and not making a smoothie, latte, etc. at home, you’ll want to know what you’re getting! In fact, take this as your cue to hop on over to the nutritional website at Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Smoothie King or wherever else you regularly grab a bev!
Working muscle means one thing: burning more calories. Weight-bearing exercises are good for a metabolic boost, but so much more, too! They’re great for blood sugar and hormonal regulation as well as bone and skeletal health!
This one is counterintuitive, but I promise, it actually makes sense from a physiologic level! When you chronically undereat, it signals to your body that you’re in a state of depletion. What happens? Cortisol goes up, fat storage goes up, and the body can get “stuck” in the sympathetic (fight or flight) state. Long gone are the days of losing weight by severe caloric restriction. Please – eat! But make sure it’s (mostly) healthy and nourishing!
Are you surprised to find out that getting rid of toxic cleaning products, personal care items, makeup, detergents, lawn care and more could have an impact on your weight?! Many of my clients are! But as stated above, research now shows environmental toxins and common chemicals to be related to obesity and weight gain.
My friends at Branch Basics offer an entire course on ditching toxins – where to start and what to toss. If you want to simply get started, then absolutely check out my Instagram page where I commonly post healthy swaps and even have a highlight dedicated to healthier and non-toxic swaps for common personal and household products.
Every little bit matters, and reducing your exposure to toxins can have a profound effect on not only your weight but your overall health.
Stress reduction sets off a positive chain reaction in the body. It facilitates the parasympathetic state, lowers cortisol, can improve sleep, raises energy, encourages hormonal balance, and more.
Stress is one of the biggest factors I see behind weight gain, and when addressed in a healthy and constructive manner, it’s one of the most transformative and impactful pieces behind weight loss.
Breathing exercises are a fabulous, inexpensive, available-anywhere-and-anytime method to physiologically reduce the effect stress has on the body. There are many different methods of deep breathing, and it can be individual with what works for you, but I couldn’t suggest more strongly to incorporate deep breathing into your daily practice.
Whether it be deep breathing, seeing a counselor, reading the Bible, consistently meeting with a friend or loved one for meaningful conversation, or anything else, managing stress in a constructive way is critical for proper weight management and overall well-being.
If you’ve tried many of the above and still struggle with weight loss or fluctuation, it’s time to work with a Functional Medicine provider to uncover why you are experiencing weight loss resistance. In such cases, I always utilize functional lab tests to check hormones, blood sugar, and gut balance. Additionally, I do testing to uncover whether or not the body has a high toxin load or high insulin.
I want to encourage you to be consistent and steadfast on the journey to optimizing your health. Weight loss takes time and effort, but it is possible. And the best news is, if you do it the right way, it improves health from the inside out!
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