Losing weight is one of the most common goals in America, whether it’s for a new year or upcoming social event. People will go to great lengths to achieve their target number, be it a strict low-carb diet or juice cleanse.
Internal health rarely factors into a person’s fat loss plan, but it’s one of the most underrated things to consider. Many hidden reasons prompt the body to hold onto excess weight. Moreover, those factors render diet and exercise useless until you address them.
7 REASONS YOU MIGHT NOT BE LOSING WEIGHT
Blood sugar dysregulation
All of the cells in our body require ATP – or Adenosine Triphosphate. This is a chemical that provides energy for many internal processes such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse stimulation, and chemical synthesis. ATP is created via a process called cellular respiration, of which carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source.
Upon carbohydrate ingestion, a person’s blood glucose levels begin to rise. In response, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin whose job involves moving these sugars into the cells where they belong. Insulin is essential to human life, however it promotes fat storage when produced in excess.
In a healthy individual, this process runs smoothly, and blood sugar levels return to normal (at least 140 ng/dl or lower, but preferably below 100) approximately two hours after a meal. Sometimes, however, the cells become fatigued and lose their ability to efficiently accept insulin. This is known as insulin resistance, a dangerous condition that can lead to weight gain and eventually type 2 diabetes if left untreated.
Many factors play a role in the development of insulin resistance, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Carrying excess abdominal weight, even in the absence of overall obesity
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates, such as white flour and sugar
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels is crucial to prevent unwanted fat gain. This can be achieved by reducing consumption of processed foods and ensuring each meal contains protein, fiber, and fat. These nutrients slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream.
You might understandably overlook the link from losing weight to inflammation.
While some level of inflammation is necessary to fight off infections, problems can arise when it becomes chronic and unrelenting. One resulting issue is weight gain – when the body is experiencing inflammation, its top priority is extinguishing that internal fire. Often times, there is no energy left over for fat loss to occur until homeostasis has been restored.
Investigating the root cause of inflammation is crucial to restore optimal internal health and kickstart weight loss.
- Carrying excess weight is one of the greatest risk factors for inflammation. This is because overeating increases the body’s immune response, which generates inflammation that can lead to a vast array of chronic illnesses. This reaction has to do with mitochondria or cell powerhouses whose job involves creating energy from fatty acids.
When a person eats too much food, these fatty acids accumulate faster than the mitochondria can break them down. Low-grade, full-body inflammation can ensue as a consequence, which often results in weight gain.
Some other common sources of inflammation include:
- Carrying excess weight.
- Food sensitivities.
- Poor diet.
- Birth control pills.
- Gut infections.
- Imbalanced blood sugar.
- Environmental toxins.
- Inadequate sleep.
One of the main reasons why the calories in vs. calories out model is so outdated for weight loss has to do with hormones. Approximately 50 of these chemicals circulate throughout the human body, secreted by endocrine cells located in glands. The substances then enter the bloodstream and activate target cells.
Hormones have an incredible amount of influence on our weight because they regulate BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate. A person’s BMR is the number of calories they burn on a daily basis without physical activity factored in. An imbalance of certain hormones such as cortisol, testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone often leads to a decreased BMR. Less calories expended over the course of an entire day can make weight loss akin to climbing Mount Everest – even when a person is doing all the “right” things such as exercising and eating healthfully.
Many factors, including the above causes for blood sugar dysregulation, can be involved in hormone imbalances. Since all the systems in the human body are intricately connected, there is typically not a single root cause responsible for the issue. Instead, several elements often build upon one another, eventually culminating in a domino effect that wreaks havoc on the delicate hormonal dance.
Bringing hormones back into balance is a multifaceted process. It usually involves addressing adrenal function, liver detoxification, gut dysbiosis, and insulin resistance, among other pieces of a very complex puzzle. Working with a functional practitioner who uses a comprehensive hormone test such as DUTCH, or Dried Urine Total Complete Hormones, is the most efficient way to go about restoring optimal health.
A small, butterfly-shaped gland located just below the larynx, the thyroid is an extremely important gland. It is responsible for regulating metabolism, or the rate at which our bodies break down food and create energy from it.
T3 and T4 are the two main hormones produced by the thyroid, with T3 being the more potent of the pair. Hypothyroidism, otherwise known as an underactive thyroid, ensues when the body doesn’t produce enough T3 or T4. It could also occur if the body has an issue converting T4 into T3 (the “active” thyroid hormone.)
Insufficient T3 or T4 alerts the hypothalamus to secret TRH, or Thyroid Releasing Hormone. In response, the pituitary gland releases TSH, more commonly known as Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. This complicated chain of events means that, paradoxically, TSH and thyroid function have an inverse relationship. The higher the TSH, the lower the thyroid function is. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Constipation or dry, hard stools
- A puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- High cholesterol
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and/or stiffness
- Pain, stiffness, or swelling of the joints
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Cognitive decline
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)
Unfortunately, conventional medicine does not have a sufficient understanding of hypothyroidism. It is seen as a root cause despite often being a symptom of something much deeper. The thyroid almost always slows down in response to another condition such as adrenal fatigue, the medical term for which is HPA Axis Dysfunction. That condition can slow your efforts at losing weight.
The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates stated, “all disease begins in the gut.”
Many disregarded those incredibly wise words until very recent years when scientists began studying the gut microbiome.
Referred to as the body’s “second brain,” the gut has an impact on just about every internal system and process. Having sufficient beneficial bacteria in the GI tract is crucial for weight management and overall health.
Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of “good” vs. “bad” microbes, can contribute to the aforementioned factors behind weight loss struggles. And, those include blood sugar dysregulation, inflammation, hormone imbalances, and hypothyroidism, among other issues.
There are many simple things a person can do to promote better gut health. These include stress reduction, eating an unprocessed diet, getting regular exercise, and eating fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut. Sometimes, however, these efforts are not enough to correct a serious bacterial imbalance. Taking a high-quality stool test gives insight into which specific microbial strains are either overgrown or insufficient. This lets practitioners tailor a plan unique to each client instead of guessing what steps to take.
In the fast-paced world we live in today, stress is unavoidable. Between our jobs, financial struggles, kids, and relationships, most of us are constantly on-edge. Stress is rarely a purely psychological issue, In fact, it physical stress is very real.
Our bodies have not yet evolved to differentiate between mental anguish and the stress that ensues when a bear is chasing after us. Consequently, we go into “fight or flight” mode whether the burden is physical or emotional – which, for most people, looks like a state of constant anxiety.
Stress signals the secretion of cortisol, a steroid hormone that can increase blood sugar levels even in the absence of any refined or processed foods.
Here is how this stops your efforts in losing weight. This process can prompt the body to store fat, particularly in the abdominal area, since blood glucose links to insulin (the fat-storage hormone.)
While minerals cannot be broken down and turned into energy like macronutrients (carbs, fats, and proteins), they are cofactors for hundreds of enzymes involved in metabolism. Since metabolism controls how many calories a person burns, mineral deficiencies can lead to weight gain.
Heavy metal toxicity is all too common in the modern world due to factors such as our contaminated water supply. These compounds are fat soluble, so the body can hold onto excess weight to prevent them from entering the bloodstream. HTMA, or Hair Trace Mineral Analysis, testing is a great way to assess mineral and heavy metal status. Always work with a practitioner with issues like these, as detoxing from heavy metals can be very dangerous.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HIDDEN REASONS WHY YOU AREN’T LOSING WEIGHT
Not making progress on your weight loss goals can be extremely disheartening. Plateaus lead many people to push harder in the gym and cut their calories even more to see results. Not only is this approach often unsuccessful, but it also fails to address the reason why weight loss isn’t occurring.
Often times, difficulty losing weight is a symptom of something internal. The root cause could be hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, gut dysbiosis, or another invisible illness. However, dieting harder is only going to mount additional unwanted stress on the body. Realizing the interconnectedness of every internal system is crucial for healing and achieving optimal health. And, of course, for losing weight.