You eat exceptionally healthy food and every day you play sports, but the numbers on the scale still won’t change? As your frustration grows and you start to get desperate, you ask yourself hopelessly: “Why can’t I lose weight?”. Fortunately, not everything is as bad as it may seem at first glance. Here are six simple things that could be standing between you and your ideal weight, and a solution for each.
Why can’t I lose weight? 6 common reasons that might be at fault
1. Food just disappears from the table by itself
Like 99% of people, you do not notice that you eat much more than you need to. Guess what, not only French fries and ice cream are loaded with calories! Many healthy foods contain a huge amount of calories too. All kinds of nuts, olive oil and avocados, which we all love so much, are champions in calories. For example, one cup of almonds contains about 750 calories. Nuts are ideal for quick energy recharging, but if you eat them constantly you’ll put on the pounds.
Try to keep a food diary where you record everything that you eat, at least for a few months. There are numerous mobile apps that can help you with this. Smart ones will remember your data and calculate the ideal daily portions for your favourite foods. In one American study, people who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who relied purely on their intuition.
2. You don’t get enough sleep
Regular lack of sleep reduces your chances to lose weight. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, when you don’t fall asleep on time you inevitably start seeking comfort from the refrigerator. A medical study conducted at the University of Chicago showed that lack of sleep changes the hormonal balance of the body. It triggers a sharp rise in two hormones: cortisol, responsible for carbohydrate metabolism, and ghrelin, which sends a signal to the brain that the body needs food. In the study one group of people were given only four hours of sleep a night for two nights (compared to 8 or 12 hours per night). The participants’ appetites grew by 24% and they were drawn to sweets, cookies, chips, bread and pasta. Also, the peptide hormone leptin, which is responsible for the body’s energy metabolism and for inhibiting appetite, decreased by 18%, and the level of ghrelin which tells the body to feed itself increased by 28%.
Secondly, a sleepy body stops working at full capacity and slides into power saving mode. Instead of burning calories, it saves them. For example, in another American study it was found that a single episode of lack of sleep in a healthy man reduces the total energy expenditure by 5%. Additionally, it showed postprandial metabolic rate decreased by 20% compared to the control group, meaning that the number of calories the body spends on digesting every meal is also diminished. Unfortunately, there are no invisible deposits of clean energy. It gets stored in nasty fat folds.
Develop a good habit of a full 8 hours of sleep each night. Do not linger before bedtime at the computer or with your mobile, and go to bed every night at the same time. If you find it difficult to cope with insomnia consult your doctor.
3. Your favourite diet suddenly stopped working
You continue to follow an effective diet, which recently made you slim and vigorous, but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to work anymore. This is a sure sign that you have reached an equilibrium in your diet, the so-called “plateau”. The decrease of calories, which allowed you to lose weight up to this point, reached a zero balance and became a calorie supporting level. Your new, thinner body now needs fewer calories for energy. Therefore to continue to lose weight, you need to eat even less.
If you have reached an equilibrium in your diet and your weight does not change for two months, and you would like to lose some more weight, try reducing your daily rate of calorie intake by at least one hundred calories. Watch the dynamics of your weight for two weeks and then, if necessary, lower the rate by another 100 calories. But don’t get carried away. The average daily intake should not be less than 1200 calories for women, or 1700 calories for men. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, your age and level of activity can also be a factor. Listen carefully to your body signals however. You should never feel constant hunger or fatigue.
4. You are under constant stress
Under significant stress, a person can turn into a glutton, eating anything and everything in sight. Any prolonged stress at work or in private life increases your cortisol, which means your appetite is out of control and your weight is growing. At such moments, you are especially attracted to high-carbohydrate foods and all sorts of junk food.
Also, to calm down in a difficult situation, we often try to comfort ourselves with something sweet and… harmful. Foods rich in sugars and starch quickly raise blood sugar levels, and as a result, there is a sharp release of serotonin and our mood instantly improves. Unfortunately, this is a very short-term effect, and soon you will want to be consoled with sweets again. So you find yourself in a vicious cycle of stress and bad eating habits.
Here is how biochemistry works: cortisol stimulates insulin production and calories begin to accumulate as internal fat. This fat is deposited in the abdominal cavity and envelops various vital organs. The accumulation of internal fat causes insulin resistance, which is very dangerous. With a predisposition, diabetes can develop quite quickly.
Often it is very difficult to overcome constant stress on your own, and you may need to seek medical help or see a psychotherapist. Many people underestimate the severity of mental health problems and feeling unwell, but this frivolous attitude can lead to serious depression or obesity if the problems are left to brew.
5. You use artificial sweeteners
Sugar substitutes in coffee, soda, or even low-fat yoghurt will do you a disservice. Using them, you will quickly reduce the number of calories and sugar in your diet, but in the long run, it is a ticking time bomb. You lose weight but undermine your health. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, daily consumption of “diet” soda for ten years leads to a 5 fold increase in body fat in the abdominal area. Would you agree to participate in such an experiment?
Additionally, physicians from the Harvard Institute of Health point out that the brain cannot recognize an artificial sugar substitute and you end up eating a lot more sweets and flour. Artificial sweeteners are also known to disrupt the bowels.
Similar studies conducted in 2014 by immunologists from the Israeli Weizmann Institute proved that the use of artificial sugar substitutes leads to malfunction of the intestine and impaired glucose tolerance, therefore contributing to the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
To avoid these consequences, doctors recommend eliminating artificial sugar substitutes and sticking to natural sweeteners such as honey or other natural sources of sugar. And remember, everything in moderation.
6. You may have a disease that prevents you from losing weight
In some cases, a health condition may not allow you to lose weight. For example Cushing disease, which is associated with elevated levels of cortisol, or polycystic ovary syndrome and glucose metabolism disorders.Hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones – may also lead to problems with excess weight. According to Clinical Practice Guidelines developed by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists together with American Thyroid Association, in the United States up to 60% of people with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition, are not diagnosed and remain untreated.
This knowledge should help you to manage your weight. Now it’s up to you. If you watch your daily calorie intake and exercise between two and five hours a week, but a weight problem continues to bother you, consult your doctor. A competent specialist and the administration of several tests, including hormonal ones, will establish the real reason you’re not losing weight, and help you to resolve it.