Dropping pounds is not just about eating less and exercising more; It stems from maintaining optimal overall health. This means, not just eating less, but eating better and not just doing excessive amounts of cardio, but also keeping your muscles active with weight training. Quick and drastic methods to lose weight are never sustainable. Many of us spend our whole lives struggling with weight loss while not overeating and not living a sedentary life, yet still, struggle. For these individuals, it is not as simple as output > input. Although this still plays a role, there are far more complex factors at play that must be addressed in order to achieve long-term weight loss.
5 important factors can impact a person’s inability to lose and maintain a healthy weight:
- Hormone imbalances
- Stress levels
- Sleep quality
- Food sensitivities
- Dietary factors.
1. How Hormone Imbalances Impact Weight Loss
One of the biggest factors in not being able to lose the weight you want is an imbalance in your hormones. Hormones act as signalling molecules that must be in a perfect balance with each other for optimal health.
The first hormone I want to talk about is insulin. Insulin works as a glucose regulator. When insulin is released after a meal, your body goes into fat production and storage mode. Frequent blood sugar spikes and insulin production increases the likelihood of developing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes your body to turn the carbohydrates into storage (weight gain) instead of burning them. Furthermore, blood sugar fluctuations can provoke carbohydrate and sugar cravings, perpetuating the blood sugar and insulin roller coaster. Eating the low glycemic foods, exercise and cinnamon can all help to improve insulin resistance and help with weight management.
The thyroid and adrenals also play an important role in maintaining your metabolic rate. Low thyroid function, estrogen dominance, progesterone and cortisol balance can all present with weight gain. It is super important to get the levels of these hormones checked to decipher the root cause of weight gain or inability to lose weight.
2. How Stress Can Impact Weight Loss
Our body makes cortisol in response to stressful situations. It tells our body to release sugar into the bloodstream. Cortisol is good in short bursts, however, if there is a constant release for days to weeks, it leads to an imbalance in our sugar levels which can promote fat storage. Excessive cortisol production can also suppress the thyroid hormones, cause poor sleep, decrease metabolism and increase your appetite further perpetuating weight gain. While we can’t eliminate all of life’s stressors, we sure can learn to manage it better. Adrenal support is necessary here. Vitamin C, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6 and magnesium can all help to reduce cortisol output.
3. How Poor Sleep Can Impact Weight Loss
Sleep allows the body’s major organs to repair and regenerate. It needs about 7-9 hours to complete this. Sleeping < 6 hours a night worsen blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance. Lack of sleep has been associated with decreased Leptin levels, inability to maintain sugar levels, elevated cortisol (which as I mentioned earlier can lead to weight gain) and all of these contribute to an elevated appetite. Essentially, two people who eat the same foods and burn the same number of calories may have different health outcomes based on the quantity and quality of sleep. Some studies have shown that sleep-deprived people prefer larger food portions, crave more calories and expend less energy. GET YOUR SLEEP IN ORDER!
4. How Food Sensitivities Can Impact Weight Loss
Food allergies can lead to inflammatory products that can cause whole body inflammation. Food allergies and food sensitivities lead to massive amounts of stored toxins in your fat cells, causing them to swell. It is important to remove inflammatory irritants in the diet and then detoxify the body to release its stored toxins.
5. Dietary Factors To Consider When Trying To Lose Weight
All calories are not created equally. The calories from a doughnut vs. the calories from a chicken breast are not processed the same in your body. The body clearly treats protein, fat and carbohydrates differently. The energy expenditure required by the body to store excess dietary triglycerides as fat is 0-2%, for carbohydrates its 6-8% and for protein, it's 25-30%. A shift from higher carb diet to a higher lean protein diet will enhance energy expenditure. So yes, the thyroid hormones, cortisol, insulin and sleep quality all play a very important role in losing weight, but eating the right foods is equally as important to help keep these hormones in check.
Based on the above information, it is important to switch your approach when it comes to weight loss and realize it is way more than just calories in, calories out and exercises. Healthy weight loss has a lot to do with your overall health and comes from eating the right foods, balancing hormones and getting good quality sleep. Getting lab values on all relevant hormones is a key aspect to deciphering the root cause of weight gain or inability to lose the weight you want. Avoid low-calorie dieting and really focus on the underlying cause whether it is, balancing hormones, stress, sleep, food intolerances and/or detoxification.
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND | 2017