5 Ways to Lose Weight
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5 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight

by: Michelle Sirmons MS, RDN, CSSD  |  July 8, 2024

Embarking on a weight loss journey can be empowering, but encountering roadblocks along the way is not uncommon. Despite your best efforts, when the scale refuses to budge, it can leave you questioning what you might be doing "wrong". And although you are not alone in this frustration, understanding the numerous factors that can impact weight can help to uncover why those extra pounds seem hard to lose. Let’s dive into some factors that can get in the way of achieving a weight loss goal.

You are Tracking the Wrong Metric

Weight loss isn't solely about shedding pounds. The number on the scale doesn't always reflect changes in body composition accurately. Factors like muscle mass, water retention, and bone density contribute to overall weight.

When people say they want to lose weight, they usually mean that they want to feel and look better in their body. These changes come from changes in body composition, not necessarily body weight. While losing weight from fat can be beneficial, weight loss from muscle can actually lead to decreases in metabolic rate which is undesirable for sustainable weight loss.

This is why tracking your body composition is more important than tracking your body weight. Body composition data shows where you are losing weight from and can provide a more accurate measure of progress. Incorporating body composition analysis tools like DEXA scans or bioelectrical impedance scales can offer valuable insights into your body's composition changes over time.

You are Consuming Too Few Calories

Calories are another crucial piece of the puzzle. Weight loss fundamentally boils down to consuming fewer calories than you expend. However, it's not just about slashing calories indiscriminately. Drastic calorie restriction can slow down your metabolism, making long-term, sustained weight loss very challenging.

Instead of dramatically reducing calorie intake, it can be helpful to aim for a moderate calorie deficit, such as 200-300 fewer less per day. This allows for sustainable progress without compromising your health or well-being. 

Lastly, where your calories come from matters just as much as how many calories you are consuming. For example, a day consisting primarily of calories from ultra processed foods - often void of fiber and nutrients that support metabolism - will likely leave you feeling hungry and unsatisfied. Meanwhile, a day rich in nutrient dense whole foods tends to leave you feeling more energized & satiated, even with fewer calories. Here’s a great example Brigid shares of how 100 calories of broccoli is used by the body so differently from 100 calories of cookies - not all calories should not be viewed as equal.

Your Macros aren’t Balanced

Balancing macronutrients - aka carbohydrates, proteins, and fats - play a crucial role in supporting weight loss efforts. It is essential for maintaining energy levels, preserving muscle mass, and promoting satiety. Ensuring that you are meeting your protein needs, while in a caloric deficit, will preserve muscle mass and support losing weight from fat instead of muscle. Your remaining calories can come from optimal fats - like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts & seeds - and carbs like low glycemic fruits & starchy veggies.

Diets that are too high in carbohydrates, or contain high amounts of sugar, can make it harder to achieve weight loss. Insulin is involved in glucose metabolism and when insulin levels are too high, due to a high glycemic (high sugar) diet, it can become harder to burn fat for fuel, preventing weight loss from fat. Furthermore, studies have shown that diets high in sugar also reduce levels of GLP-1, an incretin hormone responsible for helping blood sugar regulation and appetite control. In other words, a diet high in sugar makes it harder to lose excess fat and feel satiated from a particular meal or snack.

Experimenting with different macronutrient ratios can help you determine what works best for your body and lifestyle. Aim to include a source of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates in each meal to support your weight loss goals.

You are Overly Stressed

Stress and sleep can significantly impact weight loss efforts. Some stress is fine & normal but chronic - or persistent - stress is harmful to the body for a variety of reasons & can make weight loss more challenging.

Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that promotes fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area. High stress levels are also shown to increase consumption of foods high in fat and sugar. Prioritize stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, daily outdoor walks, or deep breathing exercises to reduce cortisol levels and support weight loss. Additionally, prioritize getting adequate sleep, as sleep deprivation can disrupt hunger hormones, increase cravings for unhealthy foods, and sabotage weight loss efforts. For our favorite real life tips to reduce stress levels in a way that feels both manageable & approachable, read here!

You have Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies can hinder weight loss progress by impairing metabolic function and energy production. When working with new clients, we commonly see deficiencies in B vitamins. These vitamins play a critical role in producing energy in your mitochondria. Without these energy-producing substrates it can be challenging to see weight loss, or even have the energy to exercise. In our practice, we find that one of the most common reasons individuals have nutrient deficiencies is related to poor gut health. An imbalance of gut bacteria can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, insulin resistance, and weight gain.

A healthy gut microbiome can be supported through

  • Incorporating probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi
  • Ensuring a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods each day
  • Consuming plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

If you suspect that you may have a nutrient deficiency, or are struggling with gut issues, then consider additional testing to look at your gut microbiome and nutrient levels. Understanding the root issue to your deficiencies can help you correct, and prevent, deficiencies from occurring again.

Weight loss requires a holistic approach that addresses various factors contributing to stagnant progress. By understanding and addressing factors such as calorie management, macro/micronutrients, and stress, you can break through barriers and achieve your weight loss goals. Remember, sustainable progress takes time and patience, so stay committed to your journey and celebrate the small victories along the way.

If you are struggling with your weight loss journey then consider joining the next round of our personalized health program, My Food is Health. Our team of dietitians have helped hundreds of clients lose weight, fight inflammation, restore gut health, and improve nutrient deficiencies. Let’s find optimal health, together!

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