Why Are You Not Losing Weight? A Doctor Weighs In

    The strategy to lose weights presents itself as a relatively simple one. The body needs a specific amount of energy to function well, this energy is measured using a caloric metric, or calories. Our body burns a certain amount of calories every day in order to complete its basic functions. This is called resting metabolic rate. On the other hand, we consume food and beverages every day. Food is broken down into its main components: sugars, fats, and proteins. Each of them represent a certain amount of calories.

    Simple Calorie Rules

    • If we keep a balance between the calories we consume and the calories we burn, we will maintain our weight 
    • If we eat more calories than the ones we utilize we will gain weight
    • If we eat less than the calories that we use or if we increase the use of calories by exercising we will lose weight

    You will find that most diets create a caloric deficit, to promote weight loss. When combined with exercise, people should be able to lose weight easily, but this is not always the case. The truth is there are many factors that interfere with the weight loss process, and it is true that some individuals will have a harder time losing weight than others.

    It is important to state that when losing weight the goal should be for health reasons,  and not purely for aesthetic purposes. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 39% of adults in the world are overweight and 13% have obesity. It is clear that these individuals need to lose weight to reduce their risk of diseases. Is necessary to remember that the process should only be focused on getting healthy and not to look a particular way. All bodies are different and certain beauty trends and standards are not suitable for everyone.

    Since health is the main goal, when trying to lose weight seek help and guidance from professionals like nutritionists and trainers. Every person is different and you might have different needs and various conditions that could change what you need to do and how. For example, it is true that some people have a genetic predisposition to being overweight, or to have hormonal imbalances or to have cellulite; but this predisposition is not a death sentence; the way that you eat and your daily lifestyle habits will determine if those genes are activated or not. Do not be discouraged if your friends or family loses weight faster than you do, everyone is different, and losing weight is also about being consistent. In fact, a diet that promises quick and extreme weight loss is detrimental for your health. Even though you might lose weight, you will gain it all back very quickly.

    Take your time to understand what foods benefit you the most. Some people have great results doing a ketogenic diet, while others (like me) end up gaining weight and increasing their cholesterol levels. Other people may swear by a plant-based diet and thrive on it, while others might not obtain all the nutrients they need from going vegan.

    There is more than just the food and exercise that factors in when it comes to losing weight. It is true that weight loss is 70% what we eat, but habits and diseases have a role as well. If you find yourself trying to lose weight but you are not seeing results, consider this:

    12 Reasons You May Not Be Losing Weight

    1. You might not be eating right 

    Everyone will respond differently to food. Some people are genetically designed to store more fat than others are. Choosing what to eat can be daunting and I always suggest consulting with a nutritionist for guidance.

    Food equals calories so it is important to control the amount of calories that we eat every day if weight loss is a goal. We need to find a balance where the calorie intake is lower than the calories we use, creating a caloric deficit. When we create a caloric deficit, our body activates the metabolism to obtain energy, first by burning the carbohydrates storage in the body, followed by burning the fat reserves causing us to lose fat. It is clear that without a caloric deficit we cannot lose weight. Nevertheless here is where it gets tricky, we need to find a balance where the caloric deficit is enough to make us lose weight but not too much than it puts our body in emergency mode. When you eat a very little amount of calories, your body will go into a self-preservation mode that will make it harder to lose fat.

    An easy way to create a caloric deficit is to monitor your food, keep a journal of everything you eat during the day. Sometimes, we think our diet is healthy, but when we keep track of all our meals, we can notice that the calorie count is a lot higher than we thought and that is why we are not losing weight. Counting calories should be done lightly, try to keep track of yourself for a week and then take a break for one or two days. Counting calories can be triggering for some people, so do not feel pressure to track everything you eat every day. If it all becomes overwhelming, reach out to a professional or to someone who’s gone through a healthy, sustainable weight loss journey before. 

    Another important factor is the source of the calories. It is not the same to consume calories that come from fats versus the calories that come from vegetables. Even if you are consuming an adequate number of calories to be on a deficit, if the source of them is only fats, you may find yourself gaining weight; what’s important isn’t how much you eat, but also what you are consuming.

    2. Your are choosing the wrong foods

    When choosing what to eat, pick options that provide you the biggest volume of food for low calories, for example, you could have three entire apples or one mini cheese wheel for the same amount of calories. The apples will keep you full and satisfied for hours, while the cheese will make you hungry soon after it is finished.

    3. You could be eating too fast

    Enjoy your food. Studies show that eating slowly helps you lose weight. Our stomachs are like a pouch that expands when we eat, but they have a limit. Once the stomach expands to a certain level, it sends a signal to the brain to stop eating. People that eat too fast have difficulties sending this signal and can eat more.

    4. Are you drinking your calories?

    This is a common mistake. Maybe your food intake is proper but you could be drinking your calories, whether it is drinking juices, sodas, coffees in a or drinking alcohol. A glass of wine, a beer, a shot of rum can have around 200 calories each. Coffees from commercial places often use syrups as sweeteners and you will be surprised how many calories they have. Calories coming from drinks are called empty calories because they offer no nutritional value. When trying to lose weight, limit your drinks to water only.

    5. Over snacking

    Having snacks can be good to help us activate the metabolism and last in between meals. Nevertheless, snacking can be tricky. You need to find healthy options with low caloric value and high fiber levels like fruit; having fiber will help you stay full for longer periods. Another option is to have some veggies and dip them in hummus, again this a snack full of fiber that will keep you full. Avoid snacks that are carbohydrate based like chips, bread, and potatoes. These metabolize very quickly and you will be hungry soon after.

    6. You are always hungry

    There is no reason to be hungry while trying to lose weight. In fact, being hungry will play against you. Your body will store more fat and will try not to burn calories; besides being hungry affects your mood, you can become angry or sad and this will make you more likely to give up and go back to unhealthy habits like binge eating.

    Try to reduce the amount of food you eat progressively, this will make it easier for you. Make smart substitutions about your food. For example, instead of eating one cup of pasta with sauce, try to mix it up – have a cup of pasta with some veggies and then add the sauce. The volume of the food will be the same, but the calories will be reduced.

    7. Are you rewarding your workouts with food?

    People tend to reward themselves after an achievement or a workout. While this is not a bad strategy, if you are self rewarding too often with food, then you have not been reducing enough calories to enter into a deficit. Also enough food after a workout is important, make sure you’re eating mindfully, supporting yourself with protein and not over doing the caloric intake. When it comes to losing weight, food is the main reason why you might not be losing weight, so make sure that you are not consuming food that you consider “healthy” but in reality is not. Be mindful of the processed foods and try to cook yourself at home. Commercial products use extra and unnecessary sugars both to preserve but also to keep the clients buying their products. Also always check the labels of the “diet” or “light” marketed products, you will find that in some cases, they are exactly as the original product.

    8. You could be addicted to food

    Food can be addictive. Studies show that sugar activates the same brain pathways and cocaine. It gives the rush of neurotransmissions to the brain, making us feel placer and enjoyment. Giving up on food can be extremely difficult, and can be compared to quit smoking or drinking. Often it is necessary to add therapy, since eating could be masking other problems.

    Be honest with yourself. Sometimes it is hard to admit that you are not following your weight loss program correctly, and others often do not realize how much extra food they consume during the day. Maybe you find yourself in front of the refrigerator grabbing something quick like a handful of cereal (100-200 calories). This, although it might seem small, overall makes a difference. 

    9. Change your exercise routine

    Exercising is another part of the equation. It will not make you lose weight on its own if you do not eat properly, but it does have many other benefits. Exercising improves your mood, making you more happy and relaxed. For some people exercising is the key to kick start your weight loss journey as it increases your metabolism and regulates the levels of hormones such as insulin. Exercising will also help you gain muscle, which will increase your resting metabolic rate therefore you will be able to eat more.

    How you exercise is important, if you have not tried strength training you should. Cardio exercise is good for improving cardiovascular health, but on its own, it will not build muscle. Try lifting weights (guided by a trainer), or doing other exercises like pilates, barre, or cycling. These will help you build muscle and accelerate weight loss. Your body will be transformed because you will replace fat with muscles.

    10. You are losing weight but don’t notice it 

    Another factor that you might notice is that your weight has not changed on the scale but your body composition has. Fat can be replaced by muscle, and when you weigh yourself the number will be the same; however, you will be much leaner. A great way to track your progress is by measuring yourself. You might not see the scale change, but you are losing inches.

    11. Lack of sleep

    Not sleeping can be a negative factor that keeps you from losing weight. Just like under eating, not sleeping puts our bodies in a state of emergency and self-preservation, difficulty burning fat. Try to set a routine before you sleep, do not eat or exercise at least two hours before bed. Not sleeping can be a symptom for different conditions such as depression, anxiety, hypothyroidism etc. Always check with your doctor.

    12. Hormonal imbalance

    In some cases, people can be doing everything right but there is a reason why they cannot lose weight. Hormonal imbalances are common, and affect both men and women. From insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hypothyroidism, diabetes many hormonal imbalances could be affecting your ability to lose weight. This is why it is so important to consult with your doctor and nutritionist before you start losing weight.

    Overall, losing weight can be challenging. Some people never have to think about it while others find themselves in diets all their life. The key is to find balance, and take it easy. Remember to do it to be healthy and not to fit into a new body trend. Consult a nutritionist and your doctor before you start. It’s also a good idea to get help from a trainer so you can get the most out of your workouts.

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