The most common complaint I hear is that someone “just can’t lose weight.” They believe they’re doing all the right things and they’ve tried “everything” but the scale won’t budge. They’re frustrated and ready to give up. I’ve even been here myself, several times. So what’s going on?
Everyone knows how dieters can get stuck on a plateau that last forever or that chronic dieters have been dieting for so long that their bodies don’t burn calories efficiently anymore. But what are some other reasons you can’t lose weight?
There are lots of them! I’m going to share the ones I think are most common that we tend to ignore! Why do we ignore these? Well, sometimes we’re not aware they could be a problem, and for others, we prefer to go the “easy” route and delving into some of this stuff is a bit harder! Read on – you never know, your solution could be in one of these paragraphs.
Reasons Why You Might Not Be Losing Weight
You have a hormonal or metabolic condition that makes it difficult for your body to burn fat or causes weight gain. Hypothyroidism, PCOS, Metabolic Syndrome, Cushing’s Syndrome and natural hormonal changes like perimenopause and menopause are just a few of the medical/physical conditions that can make weight loss seem impossible (and weight gain seem inevitable).
If you suspect that you have a medical condition that is getting in the way of your goals, talk to your doctor. There are tests that can diagnose all of these conditions and treatments that can help! And the sooner you know if you are dealing with a medical condition, the more effective all your efforts will be.
Food Sensitivities & Weight Gain
You have a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities can cause us to gain weight, but we usually don’t know we have one!
Food sensitivities are not the same thing as a food allergy. If you have an allergy to a food, it will usually show up in a blood test or skin prick test that you can have done by an allergist. When someone eats a food that they are allergic to, the symptoms usually happen relatively quickly (hives, itching, wheezing, etc.) and can be life threatening (such as in the case of someone with a peanut allergy with anaphylaxis). To learn more about food allergies and testing, visit FARE.
While food allergies usually are noticeably caused by the food in question, a food sensitivity can go completely unnoticed, as the symptoms and discomfort that come from the sensitivity happen so slowly over time that we don’t see them as related. We usually only become aware that there is an issue with that food if we take it out for a period of time (like during an elimination diet) and reintroduce it.
Food sensitivity symptoms can include many things that can appear to be from other conditions (or just a part of getting older) like bloating, body aches and pains, rosacea, asthma, constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain. Food sensitivities are becoming increasingly common today (a few reasons include an increase in gut permeability and exposure to hormones) and many people who have a food sensitivity gain weight because the offending food causes an inflammatory response in the body.
Interestingly enough, the foods we are sensitive to are often foods we eat frequently and have cravings for! Remove the offending food and weight starts to come off easily. If you need help doing an elimination diet to see if you have a sensitivity to the most common ones, let’s chat!
Mental and Emotional Causes
Weight Gain Due to Self-Limiting Beliefs
You have self-limiting beliefs. Do any of these sound familiar? “I’ve always been fat.” “I can’t lose weight.” “Losing weight is too hard for me.” “I’m just a big-boned person.” “Everyone in my family is overweight.” “I’ll never be a normal weight.” For me, the thought was “I’m just a fat girl” – as if being “fat” defined who I was as a person. We make our weight mean something about us. Thoughts that we think over and over again become part of our belief system and when something is ingrained in our beliefs, like it or not, we take actions repeatedly that will provide evidence for that belief.
For example, if you believe that your weight is a direct result of just everyone in your family being naturally heavy or if you believe that it’s not possible for you to lose weight, how much effort do you think you’ll put into eating well or not eating too much? If you are like most people with these beliefs, you’re going to half-ass it! If you already believe you will fail, you won’t give it your all – because why give your all to something you know you can’t have? You’re not a bad person or lazy for doing this – it’s human nature. We won’t work hard at something we know we can’t have.
But you don’t HAVE to believe these things are true. It’s a choice to believe these things about yourself. Change your belief and you will change your future. To open up the door, start asking yourself empowering questions, like: What if I could lose weight? What can I do today to make weight loss more likely? Is eating this food in alignment with the person I want to be? See where that takes you!
Emotional Weight & Physical Weight Gain
You’re holding onto emotional weight. This is where I’m gonna get a little woo-woo and won’t provide scientific facts to back me up – just personal experiences and observations, but I have a feeling you’ll get what I’m talking about.
Sometimes we gain weight and can’t lose it because we are holding on to something that we believe or think about ourselves on such a deep level that it becomes what I like to call “emotional weight.” The belief doesn’t even have to actually be true to weigh us down – it just has to be something that we think must be true!
For example, maybe you got the impression as a child that you weren’t lovable – so to prevent people from loving you, you gained weight to protect yourself from what you saw as inevitable rejection. Or perhaps you got a lot of attention when you were young that made you feel uncomfortable, so you gained weight in the hopes of reducing that unwanted attention.
The weight was a physical way for us to build up a wall around ourselves to keep others out or to keep believing whatever it is we want to believe about ourselves. Emotional weight prevents us from being who we want to be, it gives us an excuse to hold ourselves back, it keeps us playing small and safe. We think it’s protecting us in some way to continue living that story or belief about ourselves, but all it’s really doing is limiting our potential.
You may not even realize there is some deep emotional root to your weight gain – many of us get stuck here and can stay here for years until we recognize that the reason we are unhappy in our bodies is because we are stalling ourselves in other ways.
If you can let go of whatever is weighing you down emotionally, often we start to lose weight. Release whatever is holding you down emotionally and weight loss will happen naturally. Don’t know how to that? Schedule a consult with me to discuss it.
Stress Related Weight Gain
You’re super stressed out. High levels of stress cause us to release lots of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone – and when this happens too often we gain weight, especially in the belly. In early times, this release of hormones helped us to stay alive by giving us quick energy to escape predators and increasing fat storage in case we were without food for long periods of time!
Today, many of us enter that fight-or-flight mode daily due to situational stress, (most of which isn’t a threat to our lives), and our body (amazing machine that is is) prepares us to deal with it by making sure the body is prepared for famine or being on alert. When we’re chronically stressed, the body thinks that we’re at risk for starvation so it starts to store fat in case we need it later (because thousands of years ago food wasn’t at our fingertips like today). When this happens on a daily basis, you can see how difficult it will be to lose weight if your body believes you are in danger and need all the fat stores it can make!
Even more annoying is that while under acute stress, most folks lose their appetites, but when the stress is chronic, we actually get the urge to eat more – so you end up with eating more which contributes to the fat storage.
If you’re under high levels of stress, or even moderate stress but don’t handle it well, try making stress relief a priority in your life. Gentle exercise like walking and yoga, movement like tai chi and qigong, deep breathing exercises, massage, evening baths with Epsom salt, journal writing, meditation, and avoiding caffeine may help. As you reduce your stress level, the weight may come off more easily.
You’re eating more than your body needs. This is the category that most of us fall into. It’s not something we like to hear, but most of the time, the reason we gain weight and the reason we can’t lose weight is because we are taking in more food than our bodies are using for fuel. This happens for a lot of reasons, a few that you may relate to are:
- We’ve gotten disconnected from our bodies and don’t listen to hunger and fullness signals to determine when to start and stop eating. This means we eat more and more often! When was the last time you actually felt true hunger?
- As a society, we eat a lot of foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, these foods make us feel good in the short term but they spike and crash our blood sugar, making us feel ravenous later, again leading to eating more food than we can use.
- We live sedentary lives, spend too much time driving, on the computer, watching TV and not enough time moving so we don’t burn enough calories.
- We turn to food when we’re upset, sad, frustrated, lonely, or even happy. When we do this, we usually consume large quantities of food in a short period of time and do it regularly.
- We eat massive portions that restaurants serve and start serving ourselves those same sized portions at home even though they are way more food than our body needs. It’s just what we’re used to, so we eat it!
How do you deal with this? Take an honest inventory of your habits. Some people may need to try weighing their food with a kitchen food scale (to determine whether they’re having 1 serving or 4) or get back in touch with their bodies natural hunger signals.
You’re self-sabotaging yourself. You eat well and exercise for a couple of weeks, then decide to reward yourself for your hard work by having a cheat day, but that cheat day turns into you falling off the wagon for three weeks. Or you have been stuck at the same weight for a year, despite exercising 5 days a week and eating well 5 days a week but every Friday and Saturday night you have a few drinks and then after your drinks decide to eat chocolate, ice cream, or whatever else strikes your fancy. You’ll worry about your “diet” on Monday! Or, you drop 20 or 30 pounds and while super excited about your progress, you start to purposely sabotage yourself because there is a part of you that is completely freaked out about going below a certain weight.
We use weight to protect ourselves sometimes and even though consciously we want to lose weight, sometimes we’re more comfortable at the weight we’re at than we want to believe. In fact some of us actually don’t want to lose weight but have been conditioned by society to believe that we need to in order to be happy, so we struggle to lose weight even though it’s not even something we want for ourselves!
So how do you stop sabotaging yourself?
Self sabotage is a complicated beast but for most it goes back to getting in touch with our feelings. Do you feel guilty or berate yourself when you something that isn’t on your “diet”? Then you’re going to self sabotage. Do you use food to comfort or reward yourself? That’s self sabotage. Getting to your why is key to putting an end to it. Find out why you are doing this to yourself and then come up with some good reasons to stop doing it – without judgement and with love!
Go back to why you want to lose weight in the first place – what’s your motivation? How will losing weight change your life? Is there anything that scares you about that? Is there anything that excites you?
Be Honest With Your Habits
Own up, be honest with yourself. This is your ride and you’re in control of it. If you are having a difficult time losing weight and aren’t sure where to turn next, I sincerely hope you will contact me. I have helped many women get over hurdles that were blocking their success and I’d love to help you do it too.