If you’ve ever tried to lose weight and found it difficult — or that the pounds come right back — you are not alone. The fact is that when you shed pounds, mechanisms are triggered that make it hard to keep the weight off. Many of these factors are within our control, but some, less so. Here are four big reasons why you might be having trouble losing weight—and how you can make the process easier.
A Slowed Metabolism. Losing weight can be a double-edged sword when it comes to your metabolism. A higher body weight naturally lends itself to a bigger calorie burn just to get you through your day. As that number decreases, your body needs to burn less calories. It can also slow if you’re not eating the right amount of the right foods at the right times. And, body composition is a major factor as well; more muscle means a faster metabolism, a factor that depends on both our sex and age, as well as our genetics.
Your metabolism is also composed of three major kinds of “burn.” The first, accounting for a whopping 50-70% of your daily calorie burn, comes just from the work it takes to keep your body running. That’s everything from keeping your lungs breathing to your heart beating, and running all those other hardworking organs in between. Next, digestion and converting food into energy accounts for 10% of your total calorie burn. Finally, physical activity accounts for approximately 30% of your calorie burn—with that gym workout making up just a small piece of that pie. This 30% is mainly the energy expended as you move around during the day.
Diet and Deprivation don’t work. Fad diets and feeling deprived can provide a fast fix when it comes to weight loss, but for most people, they’re unsustainable for the long haul—meaning that weight comes back, and sometimes more, as soon as the diet ends. Instead, take small, actionable steps towards creating healthy habits that you can live with. The weight may come off slower, but it will stay off if you can maintain the routine. When you build good habits into your daily life, such as adding more veggies and more water to each day, and being mindful in choosing a special “treat” to enjoy—in time all of those good habits will become second nature. You will not feel deprived and you will be able to lose the weight—for good.
Hunger Can Increase with Weight Loss. A major hormonal player in our hunger signals is leptin, which is released by fat cells to tell your brain when you’re hungry and when you’re full. We want lots of leptin since it curbs hunger, but the more fat we lose, the more leptin we lose as well. If you eat the wrong foods, eat at the wrong time, or eat the wrong amounts, you may feel even hungrier than before you lost the weight. This particular hurdle isn’t about willpower—it’s about hormones. Regular exercise, a consistent sleep schedule, keeping stress levels low, and choosing the right foods, at the right times, in the right amounts can all help you increase leptin.
Food is more important than exercise. Bottom line: You can’t out-train a poor diet. No amount of exercise will get you to your goal weight if you don’t eat well. Correct nutrition—not exercise—is the real key to lasting weight loss. Exercise can’t be used as an excuse to overeat or to “earn” junk food. What’s worse is that you’ll be sabotaging more than just your waistline; you’ll be hurting your overall wellness.
But exercise is key in maintaining weight loss. However, just because exercise alone won’t help you lose weight, it’s not an excuse to toss that gym membership. Regular exercise helps reduce the risk of heart disease, improves mood and sleep, reduces anxiety, and keeps blood sugar levels steady. And, when combined with a sustainable, healthy eating structure, those who have lost weight find that daily exercise helps them stay on track. This doesn’t mean grueling workouts, either. Think walking, resistance training, yoga, swimming, and other activities.
By picking something you enjoy, the easier incorporating it into your daily life will be. What it comes down to is not some magic workout, but the volume of activity. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous exercise will help your body burn the calories that you eat.
Remember that when you are trying to lose weight, your metabolism can slow if you are not eating the right foods, in the right amounts, at the right time. If you need help with this—sometimes very complex—process, please contact me. I have helped hundreds of people safely and effectively lose weight—and keep it off.