I often see weight loss clients in my clinic, and while the details are different, the BIG burning question is always the same… Why am I not losing weight?
Some professionals would have you believe that calories in minus calories out will give you either a surplus or deficit of energy that will equate to your weight loss or gain. Well, if this were the WHOLE picture then surely everyone could lose weight if they really wanted to right? Wrong.
Weight loss (and reasons for weight gain) is as individual as your fingerprint. There is no ONE correct diet. There is no ONE form of exercise. There certainly is no magic pill/potion or the like that will make the weight melt away. Even surgical procedures cannot be guaranteed for everyone.
While it would be nearly impossible to create a complete list of ALL the reasons why people don’t shed those kilos, here are some of the common reasons that I see to answer the question “Why am I not losing weight?”
1. You are not eating enough: I often see people fall into the trap of (calories in) – (calories out) = weight loss, and therefore they reason that eating less and expending more will give faster/better results. In fact the opposite is more true. If you drastically restrict the amount that you are eating, your body unconsciously recognises this as a famine. While we have come a long way since our prehistoric self, we still have these survival mechanisms programmed into us that would have been lifesaving in the event of a real famine. Prehistoric man would have been thankful to be storing a little extra weight when there was no food available, however our modern self sees it as less of a blessing.
Furthermore, when you restrict your intake of food, you often end up with nutrient deficiencies. The common ones I see are protein, fat and zinc. This can result in a number of things – firstly, feeling like a crazy person, with erratic blood sugars, and depleted neurotransmitter production, but secondly it can cause major fluid retention. Many of the clients I see don’t actually have a whole heap of fat to lose, but rather they have an excess of fluid sitting outside the cells which LOOKS like fat.
2. You have a hormonal imbalance: Hormones play a HUGE role in the function of our metabolism, digestion and all round well-being. Here are just a few endocrine conditions (and their systems) that can relate to weight gain or an inability to lose weight.
· Hypothyroidism (thyroid)
· Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (female reproductive system)
· Cushings Syndrome (adrenal glands)
· Diabetes (pancreas/blood sugar)
These conditions can be clinically diagnosed, however even just a tendency towards imbalance (eg lower thyroid function, excess estrogen, excess cortisol, or increased need for insulin) can cause your weight to creep up and stay up.
3. You have emotional weight that needs to be shifted: When I sit with a client in their consultation, not only do we go through their physical symptoms, but we also discuss stressful times, emotional concerns or unresolved feelings. And MY GOODNESS is that stuff heavy. Literally. Underlying emotional issues can be a HUGE driver for weight gain and the inability to lose it. The incredible Jon Gabriel was the first person to introduce me to this notion, when I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him a few years ago. He told me his story and how he was excruciatingly unhappy in his work, and particularly that he felt threatened, bullied and frightened by his business partner. As a result he started unconsciously gaining weight as a way to put PHYSICAL DISTANCE between him and his partner, to the point where he was no longer frightened because he could have sat on him and killed him in an instant (not that he was actually going to!). He was also eating poorly – which was obviously part of the weight gain, but Jon worked with Dr Atkins himself who at the time was THE diet and weight loss guru, and even Dr Atkins couldn’t get him to shift the weight. This has been confirmed by many clients I have seen. Whether it be an unhappy relationship, a history of abuse, a serious trauma or stressful event, despising your job, or even a passing comment that has left a wound of sadness – emotional weight can literally become physical weight.
4. You have digestive issues: Whether it be IBS, any of the inflammatory bowel conditions (IBD, Chron’s , Ulcerative Collitis), or even hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), impaired digestion can cause you to hold onto weight. This, as mentioned in point number 1 can be related to fluid retention, but it can also be inflammation as well as an impaired ability to detoxify. Which leads me to…
5. You need to detoxify: The body is not your worst enemy. It is not trying to make you put on weight to spite you. In fact it is the opposite. The body is always doing whatever it can to protect you, and if you have an overload of toxins then in the fat cells is the safest place to store them. In the world we live in today it is pretty hard not to encounter some form of toxin. They’re in our food (pesticides, preservatives and other weird chemicals that we have deemed ok to consume), they’re in our water (fluoride, chlorine, pharmaceuticals), they’re in our air (pollution, pollution, weird chemicals, pollution) and we choose to use them (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning products) etc. While the body is designed to detoxify all the time, we are so overloaded with toxins that it can’t keep up. So rather than have them hanging about in the blood stream, the body does the best thing it can and wraps them up nice and safely in fat. So while you don’t know this, the body does, and if it were to suddenly release this fat (so that you could lose weight), the result would be those toxins would be dumped back into circulation, making you sick (and possibly worse).
6. You don’t need to lose weight: Have you ever considered that you are fine just the way you are? Some of the clients that I see who want to lose weight, are actually already in or below their normal weight range. Everyone has a different set point that is normal for them. This includes a different body composition – muscle mass, skeleton weight, fat distribution etc. And that is ok! Maybe instead of losing weight, you really want to tone up, or improve the quality of your skin, or buy some new clothes that make you feel great?
As I said, weight loss is as individual as your fingerprint, and these are only SOME of the common reasons why people are not able to shift it. As with any health complaint (particularly weight loss) it is important to seek support from an experienced practitioner.
Article written by Kate Johnston – Naturopath, Clinical & Sports Nutritionist, Speaker, Writer, Wholefoods Cook and all-round Well-Being lover. See more from her at www.korewellbeing.com.au