You’re exercising daily, following a strict diet, and everything seems to be going great — until you step on the scale. When you’re putting so much effort into achieving your weight loss goals, it can be disappointing when the scale refuses to budge. And even worse if the scale starts moving in the wrong direction. But before you chuck your scale out the window, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There are steps you can take to begin tackling your weight gain battle head-on.
To provide you with the best advice, we spoke to fitness and weight loss experts to gather their tips and insights on why most people struggle to lose weight. Here’s what they had to say.
Your body won’t prioritize weight loss if it’s in a constant state of stress. To effectively lose weight, you must treat the underlying causes of stress.
“When we don’t see the results we want, we feel we need to push our bodies harder, but in fact, that’s placing us in a more fragile state. We are driving ourselves into fight or flight mode, which takes us farther away from the results we want to achieve,” says Lauren Zajac, a physician assistant and health coach.
When talking about stress, we tend to focus on the psychological and emotional responses due to financial, work, or relationship pressures. But stress can show up in a ton of different ways, including:
When stressed, the body releases the hormone cortisol into the bloodstream. “Heightened cortisol impacts blood sugar and insulin, which can cause food cravings. It can also impact the utilization of fats and sugars for fuel. This can lead to slower metabolism or storage of excess glucose and fats in the body,” says Stephanie Machacek, board-certified nutritionist and owner of SuperMama by Design.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to your diet. Unfortunately, many diets are way too restrictive and don’t provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs to function effectively. A restrictive diet, combined with an intensive exercise program, could be the reason you’re losing your weight loss battle.
“Since our bodies are always seeking to maintain homeostasis and keep vital processes happening, prolonged seasons of under-eating eventually causes the body to decrease its metabolic rate to compensate. Thus, stalling weight loss,” says Ted Kallmyer, Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and founder of Healthy Eater.
Kallmyer suggests eating more and in relation to how many calories you’re burning in your exercise routine. “This ensures that your body has enough nutrition to support the body’s vital functions and exercise output but maintain a safe calorie deficit so that the body will start tapping into its fat reserves again,” says Kallmyer.
Patience is key here. You can’t expect your metabolism to magically increase overnight. It can take a few weeks for your body to adjust to your new eating habits.
Many diets calculate precisely how many calories you should be consuming per day, and the calorie amounts are consistent from day-to-day. If you’ve hit a weight loss plateau, Glen Wilde, CEO of Diet to Success, suggests calorie cycling, or cycling between low-calorie and high-calorie periods during the week.
Wilde emphasizes that weight loss plateaus are common. “When you go on a calorie deficit, your body compensates by slowing metabolism. It’s a survival mechanism. The human body naturally resists losing weight because we are meant to have body fat, which our body can rely on for fuel in a survival scenario,” he says.
So how can you cycle your calories the right way? Here is Wilde’s step-by-step guide:
When you’re doing the same workout routine every day, your body gets used to it over time. As your body adapts to the exercises, it will burn fewer calories, possibly leading to a weight loss plateau.
“Excessive amounts of cardio without resistance training makes you more likely to lose muscle tissue than fat. However, this also depends largely on nutritional factors, such as your calorie deficit and protein intake,” says Emily Servante, certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance.
Servante recommends a combination of resistance training and low-impact training activity, rather than a bunch of high-impact cardio. She notes that resistance training “improves the body’s ability to partition nutrients or make the best use of the calories you are giving it. It improves insulin sensitivity, reduces the risk of age-related sarcopenia (muscle wasting), and improves bone density, all major considerations for those over 50.”
Have you tried every trick in the book, and you’re still struggling to lose weight? You may be dealing with a hormonal imbalance. Your doctor will likely recommend a simple blood test to check for a hormonal imbalance. Thyroid, estrogen, and cortisol levels are just a few hormones that can be detected in your bloodstream.
Servante says that weight loss may be affected if you’re going through menopause. “During menopause, a woman completely ceases estrogen production, which has a big influence on insulin sensitivity, hunger and cravings, muscle density, mood, and cognition. This creates somewhat of a “cocktail” for weight gain, especially in today’s society where calorie-dense foods are everywhere, and we are primed to use food as an emotional crutch,” she says.
It’s possible that a food sensitivity could lead to a hormonal imbalance. Machacek breaks down this reaction into simple terms. “If someone is reacting to a certain type of food, when they eat it, their digestive system is irritated, which causes inflammation. The inflammation in the gut can then cause an immune response that can throw off hormones in the gut, such as thyroid and the neurotransmitter serotonin.”
It may take a bit of time to determine the underlying cause of your weight loss plateau. With a solid plan and a bit of patience, you’ll be able to take control of your weight loss battle. For additional support in your weight loss journey, consider hiring a personal trainer or trying PrimeWomen’s new weight management program, PLATE, specifically designed for women approaching or over 50.
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