So you’ve started tracking your calorie intake, adjusting your macronutrient percentages, or hopped on the paleo / vegetarian / keto diet bandwagon.
You feel like you’ve followed your diet to a “T” and have tried everything under the sun to lose those stubborn extra pounds you’ve been hanging onto since last year’s holiday.
You can’t seem to figure out why you’re weight has plateaued (or even increased!).
In today’s post I’ll uncover 5 reasons why you might be struggling with your weight and what to do about it!
Inflammation is your body’s natural protective response to infection and injury and there are two types of inflammation we encounter: acute and chronic (or “silent”) inflammation.
Acute inflammation is immediate and creates pain, such as when you bump your elbow.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is below the threshold of pain and therefore referred to as “silent.”
Silent inflammation can go on lingering for years harming your body without you even realizing it (1).
So what does this all have to do with your weight? Inflammatory responses can be ignited within adipose tissue (fat cells) and cause the activation of inflammatory signaling pathways (2).
Numerous studies have found that compared to lean individuals, overweight and obese individuals have higher pro-inflammatory cytokines (more inflammation) (3).
That’s quite a list right!? Let’s investigate a few of these chronic inflammation triggers more closely…
To start, you should understand the differences between a food ALLERGY, a food INTOLERANCE, and a food SENSITIVITY.
You can read a more in-depth analysis distinguishing the differences between these here.
Food sensitivities are often “silent” themselves. They are a delayed sensitivity, which means it can take anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days after eating the offending food to experience symptoms.
Food Sensitivity reactions can trigger the release of pro-inflammatory mediators such as cytokines and prostaglandins.
This results in an inflammatory effect that manifests in a variety of conditions such as IBS, Migraine Headache, PCOS, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, and Fibromyalgia just to name a few.
Inflammation can cause you to hold onto extra water weight which causes as edema. Edema, for example, could be identified when your rings fit too tightly. The best way to determine if you might have a food sensitivity is to fill out a Medical Symptom Questionnaire Form to see how a food sensitivity may be impacting your whole body.
If you’ve got a food sensitivity, you’re likely experiencing it in other systems in your body–therefore it’s not fruitful to complete a food sensitivity test simply for weight loss.
If you’ve got other symptoms showing up in your body, then food sensitivity testing could be a factor hindering your weight loss because your body is prioritizing it’s energy trying to fend off inflammation induced from reactive foods.
Our society is a faced paced lifestyle. Unfortunately, this can take a toll on your health and weight. Real or perceived stress can deplete our body of nutrients, affect our digestion, and alter our ability to think clearly.
Your HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis is responsible for responding to chronic stress, this response ultimately causes the release of cortisol.
Repeated elevation of cortisol in response to chronic stress can elevate your blood glucose levels along with suppressing your insulin. Your cells begin crying out for energy as they become starved of glucose. This, in turn, causes an increase in your appetite and causes weight gain (5).
Often stress levels and sleep cycles go hand in hand. Most Americans get only 6 hours of sleep (sometimes less!).
When you have reduced sleep, a hormone called Ghrelin increases. Ghrelin is an appetite stimulator produced by the stomach.
High Ghrelin levels can make your appetite feel insatiable, even when you are eating adequate amounts of food.
On the other hand, when you lack sleep another hormone called Leptin decreases. Leptin is a hormone is involved in making you feel satiated, it’s also known as an appetite suppressor.
When you’re losing sleep your Ghrelin and Leptin hormone levels are working together against you by causing insatiable appetite levels!
Optimally, you should aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.
Practice good sleep hygiene by limiting your blue light exposure from cell phones, computers, and TVs for at least one hour before your bedtime. Research has found that exposure to blue light suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that influences your sleep (7).
Instead, have a pre-bedtime practice that helps you to wind down your brain–take a hot bath, meditate, do yoga, converse with your loved one.
You’ll also want to make sure your bedroom is completely dark. Turn off all light emitting electronics and shade windows that have street lamps shining into your bedroom (blackout curtains are a great investment).
Hypothyroidism is a medical condition where the thyroid is producing abnormally low levels of thyroid hormone. A low functioning thyroid can cause weight gain and also zap your energy levels.
Additional symptoms of hypothyroid can include:
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune process known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Autoimmune disease accounts for approximately 90% of adult hypothyroidism in the U.S., all mostly due to Hashimoto’s (8).
Typically your physician will only order TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels and tell you your thyroid looks fine, even when it isn’t.
What’s worse, many physicians may even base “normal” TSH values off of old data.
Historically, a TSH of 0.45-5.5 mU/L has been the “normal” range of TSH. But new evidence suggests TSH values of <2.5 mU/L is the upper limit for 95% of individuals (9).
A TSH value of <2.5 mU/L is considered a functional value–meaning your thyroid is working optimally at this level.
But TSH levels alone don’t always tell us the full story of how well your thyroid is working.
In addition to TSH, you should be getting a FULL thyroid panel that includes testing (at a minimum) for:
It is important you find a physician who is on board with full thyroid panel testing because often a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s or malfunctioning thyroid go undetected as a result.
You might be asking “Why should I even care to have my physician run a full thyroid panel on me?”
The American Thyroid Association estimates there are up to 20 million people in the United States that suffer from a thyroid disease– AND up to 60% of those are completely unaware of their condition (10).
In addition, women are FIVE to EIGHT times more likely than men to suffer from a thyroid condition.
Getting the full story on your thyroid function and keeping track of your thyroid trends as you age can rescue you from being one of those 60% who are completely unaware of their malfunctioning thyroid!
Go ahead and get a FULL thyroid panel–not just your TSH levels!
If you’re a woman reading this, chances are you’ve been on a diet at some point in your life.
The sad truth is, many women feel the pressure to constantly diet and worry about their weight.
However, following a strict diet long term can actually do more harm than good.
Studies show that 1/3 to 2/3 of dieters regain more weight than they lost on their diets. Most of those studies don’t even address how successfully people are able to maintain that weight loss over the long haul (11).
When you reduce your caloric intake, your body strives to create homeostasis by slowing down your metabolism in response.
When you reduce your caloric intake, hunger signals increase causing you to crave more. This leads to a lower rate of weight loss than you might’ve expected. In some cases, you might even have re-gained weight.
Not to mention, the stress of dieting raises your cortisol levels (12). Refer back to Reason #3 if you already forgot what cortisol does to you.
In addition the effect of chronic dieting on your metabolism, I’d like to address mindset around your relationship with food and body image.
Many people get into the “Biggest Loser” mentality that if they aren’t super strict with their diet, exercising for hours everyday, and losing 2 lbs (or more!) a week then they’re a total failure.
Would you believe me if I told you that research actually shows the opposite is true?
Those with a flexible eating pattern (non-dieting, less restrictive) have lower BMI’s, lower calorie intakes, more self-compassion, less anxiety and stress, and a better relationship with food (13,14,15).
When we stress about our weight and have a negative body image about ourselves, imagine what happens next.
Think about it.
Any time you have a negative mindset about yourself in other areas of your life, guess what you manifest?
One of my favorite quotes is “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.” When you put your attention and energy trying to run away from that thing you don’t want, somehow that thing makes it’s way into your life.
If you’re running from the fear of a certain number on a scale, it’s likely you will end up manifesting the number you didn’t want in the first place.
Changing mindset about yourself and your body image can do wonders for you. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can only help you have a better relationship with food and your body.
If you think “I’m not good the way I am” imagine how that impacts every decision you make throughout your day. If you’re not thinking kind words about yourself how are you going to make kind actions toward yourself?
The most successful eaters don’t let little blips in their eating habits ruin their moods. Consistency comes from stability in your emotions over so called “falling off the boat,” because at one point or another we all fall off the boat.
Habits = Consistency.
Letting a scale dictate your mood about yourself = a roller coaster.
So now you know 5 reasons why your weight may have plateaued (or even increased!) despite your best efforts to follow a strict diet.
If you’re looking for more help in managing your weight, improving your relationship with food, and having a better body image then book your free call with Sarah here!
8.) Kharrazian, D.“Why do I still have thyroid symptoms when my lab values are normal?” Carlsbad, CA: Elephant press, 2010.