Weight Loss Blockers
Over the years I’ve been helping people with weight loss I’ve found that about 1/3 of my clients just need their diets tweaked so they are eating healthy, balanced meals and they’ll achieve a weight loss result that they can maintain. Whether its ideas they need, practical tips on food preparation and organisation, portion size management or proportion of carbs, fats and protein they have on their plates, once tweaked they get great results.
However, for the other two thirds it’s more complicated. If you fit into the category of you’ve tried everything with diet and exercise and nothing works for you as far as weight loss goes then these are the categories of weight loss blockers I’ve found that can help you. This is where both functional medicine testing and transformational coaching skills come into play. We need to identify the weight loss blockers that apply to you and correct them. I literally work through the list.
If one doesn’t apply then we give that category a tick and we can move onto the next category and work through until we find what creates that shift and gets you out of weight loss resistance.
Blood Sugar Issues / Insulin Resistance
If your blood sugar is out of balance and if you’re eating too much refined carbohydrates, which makes you release insulin, you’ll get stuck in fat storage mode. Insulin is a fat storage hormone and an excess of insulin is released when eating too much sugar or refined carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, any white flour products, even wholemeal flour products). This is something that’s addressed with the diet tweaks and meal plans I provide. Addressing blood sugar balance is vital to optimal health and something we should all be aware of.
Poor diet leads to nutrient deficiencies
If our diet is out of balance and we aren’t eating enough protein, healthy fat and vegetables for example we start becoming nutrient deficient. Our vitamins and minerals play so many crucial roles in our bodies’ at every moment of every day. If we aren’t taking in, or absorbing our nutrients, it starts to affect how our bodies’ function.
One nutrient you may be familiar with is iron. If you are iron deficient you’ll feel tired. We can test for nutrient deficiencies and once we know we can supplement to bring them back into optimal range while looking for the underlying cause of the deficiency and fixing it.
If you have a food intolerance that you haven’t identified or you know you are intolerant to a food dairy, gluten, eggs etc. that you continue to eat on a regular basis, you are creating inflammation in your body, which can make it hard to lose weight.
Doing an elimination diet is one way to find an intolerance. Basically, we take the questionable food/foods out of your diet completely for 2-3 weeks then we bring it back in and monitor how you feel.
Alternatively, there are some tests available to identify if you are having an immune reaction to certain foods. IgG/IgA testing can be done using a blood spot and so is easily done during a Nutrition Consultation. The results help us identify if a food intolerance is one of your weight loss blockers or not.
Are you moving enough? The minimum amount of movement we are looking to achieve every day is 10,000 steps. How many do you get every day. Perhaps get yourself a pedometer or use some of the free apps on your phone to track how many steps you are currently doing. If you aren’t reaching 10,000 think of ways to increase them on a regular basis. By achieving 10,000 steps a day we are reducing the chances of chronic disease, so get out there and walk, or tackle the stairs at work.
Some form of resistance exercise to build/maintain muscle mass is also helpful for weight loss. Muscle burns more calories than fat so the more muscle you have the more calories you’ll burn every day. Just 20 minutes twice a week is a great start.
Perhaps you’re exercising too much. Too much exercise is another form of stress for the body and too much stress causes fat to store. There is a happy medium, you must find the right amount and type of exercise for you.
For some people toxic overload is blocking their weight loss. Heavy metal toxicity, for example mercury from mercury amalgams or lead from old paint can be problematic. Plastics like BPA, PCB are also becoming more of a problem.
Toxins can be tested using various methods. As an initial check the hair tissue mineral analysis (HTMA) can give us an idea of which toxins are present and may be one of your weight loss blockers. Blood, urine and stool tests can also be used to test various toxins. If you’ve worked in a toxic environment or suspect toxins are one of your weight loss blockers then get tested and get started on a plan to clear the toxins from your body.
Genetic Variants (Epigenetics/Nutrigenomics)
If toxins are relevant it can help to look to genetics. There are various SNPs that have been identified that make detox difficult because some of the enzymes in our detox pathways are under functioning. Identifying which of these SNPs are relevant to you and providing the nutrients in the correct form so enzyme production is optimized can be very helpful for some people. This isn’t just relevant for weight loss, we can see significant improvements in mood and energy for some people once addressed.
There are various labs and companies providing DNA analysis, depending on what you are looking for. If this is of interest to you get in touch so I can go over what we can discover and how we can change your diet, exercise regime and supplements to complement your genes.
Long-term chronic stress boosts hunger due to the fight or flight response and a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Your body thinks you’ve used calories to deal with the stress, in primal times this may be due to the old sabre toothed tiger trying to catch and eat you; when in modern times it may just be your boss shouting at you as you sit at your desk. Cravings are the result of your body thinking you need to replenish those calories, even though you don’t.
This ongoing stress can turn your overeating into a habit. The increased cortisol can also cause higher levels of insulin, therefore your blood sugar drops and you crave more sugar. Both cortisol and insulin are fat storage hormones, so an excess of either of them means putting on extra body fat. Therefore, managing stress and blood sugar are vital to the weight loss journey, it’s not just about calories in and calories out.
If you’ve already cleaned up your diet and we’ve worked together on food choices but you’ve plateaued or seem to be resisting the weight loss, then it’s worth exploring testing your cortisol levels. Excess cortisol not only triggers fat storage but also contributes to leaky gut, so if you have digestive symptoms, headaches, achy joints etc get tested and see if excess cortisol is partly responsible. If you feel you’ve been through the tired and wired stage and you are now reaching burnout, it’s even more important to find out your cortisol levels as they can become very depleted, which is the final stage of adrenal fatigue.
My preferred test for cortisol, and sex hormones, is the DUTCH urine test. It gives us a clear picture of where your hormones are at during the 4 times of the day, forming a full picture of cortisol’s influence, or on day 21 of your cycle to show your hormonal picture. Salivary testing for cortisol is also available at the 4 times of day.
Negative thoughts around weight loss can also increase stress, perpetuating the cycle. Stress management techniques like deep breathing and meditation can be very helpful to stop the cycle. Other relaxation techniques and journaling can help as well.
Hormonal balance is very important when it comes to reaching and maintaining your ideal weight. Too much oestrogen, also called oestrogen dominance can cause extra fat to be stored, water retention and bloating as well as other symptoms. Excess oestrogen is a big risk factor in obesity.
This isn’t just an issue for women. Excess body fat in men causes a rise in oestrogen levels because fat cells are involved in converting testosterone to oestrogen. This creates the vicious cycle, extra fat causes extra oestrogen and extra oestrogen creates extra fat.
Along with our bodies producing too much insulin we can acquire it in our diets or from our environment. This is becoming more of an issue as our world becomes more toxic. We are exposed to oestrogen like compounds on a daily basis, like pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and plastics. Many of these toxins have been linked to weight gain. The more we gain weight the more prone we are to insulin resistance, which in turn increases the risk of oestrogen dominance.
Hormone therapy such as the pill or HRT (hormone replacement therapy) increase oestrogen and even if you don’t take these hormones their levels in our drinking water are having an impact on all of us. Researchers are only starting to identify the impact of these hormones, not just on us, but also other species.
To identify if excess oestrogen is one of your weight loss blockers we can test using the DUTCH test from Precision Analytical Inc. This is a urine test where we can either cycle map for those needing to identify their hormonal pattern over the whole month, especially useful for fertility issues or we can combine the stress and sex hormone profile to identify the imbalances so we can then work on correcting them and removing them as a weight loss block.
The thyroid is the master of metabolism. It’s very sensitive and easily damaged by oxidative stress and inflammation. The most common cause of an underactive thyroid is an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. Thyroid issues are very common and can be identified on a blood test.
Chronic stress is a driver of thyroid dysfunction; it disrupts the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which can depress thyroid activity. Yet again some of these weight loss blockers are linked and cause the vicious cycle of weight loss challenges.
If you are experiencing hair loss, constipation, cold hands and feet as well as difficulty losing weight then a full thyroid panel should be considered.
Emotional or Spiritual Blocks
Trauma, abuse, neglect and addiction can also be linked to obesity. If these are relevant for you then getting some extra support and counselling from a trained therapist can really help work through these challenges that contribute to fat storage.
Microbiome Imbalances and Dysbiosis
There is research, although still in its infancy, that suggests the balance of our gut bacteria, and which species are dominant, can contribute to fat storage. It seems the Firmicutes / Bacteroidetes ratio can dictate the energy harvested from our food.
Fortunately, we can modify the ratios by changing our diet. Plant based, polyphenol rich foods feed the favourable gut bacteria, so in simple terms eat more vegetables and fruit. Really eating more vegetables is something all healthy weight loss diets have in common, so it’s a great place to start.
There are numerous tests available to us to check microbial diversity. The UBiome Explorer is one such test that shows microbiome sequencing and there are others like GI Map that also test digestive markers that are extremely helpful if you also have digestive symptoms.
The 2 most important elements of having good energy levels are getting enough sleep and food as energy. If we aren’t getting enough sleep our bodies want the instant energy that sugar gives us so our sugar cravings increase. This obviously isn’t great for weight loss. The more sugar and refined carbs we eat the more insulin we produce, insulin is a fat storage hormone (I know I’m repeating myself here but it’s so important for weight loss) so the more insulin we produce the more we store fat and struggle to lose weight.
Another hormone that we can test for is melatonin, our sleep hormone. It opposes cortisol, but if our cortisol is too high we may not be producing enough melatonin to get a good night’s sleep, triggering the cravings and weight gain.
Sleep is also when we do our repair and maintenance in the body, restoring both physiological and mental functions. Therefore, enough sleep is important to our overall wellbeing.
Structure issues may be relevant for some people. If there has been physical trauma, an accident or chronic injury, pain or posture issues these can restrict the amount of exercise and movement we can do as well as increasing the stress on our bodies. Having these addressed by a physiotherapist, chiropractor, osteopath or other body work professional can get enough improvement to see your other weight loss efforts start to work.
Some medications can cause or contribute to weight gain eg the pill, anxiety & depression meds. If your weight issue started around the time you went on a medication I suggest you have a look at the patient information leaflet that comes either in the box with your medication or you can look online for it on the drug company website. If weight gain is listed as a possible side effect go back to your prescribing doctor to discuss a possible alternative.
Do you drink enough? For most of us the answer is no. About 60-70% of our bodies are made up of water. You start to feel thirsty when you’ve already lost approximately 2-3% of your boy’s water. Water flushes waste products and toxins from the body, which aids weight loss. It also lubricates joints, so if you have joint aches and pain perhaps drinking more water will offer you some relief. It helps us regulate body temperature, acts as a shock absorber, it’s the main component of saliva to aid in swallowing and digestion.
Some studies show that drinking 2 glasses of water before each meal helps with weight loss, so consider this. Dehydration can also cause us to eat more, we may be mistaking cues to drink as food cravings. Perhaps have a glass of water when you start craving food and see if the cravings go away. When you are drinking sufficient water there’s less desire to drink higher calorie drinks like soft drinks, milky coffee or juice. Aim for between 1.5-3 litres daily depending on your size and level of activity.
The topic of water isn’t just about hydration, the quality of the water we drink is also relevant. I strongly recommend you use a water filter to remove some of the impurities in our tap water. The main one I consider is the chlorine because of the antibacterial properties and impact on the microbiome. Although chlorine does a great job of removing bacteria from our water supply, ideally, we don’t want to consume it. Getting rid of any pesticide and other chemical residues can only be helpful to our health and weight loss.
If you’re having challenges with weight loss and you think you’ve got diet and exercise right, then it could be time to explore some of the more complicated aspects of fat storage.