Even when you’re fighting the Women’s Weight Loss War with everything’s you’ve got, there are still times when you feel like you’re losing (by not losing, that is). Nothing can feel more frustrating. You’ve cut calories, you’ve dragged your butt to the gym, you’ve stayed strong through tempting bouts of midnight munchies, you’ve cleaned up your lifestyle, started making healthy choices, you practice what you preach…and yet, your weight seems to have hit a resounding plateau, far before you’ve reached the goal weight you were shooting for.
Even when you’re following all of the weight loss coach’s orders, there could still be some unexpected lifestyle factors and health issues continuing to impede your body from letting go of that weight. While people tend to get fixated on calorie counting and heart rates, you may be shocked to discover that factors you never even considered could be at the real root of your mushy midsection.
Consider whether these 5 health factors are getting in the way of what you weigh.
5 Hidden Factors that Cause Weight Gain
- Nutritional Deficiencies. Weighing too much because you’re eating too little may seem like its way off the mark – especially when the majority of North Americans are overweight and follow an all-you-can-eat philosophy at meal time. However, paradoxically, a 2005 statistical examination revealed that the most overweight people in North America were also the most undernourished. How could this be? It’s because the foods that make us overweight are also the foods that are the most nutritionally empty. The standard American diet (SAD) is largely comprised of these processed, refined, synthetic, “enriched” foods. Essentially useless to our nutritional needs, these foods wind up stored as fat rather than used up, packing on the pounds. And not only do processed foods not contribute natural vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, but they actually deplete them even more in our bodies. The more processed foods you eat, the more nutrients your body expends trying to cope with them, making your body weaker, more sluggish, and more prone to weight gain.
Nutritional research has found that overweight people tend to be low in common plant-based nutrients, such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium. Other common deficiencies associated with weight gain include vitamin D and omega 3. Combat nutritional deficiencies and weight gain by staying away from processed, refined and artificial foods, as well as deep fried, hydrogenated, and highly sweetened foods. Make whole, natural plant foods – like vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains – center-stage in each of your meals. Include cold-pressed plant oils and lean animal protein in your diet, like cold-water wild fish. Spend twenty minutes a day out in the sun without sunscreen, or take a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Constipation. Constipation could be both an indirect cause of weight gain as well as a symptom of other imbalances that lead to weight gain. Several studies have shown that the types of bacteria you have living in your gut are largely tied to your weight. The right balance of gut bacteria keeps your metabolism humming, helps you break down food effectively, absorb nutrients easily, and get rid of waste and toxins with good bowel functioning. The wrong balance of gut bacteria produce toxins in your body, makes you feel bloated and gassy, slows down the transit of food through your digestive system, and encourages higher calorie absorption and lower nutrient absorption. Constipation is often a sign that you have an overabundance of the gut bacteria that encourage weight gain and not enough of the gut bacteria that encourage weight loss.
This can be corrected by increasing the amount of water and plant fiber in your diet, which feeds the weight-friendly bacteria and helps eliminate constipation. Eating fermented foods, supplementing with probiotics and increasing exercise is also enormously helpful.
- Hormonal Imbalances. Hormones are chemicals in your body that are managed by your thyroid and your diet. They regulate all of your body’s internal processes and responses, and their function directly affects whether you feel hungry or full, whether your body stores or burns fat, whether you feel energized or tired, whether you feel satisfied or experience cravings, whether you feel content or moody, etc. The first tip-off that your hormones may be in a state of “imbalance” is if you find that you are often low in energy, feeling a sense of insatiable hunger, and experiencing a lot of food cravings and mood swings throughout the day. This could indicate that hormones like insulin, cortisol, leptin, estrogen, testosterone and ghrelin are not in the right balance, all of which lead to weight gain and belly fat.
Often, you can reset your own hormones naturally with nutritional adjustments. Start by increasing the amount of protein you eat per meal, to about 20 to 30 grams per meal. You can get this from about 3 ounces of lean poultry, steak or fish, or with one scoop of SlimQuick protein powder in a smoothie. Also, increase the amount of plant fiber you eat. Protein and fiber stabilize blood sugar, reduce hunger and cravings, help you feel fuller longer and shed belly fat. Other foods that help stabilize hormones are green tea, turmeric, and ground flax and chia seeds. If weight loss continues to be a problem after you’ve changed your diet, reach out to your doctor for a thyroid and adrenal exam.
- Medications. Certain prescriptions can cause the pounds to pack on. Unfortunately, weight gain is an unwelcome side-effect of meds like birth control pills, anti-depressants, heart disease and blood pressure stabilizers, hormone therapy, medications for rheumatoid arthritis, anti-seizure, breast cancer, and even migraines and heart burn. These drugs could seriously affect your appetite and metabolism, leading to major weight fluctuations. If you suspect your medication is to blame for your weight gain, speak to your doctor about alternative dosing or other drug options available to you.
- Stress. It turns out that stress is not just a state of mind. It’s also a state of body. A flabby body, that is. Research has shown that an increased amount of stress hormone, cortisol, in the body causes depression, memory loss, digestion problems and low libido. It also increases appetite and cravings while lowering muscle mass and bone density, all of which lead to weight gain and belly fat. A Yale University study found that even slender women with high cortisol levels had a higher than average amount of abdominal fat. Therefore, successful weight management isn’t only about staying active – it’s also about knowing how to relax.
Explore different methods of stress management and relaxation techniques, such as going for walks, listening to music, mediation, taking a bath, breathing exercises, etc. Also, getting enough sleep each night is essential for keeping weight-gaining cortisol levels down while keeping weight-controlling leptin hormones up. Studies have shown that getting less than 5 hours of sleep a night leads to weight gain – even when diet and exercise are in play – while sleeping 7 to 9 hours is associated with successful weight loss. Eating a high protein breakfast in the morning can also help stabilize weight influencing hormones, as well as eating small meals at regular 3 to 4 hour intervals throughout the day.