January is weight loss month, the time of year when many people focus on trying to eat better and workout more. It's a familiar story that plays out every year. Now that the holidays are over and I have eaten and drank my fair share, I will turn my attention to my body and try to lose weight. How is it going so far? Are you seeing results?
If you're struggling to lose weight like many people are, there are important factors not to overlook. Here are The Top 4 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight:
1. You're not sleeping enough-numerous studies now show those that do not sleep enough have more trouble losing weight. How much is enough? Those that sleep in the 5-6 hour range will notice they have a harder time no matter what they do. The goal is to get more than 6 hours consistently to stave off the negative impacts of not enough slumber. Ideally you want between 7-9 hours.The Hormone Connection
Research shows a lack of sleep contributes to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and immune function problems. Not enough sleep also causes hormone imbalances in the body. Ghrelin is considered the hunger hormone and lack of sleep causes this hormone to rise which results in you feeling hungry more often. Another hormone called leptin is also associated with a lack of sleep. Leptin helps you feel satisfied after eating and low levels contribute to wanting more food. Insufficient sleep also causes cortisol levels to increase and studies show those with higher cortisol levels experience more cravings.
2. You have sub-clinical hypothyroidism-the thyroid gland gets a lot of attention when it comes to weight loss and rightfully so. The thyroid is the spark plug for energy production, maintains body temperature, influences mood and emotions and is very important for weight loss. Signs that your thyroid may not be working up to par include:
- Weight gain despite a low calorie diet
- Poor circulation in hands and feet
- Excessive amount of sleep required to function properly
- Dry or brittle hair
- Hair falls out easily
- Low body temperature
TSH and Measuring Thyroid Function
Measuring TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is the most common way to assess thyroid function. Typical lab ranges for TSH are 0.5-5.5, though I've seen some labs lower the upper range to 4.5. If you test high for TSH you will undoubtedly end up on thyroid hormones. The problem with many people especially women is that they will test in the range for TSH but they do not test in the optimal range which is 1.0-3.0. Subclinical hypothyroidism is testing in the high normal range, above 3, but under 5.5. If you test in the sub-clinical range and have thyroid symptoms, weight loss will be difficult.
Another problem is only being tested for TSH which is not looking at the whole picture. A thorough look at the thyroid includes testing for Free T4, Free T3 and thyroid antibodies.
3. Your Gut Needs Help-the gut microbiome is an important piece of overall health and weight loss. Studies show major chronic disease is linked to the gut microbiome including Alzheimer's. When it comes to weight loss having what's called bacterial diversity is the key. Your gut has 3-5 pounds of bacteria and these bacteria are essential to weight loss. Studies on mice show those with more bad bacteria (dysbiosis) struggle to lose weight, while those with more beneficial bacteria lose weight at a better rate. Obtaining bacterial diversity isn't just popping a probiotic. It involves eating a wide array of plant foods as well as fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, miso or kefir.
Food sensitivities also impact the gut and make it harder to lose weight. If you're dealing with digestive symptoms like bloating, gas or constipation, you'll want to work on your gut to support weight loss.
4. Your Dealing With High Stress-in today's fast paced society it's hard not to feel stressed. Many are on the go from the moment they wake up until they go to bed, which is a recipe for disaster. The body needs relaxation not just when we sleep but also during the day. Being in sympathetic overdrive means your nervous system is taxed and not getting the proper rest and recovery. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing and even gratitude all show positive effects on the body and will assist weight loss.
The Cortisol Connection
High stress means high cortisol levels which make it harder to lose weight. Here's what happens when you have high cortisol levels:
- You become an inefficient fat burner
- You'll often have more cravings
- You'll struggle to put on muscle because high cortisol puts you in a catabolic position-breaking down muscle tissue
- It will often impact your sleep
- You'll put on weight around the belly
- It will decrease your serotonin level, the feel good neurotransmitter
Managing stress levels is imperative for losing weight. Make time for relaxation and see if your body responds.
Don't forget your Free Quickstart Weight Loss Guide filled with strategies to help you succeed. Click below to download.