“Why can’t I lose weight?”

Ah, the age-old question. Sometimes made even more frustrating by that one annoying individual in the office seemingly able to drop the pounds in a matter of weeks!

By nature, women usually have a lower metabolic rate than men. This means your body uses fewer calories (units of energy) for normal body functions like thinking, breathing and circulating your blood. The leftover calories are then stored as fat. Another factor in the metabolic area is genetic make up.  Your mother, grandmother and your great-grandmother all had individual ‘set points’, which are theoretical weight ranges in which the body attempts to stay. Often, this set point is passed down and can work against your weight loss efforts.

Some women who try to lose weight want immediate results (don’t we all!). By cutting out entire food groups or substantially reducing calorie intake for quicker weight loss. Now elimination diets have their place and are effective when on a specific programme but not something that should be done without an element of planning. As you likely know, these approaches lead to yo-yo dieting, where temporary results are negated when the weight comes back — often even more than before. Incremental lifestyle changes (i.e making moderate changes over a long period) work better to improve overall health.

For example, next time you wonder why is it easier for some to lose weight, just remember: Restaurants serve equal portion sizes and the bartender offers everyone another round. It’s up to you to take responsibility and determine your appropriate portion size and stick to it.  (P.S it is ok to leave some on the plate!).

So let’s take a look at the most common reasons women struggle to lose weight and also some tips to help remove that struggle!

Reason #1 – You’re eating the wrong foods

As you probably already know, in order to lose weight you have to at least reduce (preferably remove completely) the amount of processed foods and refined sugars in your diet. It’s easy to assume that the low-fat/fat free and ‘healthy’ crisps and drinks are good for you. After all the supermarkets are jammed-packed full of this stuff these days.  But the trouble with these products is, other ingredients are added in to replace the fat and/or sugars so they taste the same as the full fat versions. “What’s the problem with that?” I hear you say. Well, these ‘added’ ingredients have no nutritional value which means that once you’ve eaten/drunk them, your body ends up craving more because it’s crying out for something with nutrients in it. And this probably means you get into the habit of eating more of that product just
to fill you up. The end result being you have eaten more calories than if you’d just eaten the original full fat version. (Not to mention putting all sorts of nasties into your body that it can’t use).

You may have noticed that sugar is added to many foods as well. Yoghurt, tomato sauce, salad dressings are often laden with sugar, usually to make it more appealing. This ‘hidden’ sugar leads to cravings,
headaches and quite often, more serious health problems. Take a look through your cupboards and fridge and notice what’s actually in there. If its 90% boxes/bags/jars then it’s time to start making changes to the ingredients you use. Also, read the labels. Do you recognise every ingredient?  Where does sugar come on the list?

Solution:

Now we aren’t talking about going to the most expensive farmer’s market you can find and buying some Himalayan-grown carrots. Just basic ingredients, nothing that’s been ‘tampered’ with.  If you want to do an even better job, trying cooking with mainly single-ingredient foods. Another way of looking at it is if
doesn’t grow into the finished article that you see in front of you, it’s not ok to use. Pasta doesn’t grow on a tree or come out of the ground like that, therefore it’s not single ingredient. Rice however, is a single ingredient food.

Cutting back on the fake foods is THE most important weight loss tip. So this means things like eating an apple not drinking apple juice.  Coating nuts in spices at home rather than buying them from the supermarket (as they will have sugar in the ingredients). If you’re craving something, buy the full fat version and measure out a portion so you don’t go crazy and eat the lot. If you do buy snacks and
other convenience foods read the ingredients list and don’t get bogged down in fat content too much. Skip the flavoured versions of say, a yoghurt and add your own fruit to it with a bit of honey. 
Batch cook on the weekends so you have healthy lunches or sauces/dressings to take with you.

Reason #2: You’re doing the wrong type of exercise.

If you’re spending hours at the gym but aren’t seeing results, you’re probably doing the wrong type of exercise, in conjunction with reason #1 above. Women often focus their exercise efforts on cardio done at a moderate intensity, like jogging. And while that is great for your heart, if you’re trying to lose weight it’s time to push the boundaries a little. That doesn’t mean doing more exercise, it means exercising smarter. Something like HIIT training (high intensity interval training) usually lasts about 20 mins
but combine really intense bouts of exercise with slower phases. This has been shown to help people lose fat more quickly than a moderate intensity for 30 mins+ regime as your heart rate is elevated for a longer period after the exercise has stopped therefore more calories are burnt overall.

Women tend to avoid weight training, often because of the large noisy men throwing their weights about and a fear they will ‘get big’. However, the dedication and time it takes to get anywhere near the size of a
bodybuilder is not something the average person is prepared to undertake. Strength training gives a bit of muscle definition or ‘tone’ as its more commonly referred to. Other benefits include: Making bones denser which decreases the risk of osteoporosis; Increased muscle tissue which in itself, helps you to
lose weight as muscle uses more calories to work than fat does and Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.

Solution:

Start including some high intensity intervals and strength training into your workouts. An easy way to do this would be intervals on the treadmill or cycle with one part very high intensity for a short period
followed by a longer recovery period. (We’re talking a few mins recovery here, not 30!). For strength training it’s always best to start with a professional if you haven’t ever done this type of training before. This will ensure you are doing the exercise properly and also they will choose exercises appropriate for
your fitness level.  However, bodyweight exercises can be just as good such as push ups, lunges or tricep dips, and they can be done anywhere so if you’ve missed a gym session, you don’t have an
excuse not to do any exercise!

Reason #3: Hormones

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can block your attempts to lose weight, too. This “fight or flight” hormone increases your appetite, makes you crave carbs, and keeps fat in the belly region – one of the reasons you can’t lose weight in that area.  You need to determine if you’re living in a constant (or almost constant) state of stress. You may not even realise this so think about if you’re having trouble sleeping through the night, increased anxiety, fatigue and high blood pressure.  Other reasons for high cortisol include use of corticosteroid medications e.g hydrocortisone, prednisone and anti-inflammatory medications. Nutrient deficiencies and hyperthyroidism also contribute to your cortisol levels.

Solution:

This is a potentially long term problem and so it will take time for this to change. Reduction in stress is the obvious answer. Easier said than done when you have kid to pick up from school, a job to do and remembering you need a particular ingredient for that home-made cottage pie you’re doing tonight. The main thing is put yourself first. This may sound selfish but like the video that’s shown at the start of a flight, you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. It’s the same here. You aren’t much good to those you care about if you’re running on empty and stressed up to the eyeballs every day. Saying “no’ to things you don’t really want to do but feel obliged to. Make time to meditate and exercise.

Another important point to note.  When it’s the week before your period, you will likely notice the cravings ramp up. This is normal but the easiest way to combat these cravings is to ensure your protein intake is increased in the week before and during your period. Reduce the carbs and replace with good fats such
as nuts, avocados and eggs. If necessary, sort tubs out the night before so you have something to graze on rather than reaching for the ‘healthy’ snack bars which still have quite a lot of sugar in them.

Reason #4: You have a
food allergy/sensitivity.

Do you find that you often feel bloated, your skin is acting up, you constantly have a ‘sniffle’ or your tummy sometimes feels “off,” but you’re just not sure why? You could have a food allergy or sensitivity.

There are hundreds of thousands of adults and children suffer from a food allergy. And these figures don’t include people who are sensitive to certain ingredients, are intolerant to foods or don’t realize they
have a problem at all, so the real numbers are likely much higher.

If you’re allergic or sensitive to a certain ingredient and continue to eat it, you’re likely to struggle with losing weight. This is because the food triggers an inflammatory response, as your body fights against
it. As you continue eating the same food that’s making you ill, the inflammation continues, making you a lot more susceptible to extra pounds and more importantly, other health issues.

If you have a skin condition that doesn’t seem to improve (or it only improves with medicated creams/pills), digestion issues or a general feeling of “meh,” you might have a food sensitivity or allergy.

Solution: 

An elimination diet is a good way to see if you might have a food allergy/sensitivity. During elimination, you’ll avoid the top foods that people are allergic to, including gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. I would suggest cutting them out in this order.

Only remove one ingredient at a time then you can see how your body reacts when you reintroduce.  The ingredient should be kept out of the diet for a minimum of 2 weeks.  Reintroduce and see if there’s any notable changes . It may help to keep a diary so you can write down how you feel after each meal. Remember, sensitivities can take a few days to show up. At this point, you can continue just avoiding the ingredients you suspect you’re sensitive to, or go to an allergy specialist to receive confirmation and see if there’s anything else you might be allergic to.

If you are struggling with weight loss or feel like your health could be improved, just drop us a message here

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