Diana Kelly Levey

7 Sneaky Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

September 1, 2018 | Categories:

While more than half of Americans say they “want to lose weight” according to a recent Gallup poll result, those 53 percent who responded in the 2010 to 2016 poll are down from the 59 percent polled from 2000 to 2009 who claimed they wanted to lose weight. The drop in the at number likely isn’t because we’re healthier—more than 2 in 3 adults is considered to be overweight or obese according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Could it be that losing weight has become so hard, we’re giving up?

While it can seem that losing weight is as simple as eating less and moving more, our biology doesn’t always result in weight loss on the scale from this second-grade math problem. To help you pinpoint some possible reasons you’re not losing weight, nutrition and health experts share some surprising reasons you haven’t be able to shed the extra pounds.

You’re stressed.

We get it. And you’re probably thinking, Sure, who isn’t? Chronic stress can lead to insulin resistance and storage of fat, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, founder of NutritiousLife.com and The Nutrition School. When you’re stressed because you’re running late or your computer just crashed, your hormones aren’t maximizing your metabolism, they’re busy managing your stress responses instead, Glassman says. Take a few breaths to feel calmer.

Your sleep is erratic.

Lack of sleep can increase the stress hormone cortisol. “Not only does it increase cravings for sugary and carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain but it also affects hunger hormones,” says Glassman. Ghrelin, the hormone that tells us we are hungry, is higher when we’ve slept less. A recent systematic review and recent meta analysis of sleep studies found that sleep deprived people consumed an average of 365 extra calories the next day than people in the control studies who got sufficient sleep. (Those extra calories every day would tack on 38 extra pounds at the end of the year!) Learn more about how sleep affects your weight.

You’ve started a weight training routine.

“Are you getting more muscular? That’s a good thing!” says Glassman. Getting in shape doesn’t necessarily mean drastic weight loss. You may be fitter and healthier but stay the same weight or even gain weight! Pay attention to your clothing size and how you actually feel to gauge your success.

You can’t kick the diet soda habit.

If you patted yourself on the back for swapping regular soda for diet, science is giving us more reasons to ditch artificial sugars and diet beverages. Recent research published in PLOS One journal examined a cohort study of 1,454 men and women over 28 years and found that low-calorie sweetener use is independently associated with heavier relative weight, a larger waistline, and a higher prevalence and incidence of belly fat, suggesting that using low-calorie sweeteners are not a smart choice when you’re trying to control your weight. The data results suggest that low-calorie sweetener consumption may negatively affect visceral fat deposits (the deep fat that surrounds your organs), indicating a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease and mortality. Work on swapping your low-calorie, no-calorie sweetened beverages for water flavored with lemons and limes.

You eliminated carbs.

One reason you might not be able to lose weight is if you’ve cut out carbs completely, says Katie Cavuto, MS, RD. “Carbs are our body’s main source of fuel and necessary for energy. It’s a well-known fact that deprivation rarely works. When you cut carbs completely, your body usually responds by burning lean body mass—muscles—to create energy,” says Cavuto. Long-term, completely cutting carbs can cause your metabolism to slow down thus making weight loss more difficult and re-gain more inevitable, especially if you cave and add them back in, says Cavuto. “Instead, make healthier choices by choosing appropriate amounts of nutrient-dense carbs, like sweet potatoes, brown rice and whole-grain breads like Arnold’s Extra Grainy 17 Grains & Seeds, or other breads that contain 18 grams of whole grains per serving, instead of white bread,” says Cavuto.

You measure portions and eat the entire serving.

“While a prescribed portion size may seem like the answer to prevent overeating, that isn’t always the case,” says Cavuto. “When you commit to eating a prescribed portion, oftentimes you essentially ‘check out’ of the eating experience. Instead, put a reasonable amount of food on your plate, mindfully engage yourself in the experience, and eat until you’re satisfied.” Instead of finishing your 1-cup serving of pasta and 4 ounces of chicken on the plate and realizing you are beyond full, put your fork down in between bites to gauge if you’re full. If you’re satisfied, stop eating. And if you’re hungry later, you can have a small, nourishing snack. “Don’t overeat at one meal to compensate for the fact that you may or may not be hungry later,” Cavuto says.

You’re always on a diet.

“I believe that most people can’t lose weight because they look for a diet to solve their weight loss issues,” says Kimberly Gomer MS, RD, LDN, the Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa. “Stop dieting and stop restricting! Instead, use your hunger and satiety to tell you when you are truly hungry.” Research confirms what most of us probably already know, “a calorie is not just a calorie” when it comes to weight loss and low-quality foods, according to Harvard T.H. Chan’s School of Public Health. According to a study of over 120,000 healthy women and men that followed the subjects for 20 years, researchers found that “weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, and both processed and unprocessed red meats. The researchers concluded that consumption of processed foods higher in starches, refined grains, fats, and sugars can increase weight gain,” according to the Harvard School of Public Health website. Look beyond a food’s caloric value, and instead reach for high-quality, healthy whole foods, and minimizing low quality, processed foods.

This article originally appeared on Real Simple.

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