Overweight couple standing together wrapped with waist measure tape

(© Vadym - stock.adobe.com)

You’ve tried exercise, calorie deficits, eating more fruits and veggies, and snacking on fewer processed foods. You’ve even followed the principle of “calories in, calories out” to reach your weight loss goals. However, you still haven’t noticed any real changes. You might feel like you’re doing something wrong, but there’s other reasons that could explain things that have nothing to do with diet or exercise.

The World Health Organization announced that between 1975 and 2016, obesity rates have nearly tripled. The reasons behind this are heavily debated. Some argue that it’s the fault of the individuals, while others argue that it’s the environment. Some think that both factors work together. As doctors and public health officials still try to figure out the best way to tackle weight gain, drug alternatives like Ozempic have surfaced for people struggling with their weight loss journey. There are more options now than ever for if you feel lost or as if your journey has come to a halt.

Despite that, you don’t need to jump the gun and assume something is irreparably wrong or in need of medical intervention if you can’t lose weight the way you’d like. It’s easy to fall into that line of thinking once you change diets and exercise strategies because those are the two main habits to change. So now, you must be wondering what else could explain things if it isn’t the food or movement. Consider these three reasons that could reveal why things are more difficult for you:

1. You’re really stressed out

Stress makes us feel mentally exhausted, but physically our body also experiences that same exhaustion. Recent research reveals that stress can age your body down to the genetic level, and even put you at higher risk of cognitive decline and lead to conditions like dementia.

When it comes to weight loss, stress can put a huge damper on things too. High stress and weight gain are tightly linked thanks to a hormone called cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. When cortisol is chronically elevated in the setting of consistent stress, it can stimulate a steady production of glucose, increase your appetite, and make your body store extra fat in your abdominal area. All of these things are what you actively want to avoid for weight loss!

Managing your stress can be as simple as doing a workout that helps your body release tension and feels good for you, or just taking five minutes per day to breathe and unwind daily or a few times per week.

Overweight man trying to lose weight
(© Pixel-Shot – stock.adobe.com)

2. You aren’t getting good sleep

Scientists say that even just a few days of poor sleep makes you “metabolically groggy,” impairing how your body responds to insulin, a hormone that helps your body convert food to energy. When insulin function is impaired, it negatively affects your body’s ability to get rid of fat. Cortisol also doesn’t like when you don’t get in your beauty sleep, spiking and making it hard to shed the pounds once again.

Life is busy and it’s not always conducive to getting high-quality sleep. But if weight loss is your goal, making sleep a priority by trying to go to bed at the same time every night and aiming for seven to eight hours of rest is a must. Putting screens away, picking up a book, or doing something else that relaxes you can help you unwind at night. If you find that you can’t get consistent time to sleep no matter how hard you try, shoot for taking a 15 to 20-minute nap during the day.

Woman eating noodles as late night dinner in front of computer in dark room
(© Photoboyko – stock.adobe.com)

3. You may have an underlying medical condition

One in 300 Americans have hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. The condition decreases metabolism and therefore makes weight loss a struggle. In fact, some of the first symptoms that people generally experience are weight gain, and/or difficultly with weight loss. Other common symptoms include: cold sensitivity, fatigue, and joint pain.

In women of childbearing age, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal disorder that can result in infertility. Women with the condition typically have higher amounts of male hormones and are insulin resistant. The latter puts them at higher risk of diabetes and makes them more likely to hold onto weight. Other common symptoms include: excessive body hair, irregular periods, large ovaries, and male-patterned baldness.

If you think that you may be experiencing these or other medical problems that are interfering with your weight loss, be sure to contact your doctor to figure out the best course of action.

Bottom Line

Although eating less fast food and hitting the gym more often are the answers for many, they’re not the only pieces to the puzzle. Now that you know some other reasons that explain why things may not come that easily, hopefully you feel more informed and empowered.

It’s important to take care of all parts of yourself in order to produce successful results that last. It’s also not always within our hands, particularly if medical conditions are part of the equation. For many people, this adds an additional layer that has to be managed first before weight loss can be achieved. Finally, remember that weight loss is a journey and all journeys have highs and lows, keep working with yourself instead of against.

About Shyla Cadogan, RD

Shyla Cadogan is a DMV-Based acute care Registered Dietitian. She holds specialized interests in integrative nutrition and communicating nutrition concepts in a nuanced, approachable way.

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1 Comment

  1. John Logan says:

    Stress, sleep, and medical conditions can’t change the thermodynamic impossibility of living on zero calories. Talk to starving African or Bangladeshi villagers about stress and sleep deprivation and ask them why they’re not gaining weight.
    This kind of information -itself- is the reason why people are so overweight; more reasons to ignore the truth of over eating.