Sometimes, you can eat all the right things, stick to a strict exercise schedule and follow all the latest diet advice, but that excess weight just doesn’t seem to shift. But despite blanket statements of what works when it comes to losing weight, for some, it’s not just about calories in, calories out. If you’ve tried everything and those last few pounds aren’t going anywhere, SL contributor, nutritional therapist and functional medicine practitioner Jodie Brandman has rounded up some of the possible causes…
Too Much Exercise
As odd as it sounds, sometimes people don’t lose weight because they’re actually exercising too much. With wellness, weights and fitness classes on the increase, some women are putting too much pressure on themselves to make that 6am spin session every weekday and, in the process, increasing their levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can create insulin resistance and weight gain, especially round the middle. Whilst it may sound counterproductive to stop exercising for weight loss, it might be worth giving it a go; or opt for more gentle exercises like walking, yoga, Pilates or swimming.
Alongside heavy exercise, general stress and caffeine can also drive up cortisol levels, so take time to rest, and swap your daily latte for a herbal tea.
Whether you’re male or female, having too much oestrogen in the system can lead to weight gain. Signs of high oestrogen can also include PMS, heavy periods, fibroids or water retention, so if this is the case for you, it may be worth looking into. It can be a result of a number of factors including stress, alcohol, sugar, refined foods, or the intake of xenoestrogens from chemicals and plastics. Also, excess oestrogen is pulled out through our bowels so constipation can cause oestrogen to recirculate. To tackle an imbalance, reduce your sugars and increase your fibre, and stop drinking from plastic water bottles or covering your food in plastics.
Sometimes, eliminating foods that don’t agree with your body is enough to see a huge shift in weight. Consuming something you’re intolerant to can cause inflammation, bloating and constipation. Try cutting out common allergens for six weeks and see how you feel; these include: gluten, dairy, nightshades (peppers, potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes), eggs, citrus, corn, soy, nuts, and yeast. When the six weeks is over, try and reintroduce one food at a time by having it two to three times a day for three days in a row to see if you have a reaction.
Studies have shown that an imbalance in gut flora (the microorganisms that live in the gut) can lead to higher calorie absorption from certain foods, so if your gut flora isn’t happy, your weight won’t be either. Not only that, but an increase in pathogens in the gut can lead to inflammation, create a higher amount of toxins, and put a strain on your organs. You could try supplementing with probiotics and digestive enzymes, but if your tummy problems have been going on for a while, it’s worth visiting your GP to see what’s really going on.
An underactive thyroid is often misdiagnosed and could be an underlying issue for weight gain. As the thyroid is involved in metabolism (alongside lots of other important processes in the body), a lower function can cause a person to retain weight, no matter how little they’re eating. GPs in the UK usually only test for TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) before they go on to do further tests, but if you’re suffering from constipation, hair loss, fatigue and menstrual issues you should look a little further into free thyroid hormones and thyroid antibodies. Some doctors will do tests and provide information on request, but oftentimes you’ll need to seek out a nutritional therapist or functional medicine practitioner.
For extra support, look into seeing your GP or a nutritional therapist who can help you investigate any underlying conditions.