The Hidden Factors Impacting Weight Loss
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
If you’re confused about why you can’t shift those extra kilos’, why you experience afternoon energy slumps, or why you constantly crave sugary foods – continue reading to see how these hidden factors may be impacting on your weight loss success.
While it is true that in order to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit, successful weight loss strategies understand the importance of contributing factors involved in the weight loss equation and how if any of these areas are out of balance, weight loss will not be the body's primary focus!
Most weight loss strategies focus on how many calories can be consumed in a given day, in order to promote weight loss. While this theory of weight management is important (calories in versus calories out), it does not take into consideration the quality of calories consumed, which can affect bodily function and overall health. The quality of foods we choose to consume impacts everything from hunger and satiety, hormone function, and metabolism, which can in turn influence your calorie intake. Eating a 100-calorie serving of candy, for example, will not provide the body with the same nutrients as eating a 100-calorie serving of brocolli. Therefore, considering the types of calories we consume may be more important than the number of calories we consume!
Stress is a major issue in today's society, and has been shown to be a major contributing factor in both obesity and diabetes, with research showing that chronic stress can make it more difficult to lose weight. While we generally think of stress as a psychological condition - the 'fight or flight response', chronic stress can also be caused by physiological factors, including sleep disturbances, chronic infections, inflammation, autoimmune disease and excessive strenuous exercise.
Chronic stress increases the release of cortisol - the stress hormone, which can disrupt the natural cortisol cycle. Increases in cortisol can impact the body by:
Increasing blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance and potentially Type II Diabetes
Reduce fat burning and promote fat storage
Suppress the body’s HPA-axis, causing hormone imbalance
A good nights sleep is crucial for weight loss - with both quantity and quality found to affect health and weight. A lack of good quality sleep can throw off your internal clock and metabolism, altering satiety hormones and feelings of hunger – which can lead to cravings of high-fat, high-sugar foods, increasing your risk of developing insulin resistance, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes and obesity. Restricted sleep has been shown to produce higher levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone responsible for triggering hunger and reducing energy expenditure. Higher ghrelin levels reduce energy expenditure, stimulating hunger and food intake, promoting the retention of fat, and increasing glucose production. Therefore, ensuring you have a good sleep hygiene routine in place is critical to promoting weight loss.
Not many people undestand how important the liver is for supporting weight loss. The liver is one of the busiest organs in your body, supporting many bodily functions that contribute to weight loss, including toxin removal, supporting digestion, and regulating blood sugar, insulin, estrogen, testosterone, and blood cholesterol production and removal. Our livers become overloaded through toxic dietary and lifestyle habits - overconsuming processed foods, alcohol and caffeine, which can cause the liver to become compromised and ineffective at digestion and fat breakdown, resulting in weight gain. Supporting the liver through reducing the consumption of refined sugars, alcohol and caffeine, can go a long way to promoting weight loss.
The thyroid gland is located in the lower front of the neck and plays a key role in nearly every aspect of our health, including weight, mood, temperature regulation, heart rate, and metabolism. The thyroid is highly vulnerable to autoimmune diseases, which can be caused by a range of factors including, vitamin/mineral deficiencies (in particular, iron, iodine, & selenium), infections, high levels of estrogen, reduced liver function and increased cortisol levels. When the thyroid is out of balance (as in over or under active), the health consequences can be wide-ranging. For instance, when the thyroid makes less of its hormones (hypothyroidism), your metabolism slows down resulting in weight gain. Because symptoms are varied, they can often go unchecked and remain undiagnosed for years. It is critical that if you feel this could be an issue, speak with your GP to arrange testing.
For many women, particularly as we age, being overweight often has little to do with diet & lifestyle factors, and more about hormone balance. Hormonal imbalances can impact on the whole body, including your weight. If there is a hormone imbalance affecting your metabolism, then weight loss is unlikely to occur. By focusing on balancing your hormones, the body can operate at an optimal level to promote weight loss.
The gut contains trillions of bacteria located in our intestines, which affect different aspects of the body including our metabolism, immune system, mood, and digestion and absorption of nutrients. An altered gut microbiome can lead to changes in metabolic function, which can lead to weight gain. To help maintain a healthy weight you need a balanced and healthy gut bacterium, which can be achieved through eating high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and including probiotic foods including, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and sourdough bread.
Food & Mood
The relationship between food, mood and weight can be a complicated one, affecting weight in both positive and negative ways. We often turn to food for comfort, either consciously or unconsciously, when facing difficult problems, feeling stressed or bored. This can be influenced by a variety of factors including emotions, food choices, hormones, and individual coping skills. Emotional hunger is different to physical hunger, being instantaneous, all consuming, and often leaving you wanting more. Emotional eating can lead to altered food choices, leading to overeating and potential weight gain. So the next time you go to reach for that comfort food, think about how you're feeling and whether you are genuinely hungry, or eating for another reason.
Exercise is critical for achieving weight loss and should be incorporated into any weight loss plan. Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, swimming) stimulates your metabolism, helping you maintain and increase lean body mass. Be careful not to workout too hard or over-train, as excessive exercise can negatively affect cortisol levels in the body, which can increase risk to a variety of health issues like weight gain, depression, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances. To ensure weight loss success, choose a form of exercise that can be maintained over the long-term, opting for something that is enjoyable, suitable and supportive of your body, such as walking, swimming, pilates and yoga. All of which are lower impact, and can improve strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.
If any of these areas concern you, contact us today to find out how a customized weight loss program can help boost your energy and promote weight loss!