Some people easily lose weight simply by cutting out sweets and working out regularly. For others, especially those with a chronic health disorder, weight loss is much more difficult while weight gain is far too easy, even if they are doing everything “right.”
Weight gain and weight loss resistance are very common symptoms among people with chronic health disorders. Rather than judging them as character flaws, it’s important to reframe these symptoms as indicators of metabolic, immune, or neurological dysfunction.
Fat shaming, especially targeted at women, is widespread in our culture. The reality is that overweight and obese people may practice some of the healthiest diet and lifestyle habits. If they don’t restrict their diet, they may find themselves quickly gaining more weight.
Don’t beat yourself up if you have trouble losing weight or if you gain weight too easily. Any one of the following factors could be the culprit.
Nine possible reasons why you can’t lose weight — none of which are due to being lazy or undisciplined
1. Being a lifelong dieter.
Low-calorie dieting has become a way of life thanks to the multi-billion dollar diet industry and unrealistic cultural body image standards. You can get away with it when you’re young, but as you age, your metabolism slows down from constant deprivation.
The human body progressively lowers metabolism and increases fat storage hormones in response to famines. This is why it’s so easy to gain weight again once you resume normal caloric intake after ending each low-calorie diet.
Deprivation diets have low long-term success rates as illustrated in a study of participants from The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after leaving the show, participants were burning 800 fewer calories per day requiring them to under eat by 400-800 calories a day just so they wouldn’t gain weight. Still, most of them had returned to their pre-show weight.
2. Having out-of-whack hunger hormones
On the other end of the spectrum, if you regularly overeat sugar, desserts, and processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice, etc.), you will likely develop leptin resistance and skewed hunger hormone function that creates constant food cravings and hunger. If you want to improve your leptin sensitivity so your hunger cues and fat burning mechanisms return to normal, minimize or eliminate processed carbohydrates and exercise regularly.
3. Having a thyroid that isn’t working well
Low thyroid activity, or hypothyroidism, is one of the most common causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance. And the most common cause of this is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland. This is why many people do not lose weight even after they start taking thyroid medication. It’s important to address the underlying causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to improve your health and maintain a healthy weight.
4. Chronic inflammation
Chronic inflammation disrupts hormone function, metabolism, and gut health in a way that promotes storing fat instead of burning it.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle can make weight loss relatively easy. Nutrient-dense foods void of inflammatory triggers also manage pain, gut problems, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other health issues.
5. Brain injury or compromised brain function
Many of those who have suffered a concussion or brain injury gain weight suddenly and find that they are not able to lose it. Brain injuries cause brain inflammation. This not only impacts the function of the brain, it can also disrupt metabolic, hormone, and immune function which stimulates weight gain and inhibits fat burning. Victims of a brain injury very often struggle with fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms that interfere with healthy fat burning and storage.
6. Mold illness
Almost a quarter of the US population is susceptible to mold illness. Toxicity from mycotoxins, the byproducts of molds, can seriously impact metabolic, immune, and neurological health leading to unexplained weight gain and weight loss resistance. This includes not only the dreaded black mold, but also the more commonly found strains of mold caused by leaks and water damage in buildings.
7. Born with an obese gut microbiome
Research reveals that the gut microbiome, our trillions of gut bacteria, impacts almost every aspect of our health, including whether we are more likely to be heavy or thin.
Studies on both mice and humans have shown that obese subjects inoculated with the gut bacteria of thin subjects were able to easily and quickly lose weight.
Factors that skew your unique gut microbiome to promote obesity include being delivered via C-Section, being formula fed versus breastfed, and being given antibiotics frequently as a child.
8. Being a victim of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault or have PTSD
After more than twenty years of investigating why obese people regain the weight they lose, one obesity researcher made an accidental discovery — the majority of his study subjects had been sexually abused as a child or sexually assaulted right before they started gaining weight. This can trigger complex PTSD and the genesis of a food addiction in order to cope with the trauma.
Researchers have found a similar connection between food addiction and PTSD in women.
9. Having a brain-based disorder that promotes food addiction and an eating disorder
For many people who struggle to maintain a healthy weight, their relationship with food can become a vicious cycle of addiction that can morph into an eating disorder. A link has been discovered connecting addictions and eating disorders with brain-based disorders such as ADHD. Skewed neurological function triggers the obsessive thought patterns that lay the foundation for addictive eating and eating disorders.
Look for the underlying cause of weight gain and weight loss resistance to develop self-compassion
We live in a society of food pushers begging us to gorge on sugary foods and drinks through relentless advertising. At the same time, a multi-billion dollar diet industry feeds us impossible standards of an ideal body shape suggesting that our worth is based on being thin.
As a result, millions of people, most of whom are women, learn to internalize pop culture’s standards of beauty and develop shame and self-loathing around food and their bodies.
The body is a miraculous machine that operates in constant service to us. Contact my office to learn how we can help you learn to live and eat in a way that honors good health – whatever your size.
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