To lose weight is still incredibly challenging for most people, as evidenced by the growing global obesity epidemic.
According to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, more than two in three US adults are considered overweight (defined as a body-mass index over 25), and of those, 36.5% of US adults fall into the obese category (BMI greater than 30).
Many people also want to lose weight. According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately half of overweight and obese adults report that they are trying to lose weight. Which is why my patients often ask, “Why aren’t I lose weight?”
There is no simple, universal answer to this question, but after nearly two decades of working with patients trying to lose weight, and with the help of two leaders in the field of nutrition and obesity medicine, I’ve put together this list of some of the most common behavioral and medical reasons you might not be losing weight, even though you think you are doing everything right. I’ve also tried to include suggestions to get you on the right track to sustained weight loss.
1.You’re Not Sleeping Well
If you get more than 9 hours of sleep a night, you may be the envy of your friends, but too much or too little sleep — less than 5 hours a night — can be linked to weight gain. Both can throw off the way your body makes the hormones that control your appetite and hunger. And if you don’t feel rested, you may skip your workouts, too.
2.Don’t Drink Enough Water Everyday
Between 2 and 6 cups of clear, plain water each day can help you lose extra pounds. Water has no calories at all, so it satisfies your thirst without adding weight. And when you drink enough water, you may be less likely to grab sodas, juices, or coffee drinks packed with sugar. High calories in sweet drinks can add up to a big weight gain.
3.Eat too much of Good Foods
It is true that recommendations concerning dietary fat have changed in the past decade, and nutrition science has found that unsaturated fat, including nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil, plays an important role in a healthy diet.
Why your diet should include more fat
However, you can easily eat too much healthy fat along with other healthy foods, including whole grains.
Fat has more than double the calories of carbohydrates or protein, so fat calories, even if they are healthy, add up more quickly. Whole grains have three times the number of carbohydrates as non-starchy vegetables per serving, so again, portion size matters.
4.Eat Out Too Often
OK, you hate to cook. But if you eat most of your meals at restaurants, it may be harder to keep your weight under control. Even so-called light dishes may have more calories than you realize. And we’re not just talking about dinner, either. People who eat lunch out daily can weigh up to 5 pounds more than those who brown-bag it.
5.Too much Sitting
Your desk job or TV obsession may make it harder for you to drop those pesky pounds. When you sit most of the time, your body can lose its ability to know when you’ve eaten too much — you can overeat and gain weight. Even brief exercise breaks during the day can help you stay healthy. Get up for three 10-minute walks around meetings or your favorite shows.
6.Reward Workouts With Food
Exercise is a great way to lose weight — it burns calories and builds muscle mass. But if you indulge in a big dinner or smoothie after every workout, you can ruin all that sweaty work. Watch out for high-sugar sports drinks and protein bars, too. While they can help quench your thirst or give you an energy boost post-workout, they can be very high in calories.
7.Drinking Too Much Alcohol
Whether you like wine, beer, or mixed drinks, alcohol has calories that add to your daily amount. If you often have 3 or more drinks a day, you’re more likely to gain weight or be overweight, no matter what type of alcohol you drink. Stick to light or moderate drinking, like one glass of wine with dinner. That may actually help keep you from gaining weight.
8.Not Eating Mindfully
It’s worth your time to plan out your meals and healthy snacks so you’re not tempted to grab something on the go. Even if you get enough activity, you can gain an extra pound or two if you tend to eat fast food or sugary snacks or sodas. Your body doesn’t seem to treat these calories the same as energy you get from healthy foods — it breaks them down too quickly. They’re also low in fiber, so you don’t feel full afterward and you’re likely to eat or drink more.
9.Thyroid Is Sluggish
If this tiny gland in the front of your throat lags on the job, you could gain as much as 5 to 10 extra pounds. Your thyroid makes hormones that control your energy level and how your body breaks down food. If you don’t make enough of them, it can be hard to shed pounds. You may also feel bloated because your body holds on to too much water and salt. If you think you might have a thyroid problem, talk with your doctor. Medication can help.
Healthy weight gain during your pregnancy is a good thing. If you’re at an average weight before you get pregnant, it’s good to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Go for whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins that nourish you and your baby.
Some drugs you take for health problems could make you gain a little weight. For example, steroids can change your metabolism and make you feel hungrier — you may overeat and gain extra belly fat. Even antihistamines that calm your hay fever could cause weight gain. They lower a chemical your body makes to control your appetite, so you may sneeze less but eat more.
According to Dr. Caroline Apovian, president of the Obesity Society, frequently prescribed medications that may cause weight gain include Benadryl, Ambien, benzodiazepines, older antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, Paxil, beta-blockers (for high blood pressure), several diabetes medications including insulin, sulfonylureas and thialidazones, and some contraceptive methods, especially Depo-Provera.
12. Menopause is another reason
If you’re like most women, you may find your weight creeps up during menopause. Changes in your hormones, less muscle mass, and too little sleep from hot flashes can all lead to added pounds. If you wake up tired, you’re more likely to want to munch on snacks for a boost of energy later in the day. Your genes may also make you more likely to get a “spare tire.”
13. Check With Your Doctor
Some health problems can make it really hard to lose weight even if you diet and exercise. Your genes can also play a role in how much you weigh or where your body stores fat. Talk to your doctor if you just can’t seem to lose weight. Tests can show if you have a health problem that makes weight loss hard, and you can get medicine or other help to overcome it.
14. Your body is resistant to insulin
This is an issue I often encounter with patients and one that my colleague Dr. Michael Rothkopf, president of the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists, confirms is an often overlooked reason for weight loss failure.
It may also require specialized testing to uncover. According to the CDC, approximately 30% of adults and nearly 70% of overweight adults have metabolic syndrome, a constellation of abnormalities strongly associated with insulin resistance and excess insulin production.
Insulin suppresses the release of stored fat and promotes the formation of fat from sugar. The metabolism of a person who has insulin resistance or insulin excess will be shifted away from fat loss and toward fat storage.
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