Updated: Oct 28, 2022
You've decided that this is your year! Now is the time and there's no turning back! You're going to lose weight, look great, and feel amazing.
You start off armed with an exercise plan and the diet of your choice. Everything seems to be going well until you step on the scale.
Not even one pound lighter.
Even though all you've been eating are rice cakes and celery sticks. For weeks.
You want to throw your hands up in frustration and eat a pint of ice cream. Maybe you already did? (No judgement here).
If you're having a hard time losing weight, then look no further.
Here are the top 5 surprising reasons why you just can't seem to shed an ounce...
1. Not Enough Physical Activity
WHAT!?! I can hear you say! I'm practically at the gym every day and most nights. How could you possibly suggest that I'm not working out enough.
Well just hear me out, ok? If you've had a visit with the doctor for weight loss, chances are they'll give the American Heart Association guidelines for aerobic exercise. Namely 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes of physical activity a week .
Research shows that this is just not enough aerobic exercise to lose weight or even maintain weight that has been loss previously without the addition of caloric restriction .
This means that if you are following the minimal physical aerobic activity guidelines from the AHA and not restricting calories, you aren't going to lose weight. Not all is loss though, well not any is loss actually (forgive the pun).
If you've been exercising for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week, then you've gained some really good cardiovascular benefits like less chance of heart attack, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes.
But to actually start seeing those numbers on the scale decrease, you have to increase the amount of physical activity you're doing.
Research suggests that 300 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise a week is a better goal if you want to lose weight .
2. Exercising at the wrong time of the day
Yes, I know that exercise is exercise but research shows that your body responds to exercise better when done in the morning versus the evenings.
A clinical study of overweight individuals found that exercise in the morning showed greater benefits than the same amount of exercise done in the evenings with the intensity of exercise the same between both groups.
Some of the benefits included: less calorie intake, more body weight loss, lowered BMI (body mass index), and smaller abdominal circumference .
It seems that exercising in the mornings, rather than the evenings, preps the body for the start of a good day and boosts metabolism which allows for better energy utilization and less need for more calories. Less calories eaten while burning calories means more weight loss.
Although exercising in the evenings does have benefit, if you want to lose weight, switch your exercise routine to the morning.
Remember consistency is key. Although exercising in the morning may give you the greatest benefits, any exercise is better than none.
3. Eating with too large of a spoon
Everyone knows that smaller portion sizes can lead to major weight loss but did you know that smaller utensils can help too?
That's what studies are starting to show.
It seems that we put all of the focus on using smaller plates and forgot to use smaller utensils as well.
Healthy individuals were given a porridge to eat with either a large dessert spoon or a small teaspoon. They were allowed to eat as much as they wanted, with no direction or interaction with the research team, until they were full.
Those who ate with the smaller spoon ate approximately 8% less than those who ate with a large spoon. The eating rate was also slower with the smaller spoon as opposed to the dessert spoon .
You get the sensation of feeling full from a complex interaction between your gut and your brain. This satiety cascade involves many factors, the chief of which are the vagus nerve and the hormones cholecystokinin (CCK) and insulin. Oral processing of food, basically chewing, also plays a role in the feeling of satiety.
Eating with smaller utensils increased oral processing time and decreased the rate at which the individuals ate. This led to less food intake a feeling of being full sooner.
And when you're full, you stop eating.
When you decrease your caloric intake because you're eating smaller bites at a slower rate, you tend to lose more weight.
4. Under-active Thyroid
Are you feeling tired or sluggish? Do you feel like you have no energy no matter what you do? Have you gained a significant amount of weight in the past 6 months and have not been able to get rid of it?
Is your skin tired and dry? Are you losing your eyebrows?
If any of these apply to you, then you might have hypothyroidism also called an under-active thyroid. You can get more information on the signs of hypothyroidism here.
The thyroid gland is responsible for so many of our body functions including metabolism. It has long been known that low levels of thyroid hormones like T3 and T4, lead to a low basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Your BMR is your resting metabolic weight. A low resting metabolic rate means that your are burning less energy while at rest. Burning less energy means more energy storage in the form of fat, which translates into a difficult time losing weight at best, and weight gain at worse.
There's also a lack of energy or even outright fatigue associated with having an under-active thyroid. This also contributes to weight gain because you just don't have the energy to work out.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, there are many natural ways to help increase thyroid function.
Make sure that you don't a large amount raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage because these have the potential to lower thyroid function in large amounts. Include more sea vegetables like kelp in your diet to increase your iodine.
Also consider decreasing excessive carbohydrate intake due to the increase in cortisol secretion which can further lower thyroid function.
If you are experiencing symptoms of lowered thyroid function, don't despair! Even if you've already been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, naturopathic medicine can help.
Don't hesitate to contact your naturopathic provider today for an in depth individualized approach to thyroid healing.
5. Gut Dysbiosis
Are you taking your probiotics? If not, then you might want to start!
Research shows that those who are obese have a different gut microbiome than those who aren't.
In fact those who are obese have a higher amount of a type of bacteria called Firmicutes and lowered amount of Bacteriodes . A 20% increase in Firmicutes bacteria with a 20% decrease in Bacteroides showed an additional energy harvest of 150 calories a day !
To put this in perspective, a pound of fat is 3500 calories. If you have a higher amount of Firmicutes with lowered Bacteroides, you can expect to gain 1050 extra calories a week without changing the way you eat!
This means that you can gain an extra pound in approximately 3 weeks. Not good if you're trying to lose weight.
Someone with the converse scenario, namely higher Bacteroides and lower Firmicutes, can eat the same way that an obese person would but still not gain the 1050 calorie excess.
Research shows that a high fat diet and antibiotic use contribute to this gut dysbiosis.
In fact, some antiobiotics, like clindamycin, reduced the amount of Bacteroides for over two years with no sign of the population recovering! And this was only with a 7 day course of the antibiotic!
Short term ciprofloxacin use drastically reduced the biodiversity of gut microbiota with several strains not returning even after 6 months post antibiotic use! Clearly antibiotics are helpful and often necessary with certain infections but they shouldn't be used cavalierly since they can potentially cause long term (perhaps irreversible) gut flora damage.
The best way to avoid gut dysbiosis is by eating a healthy diet filled with diverse fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and lean protein. Probiotics are also a great addition to a healthy diet. Just make sure to switch out the strains that you are taking every 3 months to avoid over-colonization of any one particular strain.
Also consider adding fermented foods like kefir and kombucha to your diet to increase the amount of probiotics introduced into the gut.
There you have it! 5 surprising reasons that you're not losing weight! Go ahead and put one or even all of these suggestions into action and see the weight drop off!
Your turn! Which of these suggestions are you the most excited to try? Which are you least excited about? Let me know in the comments!
2. Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in cardiovascular diseases. 2014;56(4):441-447. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012.
3. Swift, D., McGee, J., Earnest, C., Carlisle, E., Nygard, M. and Johannsen, N. (2018). The Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.
4. Alizadeh Z, Younespour S, Rajabian Tabesh M, Haghravan S. Comparison between the effect of 6 weeks of morning or evening aerobic exercise on appetite and anthropometric indices: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Obes. 2017;7(3):157-165. doi:10.1111/cob.12187