by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
There are people in the world who don’t have to work at staying thin and trim, and there are people in the world who do. For those in the latter category, the battle of the bulge can feel like a nemesis impacting them on many levels, physically and emotionally. Everywhere we turn we see advertisements, infomercials, and even reality television shows telling us that we can lose weight, and all we have to do is stop eating so much and exercise more. In fact, health practitioners relay this information to their patients every day, and send them on their way with a “prescription” for what sounds like a simple solution. But it’s not.
There are many weight loss programs out there, all offering different methods and techniques to help people lose weight. I know, I joined Weight Watchers when I was 19. I followed the program to the letter, weighing and measuring every, single bite of food I consumed. I exercised every day, I never cheated, and each time I got on the scale, I was devastated to see I had only lost a half pound, or worse – gained weight. It wasn’t Weight Watchers, it was me. I had weight loss resistance.
Weight loss resistance occurs when a woman has a physiologic/metabolic imbalance that makes losing weight and keeping it off extremely challenging, even when she puts forth her best efforts. It may be a preexisting condition or a new development, but until it’s addressed, no amount of working out at the gym will fix it.
This condition can be very frustrating for women. I talk to women every day in my practice who just don’t understand why they can’t lose weight, and I tell them what I know: we can fix that, and not only will the pounds come off, but they will stay off with the right daily efforts.
Is weight loss resistance genetic?
Research shows that people metabolize fat differently. That’s why some people can eat a lot of food and never gain an ounce, and others barely eat and gain a pound or more. Genetics can play a role, and studies are in progress to help us understand more about that. But if genes play a role, then that means we all benefit from different types of food and exercise when it comes to weight loss, to support our personal genetic makeup.
We have all heard of so many different diet and exercise plans to help us lose weight, I’m sure more are being invented right now! But there are healthy ways to reduce — including lower-fat diets, Mediterranean style diets, higher protein diets, low-dairy diets, and many other choices — to optimize metabolism. The same holds true for exercise. Some people benefit from endurance-style exercise, others from strength training, and others still from things like yoga and Pilates. The good news is, regardless of your genetic makeup, there are many dietary and lifestyle choices that can increase your ability to lose weight and keep it off.
Although society tends to group everyone into the same category when it comes to health and fitness, we are all individual, and different things work for different people. It is not just our genetic makeup, but also our emotional makeup, and our lifestyle and environmental factors that play roles too. It takes time to figure out what is at the core of weight loss issues, and that is what we do in functional medicine – we get to the bottom of it so it can be corrected.
Core systemic imbalances and weight loss resistance
There are six core systemic imbalances that contribute to weight loss resistance in women. We may see a combination of them, but one usually becomes prominent as we investigate what is keeping a woman from losing weight. They are:
- Hormonal imbalance (including thyroid dysfunction)
- Adrenal imbalance (chronic stress)
- Neurotransmitter imbalance
- Digestive imbalance
- Systemic inflammation
- Impaired detoxification
When we determine the primary cause of weight loss resistance, we offer the following measures to not only jump start, but to sustain weight loss and then maintenance regimes.
Know your unique physiology. Work with a functional medicine practitioner to identify any metabolic imbalances, and create a nutrition and exercise plan unique to your system.
Use herbs and supplements. When weight loss resistance is caused by hormonal imbalance, stress imbalance, and neurotransmitter imbalance, supportive herbs and supplements may help rebalance your metabolism and assist with weight loss. The active compounds and micronutrients found in herbs and supplements can go to work at the cellular level, helping you from the inside out.
Practice healthy eating. Eating three well-balanced meals and two snacks each day at regular intervals will help regulate your metabolism. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein such as organic meats, fish, nuts and legumes, offer the best nutritional support. Since our lives are busy, having a snack shake made of whey protein and almond milk is a healthy alternative. Our Whey shake helps support metabolism and satisfy cravings!
Sometimes we need more than food to get all of the vitamins and nutrients we need, especially when trying to lose weight. Chromium, zinc, vitamin C, D3, and the B vitamins are essential for a healthy metabolism. A high quality, pharmaceutical-grade multivitamin-mineral complex will support and enhance weight-loss efforts.
Exercise. Even if you have tried to exercise and not had too much success, finding the right type of exercise is key. It should not only move your body, but it should be enjoyable. Regular exercise is an integral part to good health and it will re-set your metabolism and help you overcome weight loss resistance.
Rest, restore, and sleep. Sleep is vital to not only restore metabolism, but help all of the systems in our body function properly. Sleep allows our body to repair itself, regenerate, and helps regulate our hunger mechanism – a very important part of weight loss! There are studies which actually show that people, who sleep less, eat more. We suggest trying to sleep for eight hours each night between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., can make all the difference.
Seek support. Whether you believe “misery loves company” or “it takes a village” or even “great minds think alike” – finding other people who are on a similar journey can go a long way in helping you feel good, stay encouraged, and achieve success.
Solving the weight loss puzzle
Weight loss resistance can cause a lot of emotional turmoil. The struggle is real, and you may feel disheartened, discouraged, angry, sad, or even guilty. But these feelings will not help solve the mystery as to why you cannot lose weight. It’s easy to say just let those feelings go, but you will find when you turn them around into hope, belief, enthusiasm, and renew your efforts, you can find the underlying cause, address it, and the weight will come off. Remember, it’s not your fault! We can work together to fix it.