How To Tell If You Have Become Weight Loss Resistant
7 Areas To Work On To Help Overcome Weight Loss Resistance
You’ve religiously followed your diet, even bypassing a big night out with your friends at a wine tasting to have sensible grilled chicken and couscous. You take every fat-burning supplement Dr. Oz recommends and attend three aerobics classes at your gym every week. You’re doing everything right.
And then… nothing. Despite your ardent dedication, you’ve been at the same weight for weeks and months. Doubt and frustration set in, and you start to feel like nothing is working.
If you’re like most people, you stare this down and resolve to work harder. You cut calories (or fat, or carbs) further, step up your time on the elliptical machine, and visit your vitamin store to buy the latest supplement that supposedly helped Kim Kardashian drop weight. At a certain point, you might even chalk it up to age or decreased metabolism and accept that you’ll never reach your goal weight.
Perhaps the problem isn’t you. Maybe what you’re doing (or not doing) is making you weight loss resistant.
What Defines Weight Loss Resistance?
Nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin, author of the upcoming The Virgin Diet, coined the term “weight loss resistance” many years ago to describe people who, despite their best efforts, weren’t losing weight. Virgin defines weight loss resistance as “failure to lose fat (not weight) even if you’re following a healthy diet and exercise program.”
This can even happen to people who are eating “all the vegetables in the world” and who are especially frustrated.
Losing fat and not weight is worth emphasizing, because even though the scales are stalling or even going up, you could be burning fat and gaining muscle. Likewise, you could be losing four pounds a week, but most of it comes from muscle. Unless you have a scale that measures both lean muscle and fat, you won’t know.
The most obvious condition with weight loss resistance, of course, is stubborn fat that clings around your middle and won’t go away no matter how vigilantly you diet and exercise.
Other conditions of weight loss resistance include:
Numerous conditions create weight loss resistance. Some might be obvious. For instance, too much caffeine could raise your stress hormone cortisol (which you’ll hear about often in this article) and stall fat burning.
For others, you might not make the connection. Did you know that birth control pills, for example, could create insulin resistance by knocking hormones like insulin out of whack?
Hormones are what signal your body to break down or build muscle, blast or crash metabolism, and yes, store or burn fat. And oftentimes they play a key role in weight loss resistance.
In other words, you might be militantly watching calories, taking the right supplements, and exercising like crazy. But if your hormones are sending the wrong message, weight loss resistance could be the disappointing result.
Among the many culprits of weight loss resistance, these seven are among the most researched and prevalent.
1: Adrenal Fatigue
Stress makes you weight loss resistant on several fronts, and numerous studies confirm its affect on fat gain.
For instance, one study in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at 1,355 men and women over nine years.
Researchers found that both genders had higher body mass index (BMI) levels if they worked super-stressful jobs as well as had other demands that increased stress. (BMI scores can determine whether you are overweight or obese.) “Interventions to address psychosocial stress may limit weight gain among overweight and obese men and women,” they concluded.
On a more practical level, stress makes you head straight for the Krispy Kremes or whatever your favorite comfort food might be. After all, you’re not exactly gravitating to quinoa and Brussels sprouts after your boss lets you have it for not meeting third-quarter quota.
Your adrenals respond to stress by secreting cortisol. This hormone gets a bad rap, but cortisol can actually be beneficial in certain situations. For instance, if you’re working out, cortisol helps redistribute fat from your fat cells to your muscle cells, which need that energy to work (that’s one reason cortisol increases during exercise).
But responding to chronic stress by continually secreting cortisol eventually wears your adrenals out. Adrenal burnout manifests as sleeping poorly, insulin resistance, decreased thyroid function, and lowered nutrient status. All of these symptoms contribute to weight loss resistance.
Strategies to address adrenal fatigue: Learn to manage stress levels through yoga, deep breathing, or simply staying in the present. Your adrenals store more vitamin C than any other organ, and stress depletes this crucial vitamin. Eat vitamin C-rich foods and take a supplement.
Related PEERtrainer Article: What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
2: The Wrong Kind Of Exercise
You probably know a friend whose gym routine involves reading OK! Magazine or maybe watching The View while she leisurely strolls the treadmill. She’s probably neither toned nor near her goal weight. Guys are equally guilty of elliptical surfing rather than lifting heavy weights or vigorous exercise.
Cardio is hardly the most effective type of exercise to burn fat and can actually create weight loss resistance. That’s because cardio chronically increases your stress hormone cortisol.
On the other hand, if you’re lifting weights cortisol works in your favor by delivering fat to muscle tissue. “When cortisol is ‘socializing’ with HGH and testosterone, such as when you’re intense weight training, it aids fat loss,” says Teta.
Not so with cardio. Keep your cortisol levels elevated too long with low-intensity exercise (without HGH and testosterone present), and you start to break down lean muscle tissue and store fat.
Sure, you burn fat during exercise, but lower-intensity exercise like elliptical machines means your body doesn’t require any metabolic repair. Simply put: you don’t get post-workout fat-burning benefits. Lower-intensity also means fewer calories burned while you’re exercising.
All in all, it’s not a good scenario for fat burning and could be making you weight loss resistant.
So what’s the alternative to hours striding elliptical machines and aerobics classes? Weight resistance, for one. Despite what you might think, you’re not going to turn into Madonna or Arnold Schwarzenegger lifting weights 20 minutes, three times a week.
You might not have the time or inclination, however, to buy free weights or frequent your local gym. Fortunately, there’s an even more efficient burn-burning exercise called high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT, also called burst training, involves short, intense 30 to 60 second bursts followed by one to two minutes of active recovery where you’re moving at a low intensity so you can catch your breath and stabilize your heart rate.
You don’t need any special equipment. Any park (especially ones with hills) works, as does any set of stairs. You might run up the hill, walk briskly down, and repeat. Or you might run, walk, and repeat. Full throttle going up, steady coming down, and repeat: that’s burst training.
You want to shoot for four to 12 total minutes of high intensity bursts. The point is to push your body to maximum capacity. If you can do burst training for more than a minute at a time, you’re not doing it hard enough.
Why Burst Training Helps You Overcome Weight Loss Resistance
Burst training works in your favor for fat burning because it creates oxygen debt and forces recovery: your body literally must catch up for the oxygen you expended. Studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology and other journals confirm burst training increases oxygen debt for fat burning better than other kinds of exercise.
Burst training also raises your stress hormone cortisol. (“Most exercise, with the exception of leisure walking, restorative yoga, and tai chi will raise cortisol,” says Teta.”)
The Research Showing That Burst Training Helps Boost Fat Burning
But because burst training is short and intense, you’re not chronically elevating cortisol like aerobic exercise does. Like with weight resistance, you’re also raising anabolic hormones like testosterone to counteract those stress hormones. Burst training also raises lactic acid, which increases human growth hormone (HGH) and supports fat burning. You’ve got several hormones working in your favor.
For instance, a study in The International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders Link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11673763 showed that HGH helped reduce fat gain, increase fat burning, and stimulate fat breakdown in obese mice.
Studies prove burst training superior to cardio. One in the journal Metabolism, for instance, showed that compared to treadmills and hour-long aerobics classes, burst training helps you burn fat more efficiently and quickly.
And a recent study in the Journal of Obesity elucidated those benefits. According to researchers, burst training:
3: Not Enough Sleep Leads To Weight Loss Resistance
Sleeping less than seven hours a night or constantly awakening throughout the night can lead to more than just feeling spacey and requiring a caffeine IV to get you through the next morning. You also knock your fat-burning hormones out of whack and set the scene for weight loss resistance.
Too little sleep, for instance, elevates your insulin levels. Insulin is a storage hormone: it stores fat very well. A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that even healthy people who got too little sleep for even one night increased your risk for insulin resistance.
Other studies show just one terrible night’s sleep increases levels of your stress hormone cortisol and your hunger hormone ghrelin the next day. Translation: you’re more stressed out and hungrier. You can predict how that scenario will play out!
But wait, there’s more. Not getting enough sleep can make you leptin resistant. Leptin tells your brain to stop eating, but when your brain cells become leptin resistant, they stop “hearing” that hormone. You’re more apt to get seconds at the buffet even if you’re not hungry.
Related PEERtrainer Article: How To Sleep Better Naturally
4: Thyroid Fatigue
Hypothyroidism, characterized by increased thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and suppressed levels of thyroid hormones, is synonymous with weight loss resistance.
A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found even tiny increases in TSH stalled fat loss. Former studies, such as one in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, also concluded TSH could create weight loss resistance.
“Overt hypothyroidism can suppress basal metabolic rate (BMR) up to 40%,” says thyroid specialist Dr. Alan Christianson. (Basal metabolic rate is the amount of calories you burn when you’re inactive. A higher BMR means you burn more calories.) “Being hypothyroid can require two to three hours of exercise needed to create a normal BMR. Hypothyroidism also causes severe fatigue, making exercise hard at best.”
In other words, hypothyroidism can crash your metabolism and make you weight loss resistant. You might fall outside the normal range of hypothyroidism but still manifest symptoms like weight loss resistance.
Strategies to improve thyroid function: If you suspect thyroid fatigue, find an integrative physician who can check your TSH, free T3 and T4, and thyroid antibody levels to look for optimal levels, not normal ranges.
Additionally, in the view of Dr. Christianson, the root cause of hypothyroidism is auto-immune in nature. So any proven auto-immune protocol will help. Increasing the nutrient density of your diet, removing toxic foods and following an overall “clean” diet will help to improve your immune system function over time.
Related PEERtrainer Article: What Causes Hypothyroidism?
5: Food Intolerances
You might confuse food allergies with food sensitivities (also called food intolerances). Both are immune reactions, but food allergies are acute and their symptoms can be severe. Think of someone with a food allergy going into anaphylactic shock after eating peanuts.
“Food sensitivities, by contrast, can keep your immune system fired up on a chronic basis,” says JJ Virgin in her upcoming book The Virgin Diet, “because you keep consuming the foods that set them off.”
Not only does the food itself create problems, repeatedly eating that same food exacerbates the problem. Food sensitivities overwhelm your system, and your immune system responds with an all-out assault. Inflammation is one end result, which can lead to (among other things) insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and — you guessed it — weight loss resistance.
“Even after just several days of eating foods that you may sensitive too, you’ll put weight on,” says Dr. Grace Suh Coscia. “In my practice, when I go over my patient’s diets and see what they are eating, I look for cravings and foods that patients eat numerous times every week. Both of these create food sensitivities.”
Strategies to eliminate food sensitivities: Suh Coscia recommends a rotational diet, where you eat a variety of foods throughout the week rather than the same foods every day. You might also consider an elimination diet and remove gluten, dairy, soy, and other potential culprits to see if you’re able to lose weight. (The PEERtrainer Fresh Start Cleanse is an elimination diet, which explains the breakthroughs many people experience on it.)
You might choose a detox or cleanse program to get lean and sexy for your high school reunion.
Related PEERtrainer Article: The Right Way To Do A Cleanse
Partly fat burning comes from increased protein and healthier organic foods you eat on that cleanse. But reducing your toxic burden can also help you overcome weight loss resistance.
According to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, for instance, bisphenol-A (BPA) can bind to fat cells and increase inflammation. Inflammation, you’ll remember, is a huge culprit for weight loss resistance.
Another study in the Alternative Medicine Review showed numerous environmental toxins could inhibit thyroid metabolism, leading to weight loss resistance.
Toxins can also create leptin resistance. When toxins bind to brain receptor sites, they stop “hearing” leptin’s message. Plus, toxins can interfere with your mitochondria, your cells’ “power plants” that burn fat for energy. In both cases, your body’s machinery can’t do its job and fat burning comes to a halt.
Strategies to detoxify: Eat plenty of protein, good fats, and sulfur-rich foods every day. Make sure you’re getting 35 grams of fiber from food and (if necessary) a supplement. Once or twice a year, consider a more comprehensive cleanse such as the PEERtrainer 14-Day Fresh Start Cleanse.
7: Low-Calorie Diets
Maybe you had a friend who vigilantly followed a 1,200-calorie diet. At first, she lost several pounds a week. And then, by some cruel fate of nature, her weight loss just stopped. Like most people, she concluded she wasn’t being strict enough and pushed her calories down to around 1,000.
Despite her complaints about damaged metabolism, what she was experiencing was completely normal. Her basal metabolic rate (BMR) was compensating for her decreased calorie supply.
Besides keeping you hungry and cranky, low-calorie diets raise your stress levels. A study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine showed women who ate a 1200-calorie or less diet increased their cortisol levels. Researchers concluded that low-calorie diets “may be deleterious to psychological well-being and biological functioning.”
If you get just one thing from this article, it’s that hormones, not calories, run the show. Weight loss resistance happens when you send your body the wrong messages. If you’re eating a 1,200 calorie high-carbohydrate diet, you’re cranking up insulin and cortisol levels, both of which signal your body to store fat.
Strategy: Focus on food quality rather than just calories. Eating 500 calories of salmon and spinach, for instance, will help you burn more fat than 200 calories of pizza.
When you do this, you eat in a way that also reduces the effects of stress and insulin response
The way to do this is called a “nutritional cleanse.” Now, this is not a juice cleanse or anything like that. It is just a “way of eating” that consists of some adjustments. PEERtrainer has put together a short webinar where you learn the exact foods to eat and not eat. You can get this sent to you for free, by entering your email.
We have also put together a video series that teaches you strategies for how to eat at different parts of the day to bring your hormone, stress and insulin response down. You’ll also get some recipes to help you put this advice into immediate action.Our “big idea” here at PEERtainer is to shift you into a new way of eating, that will leave traditional “dieting” in the past, along with the frustration that traditional dieting has been proven to generate. To help you even more with this, we will also send you a copy of the PEERtrainer Cheat System, which helps you shift to a new way of eating at your own speed: