You keep trying one trending diet after another: you’ve been vegetarian, vegan, keto, and even full-on carnivore. You work out regularly and have a well-thought-out super-food and supplement plan, packed with green tea, apple cider vinegar, CBD, and generous servings of celery juice.
And yet, no matter what you do, the scale doesn’t seem to move.
But before you get too hard on yourself, consider this: the problem might not be you or your choice of diet. There are many other factors that could get in the way of your weight loss goals.
1. Underlying Health Conditions
Certain health conditions, if left untreated, can make it difficult or nearly impossible to lose weight. Some of the more common ones include:
Hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormone levels can slow down your metabolism. That, in turn, often results in weight gain.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Common symptoms of PCOS include insulin resistance and an increased accumulation of fat in the abdominal area. It is estimated that as much as 21% of women of reproductive age may have PCOS.
Lipedema is a tissue disorder that is believed to affect one in nine women globally. The condition leads to excessive accumulation of fat in the legs and hips that can be extremely difficult to lose.
2. Aging and Menopause
Women gain 5–15 lbs. or 2.3–6.8 kg on average as they age. This is due to a combination of factors including a slower metabolism, as well as an overall reduction in physical activity and muscle mass.
And when you throw the hormonally driven weight gain during menopause into the mix, it’s no wonder that most women struggle to keep their normal weight as they age, even on a perfectly healthy diet.
3. Genetics and Intrauterine Influences
Some people may have a genetic predisposition to weight gain.
Others may have been exposed to conditions in the womb that set them up for excessive weight gain later in life. These include their mother’s diet, as well as the weight she gained when she was pregnant.
Animal studies show that the offspring of rats that were fed a high-fat Western diet while pregnant had slower metabolisms and went on to gain a significant amount of weight during their lifetimes.
What’s more, expectant mothers who gain excessive weight are more likely to have large babies who become overweight or obese as children or adults.
4. Your Dieting History
If you have yo-yo dieted in the past, the chances are that you will find it more difficult to lose weight with each attempt.
When you increase your calorie intake after a period of deprivation, your body will store more fat than before. That’s your body’s way of overcompensating and creating a reserve for when you decrease your calorie intake again.
5. Gut Bacteria
Yo-yo dieting may also result in changes in your gut biome that could cause increased accumulation of fat later on. Gut bacteria may be able to retain a memory of your past weight that triggers accelerated weight gain when you revert back to your normal eating habits.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this mechanism serves as a type of buffer in periods of food scarcity. In today’s day and age, however, it can hinder your weight loss.
Unfortunately, the weight loss game seems to be rigged against women. Studies indicate that men tend to lose weight more quickly than women. What’s more, male bodies usually get rid of belly fat first, but that’s not typically the case with women.
7. Slow Metabolism
Some people simply burn calories more slowly than others. This is due to their slower metabolism.
You may be genetically predisposed to have a slower metabolism.
However, it’s also possible that your body does not have enough lean muscle mass. That, at least, is something you can work on. Bodies with more muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage usually have a faster metabolism and burn more calories more quickly.
8. You Are Skipping Breakfast
People who are trying to lose weight often skip breakfast. However, that only makes you hungrier, and you may be tempted to eat way too much at lunchtime.
Instead of skipping your breakfast, be sure to eat something as soon as you feel hungry in the morning, usually within one to three hours of waking up.
Keep your breakfast light, protein-packed, and high in healthy fiber to keep you full. Think eggs, cottage cheese, whole-grain toast, and some veggies and leafy greens.
9. You Have Late Dinners
Eating too close to bedtime is a sure way to set back your weight loss progress. The intake of food raises our insulin, blood sugar, and body temperature. That not only makes it harder to lose fat, but it also interferes with your digestion and sleep cycles.
So, for best weight loss results, have a light, plant-based dinner no later than 3–4 hours before going to bed. That should give your body enough time to digest the meal before you go to sleep.
And while you are at it, try not to snack after supper too. There is nothing worse for your weight loss plan than snacking on junk food in front of the TV or your computer late at night.
Last but definitely not least, we have the likeliest culprit of all: stress. While it is an inevitable part of life and a bit of it can be a good thing, intense or chronic stress can wreak havoc on all your systems, including your metabolism.
If you have been under a lot of pressure lately, consider trying out stress management techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or therapy. Make sure to also look into natural anxiety-relieving remedies such as cannabis or cannabidiol.
The Bottom Line
While getting an adequate amount of exercise and tweaking your diet are essential to any weight loss journey, there is a lot more that goes into it.
Our bodies are incredibly complex and delicate systems. Everything from genetics and aging to sleep patterns and the timing of your meals can — and does — affect your metabolism.
So, to set yourself up for success, you want to adopt a holistic approach that targets your lifestyle and mental health as well as your diet. This way, you can lose weight and improve your overall health at the same time.