Many people struggle with being overweight most of their life. Strict calorie-restriction and other fad diets are aimed at achieving a quick result causing you to “yo-yo” to go up and down on the scale. Shake diets, juice diets and cleanses, and smoothie diet attempts lead to weight loss that lasts a month or two and you may find yourself gaining even more than you lost if you stop the “magic” smoothie, shake, or juice plan. It can continue for years and will not get resolved if you do not find the underlying cause of YOUR weight gain. The inability to build and maintain the achieved result becomes a cause of disappointment, loss of self-confidence and the feeling of endless running in a vicious circle.
Health coaches who did not upgrade their knowledge, numerous health gurus, personal trainers, and some medical establishments, as well as many doctors and medical specialists (such as endocrinologists), tell us that weight loss is only a matter of the ratio of calories gained and lost. You just need to eat less, and losing weight will begin immediately. Numerous exercise programs are structured around this principle. If you do not succeed in weight loss, your personal trainer blames the lack of exercise and non-adherence to a strict diet. A number of times my patients would come back from their appointment with an endocrinologist crying because they were told to stop being lazy, exercise more and eat less. They would be in tears in my room, starving themselves to the point of borderline food disorder, and… gaining more weight, because they were stressing out their body and causing it to go into starvation mode. But the reality is that for many, achieving balance is an incredibly difficult task.
The problem of weight loss resistance has many root causes, it is complex and there is no quick way to solve it. The challenge facing me, as a specialist in the field of functional medicine, is to identify the main reasons why people suffer from being overweight. At the point when the weight gain has already happened, it is not “just extra weight”, but a chronic disorder that needs to be taken seriously.
The following is a description of seven possible issues encountered on the path to harmony.
1. Thyroid problems
A properly functioning thyroid gland is necessary for many reasons, and one of them is the ability to lose or maintain weight. If you are experiencing difficulties with weight loss, you need to get your thyroid function checked. If the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is within the normal range, the person is most often told that everything is fine and the labs are “normal” too. More often than not, you are blamed for eating too much and exercising too little. Nevertheless, in the United States, we go to the gym more than ever before and the rate of people who are suffering from being overweight is getting higher and higher. Having determined only TSH, it is impossible to fully evaluate the functioning of the thyroid gland and find the cause of resistance to weight loss.
2. Leptin Resistance
The fatty (adipose) tissue eventually becomes an endocrine organ and tissue. In fact, this is a very important part of the endocrine (hormonal) system. A hormone called leptin is produced in fat cells. One of its functions is to inform the brain that it is time to use accumulated fat reserves as energy raw materials. Leptin resistance is observed when the hormone is not recognized by special cells located in the hypothalamic region of the brain. In this case, the body believes hunger is real and continues the storage of fat. What is one of the causes of leptin increase? Exposure to mold and subsequent mold illness (biotoxin illness, or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) could be to blame. Mycotoxins are mold toxins produced by the mold; they influence a number of hormones that our body produces to maintain the optimal balance.
3. Insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is not a sign of a lack of hormone production, but the insensitivity of body tissues to insulin. Many people know that insulin resistance manifests itself in the development of type 2 diabetes, however, it can be observed in a large number of people halfway to this disease. This prediabetic state is also called metabolic syndrome and is characterized by a decrease in the sensitivity of organs and tissues to insulin. This means that the body produces enough hormone, but it is not used properly. The problem is that insulin contributes to fat storage. In turn, this makes weight loss a very difficult task.
4. Gut Issues
It is impossible to fully understand the causes of weight loss without examining the digestive tract. This amazing system is involved in maintaining immunity (the intestinal mucosa contains the largest number of immune cells in the body called Payer’s Patch) and is home to trillions of bacteria called the microbiome. An extremely exciting and rapidly developing field of medical science is studying the microbiome and its effect on our well-being, ability to think, and, of course, on how we control our weight. If 10 years ago Gut-Brain connection was something only Naturopathic and Functional Medicine providers were aware of, now if you go to PubMed and put such words as “microbiome” or “gut-brain axis” you will find scientific research on this subject matter.
5. HPA-Axis Dysfunction (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Axis).
The adrenal glands are a very important part of our endocrine system. They produce a stress hormone – cortisol, as well as aldosterone, DHEA, epinephrine and norepinephrine (previously named “adrenalin”), and more. The production of excess cortisol in your body may be the reason why the body tries to maintain weight by all means. To find a reason that prevents my patients from becoming slim, I track changes in blood or saliva cortisol levels throughout the day. As a result, it becomes clear what causes the malfunction – an increased amount of the hormone or the circadian rhythm issues.
6. Estrogen and Progesterone Imbalance
The right ratio of estrogen/progesterone is something that gets missed a lot during the evaluation of the whole hormonal picture. High estrogen levels or estrogen dominance can be seen in many patients struggling with resistance to weight loss. Testing progesterone and estrogen during day 19, 20 or 21 of the regular 28-day menstrual cycle is important to calculate the ratio. It is also important if you are trying to get pregnant with no success. How does too much estrogen influence weight gain? Too much unopposed by progesterone estrogen causes inflammation and fluid retention. Fat cells convert testosterone into estrogen via the process called aromatization. Water retention is often linked to perimenopause and menopause because water weight and bloating are caused by decreased progesterone levels. Estrogen dominance can also cause breast cancer!
Environmental toxins in household cleaning and body care products can have a significant impact on weight loss. You can test yourself to determine the level of toxins (for example, heavy metals, organophosphates, etc.). It may constitute another piece of the puzzle.
So, now you can see that it is difficult to answer the question of why it is difficult to lose weight. It is difficult to put the reasons into one sentence and even this short article describes only the most common causes of the inability to lose weight. Comprehensive body diagnostics and an individual integrative approach to studying your health will help to identify the main and interrelated factors that interfere with achieving the desired harmony.
Now, I want to hear from you! Have you had difficulty losing weight? What was the cause of your weight gain?