Have you been asking yourself why you cannot lose weight?
This is a question that I get asked A LOT! In this blog post, I will outline some of the most common reasons why you aren’t able to lose the weight that you are so desperately wanting to get rid of.
The first and most obvious is exercise. Are you exercising? What type of exercise are you doing? I’m just going to put it out there that a leisurely walk a couple of times per week is not going to create the weight loss that you are looking for. Don’t get me wrong in that I am all for leisurely walks as you are lapping everyone on the couch; however, you will need to kick it up a notch for weight loss. You need to sweat AND you need an elevated heart rate!
Providing you are healthy enough for exercise, you need a target heart rate that is sustained for 30 minutes most days of the week. The 30 minutes does not have to be consecutive, meaning you can do this in 10-minute increments for example, just as long as you reach the 30-minute goal per day.
How do you calculate a target heart rate for you?
YOUR AGE – 220 = Maximum heart rate (not to be sustained for long periods of time)
Example: 48 years old – 220 = 172 (maximum heart rate)
You then take your maximum heart rate x 85%.
Example: 172 x 0.85 = 146 beats per minute, which is your target heart rate at which your heart rate needs to be at (ie. the beats per minute) for those 30 minutes.
Not only is this exercising your heart, which is a muscle, but it is also:
- Burning calories and blood sugar
- Making you sweat, which is promoting detoxification of your body
- Enhancing insulin sensitivity
- Releasing growth hormone, which promotes anti-aging elements
- Boosts your metabolism
- Activates your sympathetic nervous system which helps you to burn fat
Next, let’s have a conversation about inflammation and detoxification.
Our bodies become inflamed for many different reasons, but for the purpose of this blog post we are going to look at the most crucial for weight loss and that is what you are eating. The Standard American Diet (S.A.D) is just that, sad. It is full of processed foods, preservatives, and chemicals that our body is trying at its utmost to detoxify us from. If you are eating a S.A.D. diet, your liver will struggle to efficiently rid your body of the unnecessary, while trying to maintain the little nutrients it has been given to work with.
Inflammation caused by the foods we eat also prohibits us from losing weight. Inflammation promotes disease. An overabundance of fat cells also promotes disease as well as continues that inflammatory cycle that causes us to become sicker. It’s a very vicious cycle.
S.A.D = INFLAMMATION
Poor Detox = INFLAMMATION
Inflammation in the body = The poor ability to lose weight and the cycle of disease continues.
The sustainable plan for lifelong weight loss is to clear your detoxification pathways and change your diet from S.A.D. to one that supports your body robustly. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t have treats every once in a while, as we all like treats. However, as you move through the process of cleaning up your diet you will be less inclined to reach for the sugary treat that causes you inflammation as you will feel so much better without them. Balance is your best friend.
So, what is a diet that supports your body more robustly?
It is a whole foods diet!
- Ditch anything processed
- Minimize grains and gluten consumption
- Eat the rainbow for the best diversity and to promote a healthy gut microbiome that promotes a healthy metabolism
- Maintain blood sugar control by eating smaller meals over the course of the day to keep you in that sweet spot of blood sugar balance
Next, let’s talk about blood sugar balance. To optimize weight loss and keep your body from holding onto unnecessary weight, you will need to make sure that this is optimized. Poor blood sugar control actually causes you to hold onto weight. When blood sugar yoyos up and down throughout the day, you may find that you are craving foods and have a tendency to reach for the not-so-healthy options. Not all carbs are created equal. The carbs of an apple are far different than the carbs of a piece of candy.
When making food choices, it is best to look at the glycemic index of that food as well as the glycemic load.
The glycemic index is how much a specific food will increase blood sugar levels.
The glycemic load pertains to how rapidly a specific food raises your blood sugar.
The higher the glycemic index the more your body outputs insulin to bring down blood sugar, as insulin is the key to putting sugar back into your cells. Sustained elevations of insulin lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to diabetes. Insulin is also pro-inflammatory, hence a high carb diet with long-term elevated insulin leads to a chronic inflammatory state.
- Waffles/donuts = high glycemic index
- Waffles glycemic load is 10
- Peaches/pears = low glycemic index
- Peaches/pears glycemic load is about 5
As you can see, the smarter food choice and the lesser impact on raising your insulin significantly is with the foods that carry a lower glycemic index and a lower glycemic load. The sweet spot of sugar balance is the steady-state to create weight loss and not hold onto fat.
If sugar is too high you create fat. If sugar is too low you will retain fat.
In maintaining steady blood sugar levels throughout the day with foods that keep glucose levels at a steady state, you are less likely to have ravenous hunger cravings due to drops in blood sugar and more apt to have the weight loss you desire.
Click here for a list of foods showing their glycemic index/load.
The overall goal is to be lighter and leaner, not just lighter. Muscle weighs significantly more than fat and also muscle burns more calories than fat. Weight-bearing exercise is a fantastic way to build muscle, build bone, burn calories and obtain a leaner and lighter figure.
Let’s talk about lifestyle for just a bit. I think we can all agree that 2020 has stressed all of us around the globe more than any other year!
Prolonged stress day to day leads to sustained elevations in our cortisol levels. Cortisol is produced in your adrenal glands in response to perceived or actual stress. Elevated cortisol can be beneficial in the short term for the fight or flight response (think running from the tiger) as it helps to metabolize fats and carbs for quick energy and keeps your blood sugar stable.
However, over time with those sustained elevations, your body experiences sugar cravings and insulin resistance. Over the long haul with elevated cortisol, you increase your body’s fat storage, slow your metabolism, and decrease your muscle mass.
Simple, easy ways to help you decrease the stress that has been allowed to gain traction in your head include:
- 4*7*8 breathing – a breathing technique that shifts you from the fight or flight mode to rest and digest by tripping the vagus nerve and causing a calming effect, reducing our cortisol
- Meditation/prayer – there is research that practicing this for 20 minutes per day changes you cellularly for the better
- Exercise – Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong
- Social support from family and friends, even if it’s just a phone call to hear their voice
- Engage in activities/hobbies that bring you joy – painting, gardening, cooking, etc.
- Adaptogenic herbs – there are several, so talk with your health care provider if you feel this might be something you are interested in trying to impact your elevated cortisol
Last but not least in addressing what can cause the inability to lose weight is hormones. Hormones play a huge role in how we hold onto weight or lose weight. Imbalanced hormones within men or women can be very frustrating. Talking with a provider who is skilled at assessing all of the necessary labs for hormone evaluation is key.
Female Hormonal Imbalance can be caused by some of the following:
- Overindulgence of alcohol
Male Hormonal Imbalance can be caused by some of the following:
- Age-related decline in testosterone
- Overindulgence of alcohol
- Liver issues
Sustainable weight loss is best achieved by doing it slowly.
The quick fix weight loss is not only NOT healthy for you, as you dump all of your toxins that are stored in your fat into your body at once. The yoyo of rapid weight loss and then weight gain is very taxing on your body. My motto is to start small. Change one thing at a time and start with your diet first. Diet change is your biggest non-pharmaceutical change to help yourself!
Slow and steady wins the race. When you feel you have gotten a good handle on each small step, then add something else so that over time you feel successful and those small changes add up to huge successes. You can do it!
Author: Gabria Cathcart, Family Nurse Practitioner with MyCatholicDoctor
Editor: Samantha Wright, Director of Development with MyCatholicDoctor
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