What If I Am Not Losing Weight?

The Scale is Lagging

  • It does that. It is not on the same day of the week you are.  Often the loss or gain lags far behind the behavior, especially as we get older.  Eventually whatever you have programmed shows up, often in one fell swoop.
  • The scale may still be catching up with your overeating.  If you ate a ton before you started a program, your first two to three weeks of deficit could still be just paying off the accumulated debt that had just not show up on the scale yet.  Perhaps you are not even in true loss mode for a few days or weeks (you could track this if you tracked your food and exercise).
  • You may still owe the scale back if you had a huge initial weight loss (from water) and got ahead of what you had actually earned.  Sometimes this catch up doesn’t happen till two to three weeks in.  Again, you can calculate this.
  • Sometimes you will get stuck on what we call a set point or plateau for awhile, but when you do finally break it, you will usually get the accrued loss or gain.  These set points seem to come about every fifteen pounds or so and often are the same places you held your weight on the way up.  They are not permanent or people would eventually stop gaining even if they continued to overeat, and clearly that doesn’t happen.

Quantity of Food

  • Simply too many calories in and not enough calories out.
  • Too much picking that is either not accounted for or incorrectly accounted for (it adds up!).
  • Not keeping track, so you never really know.  People’s impression of their calorie intake is often way off the reality, and generally speaking studies show that the more overweight a person is, the more inaccurate their perception of their intake is too.
  • Never making up for surpluses  –  one or two high days can easily undo a whole week of dieting.  The register doesn’t zero out.  You can’t start over.
  • Too high of a percentage of your food comes from high calorie categories (fried foods, red meat, cheese, sauces, dry crunchies).
  • Too much eating out – the preparation method is often far different than yours would be and the calories can be significantly higher than they would be if you made that thing!  Then there are the “accessories” that come with meals out – especially when they are complimentary.  They still count!
  • Too much starch and sugar (adds up and you are still hungry).  Also, raises insulin and promotes fat storage.
  • No real meals (feels like you never ate).
  • Too much of the deadly combo (sugar, salt and fat) – overrides the body’s natural ability to become satisfied.

Quality of Food

  • Too much starchy carb and sugar – makes you hungry, adds up, raises insulin and promotes fat storage.
  • Too much starchy carb and sugar leave you hangry (hungry and angry) and craving more sugar/starch.
  • Not enough protein and fat to give the body the message that it ate.  There are several chemicals in the body that promote satiety.  Most of them do not respond to carbs.  Protein keeps blood sugar stable and fat promotes satiety.
  • Too little fat (although the deadly combo for weight gain is fat and refined starch) leaving you unsatisfied and grumpy.
  • Too many calories from “low carb but high calorie choices” – nuts, meats, cheeses, condiments.  There are no free foods, but veggies come close.
  • Too much processed.  We don’t know what all these chemicals do although we term many of them “obeseness”, but for sure they don’t promote satiety.
  • Nothing you eat requires real chewing, so the brain never thinks it ate.  The fast food industry is founded on this principle.

Metabolic Issues

  • Lousy basal metabolic rate – either inherited….but measurable so not a mystery.   Weight lifting and burst mode cardio will maintain and increase muscle tissue and so raise or restore metabolic rate.
  • Starving during the day – can cause your body to run at a lower rate day to day to try not to consume too much of itself.  This can potentially right itself after six or so years of maintaining the healthy, lower weight.
  • Not eating breakfast – as above.
  • Loss of muscle tissue from repeated weight losses – especially if you starved to lose the weight (your body ate muscle for fuel), and failure to exercise in a way that maintained the muscle.
  • Eating too much of your food at night – studies show that, irrespective of calorie intake, this style of eating leads to higher weights – possibly due to the slow down of your metabolism during the day and the consumption of muscle for fuel.  Food eaten at night gets stored as fat, so the percentage of fat to muscle also shifts over time, potentially reducing metabolic rate.   Fat, unlike muscle, requires very few calories daily to be maintained, so if more of you is fat, it takes less food to maintain you.
  • Carb loading in the morning when we naturally have less carbohydrate sensitivity.  Make sure to eat 30 grams of animal sourced protein and if any carbohydrate, then slow carbs and immediately after exercising or in the evening.
  • Too much muscle eating sustained high intensity cardio.   Contrary to what we had believed, this raises insulin levels which in turn decreases post exercise testosterone and growth hormone and increases fat storage.  Intense cardio bursts of 30 seconds to a minute (so intense that you cannot continue it beyond this point) with complete cool down in between (usually 3-4 minutes depending on fitness level) seems to get the best of both worlds – good post exercise fat burning due to the high carb burn during the intense bursts, but since it is not prolonged, no release of stress hormones that cause that insulin cascade.
  • Poor balance of gut bacteria with an imbalance of Bacteroidetes (favorable for weight management) to Fermicutes (sabotage weight management by deriving more calories from the foods you eat, especially sugars and favoring fat storage).   The composition and quality of your diet influences this ratio.

Hormonal Stresses

  • Poorly balanced or not enough estrogen/progesterone/testosterone that cause water retention, decreased muscle and ability to build it.
  • Starving all day or eating only carbs in the morning – throwing off leptin, insulin and cortisol.  See Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book, The Hormone Reset Diet.
  • Lack of sleep creating additional ghrelin – an appetite stimulating hormone.
  • Sleep apnea adding to insulin resistance.  Get tested.
  • Insulin resistance due to a combination of carb overloading and over fatness and genetics

Adrenal Stresses

  • Emotional and mental stress causing imbalances in cortisol – affecting blood sugar, insulin and fat deposition.  Seek help through therapy, mediation, yoga, etc.
  • Thermal stress – we no longer use brown fat to help manage cold temperatures.  We are in ambient conditions most of the time – keep your room cold at night.
  • Energetic stress – we are just beginning to understand the affect of  EMS.  Turn off electronics and don’t keep them near your bed.  Use a headset for your phone.
  • Circadian stress – sleeping out of sync with light and dark.  Get 20 minutes of sunlight within an hour of waking to reset.
  • Toxicity – toxins from your food, air and water get sequestered in your fat cells and can interfere with the Krebs cycle thus inhibiting effective carb burning.  Try a two-week detox program.

Other Inflammatory Issues

  • Food Intolerances – can cause digestive and systemic inflammation.  Test for them.

What to Do?

  • Get clear on what you should really be able to expect the scale to do by tracking your calories in and out.
  • Measure your metabolic rate so you know what the math should be.
  • Think about your conduct before you started to reduce your calorie intake to see if you had some paying back to do before you would be a deficit mode again.
  • Move the bulk of your food into the day time so that your body will run hotter all day – try 5 or 6 smaller real food, protein containing meals.  Your body burns calories digesting your food  It is called diet induced thermogenesis.
  • Track accurately – the amount of food you are having is where most of the assessing errors are made.  Everything counts.
  • Do a few really low starchy carb days – this will often flush out residual water.
  • Drink a lot of water to flush – your body hold onto water when it is dehydrated.
  • Do a couple of really low calorie days in a row – this will often jump start your body.
  • Try a couple of days of just low glycemic fruits in the daytime with a real veggie and protein meal at night.
  • Do a few days of mostly veggies with a bit of lean protein at each meal.  This will lower calories and carbs at the same time.
  • If you have been doing really low calories all along, do a couple of really high days.
  • If you have been low carb, do a couple of high carb days (and vice versa).
  • Do a liquid fast for a couple of days – there are several good products available from professional sources that will assure that your body will get what it needs.  Try a juice fast – mostly veggies.  This alkalizes the body.
  • Exercise appropriately (strength training and/or cardio bursts) early in the day to get the most mileage out of that increased metabolism.
  • Increase moderate intensity exercise (like walking).  It burns mostly belly fat and it is virtually never stressful to your body, so it has no potential negative metabolic effects.
  • There are several dramatically low calorie programs that are popular right now – the Ball Diet, the HCG Diet for example.  They can often have dramatic and fast weight loss results.  Just be aware that they are a temporary solution and a means to an end just like any of the others that have come along over the years.  Long term success depends entirely on what you are able to sustain.
  • Sleep long and when it is dark.
  • Get 20 minutes of sunlight within an hour of waking.
  • Eat 30 plus grams of animal sourced protein for breakfast.
  • Keep slow carbs and fruits for immediately following exercise or dinner.

Weight Loss Supplements

  • Weight loss supplements only work if they are fixing something that is broken.
  • There is no longer any legal form of speed you can buy without prescription.  Hoodia doesn’t appear to quite live up to its hype, whether because the supplements don’t contain enough of the active ingredient or for some other reason remains to be seen.  It does not appear to be harmful though, so perhaps worth a try.
  • L-Carnation increases fat burning (it is the carrier molecule to escort fat across the mitochondrial membrane in a cell.  That is where the fuel is burned).  If you were lacking this vital nutrient, supplementation could help.  It is safe and good for several different conditions but should be purchased from reliable sources.  It is a sophisticated nutrient.
  • CLA (conjugated Hoodia acid) is a fat found in the human body that helps to break fat cells down into smaller particles so that they are easier to burn.  It also helps to maintain muscle tissue during weight loss.
  • EGCG – a constituent in green tea has been shown to increase thermogenesis and therefore slightly raise metabolic rate.   It is good for a number of other things also, and again, if take in supplement form should be purchased from a reliable source.  Most of the studies of actual green tea itself involve drinking six cups per day.
  • Most “diet” pills over the counter contain some combination of fiber (for appetite suppression), laxative (like senna), some energizing herbs (like guarana).
  • The HCG Diet appears to be the most muscle sparing during the 500 calorie a day plan.  It also decreases appetite so that this starvation plan is doable.  It is not recommended for anyone with thyroid issues.  As always, you still have to figure out how to live your real life at the lower weight once you are done.  As with most extreme plans, it is a temporary means to an end only.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid is a master antioxodant, working in both the fat and water soluble compartments in the body, help decrease glycation (damage to proteins by the sugar in our diet), and natural detoxifyer.
  • CoQ helps fuel the Krebs Cycle (where your mitochondria – the powerhouse of the cell – make your fuel).
  • A good quality probiotic.  I like Probiophage by Designs for Health.