I think it’s fair to say that as a planet, we seem to be either obsessed with finding enough food to eat, OR, once we have access to enough (or more than enough food to eat), how to make sure that we are not eating too much. It’s pretty amazing to think that many of the generations that preceded ours simply did not have the luxury of “too much” and how we have a multi-billion dollar diet industry.
When it comes to managing your weight at a healthy level, it’s not just about food, either. We’ve also talked about the components of fitness and there are other aspects of your life that can have an impact on whether you struggle to shed pounds. If you’ve been focused on preparing healthful meals and snacks, and you’ve been making good choices when it comes to eating out, then I invite you to consider my TOP FIVE non-food reasons you could be struggling to lose weight! And who doesn’t love a good TOP FIVE list? Instead of settling in with this summer’s TOP FIVE blockbuster movies with a jumbo tub of popcorn (movie theatre popcorn is one of my LEAST recommended snacks, btw), get cozy with this blog post. Consider it food for thought.
Sleep (or lack thereof)
In today’s society, most adults fail to meet the recommended 7-9+ hours of sleep each night (the actual requirement for you is personal and depends partly on age, sex, activity level, etc). Lack of sleep can leave you irritable, lethargic and HUNGRY.
Sleep has a role to play in regulating the hormones that govern our appetite, namely ghrelin and leptin. I like to remember ghrelin as “gremlin” – it’s an appetite-increasing hormone and leads to those gremlins in your growling stomach, or even the nasty little voices in your mind telling you to eat more. Ghrelin production is linked to our body’s pleasure-reward centres, which are partly filled by food and also by sleep and other enjoyable activities. When we’re trying to reduce our food intake, especially if we’re cutting back on richer, sugar-laden processed foods (a great starting point for a journey of healthful eating), we need to really focus on making sure that our “pleasure buttons” are still being hit in non-food ways, and sleep is part of that equation. Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone (wish you had more of that?). There’s a great article HERE to learn more about these hormones.
If your body is not getting the energy it needs from sleep it will crank out hormones (namely ghrelin) to increase your appetite to try to compel you to eat more calories in a bid to get the energy and enjoyment it so desperately craves. Battling an out-of-control appetite and/or ingesting additional calories? Neither is helpful for weight loss! Try getting the recommended number of hours of sleep each night for a week, ideally with similar bedtimes and wake up times, and see what happens on the scales.
Water/Hydration (or lack thereof)
Feeling thirsty can be confused with feeling hungry, causing you to eat calories when all you really need is calorie-free, clean, clear water. Guidelines vary on recommended intake (they can vary from 2-6+ litres per day!), and will also depend on you as an individual – I like to get 4L per day based on my activity level. Ideally, drink enough clean, clear and preferably filtered water (there are lots of nasty toxins in many municipal water sources) so that your urine is clear – colourless and odourless.
This amount of water will help to fill your stomach, and the physical stomach distension is part of signalling fullness to the brain. Processing additional water intake will also help with digestion, as water absorbs fiber from your food and helps to move it along the digestive track. Improving digestion increases the thermic effect of eating, the number of calories you burn just from digesting your food!
What are you waiting for? Get sippin’!
Stress (or lack thereof)
When we are stressed, our bodies are not performing all processes optimally. Digestion is compromised (see the discussion on why this is important above), our hormones are disrupted (hello again, ghrelin & leptin – ghrelin production actually increases in stressful situations, which is why “stress-eating” is so common), and we are often not sleeping well (see my first reason) – it’s the perfect storm for out-of-control hunger and cravings. Even if you do stay on track with your food intake, your body simply cannot lose weight as effectively when its energies are devoted to the negative stressors.
On the flip side, we are not aiming for zero stress. A certain amount of stress is needed, but notice that your body cannot differentiate between “good” stress (like exercise) and “bad” stress (like relentless deadlines or money woes). When life stressors pile up, intense exercise is actually not the answer – it’s just adding to the body’s stress level and inhibiting weight loss! Ever wonder how you can magically lose weight on vacation, despite (or because of) less focus on your diet? It’s the lower overall stress at play!
Look for ways to combat life stressors and reduce your overall stress this week and see what happens on the scales.
Activity Levels (or lack thereof)
This isn’t so much about your workouts, but more about your other daily activity. I know you’ve got your regular planned workouts on lock down, right? If you’re looking for a fun new challenge, you can even try this Insane Interval Workout. What I’m talking about is all of the other activity you get in a day, like moving around your home, office or neighbourhood, taking the stairs (or not), fidgeting, etc.
Our bodies are very smart and like to maintain homeostasis (sameness). If you are trying to reduce your food intake, your body might start subconsciously scaling back on its movements. Are you taking the stairs less often now? Parking closer? Fidgeting less? Make an effort to add these little movements into (or back into) your day and see what happens on the scales.
If you’d like some structure for your workouts, a great place to get started are my thirty-day “challenges” – eight-minute workouts for each day, with the goal of doing them on five out of seven days in a week. Check them out here!
So beyond sleep, hydration, stress and activity levels there are still other OTHER reasons you are not losing weight. This catch-all category goes to show that there are lots of little tweaks you can make in your life to support the changes to dietary changes you are already making, OR that there are non-food things impacting the scales that are OUT of your control, so that you can relax and stay the course when you are not seeing the numbers you would like to see on the scale. Remember, the number on the scales is just one small part and one small measurement in the overall improvement of your health, fitness and well-being!
Ladies, hormonal fluctuations during your menstrual cycle can cause temporary weight gain from bloating or water retention or even slower food digestion due to elevated progesterone levels in the second half of your cycle, leading to a higher volume of undigested food in your colon. In fact, your body even responds to phases of the moon (yes, seriously!) and can wax and wane in terms of weight over the course of the month. Treat yourself with compassion and really focus on sleep and stress reduction during the times of the month when your menstrual cycle is taking more out of you.
Gentlemen and all others, sodium intake can also cause water retention and again, undigested food in your system can cause a higher number on the scales. Cutting back on processed foods is already part of the answer when it comes to food-related weight loss; it also often reduces sodium intake and reduces undesirable bloating and water retention. Win-win!
Chronic inflammation, body PH levels, environmental toxins etc. in our personal care products, water, air and other household products can also influence the scales. It’s beyond the scope of this post, but if you’re struggling with losing weight despite having a healthful diet and balanced workout routine, it could be time to consult with a functional health practitioner or certified holistic nutritionist to start considering these other non-food reasons you might not be losing weight.
All that to say, the solution is still to focus on all components of fitness and healthful eating. Contact me for guidance in either area (or both)!
Have a fit day!