If you have tried everything to lose weight, but hitting a plateau - this article is for you. There are things that are sabotaging your weight loss efforts that health professionals are not talking about.
First of all, I want to start by saying, if you find it hard to lose weight - you are not alone and it is not your fault.
It is not because you lack willpower.
Weight loss is not about calories in, calories out.
Rather, it is a very complex area and involves a huge interplay of many factors such as hormones, genetics, epigenetics, gut microbiome, inflammation, toxic burden, behavior, and psychology of comfort eating.
Two people can eat the same calories and one will gain inches on their waist and the other will not gain any weight at all.
Here are the common issues that contribute to increased belly fat:
Insulin resistance and high cortisol. Do you get food coma frequently where you feel drained after a big meal? Or that post lunch lull where your brain just seems to have given up? Blame your insulin.
When you eat, your gut digests the food and absorbs it into the blood stream so the blood sugar level goes up after a meal. Insulin is an important hormone that helps drive sugar from the blood into cells, thus lowering the blood sugar level. If you didn’t have insulin, the blood sugar level will remain very high after a meal and you will become very sick (what happens in Type 1 diabetes).
Insulin resistance occurs when the insulin does not work well anymore. It can no longer drive sugar effectively into the cell, so in order to lower blood sugar after meals, your body produces MORE insulin. It’s like when we shout at our kids – after a while, they stop listening and we have to shout louder to get the same effect. What causes insulin resistance? Many factors including: Processed foods, refined sugar, excess calories, Processed meat, meat in general (factory farmed meat is particularly inflammatory), inflammation in the body, toxins such as PCB/dioxins, which jam up those insulin receptors. The result is that the body needs to produce more insulin in order to get the blood sugar down.
Contrary to popular belief, sugar is NOT the MAIN reason we get insulin resistance, it is the intramyocellular fat (click to read more about the association between intramyocellular fat and insulin resistance) – sugar does contribute : if you have frequent sugar spikes then your pancreas has to work harder to produce more insulin plus sugar causes inflammation in your body and causes gut dysbiosis which can all lead to insulin resistance too.
But what a lot of people is not focusing on is the inflammatory fats in their diets, many of these are hidden eg in processed/packaged foods… not all fats are created equal – our bodies do need fat – but the good fats… from whole foods.
The key is ‘whole foods’ – I don’t believe in ‘low fat’ products where fat is taken out (through processing) and replaced with sugar. This is NOT healthy and can cause inflammation.
What are obesogens?
When it comes to weight loss, everyone focuses on food and exercise - however, there is a massive elephant in the room - ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS. The chemicals known as obesogens, found in our air, water, food and everyday products can interfere with our metabolism and contribute to weight gain.
The National Toxicology Program has been doing a lot of work looking into the role these chemicals play in metabolic diseases like insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and obesity, and there is a nice summary on the NIH website.
If you want to take a deep dive, check out my ebook - Toxins and weight loss
Why does a high insulin level matter though?
Because other than driving sugar into cells, insulin also tells the body to store fat. So if you have a high circulating level of insulin, you will store more fat. You will also have more difficulty burning the stored fat because insulin inhibits fat burning.
Now, how about Cortisol?
Here’s an overview: Cortisol is the ‘stress’ hormone – it is released from our adrenal glands during periods of stress to prepare our body for a fight (aka flight or fight). Cortisol level should follow a pattern of peak and trough, and our body has its own NORMAL circadian rhythm of night and day. When it is elevated e.g. running for the bus when you are late, it should then dip to a normal level after the event has passed. When it is constantly elevated however, it starts to increase insulin. Chronic cortisol elevation leads to insulin resistance and this is why common side effects of steroid (cortisone) administration is weight gain and diabetes.
What is the No. 1 cause of high cortisol? STRESS
We all know STRESS in the form of things like financial pressure, work stress. But overlooked sources of stress on the body include lack of sleep (sleep has such a HUGE effect on weight through its effect on other hormones that control appetite e.g. leptin), over exercise, and eating a Standard American Diet (processed food and sugar puts our bodies into stress mode)
Other hormones also contribute – estrogen, thyroid, DHEA… think about environmental toxins, food sources, and your gut microbiome e.g. did you know that your gut microbiome helps with elimination of estrogen from your gut? And if you have dysbiosis estrogen (Or constipated) estrogen is re-absorbed, recycled and can lead to estrogen dominance?
So how would I bring everything together and prioritize?
1. reduce stress.
5. fix your gut – no, this does not mean go take a bunch of probiotics or drink kombucha.. if you have gut dysbiosis, you need to look at why and what is causing that… is it food intolerances? is it heavy metal toxicity? if you simply add probiotics to an already imbalanced gut that can sometimes make things worse.
The truth is, generic weight loss programs and plans do not address any of these issues, and there is a big bio-individuality between each and every one of us. One person may have severe gut issues and dysbiosis that are causing them to gain weight, while another will have stress as the main cause. Regardless, environmental toxins are a common thread I see in every client I've helped and something I feel most people are not addressing when it comes to weight loss effort.
If you would like to learn how to reduce your toxic load, sign up for my FREE 5 day email masterclass.