For some people, losing weight seems to be almost impossible. They do everything right, whether it’s their diet, their exercise or anything else, and yet try as they might, they just can’t shift the pounds.
I’ve encountered people like this and tried to help them out with training programs. At first, I normally assume they’re eating loads of garbage, or they’re just not putting in the time down the gym. But often this turns out not to be the case and I have to admit – I’m stumped!
Or at least I used to be… More recently, I’ve been discovering all kinds of little things that can contribute to an inability to lose weight and very often one of them turns out to be the culprit.
Here are a few reasons why you may still be overweight…
You’re Not That Active
If you work out five times a week and that’s more than your super-fit colleagues then you might be feeling a little bit cheated by life (and your genes). But dig a little deeper! Being active doesn’t just mean exercising. In fact, exercise is only a very small part of being active!
During a shoulder workout that lasted nearly an hour the other night, I managed to burn only 200 calories. Granted it was a very slow-paced workout but the point is that time doesn’t necessarily equate to effort. And even if it was a very intense workout, I’d likely have only burned 500-600 calories maximum (running is a different story).
Either way, this is actually only a fraction more than I would burn when completely sedentary. In other words, being active for one hour out of 24 a few times a week is not going to change your life. It has other benefits yes (including accelerated fat burning for the rest of the day) but you shouldn’t expect the pounds to suddenly fall off once you start doing this.
When I compare my friend who never loses weight to my wife who never exercises but is very thin, the difference is almost certainly in their commutes. My wife commutes for one hour either way to and from work and walks a lot on either side of that journey – around 7,000 steps (she recently wore my tracker for a day).
Someone else I know cycles to and from work – and then works out once a week on top of that.
And they enjoy sports at the weekend.
Stop thinking of activity and exercise as ‘binary’. If you want to lose weight then you need to introduce activity throughout the day and you need to start spending more time with an elevated heart rate.
Your Hormones Are Working Against You
Here’s another problem: your hormones.
A lot of people use their hormones as an excuse when they can’t get into shape while others proclaim that calories-in-calories-out is all that matters.
In reality though, the role of hormones in weight loss is a little more complicated than we often realize and this quite often makes it harder for people to shed any fat.
For instance, if you’re a woman reading this, then there is a one in five chance that you have polycystic ovaries. It’s very possible to have this condition with no symptoms, so you won’t necessarily know about it – but it could be there.
This then means that your body is producing too much testosterone resulting in cysts on your ovaries. More relevant to the current discussion though, it also likely means you’re somewhat resistant to insulin (as with diabetes) which means you probably have heightened levels of it. This means you’ll feel less energetic (thus less inclined to train) and you’ll be more likely to store more fat. Thus weight gain, acne and other symptoms can all occur.
Likewise you might suffer from mild hypothyroidism. Or you could simply have a little too much oestrogen.
Whatever the case, sometimes an inability to lose weight is a sign of an imbalance. If you’re really trying your best and nothing is changing, consider seeing your doctor.
The same goes for medication. For women again, the oral contraceptive pill is actually a common cause of weight gain – though it can also lead to weight loss. Anti-anxiety medications can also do this, as can a slew of others. Once again, it’s worth checking with your doctor.
Sometimes you can be losing weight and not actually look like you are.
That’s due to a number of factors but one of the biggest culprits is water retention: when you cut your calories down your body starts hanging onto more water and this can leave you look puffy. You’ve replaced subcutaneous fat with subcutaneous fluid!
The solution is to drink a lot more water and to eat a lot more fiber. This will help your body to ‘flush’ fluid out and to keep it moving through your body. Reducing your intake of sodium can also help, as consuming electrolytes also triggers fluid retention. Don’t go overboard with this though, you need those electrolytes!
And finally, there’s a good chance that you just haven’t identified the worst culprits in your diet calorie-wise. It’s worth trying to track your diet for a bit just to see where the most calories are coming from and sometimes the results can shock you!
I found out a while ago that some of the restaurants I like eating in are terrible in terms of calories. One of them had numerous meals that were over 1,000 kcal! Likewise, it turns out that you really can’t get away with store-bought pizza (try making your own!) and a lot of coffees contain 100 calories or more (things like cappuccinos as opposed to Americanos).
Often you’ll find that you can cut out some big sources of calories in your diet by identifying just a few regular culprits and eliminating them from your routine!