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9 Overlooked Causes of Weight Loss Resistance

By Chelsea Gronick, ND

What if your health and weight loss struggles really aren’t your fault, and by doing a few things differently, you could jumpstart your weight loss today?

Weight loss resistance is the term I use to describe the common syndrome I see in people with metabolic damage who fail to lose weight, despite following a healthy diet and exercise program, and suffer from a host of troublesome symptoms including low thyroid, food intolerances, low sex drive, gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms, and fatigue.

Rather than prescribing stricter diets and even more exercise, as a naturopathic doctor I recommend taking a deeper look at any metabolic, hormonal, or physiologic imbalances that may be causing your body to hold on to excess weight.  I’ve discovered several culprits, many that are overlooked by other doctors, which create weight loss resistance.  If you’ve been working hard to lose weight but aren’t seeing the results you deserve, consider that one of these could be stalling your fat loss efforts.

1. Hidden Food Allergies

Hidden food allergies are the number one cause of weight loss resistance.  The most common offending foods I see are gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, and sugar.  These foods can cause irritation and inflammation that keeps our immune system constantly fired up and makes us feel puffy and bloated.  Once the immune system is thrown off, that sets the stage for metabolic damage, which can make weight loss impossible.

2. Low Thyroid

When thyroid hormone levels are low, our metabolism slows down and weight loss stops. Our thyroid can be negatively impacted by many factors including high cortisol, selenium, iron, or zinc deficiency, toxins, and food allergies.  If you suspect a thyroid problem, make sure to get your TSH, free T3 and T4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies tested and make sure they are in optimal range.  The most common thyroid condition I see in my office is Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism, which is the autoimmune form of low thyroid. 

3. Hormone Resistance

The top three hormonal causes of weight loss resistance are estrogen dominance, insulin resistance, and high cortisol. Not only do we have to make sure our hormones estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and insulin are all in proper balance for weight loss, we also need to consider hormone resistance. Once hormone resistance has set in, no amount of bio-identical hormones or dieting will fix this.  The body adjusts to this by increasingly raising your hormone levels and ultimately slowing down your metabolism. The solution is to reset the efficiency of your hormones by repairing and growing new hormone receptors.

4. Toxicity

Numerous studies have shown that environmental toxins interfere with our hormones and can actually cause weight gain.  Toxins get stored in our fat cells and block our fat burning hormones.

Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogens found in our environment that act just like estrogens in our body.  When we accumulate too many xenoestrogens, the receptors on our cells for other hormones are blocked by these synthetic estrogens. In women, this can lead to symptoms such as heavy, painful periods, PMS, acne, infertility, and weight loss resistance.  And in men, this can lead to low testosterone, low energy, and excess weight accumulation around the abdomen.

In addition to lowering your daily exposure to toxins through making better choices, it’s a good idea to go through a metabolic detox program at least twice per year to help the body eliminate accumulated toxins and clean off your cell receptors. I often start anyone who’s struggling with weight loss resistance on a specifically designed 28-day metabolic detox, because it’s the best way to help the liver get rid of any accumulated toxins safely and effectively and speed up weight loss efforts.

5. Poor Sleep Quality

I often see people who struggle with insomnia and interrupted sleep patterns also battle with weight loss resistance.  This is commonly related to blood sugar imbalances and high cortisol levels.  Lack of sleep and elevated cortisol impairs weight loss by increasing hormones that signal hunger, leading to overeating and cravings for starchy, sugary foods.  Getting less than eight hours of sleep a night or interrupted sleep has been shown to lead to creeping weight gain and can halt weight loss. 

6. Stress

When we are under excessive stress, our adrenal glands release cortisol, our stress-handling hormone.  Chronic stress leads to high cortisol levels and eventually cortisol resistance, which blocks the function of your other key hormones and leaves you feeling tired, burnt out, and weight loss resistant.  No single response is more damaging to our body and interrupts our ability to lose weight than chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels.  Here are just a few of the damaging effects of elevated cortisol: raises blood sugar levels and causes insulin resistance and diabetes; decreases our ability to make thyroid hormones; decreases our ability to detoxifStress Ahead traffic signy; suppresses our immune system; and increases our susceptibility to gastrointestinal infections, which leads to inflammation, leaky gut, food sensitivities, and an even higher stress response.

7. Excessive Exercise

More specifically, it’s the wrong kind of exercise that can make weight loss impossible.  Studies have shown that long duration, high intensity cardio, like training for a marathon, is one of the worst things you can do for weight loss because it causes chronically elevated cortisol levels that favour fat storing over fat burning. The best type of exercise for weight loss combines high intensity, short duration weight training (30 minutes or less) with low intensity exercise like leisure walking, biking, and yoga.

8. Nutrient Deficiencies

The functioning of all of our cells is crucial to weight loss, as this is what sets our metabolic rate.  When our cells do not have the nutrients needed to function optimally, weight loss stalls, we get fatigued, and we age faster than we should.  A crucial component to cellular health is our mitochondria, which are the energy-producing powerhouses in each of our cells. The more mitochondria we have, the faster our metabolic rate and the more energy we will have. Our cells, and our mitochondria, are highly dependent on nutrients and oxygen.

There are two tests that I like to use to assess the function of our cells and mitochondria. One is a standard complete blood cell count (found on a routine blood chemistry) to test for the oxygen carrying capacity of cells and check for anemia.  The other is called the organic acids test, which is a urine test that looks at how well our mitochondria are functioning and checks for a wide range of nutrient deficiencies.

9. Gastrointestinal (GI) Dysfunction

Imbalances in the digestive tract can include digestive enzyme and hydrochloric acid insufficiencies; intestinal permeability (or leaky gut); not enough good bacteria; food allergies; and infections with bacteria, fungus, yeast, parasites, and candida.  Some of the common symptoms of GI dysfunction include bloating, gas, heartburn, bad breath, constipation, and diarrhea. Any of these can increase cortisol levels, cause inflammation, and interfere with thyroid function.  I use the 4 R protocol to help re-establish healthy digestive function and weight loss:

  1. Remove infections and food allergens
  2. Replace digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid
  3. Repair gastrointestinal lining and lower inflammation
  4. Re-inoculate with good bacteria and probiotics

Here’s to kick-starting your health and igniting your weight loss!

Chelsea Gronick, ND, is an expert in helping men and women with thyroid and hormone imbalances, weight loss resistance, low energy, and digestive issues. Using a natural approach, she helps them look and feel their best by balancing their hormones, bringing their energy and confidence back, helping them achieve their ideal bodies, and improving their ability to handle stress so they can have it all, live their best lives, and look and feel better than they did in their 20s. She has a medical practice in downtown Kelowna.

*Reprint from our Spring 2016 Issue

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