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Wendy Shafranski


October 22, 2023

Are you Doing Everything Right and You Can’t Lose Weight?

Does it seem like you’re doing everything right, but you just can’t make progress with your body composition?

First, I want you to be completely and brutally honest with yourself. Over the past 15 years, when I ask someone struggling to lose weight how they are eating they usually say “I eat great!” yet upon digging deeper, they actually don’t. Factors like not getting enough protein, too many processed foods and sugar, weekends that ruin a great week, nightly cocktails and other liquid calories can keep you from your goal. A good experiment is to track religiously (I know, I know, it’s a pain in the ass) for a week, not changing your normal habits and see where your numbers really are.

If you track and find that you're not in a calorie surplus, another question to ask yourself is: have I been eating too little? Over the years, we've come across many overweight people who are barely eating. They’ve cut and cut and not seen results, so they’ve cut some more. There’s no where to go, they can’t eat less. And their body has become super inefficient at losing fat. In this case, we have them slowly increase calories. It’s a hard concept to take mentally and there has to be a lot of trust and the acknowledgement that it’s a long road to get your body working for you again. But, it can be done!

If you ARE actually eating really well - your calories are appropriate and. you are properly fueling with mainly whole foods, getting adequate protein, drinking lots of water, etc. - and you STILL aren’t leaning out, then it’s time to investigate more.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Am I doing too much? True story: we have a current member who was looking to lose weight. Her job is active and she was also doing tons of cardio - in the gym and on her own. She saw success at the very beginning and then her weight plateaued for quite some time despite burning lots of calories through activity. We had a talk and I determined her diet was spot-on. So, I advised her to do less. I had her cut her cardio to two days a week and put her emphasis on weight lifting. Guess what? It worked! She’s now down under a certain weight that she hasn’t been in years and she’s also strong as hell! Our bodies are incredible and will adapt, conserving calories to protect itself if activity is too high.

Am I doing too little? You could come to the gym every day and train for an hour, but if you are sitting at a desk all day, then sitting in your car and then sitting on your couch, your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is too low. NEAT refers to all the calories you burn in a day not including working out. An easy way to think of this is steps. A low level of NEAT is associated with obesity. And “fidgeters” tend to be thinner than people who are lethargic. It’s because they move more! So, if you are a desk jockey, then a priority should be placed on taking several walks during the day to increase NEAT.

Am I getting enough high-quality sleep? There are studies where participants didn’t change diet or activity, but got more sleep and as a result, they lost weight. And notice I mentioned "high-quality sleep." If you’re having a drink before bed, it’s not. Sure, alcohol will put you to sleep (it’s a sedative), but REM and deep sleep are disrupted. Most people need between 7 and 9 hours per night. “Short sleep” is defined as less than 6-7 hours and it can trigger cortisol (your stress hormone), which signals your body to conserve energy while you are awake. And this, in turn, causes you hold on to fat. Then there’s the matter of insulin - even four days of sleep deprivation affects your insulin sensitivity. Poor sleep is also linked to poor food choices.

Am I managing stress effectively? We all have stress, but when it becomes chronic, it can affect your ability to lose weight. Stress hormones can trigger cravings (hello, comfort food). Stress affects cortisol which impacts insulin sensitivity. Higher levels of cortisol are associated with carrying more visceral (abdominal) fat.

What about my hormones? If you are truly doing a good job with all of the above - diet, movement, sleep and stress - you may want to check your hormones. Keep in mind that when you read the “normal” ranges of your hormone results, that normal range is compared with average Americans - and we all know that’s not a very healthy group. My point is that looking at normal ranges isn’t necessarily optimal. Sometimes, you can manage your hormones with lifestyle factors and supplementation, but there could be a time when you need to seek out a hormone specialist.  Women going through peri-menopause or menopause often find it difficult to shed pounds because their hormones can be out of whack. It could be low testosterone in men. Or maybe the thyroid is to blame. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, as I am not a medical professional. But, we have suggested that some members check their hormones and seek medical intervention and that’s been a key for weight loss (and even mood, motivation, sleep, etc.).

Even though this email is rather long, I’ve barely scratched the surface on each of these topics. You can Google studies on weight gain and sleep, NEAT, hormones and stress and find a ton of information to educate yourself.

Again, take a brutally honest look at your food first (many people aren't eating as well as they think they are), then your habits/lifestyle and hyour hormones. You may just find some answers.

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