If you feel you have reached a weight loss plateau and are just not able to lose weight anymore; you are not alone. In this guide, we will discuss medical reasons why individuals cannot lose weight. This article is for all those people having trouble losing weight despite diet and exercise.
1. Energy imbalance
One of the main reasons why most Americans are unable to lose weight is owing to an energy imbalance which occurs when you take in more calories than those you utilize. Eating larger portions, eating out frequently, not getting adequate exercise are some of the main causes of these energy imbalances.
Genes play an important role in being overweight. However, this should not hinder you from your weight loss efforts, since only 5% of obese individuals [i]show inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise owing to their genetic markers.
3. Impaired brain function
Our brain tells the body when to eat and when to stop. In some individuals, a slight imbalance of chemicals in the brain can disrupt healthy signaling causing the individual to overeat.Important among these chemicals is Leptin which regulates energy expenditure and intake by signaling the brain that the body is satiated. If there happens to be a defect in the receptors of Leptin, then the individual tends to overeat resulting in obesity. In some individuals, certain medicines can also cause these chemical imbalances, leading to overeating and behavioral changes that cause obesity.
4. Behavioral aspects that cause difficulty losing weight
You think you have exercised a great deal so you reach out for sugar laden snacks such as cookies or you help yourself to an extra slice of pizza. The thing is: people looking to lose weight need to achieve a balance in healthy eating and the number of calories burnt. Starving and extreme dieting is not recommended here; the key is to make healthier food choices. For example, if you have swum 20 laps then a healthier snack after the workout would be an apple with some peanut butter instead of donuts. Likewise, you need to balance the time spent in watching TV and consuming sugary sodas or soft drinks. Many so called healthy, low calorie items are important foods that prevent weight loss. Therefore, lifestyle choices are very important if you have reached a weight loss plateau.
5. Psychological issues
Psychological issues like avolition, depression and social isolation can also be counted among diseases that prevent weight loss. Almost 90% of people[ii] with depression are known to reduce their physical energy expenditure owing to significant loss of energy. People with schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and phobias tend to avoid taking walks or going to the gym- leading to obesity.
6. Socio-economic factors
Healthy food is often more expensive. People having less money are often known to opt for high calorie processed foods which are usually cheaper than low-fat dairy, whole grains and fruit and vegetables. So, the quality of diet is an essential factor to consider when analyzing inability to lose weight despite diet and exercise.
7. Environmental factors
People who surround themselves with other obese people tend to eat more when they are with the group. Conversely, by surrounding oneself with healthy, likeminded people who are all trying to eat better and exercise together, then the chances of losing weight increase. People living in low income areas often have greater access to fast food available readily on the streets. These neighborhoods also usually have limited access to fruits and vegetables. Individuals living in such “healthy food deserts” tend to have greater health issues and suffer from obesity. Also many low income housing areas lack walking trails, gardens, sidewalks and parks where people can exercise.
Prolonged exposure to environmental stress can also trigger cortisol production which causes organs to store fat especially around the waist. Cushing’s syndrome is a disease that occurs when the body is constantly exposed to cortisol causing fat storage.
8. Medical reasons for not losing weight when dieting and exercising
Many diseases prevent weight loss and these include hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s disease mentioned above. Both diseases slow down metabolism and lead to fatigue which prevents individuals from exercising. Other issues like chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia etc can also prevent exercise leading to weight gain. PCOS or poly-cystic ovarian syndrome can also lead to irregular menses, acne and hair thinning in women causing weight gain despite exercise and diet.
9. Foods that prevent weight loss
Excess alcohol consumption, white refined flours and refined sugar, sugar sweetened beverages, so called low fat foods rich in dyes and artificial preservatives are some foods that prevent weight loss.
What you can do
Explained above are 9 important factors and conditions which prevent weight loss. You can first try certain lifestyle changes to see if you can overcome these issues. Limiting TV time in kids, making time for healthy meals rather than fast food and scheduling time for daily physical activity are some changes you can start with. If these do not help, you might want to seek medical help for underlying diseases that could be preventing weight loss. You must also take up mind body practices like Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or Qigong to balance energy levels, cope with stress and reduce unhealthy behaviors.
[i] Speiser et al., 2005
[ii] National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2009