Weight issues can be a source of stress for many people however despite our best intentions, sometimes we struggle to see results because of other factors in our lives besides our diet and activity levels.
While food and exercise (of course) play an important role in an individuals ability to lose weight, there are several other factors which also play a role including lifestyle and hormone levels.
Most people appreciate that creating an energy deficit is essential to weight loss, however making sure an individual is not excessively exercising or making severe restrictions to their diet is important as these factors can result in immense physiological (physical) or psychological (mental) stress. Physiological and psychological stress can ultimately have detrimental effects on any weight loss attempt due to a disruption in your delicate hormone balance.
With that in mind, here are the top reasons why an individual may struggle to lose weight.
You are over training
There’s no doubt that the fitness world has been going crazy about HIIT (High intensity interval training) as it‘s a quick and effective way to fit a workout into your day. Unfortunately some people have been taking their intensity training too far and as a result may experience adverse affects, such as weight gain, inability to lose weight, bloating and stomach issues to name a few.
While you should be moving your body in some way every day, it’s important to vary your training routine and allow your body to rest. Each person will have an individual threshold for what constitutes over training so it is a matter of listening to your body and also assessing your own results and energy levels. Too much exercise can lead to injuries, exhaustion and hormonal imbalance.
You are Not Eating Enough Protein
Protein is an extremely important macro nutrient when it comes to losing weight and building or maintaining lean muscle mass. Protein plays an essential role in gaining muscle mass, which is important as muscle is the metabolic powerhouse because the more muscle we have, the faster our metabolism is.
Eating the right amount of protein, in the correct distribution can actually boost your metabolism, and reduce your cravings and desire to snack. For optimal protein distribution, aim to have a good source of quality protein at each meal and snack.
A diet rich in protein can help prevent catabolism or metabolic slowdown, which is a common side effect of losing weight. Studies have also shown that those who eat a high protein breakfast often have fewer cravings throughout the day.
You’re Not Eating the Right Food
The quality of your overall diet is super important. You should aim to eat as many wholefoods, in particular plant based foods, which can improve your health and regulate your appetite. It can also help to reduce inflammation by consuming a diet rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, phytcohermicals and probiotic rich foods.
You should be aiming to reduce your intake of artificial ingredients including sweetened beverages and foods high in refined sugar (think lollies, cakes and biscuits, for starters) which are going to have a negative impact on insulin and cortisol levels. Aim to eat foods in their most natural state as much as possible.
Also try to avoid restricting your calories to excess as that can cause inflammation and raise cortisol by deprivation and putting stress on the body.
Instead nourish your body with a diet that is high in vegetables, lean proteins, slow release grains and healthy fats. Also eat foods that are high in fibre to help you manage your sugar levels, keep your appetite at bay and balance you hormones.
High Cortisol Levels
The stress hormone ‘cortisol’ has been getting a lot of attention this year and for good reason.
While it’s natural to have a bit of cortisol in your system (it is the fight or flight response after all), excessively high amounts of can cause some issues including irritability, depression, weight gain and more.
Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands as a response to stress however having elevated cortisol levels for an extended period of time disrupts the bodies blood glucose control by stimulating glucose secretion from stores in the liver and limiting the release of the hormone responsible for removing excess glucose from the blood stream, insulin. This results in high blood sugar levels.
Eventually, more insulin is secreted to remove the excess glucose once cortisol levels have dropped, but this cycle results in poor glucose control which also makes losing weight very difficult as the excess glucose can be stored as fat. Therefore, managing cortisol and insulin levels are both important when trying to lose weight
Recently there has been some interest in a new ingredient called Bluenesse, which is a lemon balm extract (Melissa officinalis). Preliminary research has indicated that Bluenesse may help provide beneficial physiological effects for mental health while simultaneously having calming and improved alertness effects.
To date there have been two pilot studies in humans which have shown promising results for the use of Bluenesse in maintaining and improving mental focus while reducing the effects of physiological stress.
The first pilot study showed Bluenesse is absorbed within 60 minutes and participants reported beneficial effects 1 hour after intake. The second study contained a larger cohort and also had some promising results. In this Study, stress was induced by a multitasking activity. Participants also consumed a beverage and a fruit bar which contained 300 mg and 600 mg of the lemon balm extract. Study results demonstrated intake of 300 mg lemon balm extract per day showed the strongest effects. One hour after consumption beneficial effects could be seen relating to improvements in alertness, working memory and word recall, as well as a reduction of cortisol levels which we know is elevated during periods of stress. While research is only in its infancy and it is still an emerging area, the preliminary research is promising and indicates Bluenesse may aid in reducing stress-induced cortisol levels and may also support mental focus and cognitive function.
You are not getting enough sleep
In the words of Arianna Huffington, ‘Sleep your way to the top’.
Many of us are busy, over scheduled and stressed and as a result they may forgo sleep.
When the body is not under stress, cortisol levels are naturally increased upon wakening and decreased at night. When the body is under stress, cortisol levels can be low across the day, and elevated at night. Getting adequate sleep and regulating your sleep cycle is an important strategy in managing your cortisol levels.