“Why aren’t I losing weight” – This is a phrase I hear often, be it in the clinic or out socializing with friends and family. The truth is when it comes to weight loss, it’s not always as simple as calories in and calories out. It is true, diet and exercise are important when it comes to weight balance and management, but there are other factors that affect our ability to lose weight. One factor that fly’s under the radar is hormone balance and in particular our stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism.
Here are some reasons why you may not be losing weight:
- Your cortisol levels are too high. This is a stress hormone and it’s perfectly natural to have it, however, if you have excessively high amounts of cortisol in your body it can causes blood sugar imbalances, weight gain, irritability, depression, immune system suppression and gastrointestinal problems.
- You’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep is essential for recovery, and if we aren’t getting enough sleep it can lead to increased levels of cortisol.
- Overtraining. It’s important we are moving and exercising, but if we are overexerting our bodies this can lead to injury, chronic fatigue and hormonal imbalance. We all have a different threshold of what constitutes over-training, so it’s important to analyze yourself and your schedule individually.
- Under eating. Restricting calories and depriving yourself of food can cause cortisol levels to spike. It’s imperative that we nourish our body with adequate fuel and a diet high in vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins and whole grain carbohydrates. Sticking with a diet filled with whole foods and anti-inflammatory foods is key, whilst reducing intake of processed foods, foods high in added sugar and foods containing additives and preservatives.
Overall stress on the body can come in different forms such as overtraining, under-eating or lifestyle factors. It’s important to understand your body needs and adjust your diet (caloric intake) based on this, and also monitor your individual abilities for a training schedule. Other lifestyle factors which increase tress can be managed through meditation and deep breathing techniques.