Losing weight is confusing enough without all the gimmicks and conflicting advice, but what's the deal when your weight loss efforts suddenly stall?
Vibrant health, a strong build, and effortless weight management are a natural outcome when hormone levels are healthy. However, there are many lifestyle factors that can impact our hormones and keep us from reaching our goals. Here are 8 reasons you might have hit a plateau with your weight loss efforts.
1. You're Doing Too Much Cardio
You aren't guaranteed a slim waistline just because you spend an hour on the treadmill every day. In fact, long cardio sessions can actually work against you. That's because your body basically sees exercise as stress, and stress causes the release of a hormone called cortisol, which breaks down energy stores for immediate use. Over the short term, this reaction is healthy and natural, but prolonged increases in cortisol eventually lead to insulin resistance, a decrease in bone density, loss of lean muscle mass, and weight gain.
These studies show that short bursts of high intensity training (like sprints) increase the fat burning potential of muscle, improve the efficiency with which the body burns fat, and is a more time efficient strategy when it comes to fat burning exercise.
2. You're Eating Too Much Fruit
Many dieters turn to fruit as a sweet, low-calorie snack, but the sugar in fruit (like all carbohydrates) gets broken down into glucose in the small intestine. The presence of glucose in the bloodstream causes the pancreas to release insulin, and insulin stores excess glucose as fat. If you're trying to lose weight, fruit intake should be limited to those with a combination of low carbohydrate content and high amounts of antioxidants like berries and pitted fruits.
3. You're Skimping On Calories
Some calorie counters assume that if restricting calories will help them lose weight, then restricting a lot of calories will help them lose more weight, more quickly. Unfortunately, the body views severe calorie restriction as starvation and will eventually turn against you, fighting to keep the calories you do eat for dear life.
4. You're Not Getting Enough Fat
When it comes to nutrition, we have to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy fat. Unhealthy fats are the trans fats, omega 6 fats, and processed fats that are used to manufacture processed foods. Healthy fats, on the other hand (fats from fish, nuts, coconut, animal meats, eggs, avocados, olives, etc.), are a necessary part of healthy cellular function. Contrary to what you might think, healthy fats do not translate into added pounds. The consumption of healthy fats instead of sugar actually gives us energy, keeps us satiated longer, and prompts the body to burn stored fat for fuel.
5. You're Stressed Out
Any type of stress (physical, emotional, chemical) causes the body to enter into a state of protection, also known as "fight or flight." This results in altered hormone levels as the body shuts down all processes not immediately required for survival. Part of the stress response, as stated above, is the release of cortisol. Again, this is perfectly healthy unless stress is chronic, in which case the result is increased fat storage around the belly.
6. You're Overloading On Carbs
The typical American diet consists of large amounts of processed carbohydrates that wreak havoc on blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, fat cells become insulin resistant which makes it nearly impossible for the body to burn fat no matter how much you exercise or how few calories you consume.
7. You're Not Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is an often overlooked source of health challenges. That's because our sleep patterns have a big impact on our hormone levels. This study showed that poor sleeping habits cause us to gain weight, and this one showed that the biggest spike in fat burning hormones occurred during deep sleep.
8. You're Eating Too Many Diet Foods
Most diet foods (and all processed foods for that matter), contain some form of MSG, which is also known as yeast extract, glutamic acid, and hydrolyzed protein, among others. This chemical has been used in obesity research to induce obesity in rats. It causes a spike in insulin levels, in both animals and humans, which causes the body to store fat. Other chemicals in diet foods can sabotage your weight loss efforts too, like artificial sugars, trans fats, and natural flavors.
In the end, the best way to lose weight is to get healthy. You cannot sidestep nature. This means eating real food, moving your body regularly, getting adequate amounts of sleep, and finding ways to manage stress.