Updated: Jan 12, 2020
Many people are told that losing weight is as simple as 'moving more and eating less'.
This is not only a gross oversimplification, but is extremely offensive to the many people who have tried calorie restriction and exercise with no results.
For some people, cleaning up their diet and walking every day will result in weight loss, but if it were that simple for everyone then the weight loss industry wouldn't be the billion dollar industry it is today.
I have seen patients who put themselves on 800 calories or less per day while exercising. While their strict diet gave them headaches, increased joint pain and disrupted their sleep - it did not help them lose weight.
It is not simply a matter of counting calories and even if it were - not all calories are equal. Living on 1,800 calories of jelly beans per day will affect you very differently than 1,800 calories of plant based, high fiber food.
There are many different experts trying to sell you on the 'one way' to lose weight. The truth is that there are many ways to lose weight, but the approach must be tailored to the individual.
Diets can work for some and not others, and sometimes hormone levels or latent infection can prevent weight loss.
If you are not losing weight, but you think you should be, then there is a biochemical reason why. Here are a few diet-related reasons why you may not be losing weight.
1. You are Eating Your Food Allergen or Sensitivity
I know what you are thinking - if I had a food sensitivity or allergy, I would know it. Right? Not necessarily. The anaphylactic reaction of a severe peanut allergy is one kind of reaction - but there are others.
Food sensitivities can result from a too-strict diet (more on that below) and can cause symptoms that you would not associate with a food sensitivity like:
Increase in pain
Feelings of panic, dread or impending doom
Feelings of being 'poisoned'
Rapid Heart Rate (especially after eating)
Remember that avoiding your food allergen or sensitivity is not a permanent solution. It is important that you work with a functional medicine practitioner to find out why your food sensitivity has manifested in the first place.
Often there is SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), a latent viral infection, or an underlying autoimmune condition that has caused your food sensitivity.
If you are unknowingly ingesting a food sensitivity on a weekly or even daily basis, you are creating low levels of inflammation throughout the body, especially in your digestive tract.
This low level of sustained inflammation will hinder your metabolism, disrupt your blood sugar and insulin levels, and make it difficult for you to reach your weight loss goals.
2. You Diet is Not Diverse
A clean diet that is devoid of processed foods and refined sugar is great for you - but sometimes when you are following a strict diet you are eating the same meal over and over again.
Maybe you find yourself narrowing down your list of 'safe foods' because you just seem to be reacting to everything.
Now your eggs and potatoes in the morning gives you a headache, or your joints hurt after your salad with avocado.
This is called an IgG reaction and happens when you eat the same food too often.
A functional medicine practitioner can help isolate the reason why your body is becoming sensitized - often, optimizing stomach acid production and taking a gentle anti-microbial can help.
Your body needs many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to function to keep you healthy. If you eat the same 3-5 foods day in and day out you will eventually cause an underlying nutrient deficiency.
When nutrient deficiencies persist for months or even years the body will automatically think that food is scarce. To keep you alive, your body will devote its resources to the essential processes of your body, rather than weight loss.
3. You are Eating Too Little
There are patients who have come to me after going diets of extreme calorie restriction with no weight loss results. 500-800 calories per day is not healthy and is not enough food to sustain a healthy adult.
I cringe when I see instagram-worthy pictures of a pre-workout 'lunch' that is barely 130 calories and has barely any protein and no carbohydrates. Not only does this strain virtually every organ system in your body but it causes you to go into 'starvation mode.'
You are sending your body the signal that there is not enough food in your environment. Your body is trying to protect you by holding on to its energy reserves (fat stores) as backup fuel in case you need it.
Long term, you will begin to have blood sugar regulation issues and could develop adrenal fatigue.
4 You are Eating Too Much Fat
There is a trend now is for everyone to be drinking butter with their coffee and having coconut oil 'snacks' during the day but keep in mind there are those who genetically do not process fat well - regardless of how much they try to force their body to do so.
Too much fat - even 'good' fats - creates an overburdened liver, which makes weight loss very difficult. This threshold is different for each person.
Signs you May Be Eating Too Much Fat
dark circles under eyes
By overloading your body with fat, your liver will have to choose between processing excess dietary fat or burning stored body fat.
Many people initially feel fantastic on a paleo, ketogenic, or AIP (autoimmune paleo) diet, but then they 'crash'.
They may become irritable, have very low energy, autoimmune symptoms may return and they do not sleep well. This can be a result of adrenal fatigue from not enough carbohydrates or an over burdened liver from too much fat.
Elements of the paleo and keto diets are fantastic - removing processed foods, refined sugars and empty carbohydrates are great changes for everyone, but remember to listen to your body.
Whatever diet you are on, if you start feeling sick, tired, or begin to have migraines, trouble sleeping, feelings of anxiety or depression or digestive upset - then something needs to be changed. You may need to eat more often during the day or increase your carbohydrate intake.
5. You Do Not Eat Regularly
Blood sugar regulation issues are common in those who find it difficult to lose weight. Many people who struggle to lose weight have insulin resistance which can be confirmed through testing.
Insulin resistance usually has no obvious symptoms and if left unchecked, can lead to type II diabetes.
Try to eat within (at least) a 12 hour window during the day. This will give your digestive system time to reboot for the following day.
'Intermittent fasting' is eating within an even smaller window (8 hours) and has shown some promise in studies for those who have blood sugar regulation issues.
As with any dietary change, consult your doctor if you have a condition and listen to your body - severe symptoms are your body's way of letting you know that there is a problem.
Other Causes of Weight Loss Difficulty
These five topics only scratch the surface of the different circumstances that can prevent weight loss. Many of my patients report losing weight after coming to me for symptoms like migraines, sleep problems, autoimmune symptoms and back pain.
Solving larger biochemical issues (like infection) can 'free up' your body to effectively lose weight.
Nutrient deficiencies, insufficient stomach acid, bacterial infections, and hypothyroidism are conditions that can contribute to weight gain. These conditions should be diagnosed and assessed by a doctor.
If you are not losing weight, but feel like you should be - don't hesitate to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with me.
I practice functional medicine, which gets to the root cause of health concern through targeted diagnostic testing and utilizes nutritional medicines to get your body optimally healthy.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.