If you’ve been following a weight loss plan and are still struggling to shed excess body fat there may be some hidden factors you’re not aware of.
If you want to hit your weight loss goals, you have to look beyond diet and take into account your lifestyle and habits.
Let’s dig in to see which factors may be hindering your journey towards an optimal body weight.
#1 You’re Consuming Too Many Calories
Depending on what strategy you’re using, you may not be tracking your calories well enough.
The old “calories in-calories out” approach to dieting is an outdated way of looking at weight loss. To stringently track every morsel of food that passes your lips isn’t just unnecessary — it’s crazy-making.
However, if you completely lose track of what you’re consuming, you’ll likely eat more than your body needs. At the end of the day, calories do matter. If you take in more calories in a day then you burn for fuel, there is nowhere else for them to go but into fat storage. It’s as simple as that.
Therefore, the goal is to strike a balance and have an awareness of your calories without becoming obsessed.
Watching portion sizes, meal planning, and eating mindfully are all ways that you can become more aware of your calorie intake without needing to track every bite.
It’s all too easy to take the “I’m eating healthy foods, so calories don’t count” approach. However, even broccoli could lead to weight gain if eaten in excess — albeit, that would be a lot of broccoli.
#2 You’re Drinking Your Calories
If weight loss is your goal, then watching out for liquid calories is crucial. You could be following a perfect diet, eating whole foods, and keeping your calories in check — but if you’re sipping on calorie-rich beverages, you’ll throw the whole game off.
Obvious drinks to avoid are your sugary beverages like soda and juice. But there are some sneaky culprits that may find their way into your diet as well.
For instance, do you add cream or milk to your morning coffee? While it may not seem like a big deal to add a dash of cream, that could easily be 100 calories right there.
And what about a glass of wine at dinner? Even low-sugar varieties come with their share of calories.
This is not to say that you can’t enjoy some cream in your coffee or a pinot with dinner, just be aware of those calories and remember that they contribute to your daily total.
Whenever possible, always opt for water in place of other options. This will not only add zero calories to your daily total, but it will hydrate you — a crucial aspect of weight loss.
Finally, be aware of beverages that disguise themselves as healthy. Always look at the nutrition label on the back of bottles to see what’s really hiding in your drinks. You might be surprised to find that your favorite iced tea brand is packed with sugar, or that beverages like Vitamin Water have nearly as many carbs as Coca Cola.
#3 You’re Not Moving Enough
Weight loss needs to come from a two-pronged approach. Watching what you eat is essential, but getting your body moving is just as important.
This isn’t coming from the “calories in-calories out” angle. You don’t need to do 60 minutes of cardio to burn an extra 400 calories so you can enjoy that cookie after dinner. This type of hyper attention to movement is bound to make you quit, and it’s generally just inefficient.
Movement for weight loss has much more to do with overall physical wellness, then tracking your calorie burn.
Research shows that even consistent brisk walking can lead to reductions in visceral fat mass[*].
But if you really want to shape up, lifting weights is crucial to keep your body burning fat efficiently. As you lose fat, you naturally lose some muscle along with it. Since the muscle in your body is a calorie-hungry tissue, the more muscle you have, the more energy you burn daily.
To combat the loss of muscle that comes with fat loss, you need to engage in resistance training in order to conserve muscle mass. By preserving your muscles as you burn fat, you keep your daily energy expenditure high while burning away unwanted fat[*].
#4 You Need More Water
The importance of water consumption for the overall health of your body cannot be understated. Keeping your cells and tissues properly hydrated is essential for the metabolic processes that keep your body running.
It assists in metabolism, detoxification, nourishment of your cells, and much much more[*].
For this reason, hydration plays a crucial role in weight loss[*].
Beyond its vital baseline role that it plays in your body, water can also assist weight loss in a couple of other ways:
#1. People Often Confuse Thirst For Hunger.
In one study, volunteers saw a 44% increase in weight loss when they drank 500ml of water before their meals. This doesn’t mean that you should replace food with water, but it highlights the fact that people often replace water with food[*].
Next time you’re feeling hungry, try drinking some water first to see if your hunger subsides. If it does, you were likely just feeling dehydrated. If it doesn’t, then go ahead and enjoy your meal.
#2 Drinking Water Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate
Research shows that drinking water can increase your metabolism by up to 30% for about 40 minutes after ingestion[*]. Although this may not seem like a long time, these extra calories add up. It also points to the fact that water plays a role in the way your body processes energy — with proper hydration being key for optimal energy expenditure.
#5 Your Not Getting Enough Sleep
Just like proper hydration, getting enough sleep is a crucial aspect of overall health. In fact, research shows that poor sleep is strongly associated with a risk of obesity in both children and adults[*].
Just one night of poor sleep has been shown to affect how well your metabolism functions, shifting your circadian rhythm away from optimal fat burning[*].
Sleep is also essential for maintaining the balance of hormones that make you feel hungry or satisfied (ghrelin and leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your levels of ghrelin go up, while your levels of leptin go down. This leaves you feeling hungry and unsatisfied and often results in food cravings[*].
While you sleep, your body rests and regenerates, supporting the health of your brain, heart, kidneys, and your immune system.
Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to emotional issues, brain fog, high blood pressure, decreased immunity, and fatigue[*].
#6 You’re Eating Too Often
Some experts promote the idea that small meals throughout the day are the way to go for weight loss. While this may leave someone in a calorie deficit if appropriately portioned,more often than not, this excessive meal frequency leads to an overconsumption of calories.
Instead of having five small meals throughout the day ( or three meals and two snacks), you may want to try intermittent fasting (IF).
IF is gaining attention as a way to not only cut calories but also enhance your metabolic health[*].
Along with weight loss, research shows that IF may also be beneficial for both heart health and the prevention of diabetes[*].
There are several different types of intermittent fasting, all allowing for a specific eating window. Some common IF protocols include:
In this approach, the dieter will eat within an eight-hour window each day and fast for 16 hours. A common 16:8 approach would be to break your fast at 11 am, and stop eating for the day at 7 pm.
This protocol usually consists of one or two days a week of complete fasting for 24-hours. It may sound intense, but you can pick your 24-hour fasting window to be any time. For instance, you could have an early dinner at 5 pm on Monday, and then break your fast on Tuesday at 5 pm — so you’re not actually missing a full day of food.
The 5:2 Diet
In this protocol, you eat normally for five days a week and fast for two. On your fasting days, you can either completely omit food, or you can just cut your calories down to 500-600 per day. You can also choose which days you fast, and opt for one 48-hour fast if you like.
Fasting can be a great way to break a weight loss plateau, and often becomes more of a lifestyle than a weight-loss tool.
#7 You’re Not Getting Enough Protein
When it comes to diet and weight loss, protein may be the most essential nutrient to focus on.
This is partly due to proteins’ effect on your satiety hormone ghrelin. Consuming protein can modulate your ghrelin levels, helping you feel fuller longer. It can also help to delay gastric emptying, slowing down the absorption of nutrients from your meal[*].
In addition to its satiety-enhancing effect, protein can also boost your metabolic rate. In fact, a high protein diet can increase your calorie burn up to two times as much as a high carbohydrate diet[*].
And finally, protein is an essential element in muscle maintenance. As mentioned above, retaining lean muscle mass is crucial if you want to keep your energy expenditure high while you burn fat.
Research shows that along with resistance training, getting enough protein in your diet is essential if you want to retain your muscles while losing fat[*].
#8 You’re Stressed
Stress can be a sneaky hindrance for weight loss. Along with its psychological effects, stress also comes with a myriad of physiological effects that can impact the way your body handles nutrients.
The primary stress hormone that’s released in a stress response is cortisol, and high levels of cortisol are associated with an increase in abdominal fat (belly fat). Interestingly, the association with abdominal fat is higher in people that don’t express their emotions under stress[*].
This could give insight into the role that coping mechanisms play in one’s overall physical and psychological response to stress.
Researchers haven’t nailed down the exact mechanism that ties stress to weight gain, but cortisol’s effect on insulin secretion may play a role. As cortisol rises, it affects a number of metabolic pathways and hormones that can lead to your cells becoming resistant to the hormone insulin[*].
Insulin plays a crucial role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, creating a strong association between insulin resistance and weight gain[*].
Aside from the hormonal aspects of stress and weight, psychological elements may play a role as well.
Many people turn to food for comfort when they’re stressed. This is partly due to the need for comfort but is associated with metabolic and hormonal changes as well. When you’re stressed, hyper-palatable foods like fat and sugar become more enticing as your reward system becomes imbalanced[*].
For this reason, finding healthy coping mechanisms for stress is essential not only for weight loss but for overall well-being.
#9 Your Hormones Are Off
One of the primary reasons many women struggle with weight gain is due to an imbalance in hormones. If you’ve been wrestling with weight issues and dieting to no avail, it may be time to run a hormone panel.
Some common hormonal imbalances that can lead to weight gain and prevent weight loss include:
Low estrogen – Low estrogen levels can happen at any age, but are specifically prevalent during menopause[*].
Low thyroid hormone
Your thyroid hormone plays a crucial role in regulating your metabolism. Low levels of thyroid hormone are associated with a low basal metabolic rate (BMR)[*].
Leptin is a hormone that is secreted by your fat cells to let your brain know you don’t need any more food. When your body becomes resistant to leptin, it doesn’t receive the message that you’re satisfied and adequately nourished, leading to unchecked hunger hormones[*].
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
The exact mechanism by which PCOS causes weight gain is not well understood. However, PCOS is generally marked by an imbalance in hormones, which could lead to several culprits for weight gain[*].
Hormonal imbalances are typically accompanied by other symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and more. If you’re feeling any of the above or just generally off-balance, you may want to take a look at your hormones.
#10 You’re Eating Too Many Carbs
If you’ve been following a keto diet and are noticing that you’re not losing weight, it may be due extra carbs sneaking in.
In order for your body to switch to fat-burning mode, you need to limit your carbs to the point that your metabolism shifts over to ketosis. This can’t happen when there’s glucose in your blood.
While being in ketosis won’t necessarily guarantee fat loss, it will provide some physiological shifts that can make fat loss a lot easier.
One well-known benefit of being in ketosis is a reduction in hunger and cravings. Research shows that hormones associated with hunger and appetite are altered in a ketogenic state, leading to a natural reduction in calorie intake[*].
Another benefit of being in ketosis is the potential for a higher daily calorie burn. Animal studies have shown that burning ketones as opposed to glucose as fuel results in a higher daily energy expenditure[*].
Finally, to shift your body from burning readily available fuel from glucose to tapping into your fat stores, you need to clear your blood of glucose. The best way to do this is to cut your carb intake.
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of low-carb dieting for fat loss[*][*][*]. So being aware of any sneaky carbs in your diet is essential if you want to shed some pounds. Watch out for added sugar and carbs in foods like soda, sauces, packaged foods, and bars.
It’s also wise to keep an eye on your ketone levels to make sure you are, indeed, in ketosis. Everyone’s body is different, and therefore, everyone’s carbohydrate threshold will vary. To optimize your keto diet, you must know how many carbs your body can take in a day without kicking you out of ketosis.
If you haven’t already done so, then calculate your macros here for a personalized keto plan.
When it comes to weight loss, it’s not always about eating fewer calories and moving more.
Drinking enough water, assessing how many hours of sleep you get a night, strength training, and excess snacking are just a few factors that come into play.
While a healthy diet and a consistent exercise routine will set you up for success, your lifestyle as a whole needs to come into the picture for lasting weight loss.