The Basics –
We come across some people who don't gain weight even though they eat whatever they feel like. At the other extreme, there are people, who seem to gain weight no matter how little they eat. Consequently, some remain thin without efforts whereas others struggle hard to avoid gaining weight.
Essentially, our weight depends on the number of calories we consume – how many of those calories we store and how many we burn up. But each of these is influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The interplay between all these factors begins at the moment of our conception and continues throughout our life.
If we consume more energy (calories) than we expend, we will gain weight. Excess calories are stored throughout our body as fat. Our body stores the fat within specialized fat cells (adipose tissue), which are always present in the body, either by enlarging them or by creating more of them.
In order to lose weight, one would have to create a calorie deficit. A good weekly goal is to lose ½ to 2 pounds per week or approximately 1% body fat every two weeks. The number of calories one eats to accomplish this needs to be approximately 250 to 1000 calories less than one's daily calorie burn. We can do it by increasing daily activities with more daily steps or other non-exercise activities. Standing and pacing burns at least 2-3 times more calories than sitting for the same time period. A deficit of 250 to 1000 calories can also be created by increasing workout time or intensity and by decreasing the food intake of approximately 200 to 300 calories per day.
In spite of our sincere efforts at losing weight, we at times don't succeed due to specific reasons that stand in our way without we even realizing them.
Reasons for not losing weight –
• Lack of sleep – Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain. The experts speculate that sleep deprivation may affect the secretion of cortisol, one of the hormones that regulate appetite. When we're tired due to lack of sleep, we may skip exercise or simply move around less, which means burning fewer calories.
• Chronic stress – Stress and weight gain go hand in hand though some of us not aware of this fact. Chronic stress increases the production of cortisol, which not only increases appetite but it can also cause extra fat storage around the abdomen. It causes cravings for foods, which are high in sugar and fat. The so-called comfort foods make us feel better. In addition, we skip workouts because we just feel too stressed out to exercise.
• Overeating – The researchers have found that most of us underestimate how much we're eating, especially when we eat out. Careful scrutiny of our diet is the only way to know how much we're really eating. We need to space out our meals in such a way that we don't remain hungry for long. Or else we may overeat at our next meal. We should try eating smaller portions and eat more often.
• Exercise – Exercise is another crucial element of weight loss, along with our daily activity levels. If we are not losing weight, we either need to increase our workout time and intensity to match our weight loss goals or need to change our weight loss goals to match what we're actually doing. In order to lose weight, we need to build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to our cardio. The more muscles our body has, the more fat we'll burn.
• Sedentary habits – Any extended sitting such as at a desk, behind a wheel or in front of a screen can be harmful. In addition to exercise, we must try to be as active as we can. We must also limit our screen time. Therefore, we must take a break from sitting every 30 minutes. If we spend more than 8 hours sitting, it could be one more reason we're having trouble losing weight.
• Weekend indulgences – Having some treats now and then is fine but indulging mindlessly in treats on weekends will hurt our weight loss goals. The trick is to plan our indulgences so that we can have some fun while staying on track with our weight loss goals.
• Unrealistic goals – There are many factors that affect weight loss which again can't always be measured or accounted for with the tools we have. Our body may be making changes that can't yet be measured with a scale or a tape measure. The experts agree that a realistic weight loss goal is to focus on losing about 0.5 to 2 pounds a week. For any more than that, we would have to cut our calories so low that it may not be sustainable. Conversely, we may be losing inches even if we are not losing weight. If we're not getting the results we expect, it's crucial to find out if it's because we're expecting something from our body, which it just can't deliver.
• Plateaus – Almost everyone reaches a weight loss plateau at some point. As our body adapts to our workouts, it becomes more efficient at it and, therefore, does not expend as many calories doing it. Some common reasons for this include doing the same workouts daily, not eating enough calories and overtraining. We can avoid plateaus by trying something completely different at least once a week and by changing our frequency, intensity, duration, and type of workout.
• A medical condition – This is especially important if we're doing everything right and haven't seen any changes at all on the scale or our body after several months. There may be a health problem or some common medications thwarting our efforts at weight loss. One must consult one's doctor to rule out such a possibility.
The bottom line –
There are endless diets, supplements, and meal replacement plans claiming to ensure rapid weight loss that we come across in the media. But most of them lack scientific evidence. In fact, many gullible persons fall prey to them and some have to face their harmful side-effects too. However, a good understanding of the reasons that thwart our efforts would positively impact our weight loss program.