By: Julie Mancuso, JM Nutrition
For some people losing weight comes easy. These people eat what they want, whenever they want and in whatever quantities they want—and still, they don’t gain any weight. Well, these people should count themselves lucky because for the rest of us avoiding weight gain forms a part-time job.
In addition to battling weight gain, many people have a difficult time dropping a few pounds when it appears that they are doing what they should be doing to lose weight: exercising, eating healthy foods and avoiding junk food. This inability to lose weight can be frustrating, leaving people discouraged and devoid of hope.
Losing weight, however, can be a complicated matter, especially for some people. Other factors have to be taken into serious consideration when trying to reach a weight loss goal. Just like in other aspects of life, to some certain things come easily, whereas others need to sweat a little more to achieve the same results.
But if we take a closer look at weight loss, we can identify some common obstacles that can prevent it from being realized.
Obstacle 1: Thinking that exercise is the saving grace, giving you a free ticket to eating what you want.
Wrong. Although exercise is no doubt crucial for overall health and well-being, and it surely plays an important role in the effort to maintain or lose weight, it, alone, is not enough. Of course, exceptions to this rule exist, but generally speaking, most people cannot simply rely on exercise and maintain the desired weight.
Despite the fact that exercise, particularly cardiovascular and weight workouts, is a catalyst for weight loss, proper, well-balanced, sustained nutrition is vastly more important and will see you through long-term.
Why is that?
Well, you cannot exercise and sweat all the harm out of unhealthy foods, for one. Unhealthy eating, even with regular exercise, will eventually rear its ugly head and leave a negative lasting impact on your body, whether inside or out. From weight gain to digestive problems to affected sleep and mood, unhealthy eating can cause all sorts of ailments, even if you exercise.
Regular exercise, however, has many benefits, too, so don’t overlook it if you want to feel and look better.
Just remember, nutrition first, exercise second.
Obstacle 2: Incorrect portion sizes
From my years of experience as a nutritionist, it is abundantly clear that most people consume food in portions larger than they should. Here’s the kicker: this applies even to those who eat reasonably healthy.
When you’re eating more than you should, effectively putting in more calories at every meal, you are bound to gain weight—even if the foods you are consuming are generally healthy. This is a matter of simple arithmetic. Much like exercise, eating healthy is not your ticket to eat excessive amounts of food, at least when you’re interested in losing weight.
The importance of understanding adequate portion sizes of various foods cannot be underestimated, and it’s something on which I focus a great deal with my clients. The meal plans I co-create with them revolve around their preferences and portion sizes. It is that important. In fact, it’s a key component that hinders weight loss in people who feel they are taking all the right steps to do so but to no avail.
Obstacle 3: Regularly eating foods with lurking unhealthy ingredients
As you are no doubt aware, many of today’s foods undergo processing, teem with sugars and salts, and contain all types of unhealthy ingredients which are sneaked in to enhance flavour, add colour or improve taste.
It is, therefore, important to learn what ingredients are harmful and in what doses, and then take the time to analyze food labels before purchasing a product at the grocery store.
Many of these additives are slipped in and concealed, so read carefully. Otherwise you risk eating ingredients that can cause unsuspecting weight gain or prevent you from losing weight.
Obstacle 4: Cumulative effect of small doses of unhealthy ingredients and foods
As described above, small amounts of unhealthy additives can lay buried in all sorts of foods, and are thus consumed unknowingly by people. The small doses of these ingredients pile up over time, negatively affecting health—making it difficult to lose weight, even for those who have fairly healthy eating habits.
For most people, identifying this as the root cause of the inability to lose weight is difficult. Because these ingredients are found in so many of today’s foods and because the quantities of these ingredients are hard to gauge, they are often overlooked or go unnoticed, preventing people from reaching their goal of weight loss.
The solution, once again, is to read labels diligently and avoid purchasing products that can potentially hamper health goals. Nowadays, this can be done quite simply by watching YouTube tutorials or seeing a nutritionist.
Obstacle 5: Falsely believing health claims
Advertising brings in billions of dollars for one simple reason: it works. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to food ads where it doesn’t take much for people to be influenced. After all, we all like food that tastes good, and if it’s healthy, even better.
For this reason food manufacturers place all sorts of health claims on the packaging of their products. Foods profess such things as: low in fat, added Vitamin D, high in calcium, get your daily intake of Vitamin C, contains natural ingredients, reduced sugar, etc.
This is all fine and dandy. The problem, however, centers around the fact that people get so fixated on the purported health benefit that they omit to take a look at the rest of the ingredients lurking beneath the surface. The companies peddling these claims count on the buyer getting swayed by them, allowing them to sneak in the less desirable and frequently unhealthy additives.
Let the buyer be ware: the product you’re buying may be high in Vitamin C, leading you to believe you’re buying a healthy product, but it can also be high in sugar (read more about the dangers of sugar), sodium, carbohydrates, trans fats—all of which can and will prevent you from losing weight.
It’s best to be vigilant and make an informed decision yourself, without the help of wild health claims.
Related article from WebMD: Diet Mistakes: 6 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight
Obstacle 6: Too many carbs and not enough protein
Because I am a nutritionist and my job is to analyze all aspects of food and its consumption, I often gaze at what people eat and how much they eat, be it in a grocery store, at a restaurant or when analyzing my clients’ food logs.
In doing so, one of the first things I notice is that people who are trying to lose or maintain weight, are unable to do so because the ratio of carbohydrates to protein that they ingest is too high.
A number of recent studies suggest that reducing your carb intake and increasing protein can and does lead to a reduced appetite, and consequently, the consumption of fewer calories.
How many carbs should I consume?
Easy question, difficult answer.
It all depends on your gender, age, metabolism, physical activity level and a few other factors. But if I were to offer a general guideline, it would be this: 20-60 grams of carbs per day, if you are looking to lose weight. Again, this may be adjusted depending on a person’s individual situation and how many grams of carbs he or she is presently eating. If your goal is to lose weight fast, this number must be lowered to 20 to 30 grams per day (this does not include fruits and vegetables).
While reducing carbohydrates, it is equally important to increase daily protein intake at the same time. Eating more protein can stave off hunger for longer and speed up your metabolism in the long-term. This alone will lead to the ingestion of fewer carbohydrates and calories, leading to weight maintenance, or even weight loss.
How much protein should I eat?
Once again, the answer is multi-layered. But I highly recommend having a source of protein at every main meal. Each meal could range from 15-40 grams depending on gender, activity level, etc.
Related: 14 Easy Ways to Increase Your Protein Intake from Authority Nutrition.
Obstacle 7: Medical conditions
Despite the fact that you may be doing everything you possibly can to lose weight, sometimes an underlying medical condition, perhaps unbeknownst to you, can sabotage your resolve and prevent you from achieving your goals. This is quite discouraging, naturally.
If this sounds like what you’re going through, it would be wise to seek the help of various medical practitioners to investigate the situation from all angles. Only then an effective plan, one that is tailor-made to your specific condition, can be made to help you lose weight.
What are the medical conditions that can impede weight loss?
Other medical conditions that cause weight gain exist. Here’s an article from Healthline.com that delves into this topic more deeply: click here.
Obstacle 8: Missing nutrients
Nutrient deficiency can manifest itself in all sorts of ways. The lack of iron, magnesium, Vitamins C and D can suck the energy right out of you, by negatively impacting sleep, mood and the ability to fight off infections.
It’s difficult to have the energy and desire to exercise if you’re not well-rested. Similarly, it is near-impossible to have the desire to hit the gym when your mood is down. And it certainly is a challenge to want to exercise or cook a healthy meal while sick. It is, therefore, imperative that all the essential nutrients are at the optimum levels to avoid these side effects.
Obstacle 9: Age
As off-putting as thinking about getting older may be, think about it we must, especially if we want to age well and live as healthily as possible.
As we age, our metabolism slows down significantly. This means it is much more of a challenge to burn off that slice of pizza or piece of cake at 45 than it was at 20.
The problem is that people tend to develop certain eating habits in their youth—ones which leave more often than not leave a lot to be desired in terms of health—and continue indulging in this way well into middle age. What you may get away with eating at 20 years old, chances are you will not be able to do so at 45, 55, or 65. As your body ages and changes, so should your eating habits.
To underscore the point, I should also mention that well into adulthood our physical activity levels drop as life gets busy and parenthood takes precedence. When reduced exercise is thrown into the mix with a slower metabolism, the end result is weight gain.
Obstacle 10: You diet
Come again? The obstacle to my losing weight is that I diet?
But it’s true. In order to maintain a healthy weight or to lose it, sustained healthy eating habits must be developed. The operative word being sustained.
That is not to say that you are not permitted to indulge in your favourite treats, here and there—I’m not suggesting this at all. But the vast majority of food you consume must be nutritious, well-balanced and in the right portions. Fluctuating between binging on unhealthy food to a near-total restriction of food is highly ineffective, and in all likelihood, a recipe for failure, and in turn, weight gain.
Some people do experience favourable results by following fad diets, especially in the initial stages, but these tend to peter out with time because they are not sustainable in the long-term.
Obstacle 11: Eating at the wrong time of day
Why does eating at a certain time of day matter?
Well, it’s largely because of the way the body processes food. It is particularly important to avoid eating late in the evening. When you eat late at night, just before going to sleep, the body doesn’t have the opportunity to burn off the ingested calories via normal bodily functions. Instead, it stores them as fat while you are sleeping. This naturally leads to fewer burned calories and rapid weight gain.
Eat your meals, preferably small, a couple of hours before going to bed to ensure proper metabolization.
If you happen to be one of these people who is baffled as to why you are not losing weight, even though it seems that you are doing everything within your power, I implore you to closely look at each one of the obstacles above and see if one or two of them just may be impeding your goal of losing weight.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share.
Julie Mancuso is a registered holistic Toronto nutritionist who has been counseling clients for over 15 years. Julie’s personalized approach has helped thousands reach their health, wellness and nutrition goals.