Three Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight
Today, I slipped out of the house for my first dedicated friend encounter in months.
She and I wore masks. We sat outside, we ate, and we laughed. It was about 80 degrees, with a soft and dreamy fall sky. I was drinking blueberry rooibos tea, savoring house made Caesar dressing on a huge salad, and feeling genuinely unencumbered for the first time in weeks. She ordered a delicious looking quinoa-sweet potato-egg bowl, sipped from her water bottle and brought up interesting topic after interesting topic.
And since we are both girls, and she has been through a few Resets, and we were eating Real Healthy Food, we talked about weight.
I mean, we also talked about education and politics and religion and family. But inevitably, weight came up.
“I’ve been eating well since May. And working out. I have not dropped a pound? What the hell?”
That was the gist of her statement, anyway.
If I had a nickel, girl. A nickel for every time someone came to me with that same statement.
Let me throw a statistic at you. Ninety-eight percent of diets don’t work long term (1). I had the pleasure of hosting Tricia Nelson this week on our newly minted Expert Advisory Board at my other job (2), and her story and background and passion blew my mind. I ordered her book, and read this statistic in her research.
I concur, having dealt with the fallout of the 98 out of 100 women who feel like failures because they can neither lose weight nor keep it off.
There is a lot of science about set points and leptin and cortisol and thyroid and honestly, we all want to blame 5 or 15 or 55 pounds on any one of those variables.
And those variables may in fact be a thing.
However, for the majority of women who want to lose a few pounds, salvation seems to come in other disguises.
Maybe you’ve done them. Maybe you’ve used shakes and packaged meals to release the weight. I mean, you’ve been holding onto it so tightly, right? A real hostage situation.
But unlike a true hostage situation (man, I’m falling deep into a metaphor I have no personal experience with- I blame Brooklyn Nine-Nine), the hostage tends to wander back.
That’s weird, right?
Release is a verb with a connotation of permanence. It’s confusing for all parties involved when that permanent weight loss comes creeping back, all low and nasty.
So let’s break down a few of the reasons you aren’t losing weight.
1. Your Body Weight Is Already Normal
This is the top reason why you can’t lose weight. You’re already normal. You’re already enough. You’re already pretty enough and fit enough and strong enough and a hard enough worker and a good enough mom and wife. If you’re really struggling with this, you could have a deeper, more existential issue. I struggled more with this before trusting Christ with my soul. In Christ, I’m enough. The work is done. The striving is over. Any time I choose not to believe this, all of my old doubts and insecurities and anxieties crop up. That’s pretty much the world we live in. This world is engineered to make you feel like you always need more.
But you don’t.
The top reason you can’t lose weight is that you don’t need to lose weight. Are you 10 pounds over what you were in high school or college? 15? 20? Maybe you’re just a woman now, and you should be ok with that. It’s likely your spouse still gets distracted every time you take your shirt off before bed. What else are we trying to prove or achieve, darlings?
Had a baby? Two? Five? Added a few years or decades to your life? I hate to be the one to tell you that sometimes, life gets in the way of having a permanently 19 year old body.
When I was 19, I got to go to the gym every day. I was in complete control of my controlled little diet. I looked great. After being a fat little kid, being fit felt pretty amazing. But it was never enough. I always wanted 1, 2, 5 more pounds off. It was an exhausting hamster wheel of…well, exhaustion.
Inevitably, I would put on a few pounds when I was more lax with my diet and exercise. And then I’d work like mad to get them off again, indulging in disordered behaviors to achieve my goals. I would feel superior when I was successful at my arbitrary goals, and inferior when I was not.
And then I started to have babies. I would have to work really really really hard during ever postpartum period to get back to where I randomly decided I wanted to be. After my fourth and last baby, I worked out twice a day for 9 months and was very careful (read: obsessive) with my diet. I achieved my goal of looking and feeling fit.
In the process, I also managed to tank every steroid hormone I had.
Hair? Falling out.
It turns out, the female body needs a certain amount of nourishment and safety to have true hormone balance. These days, I would way rather sleep well and have a sex drive than I would fit into those smaller jeans. I want you to get to that point too.
If you’re sleeping and your digestion is normalizing and a dormant libido is springing back to life, you’re in good shape. Even if you’re one size up from where you were in high school.
So have a sit down with yourself and decide if you’re going to die on the hill of culturally celebrated thinness (making yourself, your family, and your hormones miserable in the process), or if you’re going to be thankful for a healthy and happy and womanly body.
You can still have it both ways, in a fashion. I exercise daily. I eat a super abundant and healthy diet most of the time. But I no longer prioritize first workout over my quiet time with the Lord, or say no to a delicious dessert that someone lovingly bakes for a fellowship meal.
We’re called to be excellent stewards of our bodies, to use for service unto the Lord. That’s the point of health and wellness and fitness. Stewardship, not superiority.
To sum up point #1: You may not be able to lose weight because you don’t need to lose weight. Don’t shoot the messenger.
2. You’re Insulin Resistant
Are you like 75% of people, aged 3-90, who are insulin resistant?
“Dr. Joseph R. Kraft, MD was Chairman of the Department of Clinical Pathology and Nuclear Medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, Illinois for 35 years. He spent a quarter century devoted to the study of glucose metabolism and blood insulin levels.
Between 1972 and 1998, Dr. Kraft measured the Insulin Response to a carbohydrate / glucose load in almost 15,000 people aged 3 to 90 years old using a 5-hour oral glucose tolerance test with insulin assays. Data from 10,829 of these subjects indicated that 75% of subjects were insulin resistant — even though their fasting blood sugar level was normal.
That is, having a normal fasting blood glucose level, and normal HbA1C level does not preclude someone from being insulin resistant and at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.”
How does that affect you?
Insulin is the hormone that your pancreas secretes to help shuttle glucose into the cell, where the body uses that glucose for energy.
But when one consumes far too many carbohydrates for far too long, insulin can no longer perform its job correctly. It’s like a traffic backup on the freeway. Insulin tries to shuttle glucose into the muscle and liver cells where it belongs, but those cells start to block the action of insulin.
Your body needs to put that glucose somewhere, so it it starts storing the glucose in your fat cells. And you put on weight. Because insulin is also a fat storage hormone.
If you’re truly dealing with weight gain or resistant weight loss, I would recommend looking at the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates you’re eating.
Wine is sugar.
Fruit is sugar.
Overeating, even good food, causes insulin to be released from the pancreas (4). And if you constantly overeat, even good food, you can be constantly releasing insulin. And that insulin can be constantly depositing bits of energy into your fat cells instead of your muscle cells. Now, you’re both tired and chubby. Boo.
Wine and fruit are fine in a balanced diet especially for those of you whose ancestors ate a more starch-rich diet. But in an imbalanced, stress-eating diet for a woman who is over 30 and of European ancestry, fruit, wine, and starchy carbohydrates may not be the best option for the diet.
Eat plenty of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Add healthy fats. Stick to small servings of berries for your fruits. You ancestors didn’t think that it was calorically expedient to eat fruit salads and lettuce salads. They needed energy and strength and generally prioritized blood-sugar balancing foods like meat. This is not news to you if you’ve been hanging around this blog for a long period of time.
To sum up point #2: You’re probably like 75% of us and you struggle with some clinical or subclinical insulin resistance. Beef (haha) up your protein and fat and cut back on the fruit and wine and see what happens.
3. You Prioritize Other Things
And hey! That’s ok. In nutrition psychology, there is a saying.
There is a difference between wanting and committing.
Think back to the times in your life where you were steadily losing weight. You were all in with the process. You thought about your meals. You made exercise a priority. You and your willpower were one. You were like, “I’m doing this!”.
And so you did.
You were mindful and action-focused.
I’ll tell you, there is no way you’ll make significant progress in your health journey without staying diligent and mindful.
As my mom always told me (which made me mad at the time but now I use this with clients all of the time),
“When you’re ready, you’ll lose weight”.
My clients who actually lose weight are committed to the process. They make sleep a priority. They set aside time to grocery shop and prepare food. They move their bodies appropriately. They are willing to deny themselves momentary pleasures for the satisfaction of meeting a bigger goal.
If you’re half in, you probably won’t lose weight. This is why we all want a pill or a potion or a powder. We think something is inherently wrong with us. Thyroid, gut, hormones. But really, there is probably nothing so wrong with you that you can’t lose weight if you sit down with an action plan, a reasonable expectation for outcomes, and a commitment to the process.
No one wants to hear that. I don’t want to hear that. But if you interview, like I do, dozens of women who have actually lost weight and kept it off, they will say something like this:
“I finally decided I would do this right”.
And so they did.
Now, if you’re on steroid medication or biological agents like Humira or SSRIs like Lexapro, you will have a chemically difficult time losing weight. If you’re stressed and have high cortisol, you will have a hard time losing weight. If you’re estrogen dominant, you’ll have a hard time losing weight. Those are cofactors that must be looked at.
But it might be a little more simple than that.
- Have a plan. (I’ve got one for you-https://jenniferwoodwardnutrition.com/product-page/lightened-up-28-day-reset)
- Stick with the process. (Sometimes you need a coach- I’ve got you there too: https://secure.gethealthie.com/appointments/embed_appt?dietitian_id=254383&require_offering=true&offering_id=28384)
- Trust yourself. You can do it. And remember, you’re probably totally fine, just the way you are.
Questions? Comments? Email me at email@example.com.