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10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight with Diet and Exercise

By Bariatric Department at Lafayette General Medical Center
June 12, 2019

With or without weight loss surgery, the weight loss formula is supposed to be simple. Calories consumed minus calories burned result in either a calorie surplus, a calorie deficit or a zero balance. A surplus will make you gain weight while a deficit will make you lose weight.

However, bodies don’t always comply with these neat little formulas. Moreover, we often unknowingly sabotage ourselves when it comes to losing weight. Sometimes, we expect too much too quickly. And sometimes, we need a little help to sort it all out. Here are some quick facts about exercise and diet and why they don’t always lower the number on the scale:

1.  Muscle is denser than fat. While one pound of fat weighs the same as one pound of muscle, muscle occupies about 18 percent less space. In addition, muscle burns calories while fat stores them. So, if your weight isn’t decreasing but your clothes are starting to fit more loosely, you may be building muscle.

2.  One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. Under normal circumstances, it takes 3,500 surplus calories to make a pound of fat. In turn, that’s how many deficit calories you have to burn to get rid of a pound of fat. To rid yourself of 10 pounds, you’d need a deficit of 35,000 calories.

3.  An hour of exercise typically uses 350 to 500 calories. Really vigorous activities like running, swimming or kickboxing may be closer to 600, but an easy stroll reduces burn to around 200. Rewarding yourself with a 16-ounce latte—190 calories—or a small, 12-ounce strawberry-banana smoothie—210 calories—and reaching a calorie deficit can be hard to achieve.

4.  Inactivity can undo activity. That’s right. Sitting or being inactive can actually negate the benefits of exercise as well as impact metabolism and your body’s ability to burn fat. Remain active and move as much as possible throughout the day to see better results.

5.  Bodies hit weight plateaus. Our bodies give up water first as they burn stored glycogen. Then, the real work begins. You lose fat, but often we lose some calorie-burning muscle, too. In addition, as we become smaller and lighter, movement becomes easier, so we burn fewer calories.

6.  Insulin resistance won’t let your body burn fat. Normally, glucose levels in the blood make the pancreas produce insulin, which triggers your body’s cells to use the glucose. Over time, cells’ insulin receptors can become desensitized, unable to recognize insulin or use glucose. On starvation mode, cells will resist releasing fat. Worse, they will store every calorie that they can grab. Diets high in carbohydrates—particularly simple carbs—exacerbate the condition.

7.  Hypothyroidism slows every body function. While women are more likely than men to experience thyroid problems, that butterfly-shaped gland can cause issues with anyone’s weight.

8.  Quality of sleep directly impacts weight. Studies have measured everything from hours spent in various stages of the sleep cycle to the body’s production of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. In short, less sleep correlates to more weight as well as risks for insulin resistance. Unfortunately, excess weight is also linked to sleep apnea, which can disrupt the sleep cycle throughout the night.

9.  Stress produces cortisol. To put it simply, “Cortisol directly affects fat storage and weight gain in stressed individuals.” The enzyme that controls it resides in fat, especially human visceral fat cells, which are the ones surrounding the stomach and abdomen. In fact, high cortisol levels can even relocate fat, depositing it deep in the abdomen.

10.  Genetic predisposition may be a factor. The Human Obesity Gene Map includes traits associated with both familial obesity and polygenic obesity, with at least 22 gene associations supported by at least five positive studies. While genes are not destiny, they can be a factor.

 

When Diet and Exercise Are Not Enough

While persistence, dedication and behavioral changes are necessary commitments to losing weight, sometimes, they simply may not be enough. Medical conditions and genetics complicate what might otherwise be a straightforward process.