9 reasons you can’t lose weight – from cheat days to lack of sleep

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If you think you’re eating healthily and doing enough exercise but you’re struggling to lose weight, join the club.

So many of us believe that we’re ticking all the boxes for fat burning – and not getting any returns for our troubles. But that’s because viewing weight loss as a simple equation doesn’t work.

It’s really not a case of “move more, eat less”.

Gaining weight or plateauing weight loss can be down to various things, including:

1. Lack of sleep

Sleep is so important because it’s only when you’re totally at rest that your body can repair.

That’s when your muscles grow and recover – crucial for changing your body composition and bringing down that body fat percentage.

A 2010 study by the University of Chicago found that when those on a diet got a full night’s sleep, more than half the weight they lost was fat.

When they cut back on sleep, not only did this reduce the amount of fat loss to only one quarter, but they also reported feeling hungrier.

Without adequate rest, your satiation and hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin, will be out of kilter. This can encourage cravings, in particular for sweet foods.

Last year, scientists found that people who get between seven and nine hours most night also have fewer hunger pangs.

2. Too much stress

The stress hormone, cortisol aside, stress actually makes it way harder for you to say “no” to booze and biscuits.

Scientists from UNSW have been working out why it’s so hard to ignore unhealthy foods.

They found that feeling stressed, tired or overworked makes it almost impossible to ignore cues that signal something rewarding – like unhealthy food.

If you are experiencing stress, then you need to remove yourself from situations where you’re likely to be tempted to give in to your weakness.

3. Failure to track your intake

When it comes to calories and steps, “if you’re not assessing, you’re just guessing”.

It can be really hard to accurately know how much you’re eating and moving and many people are guilty of underestimating their calorie intake.

Try tracking your food and exercise on an app like MyFitnessPal for a couple of weeks to get used to what calories really look like.

5. Hormonal issues

Hormones are key to our bodies running smoothly, and sometimes having a healthy diet and exercise regime might not be enough to fix hormonal issues.

Women who have high estrogen levels throughout their cycle tend to hold their weight around their middles – so if you struggle to shift belly fat, it might be worth doing an estradiol test which you can do via your GP.

Polycystic ovary syndrome can also be responsible for weight gain.

The most common environmental factor in PCOS is insulin resistance or pre-Type 2 diabetes.

70-80 per cent of women with PCOS have insulin resistance (pre-Type 2 Diabetes), so sugar (and that includes natural sweeteners like dates and maple syrup) is only going to be exacerbating this.

And insulin resistance is going to mean that you’re more likely to hold fat around your belly and generally find it harder to shift weight.

It’s worth getting checked to see if you have PCOS if you have irregular periods and are experiencing weight gain, despite living a healthy lifestyle.

Menopause can also cause women to eat more and exercise less, lowering the metabolic rate and increasing insulin resistance – making it much harder to metabolise sugar and carbs.

Oh, and that change also affects fat distribution.

Perimenopause weight gain is often associated with the laying down of fat around the abdomen and internal organs, as opposed to the hips and thighs – and that can lead to a heightened risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various cancers.

6. Inconsistency

Consistency is key in every area of life.

It’s not enough to eat well for one week and then live off Macci Ds the following one.

The same applies when it comes to exercise.

Try to create a routine.

Think of yourself as the sort of person who works out four times a week, and the kind of person who likes to eat healthily every day. Make both a habit, not a blip.

7. Poorly managed ‘cheat’ days

How many of us are “good” during the week, only to go mad on the booze or treats at the weekend?

Those “cheat” days may give us something to look forward to but they also perpetuate a binge eating cycle.

Rather than depriving yourself of treats during the week, allow yourself a treat a day – and set limits on those less strict days.

Have a two-drink limit or have a dessert after dinner which you can look forward to.

8. Negative mindset

With “cheat” days in mind… if we stop thinking about food as a “guilty” pleasure or something to “cheat” on, then there’s more of a chance of seeing it as nutrition for our bodies.

Many weight problems come from having a negative relationship with ourselves and food – and that’s something that the diet industry exploits.

So try to change up the language you’re using and start thinking about all food as sustenance.

A chocolate bar is not more “bad” for us as a salad, it’s just more energy dense.

9. You’re in a rush

Gym transformations tend to say that it takes eight weeks to feel a change, 12 weeks to see a change.

The issue is that influencers and companies make money promising overnight improvements which simply don’t exist.

How long has it taken for you to get into the shape you’re in now?

If it’s the result of five years’ overeating, what makes you think that you can slim back down in two weeks?

Settle in for the long haul and you’re more likely to reach your destination.

This article was republished with permission from The Sun.