Dr. Hyman: 4 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight
A reader tweeted, "I lost 30 lbs on The Blood Sugar Solution program. Now, I am following the guidelines from Eat Fat, Get Thin for the next 30 days. NO sugar/carbs—all veggies, proteins, good fats—but seeing much slower weight loss this time."
Weight loss plateaus are a very common and frustrating issue. When I am working with someone who is having trouble losing weight, despite doing everything right, there are a few things I look at, to see if we can uncover why they are hitting a weight loss plateau.
Here are four of the most common reasons for a resistance to weight loss:
1. Nutritional Imbalances
Let's first talk about nutritional imbalances. Studies show these deficiencies are more widespread than you might imagine. More than 30 percent of American diets fall short in nutrients like magnesium and Vitamins C, E and A. More than 80 percent of Americans have low Vitamin D levels. Nine out of 10 people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which, among other things, help cool inflammation and control blood sugar levels.
Simply put, Americans have been overfed and undernourished for a very long time. In fact, most obese children and adults are actually malnourished. While that might sound contradictory, an abundance of calories does not necessarily deliver the nutrients that your body needs. Actually, the very opposite is true: overeating can create nutrient deficiencies.
You can eat too many calories and too few nutrients. And guess what—you need vitamins and minerals to process all those empty calories. Low nutritional status = a poorly functioning metabolism.
Nutrition-based treatment can often help reset your metabolism. You can work with a Functional Medicine doctor or a Functional Nutritionist to test for these deficiencies and put together a plan to correct them.
At The UltraWellness Center, my private practice, we focus on nutrition, using food as medicine and work on achieving balance in all of the systems in the body so that it functions optimally. Our Functional Nutritionists can work with you remotely to detect nutritional imbalances and support your body's natural ability to heal.
2. Gut Microbe Imbalances
We have more than 1,000 species of bugs in our gut, and bacteria cells out number our own cells 10 times over. That's a lot of hitchhikers!
We call this the microbiome—it's the place where all these beneficial bacteria live and work within us to maintain a healthy gut.
From both an animal and human models, we know that the bacteria in our gut can have profound effects on weight and metabolism, through many types of mechanisms. Some bacteria extract more energy from food, leading to weight gain, while other bacteria will extract less energy from your food, leading to weight loss. Studies have shown that taking the gut bacteria from a thin mouse and putting it into a fat mouse can cause the fat mouse to lose dramatic amounts of weight without changing its diet.
Some bacteria trigger inflammation leading to a leaky gut, while others are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation triggers insulin resistance and diabetes, independent of your caloric intake. So, clearly, it's important to heal your gut if it is damaged by imbalances. I typically recommend working with a Functional Medicine practitioner, but there are some things you can do on your own to cultivate a healthy microbiome.
1. Eat whole, unprocessed, unrefined foods. One of the best ways to maintain gut health involves cutting out the sugar and refined carbs and jacking up gut-supporting fiber.
2. 75 percent of your plate should be vegetables and plant-based foods. Your gut bugs really love these high-fiber plant foods.
3. Eat good fats and get an oil change. The good fats we mentioned earlier (like omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, such as extra-virgin olive oil) will help with decreasing inflammation, giving healthy gut bugs a chance to flourish.
4. Supplement smartly. Studies find omega-3 fatty acids can support healthy gut flora, aside from their other numerous benefits, like reducing inflammation. If you're not regularly eating wild-caught fatty fish, you should definitely supplement with an essential fatty acids formula.Take a strong probiotic supplement as well. This helps reduce gut inflammation while cultivating health and the growth of good bacteria.You can find professional-quality formulas in my online store.
5. Add more coconut. Studies demonstrate anti-inflammatory and weight loss benefits from adding Medium Chain Triglyceride or MCT oils. Some of my favorite fats, coconut oil and coconut butter, contains these fabulous fat-burning MCTs.
Remove inflammatory fats. Cut out bad, inflammatory omega-6 rich fats like vegetable oils. Replace these with healthier oils like extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
6. Add fiber-rich foods. Nuts, seeds, and a special fiber called glucomannan provide prebiotics and feed our healthy bacteria.
Add fermented foods. Sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and miso contain good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply.
3. Inflammation and Immune Function
Science now clearly identifies chronic disease and aging as a state of inflammation. And it's not just allergies, asthma, arthritis or autoimmunity that are the causes of inflammation.We now know that diabetes and obesity are inflammatory problems, as are heart disease, cancer, depression, autism and dementia.
Your fat cells produce inflammatory molecules that perpetuate weight gain and disease. Other factors can trigger weight-gain inducing inflammation, independent of caloric intake. There are many other triggers for inflammation that also promote weight gain—including:
- food allergens (such as gluten and dairy)
- a poor-quality processed diet that is high in sugar and omega-6 refined oils and low in fiber.
All of these trigger inflammation, which then creates insulin resistance and promotes weight gain.
The Blood Sugar Solution and Eat Fat, Get Thin are designed to be powerful anti-inflammatory programs. Learning to identify the various hidden sources of inflammation is often critical for those who are stuck in the vicious cycle of the dreaded plateau.
4. Environmental Toxins
Many doctors look down on the whole idea of detoxification. But if you were to ask them what happens when your kidneys or liver fail, or if you're constipated for weeks on end, you'd quickly find out just how important the detoxification process really is. Detoxification is a natural process that occurs all the time in the body, though our personal ability to detoxify can become hindered for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, in our modern world, we are exposed to a huge burden of toxins from our environment and our diet.
These toxins, including plastics, pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol A, flame retardants, metals like mercury, lead, arsenic—and any one of the 80,000 chemicals introduced into our world since the industrial revolution—have been shown to interfere with metabolism and cause weight gain even in the absence of extra calories. These environmental toxins are called obesogens.
There are many mechanisms by which toxins promote weight gain—affecting your metabolism, your hormones and your brain function. Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins is entirely possible. There is a lot you can do to cut your exposure to toxins and help your body eliminate the ones it may already contain.
- Eat organic when you can and follow the Environmental Working Group's list of the "Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen." This list helps identify the fruits and vegetables that are more or less likely to contain agricultural chemical residues.
- Stop eating mercury. Avoid big fish with lots of mercury—such as tuna and swordfish.
- Eat clean, organic animal products by choosing grass-fed or pasture-raised animals that haven't been exposed to hormones or antibiotics. These responsibly raised products cost more, but the reduced exposure to these additives and toxins is well worth the cost.
- Be sure to filter your water. Use a carbon or reverse osmosis filter to get rid of hidden contaminants in your water supply. Drink eight glasses of filtered water every single day.
- Eating lots of fiber helps you poop at least once a day—this a very important part of the detoxification process!
- Add 1 to 2 cups of cruciferous vegetables daily to assist with detoxification. This includes foods like broccoli, kale and bok choy and lots of garlic, onions, ginger and turmeric.
- Don't forget to sweat—this is the body's natural mechanism to excrete toxins—so I recommend getting outside to play or participating in your favorite exercise—or go relax in a sauna!
- Take supplements that support detoxification including selenium, zinc, Vitamin C and a Vitamin B-Complex.
- Take special glutathione boosting compounds such as n-acetyl-cysteine, alpha lipoic acid and milk thistle, which also support your liver.
When I work with my patients who are experiencing a weight loss plateau, these are the first four things I immediately take into consideration. Remember, Functional Medicine assesses the root cause of the problem and treats the whole system to quiet and cool the flames of inflammation, leading to weight loss and overall good health.