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Dr. Hyman: 4 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

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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:

  • 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!

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.

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The huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about donations to the Amazon Fund. LeoFFreitas / Moment / Getty Images

By Sue Branford and Thais Borges

Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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