While clearly difficult, weight loss is not impossible. It’s important to focus on the small successes (eating more vegetables, walking more). It can also help to work backward and pinpoint those factors that are standing in your way or causing a plateau.
Become aware of these eight common roadblocks and you may once again be on your way to winning at losing.
Your Gut Health Is Interfering
Emerging research is uncovering just how important your microbiome (the collection of bacteria in your gut) is for your health and potentially for your weight. A review published in June 2020 in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science found that probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics (blends of probiotics and prebiotics) may help prevent weight gain. It also reported that people with less diversity in their gut microbiomes were more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI).
You should begin by increasing the prebiotics in your diet. Prebiotics are fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. You could be taking all the probiotics, but if you don’t feed this good bacteria, it can’t proliferate and overtake the bad bacteria in your gut. Increase prebiotics in your diet by focusing on fruit and vegetable intake. Embrace variety (green beans one day, sukuma wiki, and then a tomato salad) to give your gut a range of prebiotics that will keep it happy.
Genetics Aren’t Working in Your Favor
It’s a tough reality: It may not be possible to choose the body type or shape you want and effortlessly land there with the right diet. When it comes to weight genetics matter a lot. Studies have shown that genes account for about 70 percent of the variation in people’s body weight.
If you don’t want to gain weight back after losing it, you’re going to have to continue to eat fewer calories. This means dropping no more than 10 percent of your body weight each six months
You’re Getting Older and Losing Muscle
You can’t control the clock, but you can control your health habits. Effective behaviors include making nutrient-rich foods the basis of your diet, limiting empty calories (such as processed and high-sugar foods), and adding resistance training into your weekly routine to rebuild lost muscle, advises Gorin.
Your Medicine Cabinet Is to Blame
Some medications cause weight gain or get in the way of your efforts to lose weight.
Among them is insulin to treat diabetes, antipsychotics or antidepressants, some epilepsy therapies, steroids, and blood-pressure-lowering meds. These may cause weight gain because they mess with your metabolism in some way, alter your appetite, cause water retention, or contribute to fatigue, making you less active.
If you or your doctor notices that you’ve unintentionally gained weight, talk about it. Don’t stop taking your meds just because you’ve gained weight, advises the University of Rochester Medical Center. In some cases, your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication or adjust your dose.
You Underestimate Your Portion Sizes
The problem with portion sizes on packaging is that they’re pretty random. While there’s been a move to adjust serving sizes on packaging to be more realistic (like changing from a half-cup of ice cream as a serving size to a two-thirds cup.
You should plan what you will eat for the day. This can be done by either logging your food in a food diary to see how many calories you’re actually consuming, and adjusting portion sizes if needed, or working with a registered dietitian to create an easy-to-follow meal plan. There are also plenty of meal-planning apps you can use.
You Eat Mindlessly or When Distracted
Repetitive snacking while you’re in a daze watching TV or on your smartphone can make you wonder, What did I just eat? A meta-analysis published in September 2022 in the journal Appetite found that distracted eating is associated with a higher BMI. When you’re aware of what you’re eating, you can make the brain-body connection that you’re full and satisfied.
You should prepare your own meals when possible. When you spend the time to cook or even assemble ingredients, you know the care that goes into preparing the foods you eat — and you may be more likely to sit down and savor your food versus simply wolfing it down.
You Skip Meals, Then End Up Overeating
In an effort to cut calories, it’s tempting to go through the day trying to eat as little as possible and even skip meals. But if you do this, your body will push you to eat — and this deprivation can backfire. If you restrict yourself all day, your body’s protective mechanisms will kick in — the ones that drive you to get food.
You should eat on a predictable food schedule. If you eat regularly throughout the day, your body will be able to anticipate that you’re going to provide adequate nutrition for it.
You Overestimate Your Calorie Burn
When you’re trying to lose weight, what and how much you eat is more important than your exercise habits. Exercise shouldn’t be used as a form of punishment for eating something.