Losing WEIGHT can be a challenge.
It may seem like you’ve tried every diet or wellness hack in the book, but to no avail.
While it may be tempting to turn to crash diets or supplements to help you lose weight, one doctor said you should first understand which lifestyle factors may make losing weight a challenge for you.
Dr. Sameer Sanghvi essentially said that every move on the scale largely comes down to calories.
“Essentially, losing weight depends on eating and drinking fewer calories than we expend,” he said.
Dr. Sanghvi, head of clinical technology at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor, explained that the NHS recommended daily calorie intake for the average person is 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men.
“If you’re trying to lose weight, you should aim to reduce your caloric intake by about 600 calories. That means 1,400 calories for women and 1,900 for men — though it depends on factors such as your age, size, and activity level.
“To track calories, you can weigh the portions you eat, check the labels of store-bought foods and record what you eat in a food diary,” he said.
While consuming too much is an obvious reason why you’re not losing weight, there are six other tips to consider, according to Dr. Sanghvi.
1. Not sleeping well
Dr. Sanghvi said getting enough good quality sleep is essential for maintaining physical, emotional and mental health.
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“About 7-9 hours of sleep per night is considered adequate and sufficient to support good health in adults.
“Sleep deprivation has many consequences. One of them is weight gain. When we can’t sleep, our body releases cortisol – the ‘stress hormone’ that can prompt our body to store fat reserves ‘just in case’.
“Not only that, when we’re stressed or sleep-deprived, we need energy from food to replace it, which is why we may find ourselves snacking more and eating more,” he said.
We’ve all seen characters in the movies stress over eating a tub of ice cream or a bag of chips.
Dr. Sanghvi said that when we feel more stressed, anxious or depressed, we are more likely to reach for carbs.
Scientists have found a possible link between carbohydrates and serotonin, the hormone that helps regulate our mood, he explained.
“When we eat carbohydrate-rich foods, we subconsciously try to improve our mood. But of course, eating a lot of carbohydrates can lead to weight gain.
“Plus, when we feel stressed, our body releases cortisol — a major appetite stimulant. That’s why we may find ourselves getting more and more hungry during stressful periods.”
He added that in addition to adding numbers to the scale, there are also a number of mental symptoms associated with stress.
These include anxiety, irritability and depression, which can lead to unhealthy lifestyle changes such as eating more junk food, drinking more booze, skipping meals and staying up late, the expert said.
“Ultimately, these are all habits that can hinder weight loss,” he added.
3. Yo-yo Dieting
Crash diets are also known as yo-yo dieting and someone doing this will often flit from one to the next.
Although they are popular, they rarely lead to weight loss and even lead to long-term weight gain, according to the GP.
“Skipping meals or eating the bare minimum puts our bodies in ‘self-defense mode’, slowing down the metabolism.
“When you eventually go back to eating normally, it takes longer to burn off food,” he said.
In addition, you’re missing out on essential nutrients, which can lead to low energy, Dr. Sanghvi added.
“This can trigger cravings for high-fat and sugary foods. It’s a slippery slope — even if a crash diet works temporarily, it’s extremely unhealthy,” he added.
4. Thyroid problems
Another reason you might have trouble losing weight, the expert said, is if you have a problem with your thyroid.
“If you have an underactive thyroid, you may experience fatigue, depression, and weight gain.
“With hypothyroidism, your thyroid doesn’t produce enough of the hormones needed to regulate the body’s metabolism. When the thyroid doesn’t function properly, it can often result in unwanted weight gain,” he said.
Both men and women can be affected by hypothyroidism, and it’s usually treated by taking replacement thyroid hormone tablets called levothyroxine, he said.
5. Not drinking enough water
“Drinking too little water is generally bad for our health, but few people realize that it can also lead to weight gain,” says the expert.
Dr. Sanghvi added that being hydrated increases our metabolic function, energy and decreases hunger, so there is a strong correlation between drinking enough water and actually losing weight.
“When we’re dehydrated, there’s a signal disturbance in our brain that can signal hunger instead of thirst. This means we tend to eat more when we’re dehydrated to compensate for the feeling of thirst.
“Plus, if you’re dehydrated, you’ll feel low on energy and tired, which could encourage snacking,” he added.
6. Build muscle mass
If you hit the gym regularly and eat a balanced diet, but the scales don’t seem to be going down, you could be gaining muscle, the expert said.
“You may notice that your body is getting toned and stronger. And you may feel more confident in your appearance, despite what it says on the scale.
“The most important thing to remember is that it’s fine to lose weight as long as you do it as healthily as possible,” he added.
If you’re concerned that you’re having trouble losing weight, you can talk to your GP, who can help you determine the cause.
“They will be able to investigate if there are any health concerns related to your weight gain and help create a plan,” he added.