If you’re reading this and you’re a smart, busy woman who’s trying to lose weight but not making progress — you’re in the right place.
In order to start moving the needle in the direction you want to go, you have to start looking at your metabolism as many moving parts.
Your metabolism encompasses all aspects of how your body works — not just how much you weigh.
Metabolism includes all the things going on in your body that keep you alive and keep your organs functioning properly.
Your metabolism includes, among other things:
- your digestion
- sleep quality
- energy level
- your nutrient status
- the health of your nails, hair, and skin
- overall mood
- how your body handles blood sugar
- your libido
- your hormones
- mental health
- how quickly you heal
- immune system
- the health of your organs and glands (liver, thyroid, adrenals, heart, etc.)
How much you weigh will depend on how well all of your body’s systems are balanced.
If you’re trying to lose weight (unsuccessfully) but you have hormone imbalances and your digestion is off, for example, you will feel like you’re climbing uphill just to lose 5 pounds.
It might seem frustrating when all you want to do is get to your goal weight, but you have to look at your body as a whole system.
You have to get healthy to lose weight, not lose weight to get healthy.
So let’s dive into some reasons why you may be in a weight loss plateau or gaining weight in spite of doing “all the right things.”
You’re eating more calories than your body can use
I see this a lot with women who come to me after low-carbing for years or after practicing extended intermittent fasting, for example.
After a while, they stopped seeing results from low-carb or fasting and now they’re anxious to try something new.
They didn’t understand that eating an extreme low-carb diet for years or doing these prolonged fasts put their body under chronic, physiological stress.
This in turn down-regulated their metabolism and suppressed their thyroid to compensate — and now their body runs off fewer calories.
Before, on low-carb or fasting, their body was running off stress hormones to try to keep everything in balance. I call them “stressed skinny.”
Eventually, the body says “no more” and the weight begins to go up, despite not doing anything differently than before.
Some of the women I work with stumble on the teachings of Ray Peat PhD and become one of his “followers.” http://raypeat.com/articles/
Ray Peat PhD started his work with hormones in the 1960s and he is a sought-after expert in nutrition, aging, metabolic hormones, stress, fertility, and menopause, among other topics.
Dr. Peat earned his PhD in Biology from the University of Oregon and has taught at several universities around North America.
He is a proponent of progesterone as a protector of the body and he teaches how natural progesterone helps shield the body from harmful effects of excess estrogen and stress.
Many people find Ray Peat’s teachings after trying something like carnivore or keto to help with health issues or hormonal imbalances.
After following these restrictive diets for years in some cases, many people start to notice their health worsening instead of improving.
They realize it’s time for something different.
Those new to Ray Peat’s teachings are usually relieved to learn about his recommendations for eating foods that may have been off-limits prior.
Foods such as salt, fruit, milk, honey, sugar, carrots and other “taboo” carbohydrates in some circles.
Dr. Peat discusses the importance of balancing carbohydrates with a proper amount of protein. He is also a proponent of getting certain anti-inflammatory amino acids like glycine and proline from food sources like gelatin, collagen and bone broth. These amino acids help balance out the more inflammatory amino acids found in muscle meat like chicken and beef.
After incorporating some of Ray Peat’s teaching, many people will find themselves healed from health challenges such as severe digestive issues, or they will notice a disappearance of estrogen dominance symptoms, or they’ll start to be able to sleep through the night, after years of insomnia.
All thanks to incorporating some of Dr. Peat’s unique teachings — many of which go against “popular nutrition guru” advice.
So while some people find benefits like those mentioned above, some find they start gaining weight, in spite of feeling better overall.
This can be frustrating, feeling like you’re taking 2 steps forward and 2 steps back.
What this comes down to is, after years of dieting and deprivation doing extreme diets, your metabolism has slowed down.
Avoiding all carbs or practicing periodic extended fasts over months or years will cause the body to start burning through metabolically-active tissue like muscle.
As you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down.
Most of the women I work with who have been dieting on and off for years, have very low muscle mass, and high fat mass.
When we work on getting them to build muscle and start finding the right calorie and macro range for them, they start to lose weight.
There is more to it than that, but over time, eventually the body starts to heal after years of dieting and deprivation that suppress the metabolic rate.
In addition to a slowed metabolism from extreme dieting, most of my clients have undiagnosed thyroid issues, namely hypothyroidism.
You have undiagnosed thyroid issues
Usually, your doctor will only look at your TSH level, and if that is in range, then you’re told your thyroid is fine.
Yet you have all the symptoms of low thyroid.
Symptoms such as:
- Dry skin
- Edema of eyelids
- Feeling cold all the time
- Decreased sweating
- Thick tongue
- Edema of the face
- Dry, brittle hair
- Impaired memory
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Edema in the ankles and feet
- Hoarse voice
- Feeling nervous and anxious all the time
- Heart palpitations
- Changes in vision
- Brittle nails
- Difficulty swallowing
- Muscle wasting and muscle weakness
- Heat intolerance
- Low body temperature
- Low pulse rate
- Slow mental acuity
- Slow movement
Your thyroid is your main metabolism gland!
Your thyroid mainly produces inactive T4 thyroid hormone. This must get converted to active T3 thyroid hormone in your liver.
All the cells of your body need active thyroid hormone.
Many issues can contribute to poor thyroid hormone (1) production, (2) conversion to active form, (3) getting thyroid hormone to cells or (4) uptake of thyroid hormone into cells.
To balance out your thyroid hormones, you need to make sure you’re eating to balance your blood sugar. Eat carbs, proteins, and healthy fats at every meal and snack.
There are other important thyroid labs, in addition to TSH, that will help give a clearer picture of the health of your thyroid such as free T3, free T4, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies.
Taking your temperature and pulse before and after eating will also give you a good indication of how your thyroid is doing.
If your body temperature and pulse fall after eating, then this indicates some internal stressors going on in the body.
This leads us to our next potential reason why you may be struggling with weight loss.
Your body is under a lot of internal stress
I’m not talking about the “your boss is yelling at you” kind of stress.
Here we’re talking more about internal physical stress your body is under.
One big indication your body is under internal stress can be seen by taking your temperature and pulse before and after you eat.
If your temperature and pulse FALL after you eat a meal, then your stress hormones were chronically high prior to the meal. Stress hormones cause an elevation in body temperature and pulse.
Eating helps lower stress hormones, so if you eat and your body temp and pulse fall, you know your body is running on stress hormones for energy. Your body is breaking down muscle and other important tissue for energy between meals.
Usually, your body temperature and pulse should RISE after eating. Eating real, whole foods should stoke your metabolic fire and cause a rise in temperature and pulse.
Another good indicator of internal stress is your reverse T3 number when you get a full thyroid panel run.
If you have a high reverse T3, this tells you there is some internal stress going on in the body.
This could be from not eating metabolically-balanced meals, to imbalanced hormone levels, to imbalanced blood sugar levels, to low iron levels, to gut infections (bacteria overgrowth, virus like Epstein Barr, parasites, etc.), to food sensitivities, or nutrient deficiencies.
It takes time but it is worth it in the end to uncover what is causing your body to be under so much internal stress.
One key area to investigate has to do with the stress caused in your body by imbalanced blood sugar levels.
Your body is not able to handle blood sugar properly
This usually has to do with insulin resistance, a key lab marker I notice when working with clients who are trying to lose weight.
When anyone eats a carbohydrate, like an apple or a candy bar, that food causes a rise in blood sugar. Whether you are a diabetic or non-diabetic, carbs cause a rise in blood sugar.
Insulin helps move the glucose or sugar from the carb out of our bloodstream and into our cells where the glucose is used for energy production.
Someone with type 2 diabetes has too high blood sugar for too long in the body, and the body’s cells are not receptive enough to the hormone insulin.
This is called insulin resistance.
Not addressing insulin resistance and not getting type 2 diabetes under control can lead to complications with eyesight, infections, kidney disease, heart problems and more.
However, what most folks do not understand is that type 2 diabetes is not caused by sugar. T2 diabetes is caused by a dysfunction in the body.
This dysfunction prevents your cells from getting the blood glucose they need and this dysfunction keeps your body’s cells from being able to metabolize glucose efficiently.
Yes, T2 diabetics will have high blood sugar when they eat food with carbs. Their blood sugar will go higher and stay high for longer than someone without diabetes.
Yes, not eating carbohydrates will cause a fall in blood sugar. But not eating carbohydrates is not addressing the root cause of T2 diabetes.
You have to look at diabetes on a cellular level. If you have high blood sugar levels for too long, your cells are not able to metabolize that sugar properly.
If you have high blood sugar, and the sugar isn’t getting into your cells, then your cells actually have low blood sugar levels.
This means your cells are starved from the energy they need to function properly. You can have all the blood sugar in the world circulating in your bloodstream — but if it can’t get into your cells — it’s useless to your body (and causing a lot of damage to your organs and tissues).
Just monitoring your blood sugar levels and trying to stay within a certain range by cutting out carbs does nothing to address the main problem.
Taking insulin to force your blood sugar lower will not address the root cause of the diabetes to begin with.
Again, why doesn’t everyone who eats carbs become diabetic? Because not everyone has a problem getting the sugar into the cells and metabolizing the sugar once it’s there.
Otherwise, everyone who eats any carbs or sugar would develop diabetes. Not everyone is diabetic, yet most of us eat carbohydrates. Why aren’t we all diabetic then?
Going after the carbs and pointing the finger at them is distracting you from the real problem here.
The cause of diabetes is not sugar and carbs. It’s the underlying dysfunction on a cellular level.
With T2 diabetes, you have high blood sugar but your cells are still starving for energy (sugar).
To address this, you have to work on balancing your blood sugar by eating a metabolically-balanced meal.
This includes eating carbs, proteins and healthy fats at each meal and snack.
We’re talking fruits, some cooked vegetables, some raw vegetables, proteins like seafood, grass-fed beef, cottage cheese, and fats like coconut oil, butter, and cream.
Eating properly-balanced meals will help regulate your blood sugar and take care to lower some of your stress hormones like adrenaline, which are caused by imbalanced blood sugar. Too much adrenaline blocks your cells from being able to use sugar.
When you lower your stress hormones by eating a properly balanced meal, this helps your cells become more sensitive to insulin and blood sugar.
To help address the root cause of your weight loss resistance:
- Eat the amount of calories and macros that your body can handle
- Work to build muscle to help increase your metabolism
- Eat protein, fat and carbs at each meal and snack
- Monitor your temperature and pulse before and after you eat (they should rise after eating)
- Work to lower the internal stressors on the body
Instead of focusing on a quick fix diet that promises to “get you shredded” by cutting out carbs — you need to get on the same team as your body.
Start by listening to your body.
Where are the biggest challenges for you?
Start investigating and turning over rocks to get to the root cause of your weight loss resistance.
Get on the same team as your body and start working together.
If what you’re doing isn’t working, then re-evaluate what needs to change.
It could be something as small as going to bed earlier to reduce the stress on your body.
It could be a larger aspect that involves addressing insulin resistance, low thyroid hormones and clearing up pathogenic gut infections.
Until you start pushing your body towards health, your body will not release the weight easily.
I hope you found this post helpful.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
I’m here to help you find your root cause.