Eating clean, lifting weights and running all the way from here to Timbuktu but still can’t lose weight? It’s a common problem in my coaching practice. Time after time, I encounter dedicated gym bunnies that are checking off all the boxes and seemingly doing it all “right,” but the number on their scale just won’t budge; even more demoralizing, sometimes the number goes in the opposite direction. What’s that about?!
First, let’s have a little lesson in what the number on the scale really means.
Our weight is a compilation of body fat, muscle mass, water weight and more. So when you see the numbers on the scales increase, it doesn't necessarily mean you’ve gained fat. To dig more into this, let's have a little biology lesson, shall we?
Body Fat percentage & Body Fat Mass:
- Body Fat Percentage is the proportion of fat to the total body weight.
- Body Fat Mass is the actual weight of fat in your body.
- Visceral fat is located deep in the core abdominal area, surrounding and protecting the vital organs. This tends to increase with age and can cause more fat around the abdomen.
- The predicted weight of muscle in your body. This includes the skeletal muscles, smooth muscles such as cardiac and digestive muscles and the water contained in these muscles. Muscles act as an engine in consuming energy. Often, when we exercise more, our muscle mass increases. Since muscle weighs more than fat, it can often cause the scale number to shift in the other direction.
Total Body Water:
- Total Body Water is the total amount of fluid in the body expressed as a percentage of total weight. Over half of our body weight is water and it helps to regulate temperature and eliminate waste. The amount each of us needs varies from day-to-day, depending on the climate we live in and the amount of physical activity we’re doing.
Yes, it’s true that increased muscle mass can make us weigh in a little more, but if you have a smart scale, you’ll see that that isn’t the case. There could be more at play. Like what, you’re wondering? Here are some weight-gaining culprits:
We all have a ton of stress in our lives. But if we don't manage it properly, it can lead to an over-production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol also causes higher insulin levels, which can impact your food choices. It often leads to craving fatty and sugary foods which contribute to weight gain specifically in the stomach area. Managing stress through breathing exercises, meditation and relaxing activities is a great way to reduce cortisol.
Many of us type A's are busting our a$$es at the gym, thinking it will lead to increased muscle mass and lower percentage body fat… but the numbers often go the other way. The reason being is that when we exercise with great intensity, we often overestimate calories burned and then overeat calories needed for recovery. Additionally, intense exercise also produces cortisol which can cause weight gain and encourage overeating. So pull back on the seven days of intense workouts and vary your exercises incorporating gentle yoga practice, long walks and leisurely bike rides.
Our microbiome is a delicate balance of bacteria and occasionally, some bad bacteria can work its way in there. Recent studies have repeatedly demonstrated that the makeup and variety of our flora can have a big impact on our weight. The most current literature suggests that obesogenic bacteria can exacerbate weight gain and trigger metabolic dysfunction. If you suspect this may be the cause, speak to your health care provider about a stool analysis test to better understand the bacteria at play in your gut.
Overgrowth of Candida Albicans or yeast as a result of overuse of antibiotics, birth control pills or just the standard American Diet can lead to weight gain and stubborn pounds that just won’t budge. Candida is fed by sugar and carbohydrates so a diet rich in both can perpetuate weight gain. Some health care practitioners even believe that yeast overgrowth can even cause thyroid imbalances which only further perpetuate metabolic challenges. A stool analysis will identify the role of yeast in your weight challenges.
Food sensitivities, overgrowth of bad bacteria and candida can all greatly affect the gut and lead to widespread inflammation. Digested food particles can leak into the bloodstream causing your immune system to react to the perceived toxins and triggering inflammation, weight gain, joint pain and more. So if you're eating foods the leave you bloated and achy, it might be time for an elimination diet to understand which foods might be taking you down.
The optimum PH level is between 7.2-7.4. Very specific, I know. Symptoms of PH imbalance including everything ranging from heart burn, constipation, slow metabolism, hormonal imbalances, brain fog, low blood sugar, sore muscles and more. How do we become too acidic, you ask? Even if you’re eating somewhat clean, years of less-than-perfect eating could be contributing. Meats, sugar, caffeine, dairy, beans and grains are all acid forming. The remedy? More greens, please! Swap your morning coffee for green juice, eat more raw veggies and scale back on meat.