New Year’s resolutions frequently revolve around losing weight. This is not surprising as adult obesity rates in the U.S. have doubled over the past 20 years. Roughly 30% of the adult population, about 60 million, are considered obese. Regardless of how much effort one puts into achieving their weight loss goals for the year, sometimes it feels impossible.
Unfortunately, the real challenge usually isn’t maintaining a proper diet and regular exercise. More often than not there are other factors, unbeknownst to the individual, that severely inhibit their weight loss progress. If after two to three months of proper diet and exercise there are little to no results, it is likely that one has an underlying condition that is preventing weight loss.
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
The body’s BMR is a critical part of one’s ability to burn calories and lose weight. With a malfunctioning BMR, the body burns fewer calories while at rest. Poor metabolic function can cause fluctuations in energy level. Feeling fatigued and not experiencing any results from diet and exercise can suggest poor BMR levels. Gauging one’s metabolic rate is possible through testing the amount of oxygen one’s body burns over a 10-minute period. A physician can assist in assessing one’s BMR.
The Set Point
If one is finding it difficult to reach and stay at their desired weight but keeps reverting to their previous weight range, it may be due to a malfunctioning set point. The body’s set point regulates one’s weight and attempts to keep it within a physiologically established range. An unnoticed shift in one’s set point can mean that the body is in direct opposition to one’s goals of losing weight. Some medications may increase one’s set point, thereby inhibiting weight loss:
- Mood modulators
- SNRIs (serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors)
- Anti-seizure and pain medications that increase insulin production
- Blood pressure medications
- And others
If one finds themselves returning to the same weight range without altering their healthy diet and exercise practices it may be due to a malfunctioning set point.
Thyroid function is critical in weight regulation. Because the thyroid is so involved in one’s metabolism and hormonal function, it is integral for one’s energy and weight loss. Common symptoms of thyroid dysfunction, particularly hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), include:
- Dry skin
- Brittle and thinning hair
- Weight gain
- Muscle and joint pain/weakness
Unfortunately, thyroid conditions are frequently overlooked because standard lab tests, which only assess TSH levels, miss many individuals with low thyroid. To ensure proper diagnosis, tests should include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3 (RT3). All these elements are important factors in thyroid function. When any of these components fall out of balance, it can wreak havoc on one’s weight and overall health.
One weight impacting element that is regularly overlooked by many is iodine. This chemical is required for synthesis of thyroid hormones that not only impact one’s weight, but a significant number of bodily functions as well. Imbalanced iodine levels, either too high or too low, has a severe impact on the thyroid. Unfortunately, many incorrectly believe that they are acquiring enough iodine through their diet. One may require iodine supplementation or alteration of one’s eating habits to provide their body with requisite levels. Reduced iodine levels can result in weight gain and fatigue due to poor thyroid function.
Autoimmune Conditions (Hashimoto’s)
One cause of hypothyroidism that often goes undiagnosed is an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This condition is typified by the body’s immune system attacking itself, particularly the thyroid. This can lead to hypothyroid symptoms that are not resolved through standard treatment. Other common symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Enlarged or swollen tongue
- Poor Memory
In order to diagnose this autoimmune condition, it is important to test one’s thyroid peroxidase antibodies (TPOs) and antithyroglobulin antibodies.
Leptin is a protein hormone that is pivotal in regulating one’s weight, metabolism, as well as proper energy intake and usage. When working as intended, leptin informs the body whether it should be storing or burning fat. Leptin resistance leads to the body holding onto more fat than necessary. As the body becomes less receptive to leptin, the signals regarding fat burning and utilizing stored energy are repressed. Leptin resistance can induce hypothyroidism at a cellular level, which is not diagnosable through standard forms of thyroid testing. Ensuring that one’s leptin levels are below 12 ng/dl (nanograms/deciliters) via blood test is the best means of diagnosing leptin resistance and imbalances.
Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
Many are aware of common food allergies such as shellfish or peanuts. However, food intolerance is less well-known and may cause unwanted bloating, water retention, inflammation, and weight gain. Food sensitives usually derive from one lacking proper enzymes or sensitivity to food additives as opposed to allergies, which are handled by the immune system. Common foods that one may be intolerant to include:
Various vague symptoms are associated with food sensitivities, which can make it difficult to recognize. Regularly experiencing diarrhea, constipation, eczema, muscle and joint pain, headaches and fatigue after eating or exposure to certain foods may denote a food intolerance. Introduction of a probiotic into one’s diet can help promote good bacteria in the gut, which can reduce the impact of some foods. However, if one has severe intolerance of a certain food they may have to remove it from their diet completely.
The Root of the Problem
If one’s weight loss challenge for this year feels impossible, it may be due to an underlying condition. In some cases, people live with one or more of these stealthy conditions for years. Just because symptoms aren’t severe doesn’t mean they should go untreated. If one experiences regular symptoms, even if they don’t seem serious, it is important that they understand the cause so it can be resolved. By being well-informed of and actively testing for these sneaky weight loss opponents, one’s ability to achieve their goals this year can be greatly improved.