After losing 70 pounds in 18 months, my view on weight loss and physical health has changed drastically. I’ve done every fad diet you can think of from weight loss pills to the cayenne pepper and grade A maple syrup in your water diet, 21-day green smoothie challenges, and more. Guess what? I always gained the weight back plus more. I felt hopeless about my physical health. One day, I became frustrated with my lower back and knee pains from the excess weight and knew that I needed help in this area. If you are struggling to lose weight or keep it off, consider the list of reasons below.
1. Your Why Isn’t Big Enough
After getting multiple tests done, I discovered that I had nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. It is an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions affecting people who drink little to no alcohol whose liver is enlarged. It causes fatigue and pain in the upper-right abdomen. It is typically found in people who are obese or other health conditions such as sleep apnea or diabetes. If it is not addressed and healthy lifestyle changes aren’t made, it puts one at risk for liver cancer. The liver tries to halt inflammation; it produces areas of scarring (fibrosis). With continued inflammation, fibrosis spreads to take up more of the liver tissue. This scared me and became my “why”--- I decided to consume mainly a plant-based diet and exercise regularly. If you are losing weight for a wedding or just to fit into a pair of jeans, you are more likely to gain the weight back after you accomplish your goal. It shouldn’t have to be a health scare like me, but your “why” should be meaningful. For some people, it is staying alive long enough to experience life with their children or grandchildren, or to see their dreams manifest, and for others, it is to reduce the risk of health conditions.
2. You Have Underlying Health Conditions
Health conditions can contribute to weight gain. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) means your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. This slows the body’s metabolism and can lead to weight gain. Treatment for diabetes can also contribute to weight gain. Steroids, also known as corticosteroids, are used to treat a variety of conditions, including asthma and arthritis. Long-term use of corticosteroid tablets can increase appetite in some people, leading to weight gain. It is best to speak with your doctor to ensure that medications or other health issues are not the cause of weight gain. Maybe you are battling depression and lack the motivation to do anything. Consider speaking with a therapist regularly to receive treatment for your depression. Your therapist will also determine if mediation is needed for your depression and will refer you to a psychiatrist.
3. Your Cortisol Levels Are Too High
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. It’s essential for helping your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release in response to different kinds of stress. However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. It increases appetite and signals the body to shift metabolism to store fat, impairs brain function, and causes fatigue. A way to combat this is to get adequate risk at night, learn to recognize stressful thinking, and practice mindfulness with guided meditation apps. Avoid caffeine at night, limit distractions before bed, and regular exercise are also ways to reduce your cortisol levels.
4. You’re Not Doing Something You Enjoy
The gym is not the only place to exercise, and if it’s not for you, that’s okay. Attend regular twerk or pole dancing class, take a brisk walk every day for thirty minutes, play a sport a few times per or play hide-and-seek with your children. There are also tons of videos on YouTube that have 15 and 30-minute high-intensity interval training (HIIT) videos that allow you to burn a lot of calories in a short time. Find something you enjoy that increases your heart rate while doing some form of physical activity.
5. You Haven’t Found Your Gym or Fitness Tribe
The most significant difference in my physical fitness journey this time around is that I found a group of women who share the same goals as me. They are encouraging when I have setbacks and celebrate with me when I increase my weights during POWER training. They hold me accountable too. If I miss class for a few days, they will text or call to make sure I am okay, and remind me that my presence is missed in class. Maybe consider an all women’s gym near you if you are not comfortable working out around men. I also like that the instructors are all at different levels in their fitness journey. It is not one-size-fits-all as every person's body is different; there is not a standard size for "fit." In the past, I had friends who flaked on going to the gym, and I didn’t stay consistent as I was less likely to workout alone. Not having a tribe can stall your exercise routine.
6. You Have Too Many Restrictions
I’ve been there where I said to myself, “I am not eating sweets for a month” but ate sweets almost every day. Instead of eliminating something without having a plan in place to help you succeed, try “crowding-out.” Crowding-out is similar to when a mother is weaning a baby off of her breast or a bottle. For instance, instead of going "cold-turkey", replace candy with a healthier version of something sweet, such as a protein bar, mango, or grapes three times a week. You are more likely to succeed by reducing something rather than going cold turkey, especially when you’re used to having something. Click here for a list of healthy snacks to satisfy your sweet (or salty) tooth cravings.
7. You're Not Eating Enough Protein
Last year I hit a stall and did not lose weight for six months. It was frustrating and discouraging. I made an appointment with my nutritionist, and she asked me, "How much protein are you each per day?" I couldn't answer the question because I was unsure. She stated that I should focus on quality, not quantity, and at a minimum, I should eat 64 grams of protein per day. Since I was new to eating new to mainly a plant-based diet, I had to be intentional and make sure my foods are high in protein. I started drinking more protein shakes and eating protein bars to help me hit my goal and limit my calorie intake to 1,000 to 1,200 calories per day, and the weight started falling off. Make an appointment with a nutritionist or dietitian to help you to develop a meal plan based on your body and health goals, and if you have any health conditions, they can take that into account.
8. You Haven’t Considered Other Options
One of the hardest and most rewarding decisions I made was to receive the gastric sleeve surgery, a weight loss procedure that allowed me to get a fresh start. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is the easy way out. The surgery ranges anywhere between $15,000 and $25,000, but if you have insurance, you will pay a fraction of the cost. If you go through your insurance, you may have to lose a percentage of body fat before the surgery is approved, take nutrition classes for six to nine months, write a letter to the insurance company and complete a series of tests. I started the process in January of 2018 and did not have my surgery until September of that year. The gastric lap band or bypass is also an option for some people. Speak to your doctor to see which is the best option for you. It is not a quick fix and you will still have to change your diet and exercise regularly to continue to lose and maintain your weight. I change my diet drastically. And I have been working four to five times per week for one hour since my doctor cleared me six weeks after the procedure. You will gain weight again if you do not change your diet. I am in a Facebook group, and I see women talk about how they gained weight, didn't take the surgery seriously, and thought it was a quick-fix. I've had setbacks, gained 10 pounds, and I had to make changes. It is truly a lifestyle change. You have to do the work; there are no quick-fixes.