The real reason you can’t lose weight (that has nothing to do with food)
You might be nailing your calorie deficit and eating all the “right” things, but if you’re not seeing a change on the scales, you may need to look beyond just your diet to get your weight loss back on track. There are so many other factors that come into play when you’re trying to lose weight – and your gut health is a major contributor.
If the bacteria in your gut (known as your microbiome) aren’t in balance or are missing certain species, your efforts to lose weight may be coming to a standstill. No matter how hard you try, the numbers on the scale won’t change until you’ve addressed your gut health.
This is something I personally experienced during my 20s. I suffered from chronic gut issues, including terrible bloating, and I was unable to control my weight even though I was counting my calories to a tee. Plus, I was studying nutrition, so I knew what to eat! It took a functional medicine doctor to point out that I had an out of whack microbiome, and when I began to address this, my life changed for the better.
Your gut bacteria affect your weight in multiple ways. They can affect how satiated you feel (which reduces your urge to snack) and they influence how energy and fat are stored in the body. Studies have shown that certain species of bacteria can help your body produce hormones that tell your body when it’s hungry or full.
The more diverse your gut bacteria, and the more fibre you consume to feed these healthy bacteria, the more weight-loss benefits you’ll notice. According to one study, eating prebiotics (compounds that are fermented by gut bacteria) can increase your levels of gut fermentation, reduce hunger and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
You can improve your gut health by loading up on fibre (think lots of fruit and vegetables), probiotic-rich foods (like kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kombucha, prebiotics (whole grains, Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root), and reduce or exclude processed foods that are high in fat or sugar. Aim to eat a diet that is rich in wholefoods, with at least five serves of vegetables a day (remember to eat the rainbow!).
Of course, your gut health isn’t the only thing that could be working against you. You might also want to consider the below.
You have an undiagnosed food sensitivity
It’s not just your gut health that can have an impact on your ability to lose weight. You may also be intolerant or sensitive to the food you’re consuming (the most common being gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, whey, nuts and corn). If you notice you suffer from gastric complaints such as wind or bloating, it could be a sign you have an intolerance, so it’s worth chatting to a GP about testing.
You’re too stressed
Chronic and ongoing stress can really throw a spanner in your weight-loss goals. If you’re constantly on the go and never make time to relax and unwind, your cortisol levels are likely through the roof, which cause your body to hang on to fat. Chat to your doctor if you’re feeling especially on edge, and aim to incorporate more mindful and calming activities into your day, such as deep breathing, regular exercise, meditation or working with a therapist. Supplements such as magnesium and adaptogenic herbs can also be helpful, which you can chat to a naturopath about.
You’re not sleeping enough
Clocking less than six hours of sleep a night? Your waistline is not going to like it. In fact, the more fatigued and tired you are, the hungrier you’ll feel and the more likely you’ll be tempted to snack or binge on foods high in sugar, carbs and fat.
No matter how much exercise you do, or how well you eat most of the time, not sleeping will make it very hard to lose weight. To help you score some decent shut-eye, ensure you stop working two hours before you try to sleep, have the same bedtime each night, never drink coffee after lunch and create a calming bedroom environment with lavender essential oil and relaxing music.
You have a thyroid issue
An underactive thyroid can make it easy to gain weight and harder to lose. If you feel tired, have cold hands and feet or often suffer from constipation and bloating, you may have a slow metabolism. Most GPs don’t test in-depth enough to diagnose this – it happened to me! Find a great functional or integrative medicine doctor, or specifically ask your GP to test all T3, T4, thyroid antibodies, TSH and reverse T3 levels.
As you can see, there are a plethora of factors that can influence your body’s ability to sore and lose fat. If you are serious about shifting weight, you must focus on your gut health just as much as you focus on creating a calorie deficit. You must also identify any underlying health issues and ensure that you’re looking after your body in the best way possible. A stressed, tired, rundown body isn’t going to respond effectively, so be sure to prioritise your self-care. This is exactly what I help women do through my programs.
Bec Miller is a qualified nutritionist, founder of Health with Bec and specialises in weight loss and gut health. She is the host of the Body Bites with Bec podcast and works with women to help them achieve long-term, sustainable results. For years, Bec struggled with weight fluctuations, a slow thyroid and chronic digestive issues. As a healthy young woman who visited multiple GPs and specialists whilst studying nutrition, it drove her crazy to say the least.
It took around four years of her own research (and finally finding the right functional medicine doctor) to discover that she had a multitude of food intolerances, an imbalanced microbiome and a slow thyroid. Only then was she able to heal herself and find a way of eating that kept the foodie side of her happy, her bloating at bay (this was life changing), her energy sustained and her weight stable easily. Find out more here, or follow her on Instagram here.
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Hi! My name is Bec Miller and I am a Clinical Nutritionist (Bachelor of Science Nutrition), the founder of Health with Bec, podcast host of Body Bites with Bec and proud doggie owner of my son, Winston.
Seeing women become happier because of something I have done genuinely brings me so much joy – I’m an addict!I believe my evidence based, yet “against the grain” approach to be unique to what women have tried before.