Why Women Can’t Lose Weight

Preschool, soccer practice, the library, work; it seems like no matter where I am, the discussion of weight loss comes up and it usually goes like this: A bunch of moms standing around taking turns saying something along the lines of, “I just cannot seem to lose weight. I walk and run and eat pretty well, but I still seem to have this…” This is the point in the conversation where the person generally grabs some part of their body that they struggle with, usually the lower belly, upper thigh, or butt, and looks at me quizzically.

The truth is that in this thirty-second exchange, I cannot pinpoint where the problem lays because there can be any number of factors involved in an individual’s struggle with their weight. (This is where having a nutrition coach helps tremendously.) I can, however, tell you what I see as the main reasons that many women struggle to lose those unwanted pounds.

1. You don’t eat enough.

So many women come to me with diets that are too low in calories. I have seen numbers ranging from 1200 all the way down to 800. Let’s be clear right away, that is not enough food. Your body needs fuel to run and when it does not get the nutrients it needs, it tries to adapt by slowing down your metabolism as well as feeding off of your muscle mass, making it even harder to shed fat. Sometimes these low calorie diets are intentional and sometimes it is a matter of, “I got going with the day and forgot lunch.” Whatever the reason, stop doing it and eat. There are a certain number of calories from carbohydrates, protein, and fat that your body needs; once you or your nutrition coach figures that out then you can begin to build your metabolism and kick start your weight loss.

2. You don’t eat enough protein.

Under-eating is a big problem in weight management, but under-eating protein in particular can be just as detrimental. Protein helps with muscle building and recovery, and research is now showing evidence that it works as a tool for hormone regulation and weight loss. Protein also fills us up, which helps keep us away from junk food and sugar. Most women I work with only consume about 40 grams of protein a day, which is far too low. Body size, build, energy expenditure, goals, and metabolic rate all dictate exactly how much protein a person needs, but shooting to have some lean protein at every meal helps to keep hunger and hormone levels stable, which is a solid start to fixing the problem.

3. You eat too much.

On the flip side of the coin, some women tend to overeat. Whether it is simply due to lack of knowledge of portion sizes or means to an emotional end, overeating is a sure fire way to tip the scales in the wrong direction. Because of their tasty and satisfying nature, carbs are usually the culprit of overindulgence but the truth is too much carbs, fats, or protein can lead to weight gain. A balanced plan with ample amounts of each is the key to losing weight in a healthy way.

4. You don’t weight train.

Sure, walking, running, and Yoga are all very good for you, but training with resistance creates a longer caloric burn after exercise than cardio training alone. It also builds muscle, which expend more calories at rest. This means that strength training provides a double whammy of benefits, not to mention that awesome feeling of accomplishment that you get when you lift something heavy! You can reap the benefits from many types of resistance training including dumbbells, barbell, machines, bands, or bodyweight. Whatever you have, you can benefit from resistance training and doing something is always better than doing nothing.

5. You don’t take care of yourself.

So many women spend so much of their time putting others first that taking care of themselves comes as a second, third, or even more distant priority. They do not sleep enough, eat right, move enough, and drink enough water, all factors in maintaining a healthy weight. They seem to forget that being healthy and happy makes them a better woman, mom, wife, friend, or daughter, and better able to be fully present for others. Take time for yourself to be caring, attentive, sweet, and giving to you, and you will be surprised at how it ripples out to those around you.

6. You self-sabotage.

Weight loss takes a fair amount of time, a certain degree of discipline, and a whole lot of patience. If we lose any one of these during the process, the train seems to fall of the proverbial track. Next thing you know, the ice cream containers and potato chips have found their way onto our laps and we are two hours into self-loathing and a Netflix marathon. I call this self sabotage. Sometime during the process we deem it too hard or too long or not fruitful enough and simply give up. And to some extent, this is true. It can be hard at times to change who we are and how we live. So, what can we do? The answer here is surprisingly simple. Enlist the help of a coach or friend to support and have some faith. Have faith that you can and will be successful, despite any emotional or physical setbacks that you may have hit. Reaching your goal is a process; sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is hard, but it will always be attainable.

7. Hormones.

Nobody wants to hear it, but it’s a fact of life. Hormones can reek havoc on your weight, mood, appetite, and life. Any number of hormonal issues can contribute to weight gain including adrenal, pituitary, thyroid, and ovarian abnormalities. Problems of this sort can be tricky because you cannot see hormonal imbalances; when your T3 is off, you don’t look any different. So, if you are doing everything else right but still just do not feel right, then call your doctor. Only a doctor can diagnose this, so make an appointment, go in, be heard, and get tested.

8. You drink too much.

Wine, beer, spirits, whatever your poison, drinking adds calories to your diet and creates hormonal imbalances. A few glasses of wine in front of the fireplace on a winter evening sounds harmless enough, and it is, but several nights of this practice can kill your weight loss progress. Think about it this way, if you have three glasses of wine at 120 calories each that is 660 extra calories in one night. Do this for two nights in a weekend, or even a week, and now you are consuming an extra 1,320 calories. In short, a little adds up to a lot. In addition, consuming alcohol can mess with your hormone levels (see above), making it even more counterproductive to your hard work in the gym. But don’t lose hope, it is possible to have your wine and drink it too. A well balanced nutrition program can leave room for occasional indulgences like wine or a beer without derailing weight loss goals.

In the quest to improve our health and body composition, there will be detours, dead-ends, and crossroads. There are always going to be ups and downs. The key is to finding what triggers those lows and boosts those highs. In the end, just keep pushing a little bit each day, eat well, move, take care of yourself, and forgive yourself when it does not go as well as you hoped. After all, we only have the body we live in so enjoy the journey and keep pushing forward.