The Five Things You Overlook When Trying To Lose Weight

November 8th 2019

The science of weight loss is seemingly simple: eat less, move more. But if that’s all that had to be considered, wouldn’t people have an easier time shedding unwanted weight or slipping into their skinny jeans? The fact that according to a recent national health survey, 49.3 percent of people admitted that they’d attempted to lose weight in the past year, yet there are still 155 million Americans that are currently overweight, makes it obvious that it simply isn’t that straightforward. 

Whether you’re currently in the beginning stages of starting a fat loss journey, or you have been struggling to succeed within a weight loss regimen, there are important aspects to losing weight that isn’t always in the forefront of people’s minds.

Here is a list of five of the biggest things that people overlook when trying to lose weight. Considering these frequently forgotten factors could be the key to your success in achieving your weight loss goals. 

Fat Loss Journey, What You Need To Look Out For

1. Weight loss is not one size fits all 

It’s a common misconception to believe that following a weight loss plan that facilitated favorable results for one person will automatically work with the same effectiveness for everyone. We will dive right into different diets and exercise regimens, simply because we’ve heard about someone else's success. But just because your neighbor lost weight by withholding wheat or your sister slimmed down by eating a diet high in fat doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. 

Frank Sacks, a weight-loss researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has found that, “Some people on a diet program lose 60 lbs and keep it off for two years, and other people follow the same program religiously, and they gain 5 lbs.”

Everyone’s body is different and will have an individualized response to lifestyle changes such as diet, and exercise. Not everyone processes food and responds to physical activity in the exact same way. With that said, however, resistance training coupled with fasting will produce incredible changes for your body. Whether you combine both of these strategies or split them up, you cannot go wrong with changing your lifestyle for the better.

A recent study, conducted in both the United States and the UK, compared the glucose levels of 1,100 people both before and after ingesting the exact same foods. The results even surprised the epidemiologist and professor who led the study, when they showed that no two individual’s reactions were the same.  

In order to have weight loss success, diets and exercise regimens need to be personalized to the individual. It is important to try more than one plan, to find what works best for you. When choosing a diet plan for yourself, you should take into consideration your current health conditions, personal preferences, and past experiences. 

One of the keys to weight loss success is consistency, so consider adopting a program that you believe you are likely to follow. The same is true of exercise, consistency is key. So choose an exercise program based on your current fitness level and pursue activities that are pleasing to you. You are far more likely to stick with them and succeed if you are engaging in an endeavor that you enjoy. If you are an untrained individual looking to jump into a workout program, Starting Strength is by far the simplest and most straightforward program that optimizes your time by focusing on compound movements like the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press. 

However, while everyone will have an individualized response to certain foods, researchers agree that almost everyone can benefit from adding more unprocessed, whole foods to their diet and limiting processed, pre-packed foods.

2. Water intake / hydration 

Water is imperative for every bodily system, and is used by every single cell in your body. Everything from digestion to joint protection, to your kidneys filtering toxins and your body removing waste, requires sufficient water. Water even helps us burn extra calories, metabolize stored fat, and is a natural appetite suppressant.

So when we are not properly hydrated, we may not have adequate energy, and we may have a harder time recovering from work-outs. When dehydrated, your body is certainly not able to function optimally. It makes sense that our bodies would have an easier time letting go of extra weight when we are properly hydrated.

This is especially important to bear in mind if you are engaging in regular exercise. (Which you are quite likely to be doing if you are attempting to lose weight.) We lose water when we sweat and breathe, so it is important to make sure we replace the water we lose. 

So, how much water do we truly need to drink? Everyone’s individual needs vary based on a slew of things such as: activity level, age, sun exposure, and health status. But according to the National Academy of Medicine, adults should aim to drink around 2,700 mL per day for women ( a little over 90 ounces) and 3,700 mL per day for men.

A few great ways to encourage yourself to drink more water are to invest in a high-quality water filter, carry a reusable water bottle, and to add lemons or other fruits to your water for flavor. 

3. Sleeping habits 

It feels great to get a good night’s sleep. Not only does sleep affect your mood and mind, but it affects your body’s ability to lose weight. 

Research has shown that getting improper sleep has been linked to higher body mass index (BMI), weight gain, and increased appetite and cravings. How is it related? Researchers have found that sleep directly impacts two of the hormones that signal hunger and fullness, ghrelin and leptin, and it also affects the stress-hormone, cortisol. 

To the contrary, adequate sleep increases your energy, assists your ability to maintain self-control (as it pertains to eating), and it helps prevent insulin-resistance. 

At the end of the day, quality sleep is as important in weight loss as making healthy eating choices and exercising. 

Some suggestions that may help you to get better sleep are to step out into the sunshine, to be conscious of the timing of your caffeine consumption, to try to incorporate a relaxing bedtime routine and a calming bedroom environment, and to limit your alcohol consumption. 

4. Stress level and Mental Health

Eating is an emotional experience. We reach for food for comfort, we have a nostalgic association with the traditional foods we eat around holidays, and we even received special foods as a reward during our childhoods. 

Eating is a common coping mechanism, and emotions even regulate when and how much we eat. Not surprisingly, researchers have found a correlation between intense emotions such as stress, anxiety and depression, and a higher body mass index. 

When we are stressed, our bodies slow our digestion and it decreases how effectively we break down food and assimilate nutrients. Our bodies also produce a higher amount of cortisol, (a hormone that plays a role in our body’s stress response) which directly impacts your metabolism in a negative manner.

High-stress levels are known to increase food cravings, disrupt sleep (which was discussed earlier as being incredibly important for weight loss) and affect how much, how often, and what exactly we choose to eat. (Spoiler: stress doesn’t often have us reaching for celery sticks.)

Eating causes the brain to release dopamine, one of the pleasure hormones, so it makes sense that we would reach for our fork when we are feeling stressed. 

However, a recent study commissioned by Orlando Health surveyed one thousand people and only 1 in 10 thought psychological well-being was a factor that affects weight loss. 

So, there may be an emotional or psychological reason behind why you have gained weight, and it may be the same reason why you are struggling to do so. It’s important to ask yourself whether you are eating because you are actually hungry, or if you are searching for solace. Figuring out the reason behind your emotions may be what helps you finally find success in losing some weight.

5. Your gut health 

Your microbiome is the collection of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc) that live inside your gastrointestinal tract (GIT). 

Your microbiome effects, and is partially responsible for, how you digest your food, the production of certain vitamins, the nutrients you absorb, your mood, and your immune system. Two-thirds of your microbiome is unique to you as an individual! 

The gut is actually commonly referred to as your “second brain,” and studies have shown that your microbiome produces multiple neurochemicals, including serotonin,  and can even affect the specific foods you crave. Scientists are even showing that the diversity of your microbiome can affect how prone you are to weight gain. 

So if your microbiome is out of whack, it can affect your mood, stress levels, and digestion. And, as was discussed earlier in this article, your mental health can directly affect your ability to lose weight. 

How can you take care of and positively impact your microbiome? Exercising, eating more whole plant foods (fruit and vegetables), fermented foods, and prebiotics, along with taking probiotic supplements have been shown to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in our gut.

Often overlooked factors to consider

While there are many commonly known practices that are shown to positively affect your chances of successfully losing weight, the regularly combined tactics of making healthier eating choices, exercising, tracking your calories, and reducing your alcohol consumption, may not be everything you need to consider.

There are also commonly overlooked factors that can have a significant impact on the success of your weight loss efforts. 

One, or a combination of these things, may be the key to you achieving success.

So, if you find yourself stuck in a plateau or you are just starting your fat loss journey, pursuing a personalized approach, increasing your water intake, improving your sleeping habits, decreasing you stress levels, addressing your mental health and / or supporting your microbiome may what helps you successfully lower the numbers you see on your bathroom scale.

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