Dear JJ: I've followed a low-sugar impact diet now for 10 days, yet I've only lost two pounds. What might you suspect would be the underlying problem?
Oh, I get it: When you put in a certain effort, you expect results. So if you're doing everything correctly and aren't consistently losing two to three pounds a week, you're probably encountering what I call weight loss resistance.
Over my three decades as a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert, I've helped clients troubleshoot the worst weight loss resistance cases. Here are 10 often-overlooked areas I find stymie fat loss.
1. Scales. I emphasize fat loss, not weight loss. In other words, you want to build muscle and burn fat. To determine whether you're losing weight or fat, invest in a scale that measures lean mass and fat. Those are the two numbers that matter, not the number on your bathroom scale. Let's say you lost one pound one week but have been lifting heavy. You probably gained muscle and lost fat, but that bathroom scale isn't going to show that.
2. Tracking. What you measure, you can improve. That's why I want you to write food intake and measurements down. (If you need extra incentive, one study found folks who wrote down everything they ate lost twice the weight of those who didn't.) Keep weighing to once a week: I'm a bigger fan of measuring (a simple tape measure will do), which will give you a more accurate assessment about whether you're losing fat on your hips, thighs, and everywhere else. And don't forget the jeans test. A once-tight pair of jeans that suddenly fit can give you that much-needed confident boost.
3. Sleep. Studies show even a partial night's crappy sleep can create insulin resistance, setting the stage for obesity, diabetes, and lots more. In this blog, I wrote about insulin and six other hormones that become out of whack with poor sleep. Researchers at the University of Chicago found even with a perfect diet and exercise, you're at risk for weight gain without eight hours of quality sleep each night.
4. Chronic Stress. Cranked-up-past-their-prime levels of your stress hormone cortisol break down muscle and store fat. Studies show stress-induced cortisol makes you fat and increases your risk for disease. "To get back on track with weight loss, get plenty of sleep, and find a way to manage chronic stress," writes Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D. "This could be through yoga, meditation, guided imagery or simply taking a walk around the block."
5. Toxicity. Everything from the air you breathe to the water you drink constantly bombards your body with toxins. One study found environmental toxins could trigger fat gain and even diabetes. Symptoms are often subtle and include a slightly lower-than-normal body temperature, sensitivity to smells, and sex hormone imbalances. If you suspect toxicity stalls fat loss, work with an integrative physician who can implement a detoxification program.
6. Sluggish thyroid. Thyroid fatigue can impact metabolic rate, sex hormone levels, overall mood and wellbeing, and your ability to build muscle. If you suspect thyroid fatigue, get your TSH, free T3 and T4 and thyroid antibody levels checked and look for optimal rather than normal ranges.
7. Snacking. Every time you snack, you spike insulin levels, creating a one-way street towards fat gain. One study found young females who snack at nighttime prevent fat breakdown and increase their obesity risks. Plus, let's face it -- you're probably not noshing on cauliflower and hummus. Skip snacking, have a protein shake for breakfast, and then eat meals every four to six hours that contain lean protein, healthy fats, lots of non-starchy veggies, and slow low carbs.
8. Food intolerances. Even the tiniest bit of a highly reactive food like gluten, dairy, and soy can trigger leaky gut, an immune response, and inflammation. One study found a gluten-free diet reduced fat gain, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Try an elimination diet for three weeks that completely nixes common offenders (you've gotta remove them 100 percent!) and see if the scales start moving again.
9. Sneaky sugars. You've eliminated the common culprits, but sugar hides in so-called healthy foods like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt and even almond butter. Scrutinize labels, especially ingredients and nutrition facts, to rule out those hidden sugars that sabotage fat loss. In this blog, I discuss 10 sneaky-sugar frequent offenders.
10. Inefficient exercise. Stop wasting hours on elliptical machines and aerobics classes. Studies show high-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called burst training, beats cardio and other exercise to burn fat, significantly lower insulin resistance, and improve glucose tolerance. Simply put, burst training makes you an all-day fat burner with a simple 20 - 30 minute time investment. To up the fat-loss ante, combine burst training with weight resistance.
If you've hit a fat-loss plateau, what obstacle would you add to overcome that hurdle? Share yours below, and keep those fab questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.