10 Reasons You Cannot Lose Weight


We urge you to make an appointment with one of our friendly Naturopaths. We will prescribe an individualised weight loss program based on blood tests of your metabolic indicators.

1. Insulin

Almost 40 percent of people on a standard Western diet develop insulin resistance (1). What you thought were ordinary "ordinary" amounts of flour, sugar and alcohol  cause a large amount of insulin to be released, and over time, your body's cells will stop responding properly to that insulin. Then carbohydrates will not be used for energy, but instead will be stored as fat. Some scientists think that pollution and environmental toxins are also contributing to insulin resistance. Please see Lara's Insulin Resistance article .

Untreated, insulin resistance leads to adult onset diabetes. It also causes high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, fatty liver, Alzheimer's Disease, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, breast cancer, under-active thyroid, and premature ageing.

Diagnosis:Bread cravings, apple shaped obesity, high fasting cholesterol, glucose and insulin on blood test.

Solution: Reduce refined carbohydrates in the diet, such as flour and sugar.  Eat vegetables and whole grains, as well as protein and healthy fat.  Avoid wheat, in particular, because it acts as an insulin mimic. Avoid Trans fat, and detoxify to remove residues of environmental toxins.

2. Leptin

Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat that is supposed to stop hunger. Under normal conditions, it tells the brain that you are not hungry, and it tells the body to burn fat.  When leptin resistance develops, the result is a gnawing, constant hunger that cannot be satisfied.

Diagnosis: Constant hunger. Elevated fasting leptin on blood test.

Solution: Get enough sleep, as sleep increases the body's sensitivity to leptin.

Leptin tests are available from Sensible-Alternative Hormone clinic.

3. Set point

The body thinks that it should stay at the weight it is. This is according to the "set-point" theory of weight loss, which says that the body has a control system that determines how much fat should be stored. Kind of like a thermostat for fat. Ageing, stress, pollution, lack of exercise, and over-eating all may have the unfortunate effect of increasing your set point.

Solution: "Once you raise your set point, it's difficult to lower it because the body has complex systems designed to defend that higher weight," says George Blackburn, associate director of the division of nutrition at Harvard Medical School. In his book Break Through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off , he outlines his 10% rule for sustainable weight loss. "Lower your body weight by 10%, and then stop losing for a while. Fight instead to keep off just that amount. Stay at that level for at least six months to give your body a chance to adjust to its new, lower set point."

4. Stress/Depression

Emotional eating may account for up to 75% of overeating (2)Emotional eating is the use of food to control emotions. This leads to increased consumption.  Stress hormone (cortisol) also contributes directly to weight gain by destabilizing blood sugar.

Diagnosis: Pattern of eating when sad, worried, anxious, or even overly happy.  Saliva hormone test for cortisol. Abdominal weight gain; "cortisol hump" at the back of the neck.

Solution: Because it is healthy to enjoy food, there is not an easy solution to emotional overeating.  Restricting food or feeling guilty about eating will only worsen the condition.  The best approach is a relaxed, forgiving attitude about food.  Remember that food is nourishing.

Open yourself up to emotions and intimacy, and do not be afraid to make changes in your life and relationships.   Adopt stress management techniques such as meditation.

5. Birth Control Pill/ HRT

Estrogen, especially the artificial oestrogens used in conventional hormone formulas, causes weight gain.  Progestins in the Pill may also cause weight gain in some women.

Read Lara's article about the Pill.

Diagnosis: Pear shaped obesity, with fluid retention, breast tenderness, anxiety, and other symptoms of estrogen dominance.

Solution: Come off the OCP and HRT.  There are many alternative methods of birth control, and many ways to control menopausal symptoms.  Use natural progesterone, which is an effective weight loss agent,

6. Food Sensitivities

Inflammation from food sensitivities puts and stress on the liver and suppresses metabolism, both contributing to weight gain. Food sensitivities cause cravings, often for the very food that is causing the problem. Good examples are wheat gluten and cow's milk.

Diagnosis: Signs of food sensitivity: headaches, chronic sinus, fluid retention, poor skin, and more.  Our Naturopaths offer affordable food sensitivity testing.

Solution: Avoid food sensitivities. (especially wheat and dairy!)

7. Thyroid problems

Low thyroid function is often a missed diagnosis.  This is because the reference range for TSH has recently changed to 0.2-2.5 mlU/L (4), which means that many people who have been told that their thyroid is fine, can now be classified as officially hypothyroid.

Read Lara's article about  Thyroid disease.

Diagnosis: Fluid retention, sensitivity to heat and cold, constipation, hair loss, low basal body temperature, abnormal thyroid panel on blood test.

Solution: Nutritionally support thyroid with iodine and selenium. Supplement T4 and T3, and correct autoimmunity.

8. Trans Fat

Margarine and processed vegetable oils contain dangerous TRANS fat, and are now deemed to be "the worst public health disaster in history". (5) TRANS fat causes insulin resistance, suppresses metabolism, contributes to cancer, diabetes and heart disease, and are widely used in processed food

Diagnosis: Consumption of margarine, commercially baked goods, deep-fried foods.

Solution: Replace trans fat with naturally occurring saturated and mono-unsaturated oil, including butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.

9. Processed Food

Refined carbohydrates are empty calories and deplete the body of nutrients that it has obtained from other food.  Such anti-food slows metabolism dramatically.

Diagnosis: Consumption of packaged, processed food.

Solution: Support metabolism by consuming foods high in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, good bacteria, fibre, pigments and accessory nutrients (high Prana foods).  Raw or lightly steamed vegetables contain the highest Prana.

10. Plastics, Pesticides

These, and other endocrine disruptors contribute to estrogen dominance, under-active thyroid, and other forms of hormone imbalance. The herbicide Atrazine, which is commonly used in Australia, has been shown to be a contributing cause to Insulin Resistance.

Diagnosis: Chronic unexplained anxiety or insomnia, chemical sensitivity, period pain or endometriosis.

Solution: Avoid fly sprays and microwaving in plastic containers. Detoxify.

11. Inactivity

Previous generations walked an average of 15,000 steps per day.   The average office worker now walks only 3000 steps (6). Exercise does not just burn calories. It fundamentally changes metabolism.

Solution: Join an exercise class, walk to work.  Pedometers, available in electronics stores, are a good way to try to get your 10,000 steps per day.

Author: Lara Briden BSc, ND. Sensible-Alternative Naturopathic Clinic.



(1)  American Association of Endocrinologists (AACE)

(2)  Jakubczak, RD, LD, student health center dietitian, University of Maryland, College Park

(4)  AACE Medical Guidelines for Clinical Practice for the Evaluation and Treatment of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism, Endocrine Practice, Vol. 8, No. 6, Nov/Dec 2002.

(5) Sept 25, 2003. The Globe and Mail.

(6) www.medicineau.net.au

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