When my patients ask me about losing weight, they already know that the basics are to eat better and exercise more. Unfortunately for most, this ends up becoming a short term project and the weight either doesn’t come off or comes back on. There are some common problems that I have seen which prevent people from losing weight.

1. Mind and Emotions

It’s easy to see physical damage, like from a car accident or other obvious trauma, however, deeper traumas can happen and get stuck in your mind and your heart and affect your body. These subtle yet deep hurts are harder to see and understand and can prevent you from achieving your weight loss goal. In my practice as a naturopathic doctor, I have found that exploring and processing and resolving these deep hurts can really kick-start long-lasting weight loss benefits. It may take working with a naturopath, a psychologist or therapist/counselor to look for and work on these issues who offer mind-body based therapies. Questions to ponder include, ‘what is eating you?’, ‘what load are you carrying?’ and ‘what are your stumbling blocks?’

2. Sleep & Unbalanced Stress

Lack of sleep and excess stress puts you in a biochemical state that promotes weight gain. The inflammatory hormone, C-reactive protein (CRP) increases with excess stress and inadequate sleep and is associated with larger waistlines, or abdominal fat. CRP is one of the underlying challenges to successful weight loss programs that even undermines recovery from many other illnesses. Ensure you get quality sleep, between 7-9 hours each night. Ensure you balance your stressors with time to deeply relax; start with 10 minutes each day with calm, easy breathing while sitting with your eyes closed and slowly increase the time…meditation and guided imagery classes and app’s can also really help. To give you perspective, many cultures take 2-3 hour lunches, or have rest and naps built into the day, or go for long strolls in the neighborhood, parks or along the shoreline; start with just 10 minutes each day to dedicate to deep relaxation.

3. Nutritional Deficiencies and Inflammation

‘Diet food’ is often fake food in the sense that they are not always giving you the nutrients your body needs to properly process excess fat, toxins and inflammation. Often, the focus is on low calorie low fat foods, though it should really be on highly nutrient dense foods with a reasonable carbohydrate content. As it stands, many North Americans overeat, but often are found to have nutritional deficiencies – it’s a situation that can lead to persistent cravings since your body is never satisfied since it never gets what it really needs. The January 2013 edition of the journal Obesity found that a Mediterranean style of eating led to a significant reduction in various indicators of inflammation and promoted weight loss. Resolve to eat nutrient dense foods such as dark greens, colorful vegetables, fermented foods, less meats and much less processed (‘fake’) food.

4. Hormonal and Digestive Imbalance

Many people struggling to lose weight wonder if their thyroid is working properly. However, many other glands and organs are important to your metabolism including the digestive organs (intestines, stomach and pancreas), the liver and adrenal glands. I have found that many people have weak glands and organs and by strengthening their function, their metabolism improves. Using herbal tonics, homeopathy and specific acupuncture treatment can make a huge difference.

5. Toxicity

We are inundated by tens of thousands of chemicals and it is time to truly acknowledge their impact on your health, weight, metabolism, energy, etc. For example, mercury can disrupt the functioning of your thyroid gland and interfere with the mineral selenium, which allows for proper thyroid hormone activation. Clean up your home and work and recreation environments by using less toxic eco-friendly materials and consuming foods with less chemicals such as organic foods. A detox routine can also help, but addressing the above points first makes the most sense.

6. Unrealistic Expectations

You cannot lose it all in a few short weeks or months. Instead, consider a well thought-out plan that factors in the reality that is your life: kids, work, education, home responsibilities, etc. From this you can find the slots of time to educate yourself to make the necessary changes (such as those above) and make the time to exercise regularly. With commitment, support, preparation and willingness to make important changes, you can achieve a realistic weight loss goal (about 0.5 to 1 pound each week).

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