Our journey with weight loss is well documented on this blog and as we’re on the countdown to our holidays (9 WEEKS!) you’d better believe that we’re amongst the millions of people trying to shift the pounds before the summer really gets going. We have all been there…
You head to the scales, your mind jumping with trepidation. You think the number is going to be okay… probably? As you shed your outer layers of clothes (got to get an exact weight!), you suddenly remember that KitKat that you grabbed from the petrol station. And the morning you ignored the idea of a fulfilling breakfast and just heaped a few teaspoons of sugar into your coffee.
But the rest of the time, you tell yourself, you were on point. The food you have eaten has been healthy for the most part, you’ve even got some exercise in, and a couple of slips is inevitable but it can’t make that much of a difference over the course of a week…
You glance down at the numbers for your weight and realise: oh yes it can.
Or can it?
There are aspects of life that can impact your weight loss – and they have nothing to do with food or exercise. This might sound like it’s enabling, posturing to suggest it couldn’t possibly be an issue with your food choices that is responsible for a lack of weight loss or a plateau – but that’s not the case. There genuinely are influential factors that seem to exist as separate issues, but which can have a serious impediment on your ability to shed those stubborn pounds.
It seems that stress is the cause of every health problem. It always seems to be there, nestled in the ‘potential causes’, no matter how strange or esoteric the illness in question might seem. However, there’s a reason for that: stress… tends to cause a lot of health problems!
Stress impacts your weight loss due to a hormone called cortisol, which is known as the ‘stress hormone’. As a name like that implies, your body is flooded with cortisol when you’re stressed – and that’s not good for your weight loss plans. Cortisol encourages your body to retain as many calories as possible and can slow your metabolism right down.
Of course, no one chooses to be stressed – it’s more something that happens to us without our control. The usual methods of destressing apply for coping: taking time for yourself, going on relaxing walks, maybe even a massage or two if you can find the time. Anything to lower that cortisol is going to make a difference when it comes to your ability to lose weight.
Lack of Sleep
We all know that you’re meant to get around eight hours sleep per night. That’s a nice, round, occasionally disputed number – but the key is that you’re meant to sleep regularly for a decent amount of time. Anywhere between four and eight hours per night is deemed to be sufficient.
Why does not hitting those numbers impact your weight loss? It’s cortisol again – lack of sleep flushes your body with the one hormone you really don’t want to have in abundance when you’re trying to lose weight.
When trying to fix this problem, examine the reasons you’re not sleeping. Aside from the occasional child-related interruption, the most common causes of sleeplessness are:
- Going to bed before you have chance to relax. Try and give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time, away from any kind of screen, before you try to sleep.
- Having too much light in your bedroom. If you have a street lamp near your bedroom window or your blinds aren’t doing their job, then this can make it difficult for you to drift off. Experiment with ready made curtains and even sleeping masks until you find something that works for you.
Certain health conditions. If you have a chronic problem with sleeplessness, it’s always worth running through the issue with a doctor just to rule out any medical causes. Insomnia itself is a health condition, so don’t be shy about asking for help.
The Time of Year
Even before the indulgence of Christmas, it’s generally more difficult to lose weight in autumn and winter than it is in the warmer months of the year. There’s a few reasons suggested for this, from the fact it’s colder thus we’re more likely to be sedentary right through to it being some kind of quasi “hibernation” – but whatever the cause, it can damage your weight loss goals.
I know that’s not what you wanted to hear but… y’know.
Being a Night Owl
Do you like to stay up late? That’s not necessarily the same thing as not sleeping enough – you still get the rest you need, but you go to bed much later than others?
The more we stray from the ‘conventional’ way of living, the more we tend to pay for it with the chances of weight gain. When you’re actively trying to cut the pounds, every extra hour you spend binge-watching your favourite show late at night could be interrupting your metabolism. A study by Northwestern University in the USA concluded that ‘night owls’ are more likely to gain weight and will find it harder to lose.
If you’re a true night owl, then this is a particularly tough nut to crack – no one chooses their sleeping habits. As an experiment, try going to bed an hour earlier than you normally would for a week. That should give you some idea if it’s feasible for you to do, and also to judge if it makes a difference to how you feel – and what the scales are telling you.
Too Much Cardio
Hang on – isn’t cardio meant to be the good guy? It burns fat, right? So… the more cardio, the better you’ll be?
Not necessarily. It’s been suggested that after around 20 minutes of cardio activity (running, jogging etc.), your body switches to burning muscle rather than burning fat. This might be why it’s been shown to be as beneficial to work out in short bursts as it is to go for long, endurance sessions.
Keep your cardio under 20 minutes on alternate days. This should give your muscles time to recover, while still letting you feel the many benefits from this type of exercise. That said, if you’re insane enough to want to do the London Marathon, you go for it!