You’ve followed a fitness schedule, cleaned up your diet, maintained your metabolism with healthy snacks, and the weight has fallen off. Except for those last few pounds. You’ve tried everything, but they just won’t budge! Before you throw in the towel, make sure you’re taking a holistic look at your health. This includes sleep, stress, and gut health.
Sleep is essential for a strong, healthy body, and losing out on sleep could also mean you don’t lose those last few pounds. When our bodies are sleep-deprived, our metabolisms don’t function as well as they normally should, which makes it harder for your body to process the calories you’re taking in each day. Sleep deprivation and the associated drop in energy also makes us more likely to reach for sugar and carb-heavy snacks that put a chink in our diets and can cause our weight loss to plateau.
Stress can also impair weight loss by increasing the level of the hormone cortisol in our systems. This occurs because when we’re stressed, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, and release adrenaline, which taps into our stored energy. This causes an increase in cortisol, which is the hormone that tells our bodies to replace the energy we’ve supposedly used. Cortisol can cause serious hunger, which throws off the bodies’ normal hunger cues that keep us on regular eating schedules. If you’re constantly stressed, your body is constantly producing cortisol that makes you crazy-hungry and reaching for snacks that are often sub-par and low in nutritional value. Sugar, fat, and carb-heavy snacks stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that make us feel calm and relaxed, so if you’re super stressed, your body will constantly want something to make it feel better, like a donut, potato chips, or a huge slice of pepperoni pizza, and the more you have those cravings, the harder it is to say no to them. If you’re consistently consuming more calories than your body needs due to stress, your weight loss is likely to stall, or even go the other way, leading you to gain weight rather than lose it.
Last but certainly not least, gut health is imperative for continued weight loss. If you’re not regularly consuming a diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods, your gut could be dealing with inflammation, and inflammation is a sneaky cause of weight gain or weight loss plateauing. To ensure you’re keeping your digestive system healthy, incorporate plenty of full-fat yogurt, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, and fibrous vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cauliflower and raspberries.
If you’re doing all of this and those last five or ten pounds still aren’t coming off, don’t worry. That final target might be an unattainable or unhealthy goal for your body composition. Focus more on feeling healthy and good in your body; after all, that was why you started your weight loss journey in the first place, wasn’t it?