Do you ever feel like you are doing EVERYTHING and you still cant get those extra pounds off? You may be missing some critical elements that are a huge contributor to how our metabolism functions. Here are some of the most common reasons that contribute to weight gain or inability to lose weight:

High Stress Levels

Did you know that stress is a major contributor to weight gain? Stress results in secretion of cortisol. High levels of this hormone cause weight gain, especially in the midsection. Researchers suggest both external stress and internal physiological stress (in the form of chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract) cause elevation of cortisol.

Control external stress by relaxing as much as possible, even if it is only 10 minutes a day. Also, physical activities like working out, yoga and meditation are great for reducing stress.

A great way of dealing with internal stress is taking a probiotic. They assist with digestion and reduce inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.  See a nutritionist or talk to your doctor to learn more.

Are you being honest with yourself?

Are you REALLY following your diet program, or are you lying to yourself? Just because a specific food is considered healthy it doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts of it.  At the end of the day, you need to put in less calories that you burn. Use a food scale to measure your food, you’d be surprised how evil guesstimating can be.

In terms of timing your food, a good nutrition plan should call for meals/snacks every 2-3 hours.  This means you eat every one of these meals, portioned according to your plan and NOTHING in between.

You are not getting enough sleep

It is not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived your metabolism will not function properly. When you are tired you will find yourself eating more and craving foods that will produce immediate energy, like sugar and simple carbs. Sleep deprivation causes a drop in the hormone leptin (tells you that you are full) and a rise in the level of ghrelin (tells you that you are hungry). In other words, you will have a harder time to get full when you are tired.

Skipping Meals

Skipping meals results in a slower metabolism and therefore weight gain. You may be thinking you are “saving” calories by skipping a meal, but what you are doing is storing more fat.  Fat for the body is like reserved fuel, when you eat small frequent meals our body is happy to use most of the calories for energy, knowing that in a couple of hours more will come.  When you skip a meal, you confuse your body, and the body does not know when the next meal will come, slowing down your metabolism in order to reserve more calories in the form of fat for later usage.

You do not eat breakfast/eat breakfast too late

For the same reason described above, eating breakfast is crucial to kick start the metabolism in the morning. The 7-8 hours of sleep deprives us from food, which slows down the metabolism. Not eating breakfast will only prolong fat burning process. You must eat within 30mins of waking up to kick start your metabolism.

Did you know that sumo wrestlers’ diet (whose goal is to have as much body fat as possible) consists of eating one very large meal a day?

You don’t eat protein with EVERY meal (yes this means your snacks too!)

There are many good reasons why you have to eat protein with every meal.  First, because protein is hard to digest, so you burn calories just from digesting protein. Second, eating enough protein helps preserve lean muscle mass, the more lean muscle mass you have the more calories you burn at rest. Third, will keeps you full longer. Fourth, meals that contain protein will not raise your sugar levels, as high as meals with carbs alone. Controlling your blood sugar levels is a key to healthy weight management. Your blood sugar increases at a more manageable rate and gives your body time to burn the energy as it comes in.

You do lots of cardio and no weight training

Too much cardio can be counter productive! Doing hours and hours of cardio a week can actually make you gain weight! Why? You end up with less muscle, your metabolism slows down, and then you have to eat even less just to maintain your current weight or your body will start storing fat instead of burning it off. This is not to say cardio is bad, you just shouldnt overdo it – 25 to 30 mins a day along with weight training a few times a week will give you better results.

When you add weight training to your workouts, you build lean muscle tissue.  Adding more lean muscle tissue means you will burn more calories at rest, as opposed to cardio where you burn calories during the time of your exercise. Strength training is essential for weight loss because it will burn fat, burn calories, improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake, and make you stronger.

So pick up those weights ladies and watch the fat melt off!