13 Factors That Affect Weight Loss

by Kelly Trotter

For some people, weight or fat loss is more complex than simply eating less calories and exercising more. More times than not we hear our clients say it feels like an ‘uphill battle’. In this blog post, we take a deeper look at things like hormones, the gut microbiome, inflammation, genetic predisposition and more, to provide clarity and effective solutions to promote healthy weight loss, naturally.

1. Calories: The Foundation of Weight- or is it?

Let’s start with the basics: calories. Calories are units of energy found in the food we eat, and they play a fundamental role in weight management. Consuming more calories than your body burns tends to lead to weight gain, while a calorie deficit tends to result in weight loss.[1] It’s essential to strike a balance that suits your individual needs and activity level.

2. Exercise: More Than Just Burning Calories

Yes, regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight, but also improves metabolism, supports insulin sensitivity, helps our stress response and supports muscle mass. Muscle cells have many important functions including fat burning, which is why it is vital to have enough muscle to help maintain weight. 

It can be helpful to find a regular exercise routine you enjoy so you can stick to it in the long run, even after you shift the weight. Research has found that this is key to maintaining a healthy weight. [1-2]

3. Gut Microbiome: The Hidden Player

A lack of diversity of gut bacteria (termed gut microbiome) can influence weight. Directly targeting the microbiome is now possible through dietary modifications and precision probiotics. Clinical studies have highlighted that targeting the gut microbiome is not only beneficial for fat loss, but may also influence calorie intake per day and support the glycaemic response. With such emerging research, testing the gut microbiome has become a huge part of our practice at Hormone Health Studio. [3]

One very simple way of supporting a diverse gut microbiome to support healthy weight loss is by increasing our intake of fibre. Hitting the daily requirement of around 30g of fibre has been shown to reduce weight and waist circumference. Foods such as apples, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and psyllium husk are rich in fibre. [3]

4. Inflammation: The Silent Saboteur

Chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on your body, and weight gain is one of its many consequences. Inflammation is recognised as a set of complex responses primarily caused by exposure to environmental toxins, trauma, infection, stress, sedentary lifestyle, and dietary factors–all of which disrupt hormone communication, impairs metabolism, and promotes fat storage. [4-7] 

5. Hormonal Imbalances: A Delicate Dance

Hormones are like the conductors of your body’s orchestra, and when they fall out of tune, weight issues can arise. Problems with excess androgens or oestrogen can lead to weight gain. Balancing hormones through lifestyle changes and naturopathic medicine is key in obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight.[8]

6. Thyroid Dysfunction: The Metabolic Master

Your thyroid gland governs your metabolism, and any dysfunction can lead to weight problems. Hypothyroidism (also known as an underactive thyroid) often causes weight gain, while hyperthyroidism (known as an overactive thyroid) can result in unintentional weight loss. Accurate diagnosis and treatment are crucial for thyroid issues. Naturopathic medicine can help. [8]

7. Insulin Resistance: A Metabolism Mishap

Insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar, plays a significant role in weight management. Insulin resistance, where cells don’t respond effectively to insulin, can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. It is also a leading factor in PCOS and perimenopause. Maintaining stable blood sugar through a balanced diet is key. [9]

8. Mitochondrial Issues: The Cellular Powerhouses

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells, generating energy for bodily functions. If your mitochondria aren’t functioning optimally, it can lead to fatigue and difficulty losing weight. Nutrient-rich and antioxidant-rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables, carrots, pumpkin, mushrooms, green tea, nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and berries, support mitochondrial health. [10]

9. Stress: A Weighty Issue

Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that can lead to weight gain, particularly around the belly area. Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help keep cortisol and therefore weight in check. [11]

10. Poor Sleep: The Sleep-Weight Connection

Sleep is when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself, and inadequate sleep can disrupt hormones related to appetite and metabolism. Sleep also affects inflammation. It is often overlooked but we must remember the importance of prioritising 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night to support healthy weight. [11-12]

11. Genetic Predisposition: The Hand You're Dealt

Did you know that your genes can affect weight? That’s right, some of us are genetically predisposed to store fat more easily or have a slower metabolism. In fact, there are around 250 genes now associated with weight gain and obesity. While we cannot change our genes, we can absolutely influence how well they function. This is where the dietary and lifestyle modifications detailed in this blog come into play. [13]

12. Medications: Double-Edged Swords

Certain medications can affect weight, and it’s essential to be aware of their potential side effects. Oral contraceptive pills and some antidepressants can lead to weight gain which can be incredibly frustrating.[14-15] Discuss with your healthcare provider to explore alternative options if needed.

13. Nutrient Deficiencies: The Missing Puzzle Piece

Nutrient deficiencies, whether due to poor dietary choices, malabsorption issues or certain health conditions, can have a significant impact on weight management. When your body lacks essential vitamins and minerals, it can disrupt various bodily processes, including metabolism and appetite regulation.

For example, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to weight gain, as this vitamin plays a role in fat metabolism and the regulation of appetite hormones. Similarly, inadequate intake of key nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and iron can lead to fatigue and cravings for unhealthy, calorie-dense foods, making it challenging to maintain a healthy weight. [16-17]

If you suspect a nutrient deficiency may be contributing to your weight concerns, it’s crucial to consult with our team to assess your nutritional status through dietary analysis, blood testing and supplementation review. 

Weight management in women is a complex puzzle with many interconnected pieces. As a team of naturopaths at Hormone Health Studio, we emphasise the importance of treating the whole person, not just the symptom.  By digging deeper and addressing the 13 factors mentioned in this blog, we can create a comprehensive plan and provide effective solutions to promote healthy weight loss – specific to your individual needs.  

Ultimately the journey to a healthier weight is about embracing a lifestyle that promotes overall well-being, nourishing your body with wholesome foods, staying active, managing stress and seeking further help when needed. It’s not about numbers on a scale but rather how vibrant and healthy you feel. 

[1] Brandfon., S. et al.  Advances in Anti-obesity Pharmacotherapy: Current Treatments, Emerging Therapies, and Challenges.Cureus, 2023. PMID: 37937009

[2] Flack., K.D. et al. Altered motivation states for physical activity and ‘appetite’ for movement as compensatory mechanisms limiting the efficacy of exercise training for weight loss. Front Psychol, 2023. PMID: 37187558

[3] Singh., R. K. et al. Influence of diet on the gut microbiome and implications for human health. J Transl Med, 2017. DOI: 10.1186/s12967-017-1175-y

[4] Cani., P.D. et al.  Human gut microbiome: hopes, threats and promises. Gut, 2018. DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2018-316723

[5] Stone, W., et al. Pathology, Inflammation. StatPearls, 2022. PMID: 30521241.

[6] Ravi, M., et al. The Immunology of Stress and the Impact of Inflammation on the Brain and Behavior. BJPsych Advances, 2021. PMID: 34055387.

[7] Graff, E., et al. Dietary Intake and Systemic Inflammation: Can We Use Food as Medicine? Current Nutrition Reports, 2023. PMID: 36662358.

[8] Aggarwal., M. et al. Prevalence of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Its Link to Obesity in Adolescent Girls, 2023. PMID: 37854752 

[9] Melin., J.M. Effects of different insulin sensitisers in the management of polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf), 2023.PMID: 37933831

[10] Gvozdjakova., A. et al. Importance of mitochondria in obesity-induced oxidative stress in humans. Eur J Clin Invest, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/eci.12974

[11] Wilson., J. et al. The role of Neurochemicals, Stress Hormones and Immune System in the Positive Feedback Loops between Diabetes, Obesity and Depression, 2023. PMID: 37664841 

[12] Papatriantafyllou., E. et al.  Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients, 2022. PMID: 35458110

[13] Bouchard, C., et al. Genetics of Obesity: What We Have Learned Over Decades of Research. Obesity, 2021. PMID: 33899337. 

[14] Williams, W., et al. Hormonally Active Contraceptives Part I: Risks Acknowledged and Unacknowledged. The Linacre Quarterly, 2021. PMID: 33897046.

[15] Alonso-Pedrero, L., et al. Effects of antidepressant and antipsychotic use on weight gain: A systematic review. Obesity Reviews, 2019. PMID: 31524318.

[16] Ekbom., K. et al. Follow-up study found that vitamin D deficiency and weight gain increased the risk of impaired fasting glycaemia. Acta Paediatr, 2020. PMID: 31483890.

[17] Sajjadi, S.F., et al. The association between deficiency of nutrient intake and resting metabolic rate in overweight and obese women: a cross-sectional study. BMC Research Notes, 2021. PMID: 33980283.

by Kelly Trotter

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