How to Overcome Common Weight-Loss Hurdles

Your body may be fighting against you in the battle of bulge. But you can beat it with these tried and true solutions. 

By Nichole Owens

Your back hurts, your knees ache and you just don’t move around as easily as you used to. If you could just lose a few pounds (and keep them off!), you’d feel so much better. But no matter how many sweets you cut out and how many miles you walk, those stubborn pounds just aren’t going anywhere. It might seem as though your body has its own mind, and in a way, it does. Here are some reasons your body might be working against your weight-loss efforts, and what you can do to win the battle. 

Changes in Your Body

As we age, we lose muscle mass and gain fat mass. “Muscles use more energy or calories than fat mass [does],” says registered dietitian Lauren Fialkoff, a clinical bariatric dietitian at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. “The more fat and less muscle mass someone has on their body may mean that they are burning fewer calories at rest,” she says. 

Solution: Increase strength training. Include free weights, resistance bands and exercises that use your own body weight. If weights aren’t your thing, try yoga or Pilates. 

Decreased Physical Activity

It’s hard to be physically active when your joints are stiff and painful and fatigue kicks in, but when physical activity slows, so does metabolism. 

Solution: Get moving. Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week, including three days of cardiovascular exercises, like walking, biking or swimming, and two days of resistance training, such as lifting light weights, says Leah Groppo, a registered dietitian at Stanford Healthcare in San Mateo, California. 

Poor Sleep

Arthritis symptoms and some medications used to treat it can disrupt sleep. Not only does insomnia tend to trigger the munchies – especially for unhealthy snack foods – but studies have shown that the hormone leptin, which stimulates the brain to stop eating, is lower in people who sleep fewer hours each night. This drop in leptin signals a boost in hunger and appetite, and the body burns fewer calories. The result? You’re likely to gain more weight even if you don’t eat any more food, Fialkoff says. Sleep deprivation can also negatively affect insulin resistance and blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance increases the risk for weight gain, diabetes and heart disease.

Solution: Make getting a good night’s sleep – six to eight hours, ideally – a top priority. Increase your physical activity, which research has proven will likely improve your sleep quality. If you must have a late-night snack, Groppo recommends making healthier choices, such as hummus and carrots or a small bag of popcorn. 

Hormonal Changes

In women who’ve hit menopause, estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen helps regulate our metabolism. Once estrogen levels drop, women tend to gain weight, especially in their abdominal region, hips and thighs. Women aren’t the only ones affected by changing hormone levels. “Both men and women typically lose lean body mass as they age,” Groppo says. The natural decline in testosterone production can also lead to weight gain for men. 

Solution: While there is no nutritional solution to regulating estrogen or testosterone, regular physical activity, consisting of both cardio and resistance training, and eating a healthy diet can go a long way in helping you lose and maintain weight. “There are many aspects of aging that are out of one’s control,” says Fialkoff. “The most important thing to remember is focus on the aspects that you are in control of, such as diet quality, physical activity, and exercise, stress management, and sleep hygiene.” Groppo agrees. “As unsexy as it sounds, slow and steady wins the race. Losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is really something most people can sustain.”