It seems like a universal experience for women on a weightloss journey. You’ve been good, done everything right and have seen great success so far sloughing off the extra pounds. Then you hit a brick wall and the scale just won’t budge. Those last 10 or so pounds are the only thing between you and your goal weight and it feels like they’re here to stay. You keep eating right, moving your body, taking care of yourself, but to no avail. You’re stumped.
But it might not be your actions that are holding you back and keeping those last 10 pounds around, and it’s certainly not for lack of effort. Your body might be clinging to that weight without you even realizing why. This is an instance in which knowing your body and health separate from the scale can help you meet your weight loss goals and achieve the healthier life you’ve been looking for.
What’s Holding You Back?
A number of things can be keeping those last few pounds clinging on to you. Once you’ve tamed your eating habits and developed a healthy exercise routine, you can start looking elsewhere for reasons your body might be holding extra weight. Hormones can play a huge factor in weight and overall health. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine system disorder prevalent among women of reproductive age, can result in excess male hormones, also known as androgens. Along with the androgen spike, women can experience irregular periods, severe acne and enlarged, cystic ovaries. About 50 percent of women diagnosed with PCOS are considered obese, according to a study in Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinics of North America. Levels of testosterone, an androgen, spiked by PCOS could be to blame for that weight gain.
Thyroid issues – in particular hypothyroidism – have also been closely linked to weight gain and difficulty with weight loss. Whether it’s imbalances in thyroid hormones that cause weight gain or the other way around is still a topic for medical debate, but the relationship between the two is strong. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism made two clear points about thyroid issues and weight. The study claims that “obese patients are more prone to develop autoimmune hypothyroidism, and even mild thyroid failure contributes to the progressive increase in body weight.” And obese patients often present an elevated level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is a consequence of weight gain, not the cause.
And, just like you’ve always been warned, your overall metabolism really does slow down as you age. One study, published in the Journal of Chronic Diseases, postulates that this slowdown is due to a reduction in body tissues and cells that have a high demand for oxygen: especially muscle. The muscle loss that typically comes with aging is a contributor to the overall metabolic slowdown.
What Can You Do About It?
The easiest way to combat muscle loss is, of course, building muscle. By incorporating strength-building exercises into your workout routine, you can keep up that lean muscle tissue and avoid the metabolic decline that comes with age. A study by the American Journal of Physiology determined that metabolism rates do decline as we age, but that aerobic exercise, like hiking, swimming and cycling, can enhance muscle protein metabolism.
Eating a diet rich in protein can help build muscle, and also keep your thyroid in check. Diets too low in protein have been shown to inhibit thyroid function in rats. And a diet supplemented with protein is associated in a reduction in body mass in patients with PCOS. On the flipside, a diet high in sugar had the opposite effect.
What’s The Bottom Line?
The bottom line is that a healthy goal weight is achievable. By understanding the factors that could be impeding you in losing those last few pounds, you can create a plan of action and conquer your weight loss plateau and reach your goals.
Do you feel like you’re stuck with those last stubborn 10 pounds? To learn more about what might be holding you back, plus many other topics concerning women’s health, consider registering for for the Women’s Health Conversations 2016 Conference to be held in Pittsburgh, Pa. on Nov. 4 and 5. Experts in the field will be there to discuss issues facing women when it comes to health and happiness. Join the conversation and register today to be empowered, educated and entertained!