The Complicated Nature of Weight Loss

Are you struggling with weight gain or fluctuations?  Burning hours in the gym and eating well but still not seeing results?

We are often told that to lose weight, it is simply a matter of calories in versus calories out.  Eat less and move more, and the weight will fall off.  Why then, are many people doing hours of exercise each day and living in a calorie deficit and still not losing weight?

Of course, eating a healthy diet of nutrient dense foods, avoiding sugar, processed and refined foods combined with regular exercise is definitely the first step and will usually be enough.  Bear in mind too that it does take hours to burn off fat!  But if you have been doing all these things for months and are still having trouble shifting the weight, then it is time to investigate further.

Weight loss is just not always that simple.  It can be hard to shift those last few kilos for a number of reasons – your thyroid might be under-functioning, you might be really stressed, your gut bacteria might be imbalanced, you might have oestrogen dominance, your liver could be under pressure or it could be another metabolic problem such as insulin resistance.

Without getting too specific on how this all works, it basically comes back to how well metabolic processes in the body are functioning.  These can be suboptimal for many reasons.  If your thyroid is underactive (such as in hypothyroidism), it basically slows your metabolism down.  If your nervous system is in overdrive because you are under a lot of pressure or feeling stressed and/or anxious, the body will choose to burn glucose (sugar) over fat.   This is because glucose is a quick burning fuel, and when your nervous system is in this state your body interprets this as danger and believes you need quick energy to run or fight (the ‘flight or fight’ response).   You are then left craving sugar to give you that quick energy.

Your liver is responsible for detoxifying every substance that comes into your body – everything you breath, eat, drink and all other substances.  One of the ways that liver function can impact weight loss is that when the toxic load is too high (for example, from too much alcohol or chemical exposure), the liver can’t keep up with all the toxins coming through. The body quickly stores these toxins in fat cells to prevent them from harming you.  The trouble is, when you want to lose that fat, the body does not want to release these fat cells.  The liver is also involved in fat metabolism so when it can't do it's job properly, this is impaired.

Gut bacteria is an interesting one – studies have been done where faecal transplants were taken from obese rats and given to rats which were a healthy weight, and these rats became obese (Turnbaugh et. al., 2006).  The same studies have been done in relation to depression (Kelly et. al., 2016).  The bugs in your gut play a huge role in how you think and feel, but this is a whole different topic.

The good news is that you can address these problems.  I am sharing this because I don’t want you to feel like you are doing something wrong if you can’t reach your goal weight.  Sometimes you need to look a little deeper and try something different – and this is not always well understood.  

A nutritionist can help you to look at other factors and try and work out what the underlying problem is.  Feel free to get in touch if this is resonating with you!


  • Kelly, J. R., Borre, Y., C., O. B., Patterson, E., El Aidy, S., Deane, J.,…Dinan, T.G. (2016).  Transferring the blues: Depression-associated gut microbiota induces neurobehavioural changes in the rat.  J. Psychiatr Res, 82, 109-118. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2016.07.019
  • Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R. & Gordon, J. I. (2006).  An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest.  Nature, 21;444(7122), 1027-31. doi: 10.1038/nature05414