5 non-diet factors that can affect your weight

Could any of these factors be affecting YOUR weightloss success?
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Everyone’s weightloss journey is different, and there are many factors above and beyond what you’re eating that can impact the rate you lose weight.

Starting with…

Stress and relationships

Stress is the body’s natural reaction to events or situations that may confuse, frighten, anger, excite, please or even surprise us. Stressful situations cause the body to produce chemicals that can raise your heart rate and blood pressure and increase your mental focus (often called the ‘fight or flight” response).

Stress can be caused by a number of different factors including our jobs, families, social lives, sport or an unexpected crisis. Long-term stress can cause a gradual build-up of tension and predispose us to developing stress related conditions and weight gain.

People are often quite surprised when they realise that there is such a strong connection between our eating habits and our mental well-being. Food is often used at times when we experience negative feelings and perceive that we deserve a reward to boost our mood (think wine or chocolate after a stressful day).

However, a long-term pattern of over-eating in order to continually avoid unpleasant feelings can lead to weight gain or the inability to lose weight successfully.

Sleep and fatigue

Sleep is absolutely necessary for survival. Even occasional sleeping problems can make daily life feel more stressful or cause you to be less productive.

A lack of sleep can impact your mood, concentration, memory, general quality of life and your weight.

A study by Columbia University, found that people who slept four hours or less per night were 73 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese. Inadequate sleep has been found to change leptin levels, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and ghrelin, a stomach derived peptide that stimulates appetite, both change in response to sleep deprivation.

When you do not get enough sleep, changes in these appetite regulating hormones and an increase in food consumption could lead to weight gain and obesity.

As a result, it is paramount that we develop good sleep habits (often referred to as good sleep hygiene) in order to reduce our risk for more serious health complications. The Sleep Health Foundation recommends adults aim for between seven to nine hours of sleep each night. However, a study of 1,200 people showed that the average Australian adult is achieving less than seven hours sleep a night.

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Hypothyroidism and medical conditions

Hypothyroidism is a term used to describe a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain hormones. This upsets the normal balance of chemical reactions in the body. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).

These hormones greatly influence your metabolism and health. Together they maintain the rate at which your body utilises fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate and help regulate your production of proteins. Hypothyroidism is quite easy to diagnose with a blood test.

While hypothyroidism is associated with obesity, obesity is most commonly caused by inactivity and poor diet. Portion sizes, finding time to prepare healthy meals and exercise routines are also contributors.

History and inconsistency

Too often people give up too quickly on their weight management efforts and wonder why they haven’t achieved results. It is important to remind ourselves that anything worth it takes time and commitment. When it comes to weight loss, there is no need for drastic measures. Avoid the yoyo dieting cycle and adopt consistent, healthy behaviours that fit into your lifestyle.

Diets that severely restrict energy intake may offer fast but false results. They trigger the “starvation response” in which the body slows down its metabolic rate to conserve energy. Eventually when you resume normal eating habits, the body then gains fat even faster because it requires less energy just to maintain normal body functions.

The weight you lose as a result of crash dieting is made up of the vital components of your body, such as lean muscles tissue.

The most sensible approach to losing excess weight is to make small, health based changes to your eating and exercise habits. When making these changes, what you need to ask yourself is, can you sustain these changes both whilst you are losing weight, and whilst you are maintaining your weight loss for the long term?

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While a healthy diet is a large part of maintaining a healthy weight, so too is remaining active. Exercise, by definition, is planned physical activity for the purpose of increasing or maintaining health and/or fitness.

This can entail any situation where you are making a conscious effort to increase your activity. For example, riding to work for your commute; walking to the local shops instead of driving; always taking the stairs when given the option.

Trying to get away from an “all or nothing” approach increases your chances of doing something regularly whether it’s a long run or a walk around the building during your lunch break, every little bit helps maintain your fitness and build healthy habits. Get out your activity tracker and aim to get 10,000+ steps a day.

Exercising effectively is about quality over quantity. Learning what’s best for your body puts you in a better position for quicker results and a sustainable approach to exercise.

Next steps

If you think any of the above could be affecting your ability to lose weight, chat to your doctor or seek the help of accredited practising dietitian for advice.

This story first appeared on Balance By Deborah Hutton.

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