Five reasons you may be struggling to lose weight...

1) Your body is missing certain nutrients

Being low in vitamin D, magnesium, or iron can compromise your immune system, sap your energy levels, or alter your metabolism in ways that make it harder to take healthy-lifestyle steps. You may compensate for low energy with caffeine, sweets, and refined carbohydrates, or find that you feel too run down or weak to exercise.

Fix it: While you can try to boost your iron levels by eating red meat and spinach and increase magnesium by adding Brazil nuts or almonds to your diet, it's nearly impossible to consume enough milk or get enough sunlight to compensate for low vitamin D. It's important to know that it could take a while to find your right dose of vitamin D, if you take too much, you can get kidney stones. You need to have your blood tested every three months, so your doctor can make adjustments to the dose for you. Adding an iron supplement is a little less tricky—but it's still wise to let your doctor rule out hypothyroidism or other conditions that might cause insulin resistance, and thus weight gain, before you start taking supplements.

2) You’re not getting enough sleep

Losing sleep tends to make people eat more and gain weight. Now a new study suggests that one reason may be the impact that sleep deprivation has on the brain. The research showed that depriving people of sleep for one night created pronounced changes in the way their brains responded to high-calorie junk foods. Fattening foods like potato chips and sweets stimulated stronger responses in a part of the brain that helps govern the motivation to eat. But at the same time, the subjects experienced a sharp reduction in activity in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain where consequences are weighed and rational decisions are made. A sleepy brain appears to not only respond more strongly to junk food, but also has less ability to rein that impulse in.

Other studies have found lack of sleep increases the stress hormone cortisol, and show that markers of inflammation rise. Hormones that stimulate appetite increase, while hormones that blunt it drop. People become less sensitive to insulin, raising their risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Fix it: Get 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. Try to avoid blue-screens such as smart phones, computers or tablets for at least an hour and preferably 2 hours before bed. These affect our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Try to get some sunlight during the day to increase levels of the essential sleep hormone melatonin. Keep your bedroom dark and cool. If you have a restless sleep try taking Magnesium supplements before bed.

3) Your gut flora is out of balance

Research has shown that lean people tend to have higher amounts of various healthy bacteria compared to obese people. These studies show that high levels of healthy bacteria’s appear to help prevent obesity and excess weight gain and reduce low-level inflammation which has been associated with obesity. Other studies found that obese individuals had about 20 percent more of a family of bacteria known as firmicutes, and almost 90 percent less of the healthy bacteria than lean people. Firmicutes help your body to extract calories from complex sugars and deposit those calories in fat.

Fix it: Increase your intake of fermented foods such as Lassi, Kefir and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut or kimchi. One of the reasons why fermented foods are so beneficial is because they contain lactic acid bacteria, which of course has health benefits over and beyond any weight-loss benefits, as well as a wide variety of other beneficial bacteria. Ideally, you want to eat a variety of fermented foods to maximize the variety of bacteria. Take a good probiotic periodically, especially if you are exposed to antibiotics, processed foods, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap, pollutants or chemicals.

4) Your gut is slow

Digestive issues, including slow bowel movements, may also account for excess pounds. Ideally, you eat, and then, an hour or so later, you have a bowel movement, but once or twice a day is still in the healthy range. If you're not so regular, dehydration, low thyroid activity medications, low fiber, or even a lack of good flora in your gut could be to blame.

Fix it: If constipation is your only symptom, then trying probiotics can help your digestive tract work properly. Staying hydrated is key, along with a diet chock-full of fibre-rich foods. But you can also try drinking a fibre powder, like Metamucil, mixed with water. It may even sweep out fat from your food as it scrubs out waste from your gut. If you're still having trouble, check with your doctor to rule disorders such as hypothyroidism.

5) You're getting older

It's the one condition that's unavoidable. We don't burn as many calories at 40 or 50 as we used to burn at 20. So we need more exercise—and less food—to keep metabolism going. Some studies show that exercise might be even more important than the diet for long-term weight maintenance. As we age we lose muscle – and muscle keeps our metabolism high.

Fix it: Do your resistance and weight training to avoid losing muscle, this gives results at any age. Remember that not all calories are equal when it comes to weight. Try eating nutrient rich foods, rather than calorie dense foods. Increasing nuts, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy lean protein will cause your body to burn calories more efficiently. But refined carbohydrates are easily stored in your body as fat. Choosing healthy fats, lean proteins and reducing refined carbohydrates are good ways to help avoid unnecessary pounds.

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