‘Why can’t I lose weight?’ After a long winter combined with lockdown, many mums are realising they’ve put on at least a couple of kilos. But the last thing you want to do is jump back on the diet bandwagon of restricting what you eat and exercising religiously for a few weeks, only to quit.
As mums, setting a good example is essential for healthy, happy kids. That’s why we want to walk away from the cycle of restrictive dieting and taking a more holistic approach. It’s time to focus not just on the weight, but also how you feel.
If you’re looking for the answer to the question ‘Why can’t I lose weight?’, watch the video below or keep reading for the 5 reasons why.
Why Can’t I Lose Weight As A Mum? 5 Key Reasons
You’re not moving enough
This might be obvious. But many of the women who come to us at Natural Super Kids wanting to lose weight aren’t exercising at all!
Humans are designed to be active. But our modern lifestyle is sedentary, and exercise becomes another chore on the to-do list. When we’re tired, we don’t have the motivation to get out there and move. It’s easier to sit on the couch and watch another episode or two of our favourite shows!
But as mums, we need to prioritise physical activity – and not just for losing weight. The research shows that not exercising is just as bad for us as smoking – if not worse.
Exercise has countless health benefits. It’s essential for stress management, mental health, heart health and balanced hormones.
And even though movement is the last thing on your mind when you’re tired, it helps you to produce energy more effectively. It does this by helping our mitochondria – the energy makers in our cells – to perform more efficiently.
When you exercise, you feel more energy because you’re making more energy on a cellular level. It does take a push to get started, but once you incorporate movement, you’ll start to feel more energised throughout your day.
How to get started
Moving your body doesn’t mean you need to join a gym or start training for a marathon. It can be as simple as a 15-minute yoga stretch at home or a walk around your local area.
If your kids are active on the weekends, join in! Go rock-climbing with them, walk around the footy oval while they train, or do a few laps while they’re at swimming.
You also don’t need to be afraid of strength training! It’s nearly impossible for us to become big and bulky thanks to our female hormones. Strength training helps to build muscles, boost up our metabolic rate and protect us as we age. A great place to start is bodyweight exercises.
A good rule of thumb is aiming for 180 minutes of physical activity per week. You can break this down as you need – it might be 6 days with 30 minutes, or 3 days with 60 minutes. You can also break it up over the day into 2 or 3 sessions to make it fit around your schedule.
Your eating habits are out of balance
Another big reason for mums to struggle with weight loss is their eating patterns.
Many people are eating too many processed calorie-rich foods that are low in nutrients. But nutrients are what our hormones, energy production and metabolic rate rely on to function. So we end up starved of key nutrients, and the body responds by bumping up the appetite because we’re not getting what we need.
Unfortunately, processed foods are easy to get anywhere and everywhere. You can’t even go and fill up your petrol without being offered chocolate bars and chips! But we need to switch the convenience foods to a more wholefood approach.
Sugar and carbohydrates
The number one food group that is overconsumed is sugar and refined carbohydrates. These are convenient, cheap, tasty and fill you up – but have little nutrition to offer. Foods that are high in sugar and carbs spike up insulin levels. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone, so when the levels are high, we store more fat.
The most common high-carb foods that mums over-eat are starches such as:
- Crackers and biscuits
If we don’t use up the energy from these foods, we store them. When you combine this with too little movement, it’s a recipe for weight gain.
The easiest change we can make to our diet is cutting down the carb content. You don’t need to eliminate every carb source or start a ketogenic diet! But for the average mum, you can get enough carbohydrates through veggies, salads, fruit, legumes and nuts and seeds.
You don’t need to eat a starchy carb at every single meal! Start by having one meal a day without a starchy carb. So for example, have a smoothie for breakfast or fish and salad for dinner. If weight loss is your goal, stick to one serve of starchy carbs per day. This also boosts your nutrient intake by focusing on wholefoods for your carbs instead.
Another common source of excess energy intake is beverages. The wine, alcohol, store-bought coffees and soft drinks can add up quickly throughout your day. It is hard if you have that daily habit of treating yourself. If you struggle to break unhealthy patterns, you might want to seek some support and accountability.
Your stress levels are too high
Stress is a huge factor for every parent, particularly this year. Even if you haven’t been directly impacted by the pandemic and lockdowns, the constant sense of uncertainty chips away at us. It becomes a background of worry on top of our already stressful and busy lives as mums.
You might not think that stress is playing a role for you. But you don’t have to feel constantly stressed for it to impact your health. Even if you just think about something that stresses you, it causes a physical response!
When we experience stress, we release cortisol. This hormone is designed to help us act on a stressor – to fight or flee. Unfortunately, it also leads to an increase in appetite so we can fuel our fighting or fleeing efforts.
The body gets the message to eat more and store whatever fat it can, particularly around the vital organs. It also makes it nearly impossible to lose weight!
It also impacts us by affecting the choices we make. You’re more likely to reach for the chocolate, wine or takeaway if you’ve had a stressful day. You’re less likely to have the motivation to exercise. It feeds into a negative cycle of behaviour.
If that wasn’t enough reason, stress also depletes nutrients. Nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium are crucial for energy production and weight management. When we don’t have enough, we end up feeling fatigued and flat.
How can I cope with my stress and overwhelm?
We can’t just get rid of stress – it’s part of life. That’s why we need to build some management techniques into our schedule – no matter how busy you are. There are always a million things to do, and taking an hour or two out each week for yourself won’t make a difference to that!
The key is to balance ‘go time’ with ‘slow time’. This could be a warm bath with candles once or twice a week, or a walk in nature every weekend. If you are under a lot of stress, combining gentle exercise in as a self-care technique is a good way to tick off two steps in one.
You have a thyroid imbalance
The thyroid is a gland in the neck that affects our metabolism and energy levels. Almost every cell in the body relies on thyroid hormones to function properly.
Unfortunately, the thyroid is susceptible to damage from factors such as:
- Heavy metals
- Environmental toxins
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Elevated cortisol
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Immune dysfunction
As a result, thyroid issues are common in women. The most common thyroid condition for women is Hashimoto’s – an autoimmune thyroid disease.
The majority of women will get tested and be told by their GP that their results are ‘fine’. But often this is not the case! We want to see TSH levels in the optimal range of 1-2, not the ‘acceptable’ range of 0.5-4!
Many women have what is known as sub-clinical hypothyroidism. If you have a TSH above two, it’s an indicator that your thyroid is starting to struggle. We want to get on top of it before you end up on thyroid medication for life.
Many doctors will not test your other thyroid hormones, including T3 (active thyroid hormone) and T4 (inactive thyroid hormone). These levels can give us a much better picture of how your thyroid is producing and converting hormones.
If you have a thyroid issue, it doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight. We can take steps to improve your metabolism and support your thyroid. But it does often mean you’ll need to work harder and be patient.
You’re struggling with oestrogen dominance
Hormone imbalances are common in mums who struggle to lose weight. The most common imbalance is oestrogen dominance.
This doesn’t always mean that your oestrogen levels are sky-high. It’s related to the ratio between oestrogen and progesterone. Often, the problem is two-fold – there are factors pushing oestrogen up and progesterone down.
For example, high stress leads to low progesterone. This is because cortisol depletes your levels. On the other hand, factors such as high sugar, high alcohol, plastics and some chemicals can spike oestrogen levels.
If this is a problem you’re dealing with, you’ll usually see other symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Weight gain around the mid-section, hips and thighs
- PMS symptoms such as mood swings and craving
- Clots during your period
The good news is that by addressing these hormonal issues, you can get back on track with weight loss.