In Studio: Health expert breaks down five factors that hinder weight loss

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — You’ve been working out regularly at the gym, so you expect those pounds to peel off as your activity increases, but it rarely works this way.

There are several reasons that could be hindering your weight loss. KRON4’s health expert, Karen Owoc joins Marty Gonzalez to explain.

She pointed out five factors that hinder weight loss:

  • You’re eating too much.
  • You’re eating too little.
  • You’re stressed out.
  • You’re not sleeping enough.
  • Your brain is to blame.

Here is Karen’s complete breakdown of the five factors:

1) You’re eating too much. When people exercise, they often feel hungry and deserving of a reward — a food reward. Worse yet, dieters often overestimate their caloric expenditure and underestimate their caloric intake significantly —by about 30%. Walking or jogging a mile only burns around 100 calories. Reward yourself with a tall latte and you end up with 50 more calories than if you hadn’t exercised.

Exercise and diet play different and important roles in maintaining good health. Think of any calories expended from exercise as an added bonus and not as a means to eat more because it can backfire.

Health tip: Count Less to Eat Less:

  • Focus on nutrition not calories. Not all calories are alike. A bag of chips doesn’t have the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you’d get in an equal number of calories from fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise for health not food rewards.
  • Indulge in a healthful eating plan.

2) You’re eating too little. Not only is eating too much a problem for weight loss, but so is eating too few calories. When you consistently eat too little, your metabolism can slow down and your body will cling to its body fat — it’s in starvation mode. A sluggish metabolism is also a consequence of not having the energy to give 110% to your workouts or to just daily living.

3) You’re stressed out. Eating when stressed is a learned behavior (emotional eating). Also, when you’re under stress, your body sends stress hormones (i.e., adrenaline and cortisol), that increase the appetite to provide instant energy. Cortisol makes you hungry for “sugary carbs” to supply you with instant energy. Stress eating usually ends up storing fat around the midsection as dangerous “belly fat” or “visceral fat”. This type of fat is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Health tip: Beat Stress to Weigh Less: Over time you can rewire your brain to not let stress affect your eating behavior and energy levels.

  • Make a list of your stressors
  • Create a stress-reduction plan, e.g., meditation, massage, deep breathing, yoga, or just playing with your pet.
  • Exercise (cortisol can be offset by endorphins — anti-stress chemical produced during exercise if your body is functioning properly.


4) You’re not sleeping enough. A study of healthy young men found that those who slept for four hours vs. eight, consumed 550 more calories a day. Again, cortisol is the culprit. When you’re deprived of sleep, your body sees it as a stressor and releases more cortisol. You end up hungry even though you’ve eaten.

Some people purposely sleep less thinking they can get in more activity in their day. But a good night’s sleep may actually make you more productive because you’ll have more energy and can think more clearly.

For others, sleep loss is a consequence of being overweight which cause sleep apnea, low back pain, or depression and anxiety.

Health tip: Sleep More to Weigh Less:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly (well before bedtime).
  • Relax with pre-bedtime rituals, e.g., warm bath, light reading, listening to calming music/nature sounds, create a peaceful, dark sleep environment.
  • Schedule in your sleep hours.

5) Your brain is to blame. When it comes down to it, your brain is just as responsible for creating overweight as your body and metabolism. Your brain makes over 200 decisions about food a day, but you’re only aware of a fraction of them. If you’ve consciously been making poor food decisions for years, you’ve laid down neural tracks that can affect how your hunger and satiety hormones function. But by practicing new habits (using SMART skills), you can develop behavior change and in a sense, “rewire” your brain.

The Takeaway… To lose weight, reduce your calories, exercise, eat better, and make it a practice for months and years.



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