Whether you're trying to lose a lot of weight or just looking to shed a stubborn 10 pounds, getting the scale to go down feels like an uphill battle. In fact, research proves you're not just imagining how difficult it can be to lose weight.
According to one study published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, people are 10 percent heavier today—even when they consume the same number of calories and have similar exercise routines as their counterparts in the 1970s. The researchers hypothesized that environmental factors, such as our food, chemical-filled personal care products, and increased stress may play a role in why we're heavier when all other factors are the same. "We're finding that weight management is much more complex than just energy in versus energy out," wrote study author Jennifer Kuk, professor of health science at York University.
Here, four other science-based reasons why you might be struggling to shed pounds—and tips on how to make the weight-loss journey easier
You're exposed to endocrine disruptors.
Even if you try to eat clean and minimize your exposure to chemicals, it's tough to avoid them completely. All of those pesticides, flame-retardants, and preservatives mess with your hormones, actually causing you to put on weight. One new study on mice, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, found that exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) or ethinyl estradiol (EE)—two endocrine disruptors—in the womb leads to lower metabolism and lower activity in offspring.
The fix: Take all the steps you can to to limit your exposure. Even simple strategies, like swapping your vinyl shower curtain for a BPA-free one or storing food in glass containers rather than plastic, can go a long way toward rebalancing your hormones.
You're already overweight.
It sounds like a curse: Those who need to lose weight the most have the toughest time succeeding at the task, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health. When scientists looked at the electronic health records of more than 250,000 people over a nine-year period, they found that those who had a body mass index between 30 and 35 (30 and above is obese) had low chances of attaining even a 5 percent weight loss in any given year. In fact, just one in 10 women and one in 12 men succeeded in that 5 percent weight loss—and at least 50 percent of men and women regained the weight within two years.
The fix: Set many small weight-loss goals rather than one big one. This can prompt you to experience multiple mini successes, which experts say can help you stay the course.
You're always on a diet.
If you're like most, you're tempted to try every diet trend to hit the headlines. However, yo-yoing from one fad weight-loss plan to the next can be especially detrimental when it comes to long-term weight loss, according to one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that dieting can disrupt hunger-related hormones and cause them to remain at altered levels. The result can be feeling hungry all the time—which is nearly a guarantee that if you manage to lose weight, you won't be able to keep it off.
The fix: Don't get sucked in by the latest fads. Ignore what your friends are raving about and stick to a balanced diet that doesn't cut out entire food groups for your best shot at reaching an ideal weight—and staying there. (Lose up to 15 pounds WITHOUT dieting with
You're exercising like a fiend.
While regular demanding workouts sounds like the way to go, it may actually prevent you from dropping pounds. One review of studies, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, found that people end up burning less energy than predicted when they followed exercise-focused weight-loss programs over time—yet they tended to overeat.
The fix: Focus on movement and healthy eating. One recent meta-analysis published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that weight management programs that combine both exercise and diet led to more sustained weight loss over a year than diet alone—as long as people were conscious about what they ate.