“I’ve tried everything, and I can’t lose weight!” I hear this all the time in my practice. Weight loss is a tricky game, folks, especially for women (you can thank hormones). We used to think the simple calories in-calories out/burn-more-calories-than-you-take-in model was the gold standard for weight loss, but it’s more complicated than that. I know this first hand, because I get many frustrated folks in my office who are eating a perfect paleo diet, or they’re keeping their calories to 1500 daily alongside a rigorous morning bootcamp, and their weight isn’t budging. I’ve written about factors that prevent weight loss before, and I’ve included a list of items that can pack on the pounds. But there are specific nutrients and lifestyle hacks you can implement to rev up your fat burning metabolism. I use this protocol with my clients to improve insulin sensitivity, boost thyroid function, and improve fat burning metabolism.
9 Strategies for Fat Loss
- Thyroid Support. Your thyroid, the small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck, is the gas pedal for your fat burning metabolism. If your thyroid starts to underfunction, everything slows down, including your metabolism. The first signs of hypothyroidism are difficulty losing weight, constipation, cold hands and feet (another big indicator of slowing metabolism– your body temp falls), and hair loss. Your thyroid can begin to falter well before it shows up on lab testing, and hypothyroidism is rising at alarming rates. I always recommend thyroid support for those on a weight loss plan. Here are 10 foods that support thyroid health. I also recommend a thyroid support supplement to ensure there are proper nutrient co-factors for thyroid hormone conversion in the body. Zinc and selenium are key. I like thyroid synergy from Designs for Health.
- Nourish your mitochondria. Remember biology class? You learned how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, responsible for energy and ATP production. If you’re not getting the nutrients you need to fuel your mitochondria, you won’t feel energetic, nor will you be able to burn fat effectively. The mitochondria need B vitamins, carnitine, and Co10 mainly. You get those nutrients mainly in grass fed meats, but you can tune up with a supplement to boost energy and fat burning.
- Lipoic acid. Weight loss is a hormonal game involving ghrelin and leptin to regulate hunger, and insulin and glucagon regulate fat storage and fat burning metabolism. If your insulin levels are chronically high because you’re eating too much sugar or too many carb-based foods, you run the risk of becoming insulin resistant. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, so the more insulin you’re churning out, the more fat you’re storing. Lipoic acid is a nutrient that really helps insulin sensitivity, meaning less insulin is needed to deposit glucose into the cells. Your body produces small amounts of lipoic acid, and you can get small amounts in organ meats and certain vegetables, but taking a lipoic acid supplement can get you back on track while you work to increase insulin sensitivity through exercise and reducing carb and sugar intake. This supplement is a great lipoic acid support.
- Blood sugar balance. Stable blood sugar is the best way to support weight loss. It means your blood glucose levels stay balanced throughout the day so there are no highs or lows, which trigger insulin and hunger fluctuations. Eating in regular intervals, getting enough protein, and getting plenty of mineral-rich foods are key. Many people with weak adrenals and low cortisol levels have trouble maintaining stable blood sugar, because cortisol (main hormone produced by adrenals) helps to regulate blood sugar. If you have hypoglycemic tendencies, support your adrenals. Blood sugar support nutrients with chromium help, too. This is a great one that balances blood sugar and helps prevent sugar cravings.
- Burst training. High intensity interval training (HIIT) or burst training has proven highly effective for boosting metabolism and increasing insulin sensitivity. All it takes is 15-20 minutes alternating high impact and low impact exercise. No time at all!
- Sleep. Did you know that just one night of poor sleep, or less than 8 hours of sleep, can raise blood sugar and carb cravings? Sleep is so important for hormone balance, weight loss, and health. Listen here to our recent podcast on how to get better quality sleep, and how sleep affects weight loss.
- Avoid grains at breakfast and lunch. We’ve been told how healthy oatmeal and cereal are for breakfast, but while these carb bombs may keep you full, they’re low in the protein and healthy fats you need for energy and satiety. So many of my weight loss clients complain about the 3pm crash (and a mid-morning crash), and the one thing they have in common is loading up on oatmeal and carbs at breakfast and lunch. Skip the grain-heavy breakfast and lunch to improve energy and fat burning and to stabilize blood sugar levels. Here’s a great list of better breakfast options for weight loss.
- Hormone balance. As I mentioned, weight loss is a hormonal game. Not only do you need stable insulin levels for optimal fat burning, but thyroid and adrenal hormone balance is critical. If you’re a woman, estrogen dominance can contribute to weight loss resistance. Get your sex and stress hormone levels tested if you suspect an issue. Here are 4 tips you can use right away to balance your hormones.
- Do a detox program twice yearly. Did you know that your liver is your most important fat burning organ? Toxins from our environment, cosmetics, cleaning products, and food supply build up in fatty tissues and contribute to weight loss resistance because the body is reluctant to burn fat that is storing toxins. These toxins also contribute to the hormonal imbalances that prevent weight loss. My 21 day detox program is an easy and gentle way to kick off a weight loss plan. Click here for more info and to download the book and free accompanying bonus guide right now!
NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that if the scale isn’t budging, your body may have already reached its set point. Sometimes we have unrealistic views about how much weight we need to lose, and those views may not correlate with our physiology.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.