I just typed “How to lose weight” into Google and instantly I received 76.5 million results. Seeing that millions of people are trying to lose weight at any given time, there have to be some commonalities within our culture that are barriers to losing weight and maintaining that loss. I’ve identified a few of those common barriers beyond the obvious nutritional intake and exercise and will briefly discuss them. I’ll also focus on one that particularly intrigued me. I’d love to share those with you now, but please keep in mind that although these are barriers, you are able to overcome them!

Sleep Deprivation – Individuals who sleep less than 5 hours a night do not produce adequate levels of leptin (a hormone that signals satiety when one has eaten enough). Without the appropriate amount of that leptin, one is prone to eat too much, which then further stresses the body.

Dehydration – Water is essential for every organs’ function including the digestive organs. To maintain adequate levels of metabolic activity (food digestion), so when one doesn’t consume as much water as needed, calorie burning declines, efficiency of the organs declines, and the person begins getting more lethargic… and thus less exercising.

Prescription drugs – Some drugs have side effects that include weight gain… sometimes up to 10 lbs a month! These medicines include those to help with mood disorders, seizures, migraines, diabetes, high blood pressure, birth control, and others. It is always wise to be aware of the side effects of the things consumed, so be sure to consult your doctor and inquire if any medicines you are taking could possibly cause weight gain.

Lack of commitment/ follow through to a healthier lifestyle – This is found especially with fad diets. I’m not a fan of the fad diets and weight loss pills that promise to be a quick fix. The weight problem has developed (usually) over a number of years, so the solution must be one of an all around healthier lifestyle.

Emotional issues/ life stressors – As stresses in life creep up, a common reaction is to reach for tempting convenient comfort food and indulge. Even though it seems that eating food in response to stress would satisfy, it almost always does not. For both men and women, it is important to have a strong emotional support network to combat those temptations and confront the root of the stress as opposed to trying to just taking care of the symptom. Additionally, getting regular exercise of about a half hour at a time and eating the way we know we should could both go a long way toward reducing the terrible effects that stress has on our bodies. Stress also leads me right into the next barrier…

Cortisol – Cortisol is a hormone in which high amounts are produced in response to stress. This stress response involves brief increase in energy levels, hormone levels, and ability for forceful muscle contraction. The cortisol response worked best many years ago when we had to live with “fight or flight” responses to stressors, but because many of us today live under the pressures of constant stress our bodies simply don’t have a chance to relax.

As we remain in this overactive or chronically activated state, our endocrine systems produce too much cortisol. Seeing that cortisol receptors are located deep in your abdomen, fat is storage there. At that point, not only will cortisol influence weight gain, but also elevates blood sugar, increases appetite, accelerates weight gain (especially in belly region), reduces sex drive, and can result in severe fatigue.

In one article, I found the most shocking part. While exercise is obviously helpful for weight loss, excessive exercise can actually produce cortisol, even after 45 to 60 minutes of exercise! This can be seen in those exercise enthusiasts who struggle with weight control and fat distribution. As their limbs become toner, they are unable to shed the pounds in their abdominal region.