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What Biological Factors Could Be Blocking Your Weight Loss Journey?

What Biological Factors Could Be Blocking Your Weight Loss Journey?



eight loss is neither simple nor easy, despite what a lot of people may think. Common weight loss misconceptions include the belief that losing weight is linear or that it focuses only on calorie deficits. Many go on the journey to lose weight and find themselves struggling, plateauing, or unsuccessful in keeping the weight off.

While diet and exercise play important roles in weight loss, there are other factors to be considered in the complex issue of weight. Studies have shown an interplay of biological and environmental factors related to being overweight, and these same factors are also involved in trying to lose weight.

Here are some biological factors that have an effect on weight…

#1. Appetite and satiety

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Some people trying to lose weight might see food as a temptation and appetite is an urge to ignore. However, hunger and satiety are both psychological and physiological. An important hormone related to this is GLP-1 or glucagon-like peptide 1. This hormone signals fullness or satiety to the brain and signals the stomach to empty more slowly.

In effect, the person feels full for longer periods of time. A type of prescription weight loss medication called GLP-1 agonist is a drug that is gaining traction in weight loss and diabetes control. GLP-1 agonists mimic the action of GLP-1. GLP-1 agonists target receptors in the brain that can help control satiety and response to food.

#2. Basal metabolic rate

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Basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the rate of energy spent by the body to perform essential functions such as breathing, blood circulation, temperature regulation, and cell growth. A higher BMR or higher metabolism, means more energy used so when coupled with physical activity, there is higher total energy expenditure.

While BMR in itself is already a factor in weight loss, BMR has modifiable and nonmodifiable factors contributing to it as well, such as the other commonly known factors affecting weight, which are age and biological sex. These other biological factors sprout from increased lean muscle mass increasing BMR and increasing energy usage.

#3. Hormone levels

Aside from GLP-1, there are other hormones affecting weight by affecting hunger, satiety, weight gain, and fat storage. These hormones include insulin, leptin, cortisol, neuropeptide Y, Ghrelin, and cholecystokinin. The levels of these hormones can be affected by factors such as poor diet, chronic stress, environmental exposures, and lack of sleep. When this happens, weight gain or difficulty losing weight can occur.

Laboratory testing, assessment of possible related medical conditions and complications, and restoring balance or normal levels can be done to address the issue and help with weight management.

#4. Adipose or fat

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Excess fat deposits are the main problem in overweight and obese individuals, and these conditions are known to be a risk factor for complications and more difficulty losing weight. Also, it has been recognized that the distribution of fat in the upper body, and visceral fat or fat deep in the body surrounding the organs, are strongly linked to increased risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

Sex hormones are factors in determining body fat percentage and distribution. Estrogen promotes fat storage, mostly in the lower body, until after menopause, when it tends to be in the abdominal or visceral areas. These are some of the reasons why it is harder for women to lose weight. On the other hand, testosterone decreases fat storage, so males usually have lower body fat percentage.

#5. Mental health

Photo: Anna Shvets/Pexels

While the term “mental health” brings to mind psychology, there are some biological factors in mental health, including genetics and neurotransmitter imbalances. Studies have shown links between obesity and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. In turn, weight changes can affect one’s perception of self and mental well-being, so it is important to look into it.

There are different ways that mental health conditions can make weight loss difficult. These conditions can make it hard for affected people to make lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet or exercising. Medications to treat some conditions can cause weight gain. Inadequate sleep can also cause difficulty losing weight.

Featured image: jacoblund/iStock

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