Reasons Why You Might Struggle To Lose Weight

January 15, 2019

By Brianna McCabe

As the brightly illuminated New Year’s Eve ball descends down the flag pole of Times Square every December 31, individuals prepare to greet the next 365 days ahead. With every “3… 2… 1… Happy New Year!” chant comes a celebration of what is to come and how it is going to be achieved.


It is estimated that nearly 40-50% of individuals make resolutions. Of those millions of Americans, roughly 40% want to commit to losing weight and getting in shape; however, research has found that 92% of people will fail.

Perhaps you want to be part of that 8% determined to achieve your New Year’s goals?

So, you might join a gym – or promise yourself that you will dust off your gym key tag that’s hidden in the junk drawer and start utilizing your existing membership. You might also be more mindful of your portions and opt for healthier foods.

You may step on the scale after a few weeks, though, and notice that your weight has yet to change. Don’t panic – there could be other factors impacting your ability to lose weight. A few of the experts at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group outline some issues that might be hindering your weight loss goals:

  1. You aren’t getting enough sleep. Ullanda Fyffe, M.D., a family medicine physician, says that many studies have examined the relationship between sleep duration or quality and obesity and weight gain. “Overall, poor sleep – both quality and quantity – does appear to increase caloric intake and weight gain. This could possibly result in lack of success with any weight loss effort,” she clarifies. “It has also been shown that lack of sleep increases feelings of hunger and appetite, which could potentially lead to overeating.”
  2. You are stressed. Dr. Fyffe says, “There is an association between stress and other mental health problems and being overweight or obese. Individuals with high stress levels are more likely to be unsuccessful at weight loss.” One study actually revealed that improving mental health was associated with weight loss.
  3. You have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). According to Angela Jones, M.D., a board certified OB/GYN, PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that is oftentimes characterized by irregular periods and excess androgen production. “Other symptoms can manifest as acne, increased facial and body hair, baldness and possible weight fluctuations,” she explains. “PCOS can affect a woman’s weight as it increases the likelihood of a woman having metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by high blood pressure, elevated blood sugars, abnormal cholesterol levels and insulin resistance. Weight gain could be readily associated with PCOS as well as difficulty with weight loss.”“Having said such,” continues Dr. Jones, “not all individuals with PCOS suffer with weight issues. There are ‘thin’ individuals with PCOS.” However, if a woman has PCOS and is trying to better manage her weight, Dr. Jones states that lifestyle modification is “a must.” She adds, “Lifestyle is what you do and who you are on a daily basis. This makes shedding weight much more attainable and maintainable when the goal is long-term and not short-term. Treating the underlying issues associated with PCOS will assist in losing weight when coupled with these modifications.”
  1. You are diabetic. Anne Marie Van Hoven, M.D., a board certified internal medicine and endocrinology physician, says that it appears – anecdotally speaking – that those who are insulin resistant have a much more difficult time losing weight. “Patients who take insulin often say that insulin makes them gain weight,” explains Dr. Van Hoven. Dr. Van Hoven assures her patients, though, that insulin itself does not make you gain weight. “Insulin is the only hormone that is responsible for fat. If you take insulin and you eat the same amount of calories before you started taking insulin, you may, in fact, gain some weight,” continues Dr. Van Hoven. “A patient’s normal physiology is being restored and you are metabolizing your calories appropriately. If you are diabetic and are struggling with weight loss, speak to your physician and become better educated on the mechanism of insulin and fat.”
  2. You have a thyroid problem. Dr. Van Hoven explains that when an individual is at either end of the spectrum of thyroid function, fluctuations in weight are noticeable. If you have an overactive thyroid, you can lose weight, whereas if you have an underactive thyroid, you can gain. “Most people exist not at either extreme, but perhaps a little lower or a little higher than normal,” shares Dr. Van Hoven. “Thyroid problems can also be accompanied by tiredness, changes in skin conditions, loss of hair, increased menstrual bleeding in younger women and constipation. If you suspect you might have an issue with your thyroid, visit your health care team to check your levels and be placed on proper medication to regulate your body.”

“My general advice for someone trying to lose weight is to try to be more scientific about it,” says Dr. Van Hoven. “Count something, such as points or calories, and overall consumption for a period of time – trust that you will eventually lose weight. Weight loss is about consistency, proper nutritional education, planning and overall strategy.”

Dr. Fyffe practices in Cliffside Park (201-861-1851). Dr. Jones rotates between her practices in Freehold, Jackson, Lakewood and Tinton Falls (732-431-1616). Dr. Van Hoven practices in Hackensack (201-489-4999).

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The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

Association of Changes in Mental Health with Weight Loss During Intensive Lifestyle Intervention: Does the Timing Matter?
Does Stress Influence Sleep Patterns, Food Intake, Weight Gain, Abdominal Obesity and Weight Loss Interventions and Vice Versa?
Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Caloric Intake and Activity Energy Expenditure.
It’s a Week into January and a Quarter of us Have Already Abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions.
Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It.
The Role of Sleep Duration in the Regulation of Energy Balance: Effects on Energy Intakes and Expenditure.
What are Your 2018 Resolutions?