Weight Loss Resistance: 8 Causes and How to Overcome Them

Weight Loss

Weight Loss

Last month I went in to see my doctor for my yearly check-up appointment and weighed in at my heaviest recorded weight as an adult at 237 lbs (when in high school I possibly weighed no more than 135 lbs). For a woman who is 5’6”, that’s MORBIDLY OBESE. When I first saw the number I was devastated that no “diet” or exercise program has seemed to help me lose and maintain lost weight within the last year…and believe me when I say I have tried many different diets and exercise programs. My doctor was as exasperated as me, but couldn’t really give me an answer besides telling me that “it is because of your age”. Now I know my doctor didn’t go to 8 years of medical school to be able to only come up with that answer. I have read online that some people can be weight loss resistant because of certain factors or habits that they just don’t know about. Do you happen to know of any other natural ways to help me lose weight that I may be missing?


– Barbara, 57, Encinitas, CA

“Where do I start?” I get that question a lot and it can be frustrating for women. That’s why it’s so important to have a roadmap you can trust. A roadmap that breaks down your health journey into small, manageable steps.

Overview of Weight Loss Resistance

You’ve tried exercising, eating healthy, and cutting calories, but you still can’t lose weight! You’ve been starting your day with an All-In-One Shake, following the golden rules of meal timing, and avoiding inflammatory foods…

Yet, when you step on the bathroom scale in the morning, that same pesky number keeps showing up. (And your disappointment isn’t far behind!)

Believe me, I understand your frustration! During my two decades as a health and fitness expert, I’ve worked with tens of thousands of clients who struggle with what is called “weight loss resistance.”

What’s going on?

Most women over age 35 who struggle relentlessly with their weight are dealing with a systemic imbalance that is physiologically blocking weight loss.

Weight loss resistance urges your body to hang on to extra weight — no matter what diet or exercise measures you take, just like Barbara. It’s a term commonly used to describe the inability to lose weight despite following a healthy diet.

And when I say “healthy diet,” I’m not referring to typical low-calorie foods like nonfat yogurt, egg whites, and tofu. The truth is that those so-called healthy foods along with some other sneaky causes you may not know about may be stalling your progress!

Does this sound like you?

If so, we know this situation is extremely frustrating, and while there is a good reason for it, there are also effective solutions.

Who Can Be Weight Loss Resistant?

Weight loss resistance is a common issue for many women, and it can be frustrating to consistently work towards your weight loss goals without seeing the results you want.

Losing weight can be a challenging task, and weight loss resistance only makes it more difficult. However, it’s important to understand that while diet and exercise play a crucial role in weight loss, weight loss is a complex process and various factors can impact it.

So what factors are at work here?

Your body chooses what to do with every nutrient you put in it and if the system is working smoothly, it makes healthy choices and you’re at a healthy weight. But our systems are vulnerable to a lot of disruption, especially after the age of 35, and once the body is out of balance, it becomes nearly impossible to lose excess weight.

Any women who do manage to lose weight, often gain it back quickly — unless they address the root systemic imbalance.

Hidden Causes

So why does “health food” keep you from losing weight? Because food intolerance is so often the cause of extra pounds!

A negative reaction to highly reactive foods like dairy or gluten can trigger inflammation and cause a host of nasty symptoms, including stubborn weight gain.

So before you shell out for a gym membership, the first step in overcoming weight loss resistance always starts with what’s at the end of your fork.

Keep in mind that your body will take more time to heal if your metabolism was extremely damaged before starting. But if you’ve been diligently sticking to a specific diet that has been recommended by a professional for at least 8 weeks and your weight loss is still slow or nonexistent, then it’s time to explore what else could be going on.

Read on to find out the 8 most common causes of weight loss resistance, plus how to jumpstart fat-burning again…

Most Common Causes of Weight Loss Resistance

The most common systemic imbalances that lead to weight loss resistance in women are connected to

  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Chronic Stress
  • Poor Sleep Quality
  • Medications
  • Poor Gut Health
  • Thyroid Disorders
  • Sex Hormone Fluctuations
  • Blood Sugar Imbalances

Once the body regains balance, the weight comes off easily.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormones support many vital functions within the body, including our ability to maintain muscle, lose body fat, and experience stress and hunger.

Hormonal Diagram

Hormones that affect female weight loss include:

Estrogen and progesterone - are the primary female sex hormones and play a part in several essential roles. They help regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Eating Behaviors
  • Metabolism

But don’t worry if your progress has plateaued, hormones are not the be-all and end-all for weight loss. Remember to prioritize your food quality and calorie intake to reap the benefits of a healthy diet and create an environment for optimal hormone production.

Chronic Stress

Stress can have a significant impact on our bodies, including our weight. Chronic stress can lead to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can disrupt hormone levels and lead to weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.


The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, release the hormone cortisol in response to both physical and psychological stress.

Acute (short-term) stress is necessary for survival and adaptation as a human being. However, when this stress becomes long-term (chronic), we need to act.

When we experience chronic stress, cortisol levels become excessively elevated, which can lead to unwanted symptoms such as:

  • Suppressed immune function
  • Increased appetite
  • Abdominal weight gain
  • Muscle loss

To manage stress levels and support weight loss, it's essential to engage in stress-reducing activities like exercise, mindfulness, improving sleep, and deep breathing or meditation.

Incorporating stress management into your routine is fundamental to living a balanced life.

Activities such as meditation and Pilates may not be for everyone, but studies have shown them to improve many symptoms.

Read Our BlogWhat Is Pilates?

Meditation and Pilates can reduce:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Pain
  • Cortisol levels
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate

You can test your cortisol levels with a Stress Cortisol Saliva Test, to see if stress is the cause of any unwanted symptoms.

Read Our BlogWhat’s the difference Between Mat and Reformer Pilates?

Poor Sleep Quality

It’s true: quality sleep is crucial for good health, including weight management. Poor sleep can disrupt hormone levels, leading to an increase in hunger and cravings, making it harder to lose weight.Poor SleepWhen you’re short on sleep, it’s easy to lean on a large latte to get moving. You might be tempted to skip exercise (too tired), get takeout for dinner, and then turn in late because you’re uncomfortably full.

If this cascade of events happens a few times each year, no problem. Trouble is, more than a third of Americans aren't getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Yet experts agree that getting enough shut-eye is as important to health, well-being, and your weight as diet and exercise.

Long-term stress and lack of sleep can knock hormones like cortisol out of whack, making you feel hungrier and signaling your body to hang on to fat.

And together, the two can form a vicious cycle: high stress can lead to a loss of sleep, and going without sleep can increase stress.

Even worse, the consequences will add up around your waistline: studies show that people who only sleep 5 hours per night are 50% more likely to be obese than folks who get a solid 8 hours!

The big takeaway is clear: if you want to crush cravings and burn fat, it’s essential to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night and maintain your sense of calm.

To promote good sleep, establish a bedtime routine, limit exposure to screens before bedtime, and create a comfortable sleep environment.

If you’d like to learn more about other harmful effects on our health due to poor sleep and one of the best ways you can help to improve sleep, read the two blogs listed below.

Read Our BlogWhy Poor Sleeping Habits Lead to Alzheimer’s or Dementia…

Read Our BlogIn search of the Perfect Pillow


Medications cause weight gain in both men and women, but because women gain weight more easily than men in general, and have a harder time losing it, they may notice more added pounds than men taking the same medication.Medication Pills

Certain medications, such as antidepressants, birth control pills, and steroids, can lead to weight gain and make it harder to lose weight.

No matter what your medical condition is if it's causing you to gain weight, don't try to manage the problem yourself. Talk to your physician. Don't overburden yourself. You are not to blame.

Poor Gut Health

Your gut microbiome plays a significant role in your overall health and can impact weight loss resistance. An imbalanced gut microbiome can lead to digestive issues, inflammation, and an increase in bad bacteria, which can make weight loss challenging.Gut Health

Elevated levels of candidiasis or yeast in the body cause sugar cravings and make us eat more junk food.

An imbalanced microbiome leads to a “leaky gut” causing food reactions that can cause weight gain.

Maintaining a healthy gut by consuming probiotics, fermented foods, and fiber-rich foods can support gut health and weight loss efforts.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating metabolism and hormone levels in the body and therefore plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight.

An underactive thyroid can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and other symptoms.

Even if your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is normal, you may have low Triiodothyronine (T3), Thyroxine (T4), or antibodies against the thyroid.

Thyroid Disorder

If you are chronically stressed, you may have elevated reverse T3 which can affect the active form of T3 and create hypothyroid symptoms.

In addition, when thyroid hormones are low, key chemical messengers like serotonin, beta-endorphin, and leptin become mixed up and disrupt our eating behavior. These changes can strengthen cravings, inhibit the sensation of fullness, decrease energy, lower moods, and lead to weight gain.

To optimize thyroid function and support weight loss, it's essential to consume a diet that is rich in iodine, unprocessed produce, lean protein sources, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, selenium, and vitamin D.

These foods can improve health, encourage hormone production, and reduce the risk of disease.

Sex Hormone Fluctuations

If hormones are imbalanced, abdominal weight gain can become an issue. Too much estradiol in reproductive years and too little estradiol in premenopause into menopause.Sex Hormone DiagramEstradiol has several functions in the female body. Its main function is to mature and then maintain the reproductive system. During the menstrual cycle, increased estradiol levels cause the maturation and release of the egg, as well as the thickening of the uterus lining to allow a fertilized egg to implant.

As early as 35 years old, women’s estrogen and progesterone levels can begin to fluctuate. And in an effort to preserve fertility for as long as possible, the body hangs on to extra fat — especially in the belly because this fat can make estrogen.

When a hormonal imbalance occurs, it becomes considerably harder to lose weight and sometimes it may seem impossible. But keeping an eye on your hormones can help you understand whether they are sabotaging your weight loss.

There are Female Hormone Blood Tests that tell you if your hormones are typical for your age, or whether an imbalance could be affecting your health.

Estrogen and progesterone are the primary female sex hormones and play several essential roles. They help to regulate:

  • Appetite
  • Eating Behaviors
  • Metabolism

Ensuring you have the right levels of these hormones for your age can steer you away from any symptoms such as:

  • Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue

Although a natural occurrence, hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle can also affect weight loss in females. Women tend to eat significantly more calories during the luteal phase (the days leading up to your period) compared to the follicular phase (starting on the first day of your period). Thus, reflecting the effects of progesterone on the appetite.

The increase in hunger in the luteal phase means starting a diet at this time may be a lot harder, so perhaps begin in the follicular phase.

The natural fluctuation in sex hormones isn’t something that can be directly controlled, but it can be controlled by the food we eat and the lifestyle choices we make.

Blood Sugar Imbalance

Blood sugar imbalances can lead to weight gain and weight loss resistance. When blood sugar levels are constantly high, insulin resistance can develop, leading to an increase in stored fat.

Leptin and insulin are hormones that are crucial for regulating your appetite and blood sugar levels.

When you’re eating a diet high in sugar and carbs, the more insulin and leptin you make, the less responsive your cells become to them.

(Read this blog to find out more about how that process works.)

Over time, those chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and other serious health issues.

They also cause your body to store extra fat and tune out the message to curb hunger. That’s a double whammy for fast fat loss!

The good news is that incorporating burst and resistance training into your schedule, getting good sleep, and adding a high-quality fish oil and vitamin D supplement to your daily routine are all great ways to help restore your insulin and leptin sensitivity.

Blood Sugar

Another important fact to mention is that elevated stress can also increase cortisol to increase blood sugar. Even if fasting blood glucose is normal, you can have insulin resistance.

Insulin Resistance:

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and helps the body store and uses energy. When insulin resistance develops, the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and an increase in stored fat. To prevent insulin resistance, it's important to follow a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, and to limit added sugars.

Leptin Resistance:

Leptin is a hormone that regulates hunger and energy expenditure. When leptin resistance develops, the body becomes less sensitive to leptin, leading to increased hunger and cravings, making it harder to lose weight. To prevent leptin resistance, it's essential to maintain a healthy diet, manage stress levels, and get adequate sleep.

Not eating enough protein can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) causing you to crave more sugar, causing a blood sugar roller coaster making it hard to lose weight. Abdominal weight gain may be a sign of insulin resistance.

To prevent blood sugar imbalances, it's important to follow a balanced diet that includes healthy sources of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, and to limit added sugars.

Other Factors That Can Prevent Weight Loss

In addition to the eight most common imbalances mentioned in this blog, women also suffer frequently from digestive imbalances, detoxification issues, and inflammation, which can lead to weight loss resistance. Digestive trouble is often linked to food sensitivities, and your body views this situation as another form of stress, ramping up cortisol and maintaining weight as a protective measure.

An overload of toxins can mimic our hormones and disrupt fat deposition, as well as alter the way we metabolize sugar. Inflammation can cause weight gain through the loss of insulin control and quick conversion of carbohydrates to belly fat.


Feeling frustrated about losing weight is no way to live your life. Frustration can increase your stress hormone cortisol, which again, can stall weight loss. The good news is that a professional can also help.

Weight loss resistance can come in many “flavors,” and it might feel like an uphill challenge to pinpoint what creates yours. Working with a Naturopathic Doctor or other healthcare professionals can help tremendously. A Naturopathic Doctor can help, and they’re also trained to pinpoint often-overlooked culprits that can stall weight loss or create weight loss resistance.

You are unique, and your weight loss challenge might also require a specialist who can find and eliminate the culprit or culprits that hold you back.

If you're struggling with weight loss resistance, I highly recommend looking beyond just diet and exercise. The key is to address the underlying factors that are impacting your weight loss efforts. With the right support and guidance, you can overcome weight loss resistance and achieve your desired results.

Shed Extra Weight - This Time For Good!

Weight loss resistance is a complex issue that is influenced by various factors, including hormonal imbalances, chronic stress, poor sleep quality, medications, poor gut health, thyroid disorders, sex hormone fluctuations, and blood sugar imbalance with insulin or leptin resistance.

By addressing these underlying issues and making lifestyle changes, you can support your weight loss efforts and achieve your desired results. Remember, weight loss is a journey, and consistency and patience are key.

Unfortunately, in a blog, I’m unable to tell you exactly what is causing your weight loss resistance problem at this point but what I can tell you is the best way how to overcome it - because there are lots of things that impact weight loss resistance.

You may have existing conditions that also need to be treated so that you can enjoy a day with more energy. Also, there may be other underlying problems that haven’t been diagnosed previously and this could be the reason you're unable to lose weight and keep it off.

If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, have tried everything, and don’t know where to turn, you are in the right place. We can help you get to the root of your imbalance and give you the tools to rebalance your body.

Our Weight Loss Resistance Package includes exclusive diet formulations to tackle the most common imbalances — to fit your body’s needs.

Plus, at LEVEL4 PT & Pilates, we offer free telephone consultations for women right here in Encinitas, CA where you can speak to our weight loss resistance specialist and ask any questions that you have.

Arrange your free telephone consultations with our simple web form, or if you prefer to talk over the telephone, you can call us at (760) 503-4440.

It’s time to get back your health, your happiness, and your best body!

More Natural Ways To Overcome Weight Loss Problems

For more weight loss resistance tips, Book a free call with our Women’s Health Naturopathic Doctor by texting LEVEL4 at: 760-503-4440

Or if you are ready and want more than free health tips, arrange a FREE Discovery Visit where you can speak to a member of our health team in Encinitas, CA.

Click Here to Arrange Your Free Discovery Visit

People who book a Discovery Visit usually talk about how nice it is to actually be listened to, and be able to get simple, jargon-free, personalized advice – Which is something we rarely get when we have been to the doctor with our problems.”

Our team would love to see you in the clinic to help you with your weight loss resistance.

Weight Loss Guide

For more expert advice, read our other blogs or check out our YouTube channel:

Read Our BlogWhy Can’t I Lose Weight No Matter What I Do?

Read Our Blog14 Fitness Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Get Fit

Read Our Blog6 Reasons Walking Is the Most Underrated Form of Exercise

Visit Our LEVEL4 PT & Pilates Women’s Health YouTube Channel

Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI

You Might Also Like...