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Why Aren't You Losing Weight? Problem & Solution

Why Aren't You Losing Weight? Problem & Solution

You're following a weight-loss eating plan. You're exercising almost every day. You're proud of the new healthy habits you've learned. Yet week after week, the scale barely seems to budge. What gives?

Chances are your food portion sizes have crept up (time to get out the scales and measuring cups again). Or your workouts may not be quite as intense as you think (start checking that heart rate).

But if you know you've followed your reducing plan religiously, there's another possibility: A medical condition -- or medication -- may be to blame.

"If you haven't been able to lose weight and you can't understand why, you need to determine whether there's a medical condition underlying your weight problem," says Peter LePort, MD, director of the Smart Dimensions Bariatric Program at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California. "You need to cure that problem first before you can address the weight issue."

Medical Reasons for Weight Gain

Several conditions can cause weight gain or hinder weight loss, says Rebecca Kurth, MD, director of PrimeCare at Columbia-Presbyterian Eastside and associate professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University.

Among them, Kurth says, are:

  • Chronic stress . When you live with anxiety, stress, or grief, your body can produce chemical substances -- like the hormone cortisol -- that make your body more likely to store fat, especially around the waist. That's the type of weight gain that really increases your risk of serious health problems. (Extra weight around the hips and thighs poses fewer health risks.)
  • Cushing's syndrome . This happens when the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) produce too much cortisol, which leads to a buildup of fat in the face, upper back, and abdomen.
  • Hypothyroidism . If your thyroid is underactive, your body may not produce enough thyroid hormone to help burn stored fat. As a result, your metabolism is slower and you will store more fat than you burn -- especially if you're not physically active.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This disease, the result of a hormonal imbalance, afflicts more than 5 million women in the US. Common symptoms are irregular menstrual bleeding, acne, excessive facial hair, thinning hair, difficulty getting pregnant, and weight gain that is not caused by excessive eating.
  • Syndrome X. Also called insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia (high insulin levels), syndrome X goes hand-in-hand with weight gain. Syndrome X is a cluster of health conditions thought to be rooted in insulin resistance. When your body is resistant to the hormone insulin, other hormones that help control your metabolism don't work as well.
  • Depression . Many people who are depressed turn to eating to ease their emotional distress.
  • Hormonal changes in women. Some women may gain weight at times in their lives when there is a shift in their hormones -- at puberty, during pregnancy, and at menopause.

Garcinia Cambogia: Safe for Weight Loss?

Garcinia cambogia, a tropical fruit also known as the Malabar tamarind, is a popular weight-loss supplement. People say it blocks your body's ability to make fat and it puts the brakes on your appetite. It could help keep blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check, too. You'll find it in bottles on the shelf at the store as well as mixed with other ingredients in diet products.

Does it live up to its hype? Maybe a little, but it might not be worth it.

How It Works

The active ingredient in the fruit's rind, hydroxycitric acid, or HCA, has boosted fat-burning and cut back appetite in studies. It appears to block an enzyme called citrate lyase, which your body uses to make fat. It also raises levels of the brain chemical serotonin, which may make you feel less hungry.

But actual weight loss results aren't impressive. A review published in the Journal of Obesity found that people who took garcinia cambogia in studies lost about 2 pounds more than people who didn't take it. The reviewers couldn't say for sure that the weight loss was because of the supplement. It could have been from the lower-calorie diet and exercise programs the people in the studies typically followed. Better studies are needed to find out if HCA really helps people lose a lot of weight and keep it off.

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