Why Can't I Lose Weight?
Why Can't I Lose Weight?
An Article by Atkins Center writer Sheila Buff.
Experts at The Atkins Center Offer 12 Secrets to Help You Get Off
You've done everything right and lost weight steadily following the Atkins Nutritional Approach... But now
the scale won't budge. Or perhaps your progress has slowed to a crawl. What gives? You've reached a plateau when
weight loss slows or even comes to a stop. Or maybe you've faithfully followed the Induction phase, but can't get
off home base. Many of the reasons that people hit a plateau explain why others can't even begin to lose weight.
Before you get discouraged and lose your commitment to long-term weight loss, understand that plateaus occur in
any slimming-down process. Stick with the program and your weight loss will kick in again. "You may stay at one
weight for a month, then suddenly drop three pounds," says Colette Heimowitz, M.S., director of education and
research at Atkins Health & Medical Information Services. But it is also important to ascertain whether there
is another reason.
First, says Jacqueline Eberstein, R.N., director of medical education at The Atkins Center, figure out if you
really are on a plateau. "The scale is the least reliable reflection of fat loss," she points out. "Look at
other markers. Are you feeling better? Do your clothes feel looser? If you're losing inches but not pounds,
your fat cells are still shrinking. Also, check whether you are in still in lipolysis/ketosis by using ketone test strips. You're only on a plateau if there's no change at all for more than four weeks."
Hitting at least one plateau is normal and to be expected. It's most likely to happen, and most difficult to
break through, if you've come to Atkins after years of yo-yo dieting. "We often find that a patient will
plateau at the same points he or she always used to reach on previous diets," says Eberstein. "These are
the weights at which you naturally start to resist weight loss."
For many people, even those resistant to weight loss, breaking through a plateau is often a matter of making
simple dietary changes. In other cases, an outside cause may be the culprit. You may need to modify your
lifestyle and consult with your health-care practitioner. Here are 12 items to consider:
1: Look for Hidden Carbs:
The first step is to examine your diet more closely. As Heimowitz explains, "Hidden carbohydrates are everywhere,
and you can end up eating them without realizing it." Be especially careful when it comes to foods marketed as
low-fat. Manufacturers often make up for flavor in the missing fat by adding high-carb fillers and sugar. Also
avoid candies and cookies labeled sugar-free. The products may not have any cane sugar in them, but they may
still have at least 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Sugar, thickeners such as cornstarch and fillers such
as milk solids are found in all sorts of processed foods, including many canned and dried soups, salad dressings,
sauces, gravies and frozen vegetables in sauces.
Watch out for condiments, too. Barbecue sauce, ketchup, and sandwich spreads often have added sugar. For example,
there are nearly 3 grams of carbohydrates in a tablespoon of teriyaki sauce. Try a sugar free or lowcarb version of your favorite condiments.When you're food shopping, read
labels carefully to find hidden carbs, and stay away from them. Remember that other seemingly innocuous foods
also contain carbs that should be included in your daily tally. For example, a tablespoon of lemon juice
includes a gram of carbs, as does a tablespoon of skim milk or balsamic vinegar. And even a tiny sweet gherkin
pickle packs a whole gram. While seemingly insignificant on their own, these can add up fast.
To determine if you're being sandbagged by hidden carbs, Heimowitz suggests keeping a food diary for a few
weeks. That way you can easily judge if your carb intake is higher than you realized.
2: Stop Consuming Aspartame:
If you're sure you're not eating any hidden carbs, take a closer look at other aspects of your diet. An
observation at The Atkins Center has been that when certain people discontinue their use of aspartame,
their weight loss resumes. The artificial sweetener is marketed under the brand names of NutraSweet® and
Equal®. To eliminate aspartame from your life, give up most diet sodas, especially colas (many of which
also contain caffeine). Instead, use sweeteners such as sucralose, marketed as Splenda®, or saccharin,
marketed as Sugar Twin®. Don't be afraid to explore all the new sweeteners that are now available.Again, you also need to examine the labels of all beverages, particularly
sugar-free ones, to make sure that aspartame is not an ingredient.
3: Don't Skip Supplements:
Dr. Atkins recommends everyone supplement his diet with vitamins and minerals to make up for deficiencies
in food resulting from overprocessing, depleted soil and other environmental assaults. Taking Life Extension Two Per Day Vitamin, Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA with Sesame Lignans & Olive Fruit Extract , and All-In-One Weight Loss Formula in combination
ensures adequate intake of all essential nutrients. The trio
also includes certain nutrients that aid in
weight loss, including chromium, pantethine, selenium, vanadium and biotin to help stabilize blood sugar
and metabolize fat. Once you are on a balanced nutrient-supplementation program, you should experience a
decrease in appetite and your metabolism will likely operate more effectively. The result will be renewed
4: Overweight or Overgrowth?
After years of eating a high-sugar diet, it's quite possible that your digestive tract has an overgrowth
of an organism known as Candida albicans. When that happens, the beneficial bacteria in your intestines
get crowded out. Candida (also known as yeast) overgrowth also provokes food intolerances, headaches and
immune-system weakness, and keeps you from losing weight by causing unstable blood sugar and major
carbohydrate cravings. Once your practitioner has diagnosed a yeast overgrowth, you'll need to eliminate
some foods from your diet until it clears up. Typically, the first food to go is sugar. Candida thrives
on sugar, so a sugar-free, controlled carb approach will starve it out. It's also important to eliminate
yeast and fermented foods such as sourdough breads, pickles, beer, wine, vinegar and many cheeses. Also
omit nuts, which can contain mold.
5: Move Your Bod:
Exercise is another way to help break through a plateau. Increasing your activity level burns off fat
and restores muscle mass. But don't overdo it and don't expect to see results immediately, cautions
Eberstein. "If you're just beginning, start with some easy aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking
for 20 minutes or so. If you have not been active, check with your health-care practitioner about
what your cardiovascular system can tolerate. The effect of exercise is cumulative. It could take
several weeks before you start to get off your plateau." If you already engage in an exercise
program, increase your frequency or level of activity.
6: Review Your Medication:
Weight-loss plateaus are often caused not by what you eat but by prescription drugs. Drugs for high
blood pressure, especially diuretics and the drugs known as beta-blockers, can make your body extremely
resistant to weight loss. A lot of cardiology patients who come to The Atkins Center are taking these
drugs. They can't lose weight while they're on them, but being overweight is a big reason for their
high blood pressure.
Natural substitutes for SSRI drugs include the herbs St. John's wort and kava kava or inositol
hexanicotinate, a B vitamin. Warning: Never stop antidepressants on your own; you need to taper
off these drugs slowly and that there can be interactions with alternative remedies. Don't forget to
consult your doctor. Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs also keep you from losing weight and they're
potentially dangerous as well. At The Atkins Center, we stop statin drugs immediately. Our
low-carbohydrate eating plan alone will improve blood lipids.
7: Forget the Java:
Excessive caffeine has the same weight-loss-inhibiting effect as aspartame because it can cause
low blood sugar, making you crave carbs. Caffeine is found not just in coffee and tea but also
in chocolate and many soft drinks. Switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea, experiment with
flavorful herbal teas or stick to plain, pure water. You may miss caffeine or even experience
withdrawal symptoms at first, but, as Eberstein points out, "We often see weight loss start up
again as soon as patients remove caffeine and aspartame from their diet."
8: Are You a Diabetic?
The most fattening of all the hormones is insulin. Diabetics who have to inject insulin find it
almost impossible to lose weight. Oral drugs are almost as bad. According to Dr. Atkins, "The
majority of oral medications for diabetes have a weight-gain effect. Even drugs that don't
stimulate insulin have this effect. The one drug that does help diabetics control their blood sugar
and lose weight is metformin, marketed under the brand name Glucophage®. At The Atkins Center,
physicians often prescribe this for diabetic patients when they start the Atkins program. Once
they've been following it for a while, their need for the drug almost invariably disappears."
9: Get Back to Basics:
If simple dietary changes and some exercise don't get you off your plateau, it's time to go back to
basics. As Dr. Atkins explains, "Because people lose weight so easily on the program, they tend to
start sneaking in some extra carbohydrates. That makes weight loss slower, but you still keep losing.
Add just a few more carbs, though, and you've exceeded your Critical Carbohydrate Level for
Losing [CCLL]. That's what has happened when you hit a plateau. To get off it, go back to the
Induction phase for three or four days. You should start losing again. Then slowly add back a
few carbs, being sure to stop just below your earlier CCLL. That will establish your new CCLL."
Stick with it, he adds, and you have an excellent chance of avoiding more plateaus as your weight
10: Is Your Food Fighting Back?
Unsuspected food intolerances can be a major roadblock to weight loss. Many patients at The Center,
for example, turn out to be allergic to wheat and wheat products. Other common allergens include soy,
milk, cheese and eggs. People with food intolerances often have gastrointestinal problems, along
with joint pain, anxiety or depression, and other symptoms. Your practitioner will use a process
of elimination to uncover any food allergies. It takes time, but it will be worth it when your
weight loss picks up and your overall health improves.
11: Check Out Your Thyroid:
Whenever a patient at The Atkins Center has real trouble losing weight, the physicians always
check for other medical problems. The one that comes up most often is a sluggish thyroid gland.
As you age, it's not unusual for your thyroid to stop producing enough of the hormones that
control the speed of your metabolism. When that happens, your whole body slows down; you gain
weight and can't get it off. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is easy to diagnose, even
though it doesn't always show up on standard lab tests. Working with your doctor, keep track
of your temperature, taking it orally four times a day over several days. If your average
temperature is lower than 98° F, a sluggish thyroid is probably the cause of your plateau.
Other symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism are dry skin, brittle nails, hair loss, sleep
disturbances, depression and lethargy. The treatment for hypothyroidism is straightforward.
As Dr. Atkins explains, "I use the therapeutic trial for thyroid. After examining blood-test
results, I start patients with a very low dose of a prescription thyroid hormone replacement
and build up gradually and very carefully. In most cases, when we reach the right dose patients
start to feel dramatically better. They have a much better sense of overall well-being, with
much more energy and vitality. Best of all, they start to lose weight again."
12: Reconsider HRT:
After insulin, Dr. Atkins believes that (HRT) is a leading offender in terms of inhibited weight loss.
Menopausal women who take estrogen
or an estrogen-progesterone combo have a lot of trouble shedding pounds. In fact, weight gain,
water retention and skyrocketing triglyceride levels are well-known side effects of HRT. "There
are better, more natural ways to treat menopause symptoms," Dr. Atkins says. "Folic acid in
prescription-strength doses, for example, helps minimize many symptoms, as do other nutrients,
such as boron, soy isoflavones and herbs such as agnus cactus and dong quai." Also, consume
moderate amounts of soy products.
NutraSweet and Equal are registered trademarks of the NutraSweet Company. Splenda is a trademark
of McNeill PPC, Inc. Sweet'n Low is a registered trademark of Cumberland Packing. Prozac is a
registered trademark of Eli Lilly & Co. Glucophage is a registered trademark of Bristol-Meyers