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  • Writer's pictureDr Alex Dragan ND

Weight Loss Resistance

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

Weight loss resistance is the inability to lose weight by modifying your exercise and diet. It is one of the most common complaints in practice.

There are so many reasons you may be holding on to extra weight or finding it difficult to shed. Read on to find out what may be causing your weight gain or inability to lose weight.

Thyroid disease

Your thyroid is the thermostat of the body. It regulates our metabolism. If you have hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid you may find it difficult to lose weight. You can also suffer from the following symptoms:

● constipation

● fatigue/lethargy

● muscle aches and joint pain

● dry skin and nails

● hair loss

If this sounds like you, a proper thyroid assessment that includes checking your TSH and T3/T4 (thyroid hormones) would be helpful in order to rule in or out thyroid disease.


The hormonal changes that occur at this stage of your life can severely impact your ability to lose weight. As estrogen falls, your body becomes less anabolic (muscle building) which in turn affects your muscle mass. Estrogen is a special hormone. It ensures you have good muscle mass, strong bones and also helps insulin work better. When insulin isn’t working as well, you can develop what we call insulin resistance. This means your body needs more insulin than it used to, to do the same job (putting glucose into cells). When insulin is dysfunctional, weight gain is inevitable, especially around the midsection. Some other symptoms of perimenopause are:

● low libido

● lower tolerance (high stress)

● migraines

● irregular cycles

● heavy menstrual bleeding

● interrupted sleep

● hot flashes

By treating to underlying hormonal imbalances, we can help you manage your weight more effectively.


When women think of why they are gaining weight, often they blame hormones. Our mental health has just as much to do with our physical well being as our physiology. If you struggle with low mood or depressive thoughts please seek appropriate care through counseling and notify your primary care provider. Other symptoms of depression are:

● fatigue (over sleeping or under sleeping)

● minimal appetite

● racing thoughts

● difficulty concentrating

● feeling numb or unmotivated

● body pain

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

This syndrome is wide reaching and for some can cause weight gain (but not always). In many women struggling with PCOS weight gain, the common thread is insulin resistance. As I mentioned above in the menopause section, insulin helps our body store glucose. When this system is not working properly, it takes a lot of insulin to maintain healthy blood sugar. This is a vicious cycle that can lead to more weight gain. The key to stopping it, is to address the insulin resistance at its head. Some other symptoms of PCOS are:

● irregular or skipped periods

● low abdomen pain

● acne

● male patterned hair loss or growth

● mood changes

● fertility challenges

HPA axis dysregulation (aka you’re stressed out)

Your HPA axis is your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This is the stress gland connection in your body and it helps to regulate cortisol, our stress hormone. When you are stressed, cortisol rises, which can affect how insulin works. See a pattern? Insulin is a big player in weight gain/loss. Cortisol and insulin are opposites, when cortisol is high, insulin is low. Now imagine eating a meal when you are stressed out. Your cortisol is high which means that your insulin is low and all that glucose you are eating is just sitting in your blood. This can cause hyperglycemia and eventually when insulin rushes to the rescue, hypoglycemia, leaving you with cravings for high sugar foods. Here are some symptoms of HPA axis dysregulation:

● not feeling refreshed in the morning

● sugar/salt cravings

● feeling unmotivated

● afternoon energy crashes

● irritability or moodiness

If any of these sound like you, it’s important to address why you are unable to lose weight.

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