Kabir heads an MNC, eats all his meals on time, watches his food even when he travels, swims 5 times a week & plays football over the weekend. He has no medical anomaly which could hinder weight loss.

Riddhi, a mother of a 3 year old has been trying to desperately drop her pregnancy weight. She eats right, exercises daily & has no medical anomaly which could hinder weight loss.

What then is causing Riddhi, Kabir  & many others to struggle with their weight in spite of being so “on track”

Lack of sleep – Yes, its true…lack of sleep can cause ineffective weight loss &/or weight gain. This happens due to the interplay of the hormones Leptin ( a hormone produced in the fat cells whose job is to send a signal to the brain when you are full) & ghrelin ( a hormone produced in the gastrointestinal tract responsible for stimulating appetite). Lack of sleep causes leptin levels to drop which causes a person to feel less satisfied inspite of a full meal. Lack of sleep also causes ghrelin levels to rise causing an increase in appetite. Besides, less sleep would also means less energy when exercising which can affect performance & therefore the outcome.

Stress – An extremely demanding professional & domestic life is one of the major causes of stress in the present day scenario. Consistent high levels of stress without relief causes the body to produce high levels of the hormone Cortisol. Too much cortisol slows down metabolism causing weight gain or failure to lose weight. Additionally, high levels of stress may also contribute to  “emotional eating” which result in cravings for salty, fatty & sugary foods, none of which will help a person lose weight.

Body clock - Also know as the “circadian rhythm” the body clock coordinates the metabolic demands of the body’s daily wake/sleep cycle. When awake the body metabolizes food faster to provide energy in the form of calories. In the sleep phase, the digestive tract slows down, body temperature drops and mental alertness decreases. A disruption in this pattern leads to loss of muscle mass & weight gain – one of the reasons why globetrotters & those working in shift jobs seem to struggle with weight.

Social norms – In accordance to family beliefs, even in today’s so called modern India there are societies which do not permit the women of the house to step out for anything other than “household chores”. Going to the gym, walking in the park or the beach are just some of the basics which are a no no for far too many Indian women. Strange but true, with no facilities at home, small houses, too many people living together, these women have no option but to forget about ever including exercise as a part of their routine. Besides, there is also a compulsion to cook food in a particular manner & without a choice eat what is cooked.

Fasting – It may appear to be a two in one option – lose weight & please the almighty but in reality fasting does more harm than aid in your attempt to lose weight. In the initial phase of fasting a person loses fluid , followed by lean muscle & very little fat. It further causes a reduction in Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) & causes the body to conserve energy. The end result is weight gain even when a person begins to eat normal food without overeating. 

Family support – Does your family consider your attempt to lose weight a fad or are they genuinely supportive to your cause? The success or failure of a weight management program will greatly depend on their stand. Encouragement, support & motivation from the immediate family will go a long way in helping the person cope with the challenges of a weight management program. Lapses & re-lapses are common to all those trying to control their weight, but the response of those within the family will go a long way in determining whether or not the lapse is permanent or temporary.

Unrealistic expectations – On an average most people aim at getting to their goal within 2 to 4 months. The number of kgs may vary – anything from 4 to 40 kgs – but the time limit – same. While expecting a weight loss of about 2 to 4 kgs a month is realistic, aiming at anything over 5 kgs is unrealistic. It is possible that a person may lose as much as 4 to 6 kgs in the first month or so but most of this initial loss is fluid & not “fat”. Failure to get to that dream number in record time can result in disappointment & in many cases cause the person to give up & even relapse.