Ben Greenfield Article: Reasons WHY you can’t lose weight

Do you struggle with FAT loss…even when doing all the “right” things?

Here is an article from Ben Greenfield that I wanted to save and share with clients …so here you go!

Reason #1: Cortisol & Stress

Cause: Cortisol, which disrupts normal insulin activity, can be spiked by any number of factors, including the death of a loved one, emotional stress and sexual frustrations, excessive heat, cold or humidity, restrictive clothing, too much work, and more.

Solution: Start measuring your heart rate variability (HRV). If you see consistently low values or inconsistent values, you’re likely overproducing cortisol. The most cutting-edge way to truly see what’s going on with your cortisol levels is by testing them. My top pick for this is the DUTCH Urine Steroid Hormone Profile. Because hormone levels fluctuate constantly, this test is performed via multiple collections throughout the day (all from the comfort of your own home), making it one of the most accurate and reliable. Check out my articles “The Single Biggest Contributor To Poor Health And How To Combat It With Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Training.” for more on HRV and “Why We’re All Chronically Stressed (And How You Can Combat Stress With Food And Supplementation).” for more on reducing cortisol and stress.

Reason #2: Sleep Deprivation

Cause: Sleep deprivation causes insulin resistance and high glycemic variability, raises cortisol levels, reduces glucose tolerance, and increases stressful sympathetic nervous system activity.


Solution: Get better sleep. Check out my comprehensive article “The Last Resource On Sleep You’ll Ever Need: Ben Greenfield’s Ultimate Guide To Napping, Jet Lag, Sleep Cycles, Insomnia, Sleep Food, Sleep Supplements, Exercise Before Bed & Much, Much More!” to learn everything you need to know about sleep. To understand more about sleep and weight gain, check out the massive sleep chapter of Boundless, in which I detail each every last sleep, nap and jet-lag trick I know.

Reason #3: Snacking & Post-workout Calories

Cause: Eating six times a day and dropping everything to eat immediately after a workout (which is a myth that you can click here to read more about), increases glycemic variability. In fact, short, 12- to 16-hour fasts (intermittent fasting) will increase your metabolic rate.

Solution: Eat less often throughout the day. You don’t have to reduce your caloric intake, the trick is simply to eat less often, not eat less. For more on intermittent fasting for weight loss, check out this article from Kion: “Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: What Does The Research Say?.”

Reason #4: Too Much Exercise

Cause: Excessive exercise leads to elevated cortisol levels, inflammation, and hormonal dysregulation.

Solution: Take days off. Most hard-charging high-achievers under the age of 40 benefit from at least one day of rest and recovery per week, and most folks over 40 benefit from two to three days. Engage in active recovery modalities like massages, sauna sessionscold therapy, or hiking. For more recovery tips, from simple tactics anyone can do anywhere to more advanced biohacks, read my article, “23 Proven Tips For Rapid Recovery (Techniques, Gear, And Nutrition Advice To Help You Bounce Back With Lightning Speed).

Reason #5: Chronic Cardio

Cause: Extreme bouts of cardio, such as running 50-100 miles in a single day, actually train your body to hold on to fat because your body wants to store energy for your next bout (fat), and shed unnecessary weight (muscle). So when you perform increasingly grueling death marches, your body gets rid of muscle and stores fat to prepare for each bout of cardio, while also downregulating anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone, as these are paradoxical to extreme endurance efficiency.

Solution: Engage in short, high-intensity interval cardio sessions and also switch cardio modes frequently, meaning that if you do three intense cardio sessions per week, you could alternate between swimming, cycling, and running. One study found that after twenty weeks of training, the participants who performed HIIT (high-intensity interval training) lost more body fat than those who engaged in steady-state endurance training (like long, slow treadmill runs). HIIT is also effective in the prevention and management of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Most HIIT sessions last about thirty minutes at the most, so you are getting a lot more bang for your buck than if you were to spend an hour tooling along on a treadmill.

Reason #6: SAID Principle

Cause: SAID stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands.” Your body adapts to the demands you place upon it, such as only running or only pushups. Eventually, your body becomes so efficient at that exercise that it burns fewer calories performing it.

Solution: Switch things up every 8-12 weeks. Been lifting weights? Start doing high-intensity interval training. Like using the elliptical? Grab a set of dumbbells or a weighted backpack and hit the hiking trails. For more ideas, check out my article “5 Unconventional, Woo-Woo Workouts Every Fitness Enthusiast Should Add To Their Repertoire.“, and also this article which lists five specific modifications you can make to minimize the effects of endless repetition, and finally a very good approach for those who like to lift weights: the Conjugate Training Method.

Reason #7: Avoiding Cold

Cause: The fat you know and perhaps associate with weight gain or your pants not fitting properly anymore is called white adipose tissue (WAT). Brown adipose tissue (BAT), located primarily around the sternum, when activated by exposure to cold, signals to your body to start burning WAT via non-shivering thermogenesis (a metabolic process activated by the sympathetic nervous system neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine that takes place in BAT to “warm the body” without shivering).

Solution: Develop an intimate relationship with cold, and on some days, incorporate cold to the extent you are mildly shivering. Take a daily cold shower at 55 degrees F. or lower. Take a weekly 20-minute soak in a tub of ice. Wear the Cool Fat Burner Vest or the Cool Gut Buster. I have a ton of resources on cold thermogenesis, but here’s a good one to get you started: “Tips For Burning More Fat With Cold Thermogenesis (And Why Icing Really Does Work).

Reason #8: Hormones

Cause: Hormonal imbalances—caused by exposure to pesticides, external stress like financial stress and internal stress like high GV, dietary contaminants, lack of sleep, and poor digestive health—can slow down your metabolism and cause chronic inflammation. When hormones are disrupted, metabolism slows down, appetite rages, and inflammation manifests. Women seem to have more trouble with imbalances that specifically cause resistance to fat loss. For example, the hormone estrogen is higher in women and promotes cell division, cell growth, and, in excessive amounts, the formation of fat tissue. Progesterone, which protects against such excessive fat growth, declines much faster with age in women than estrogen production. So between ages thirty and fifty, a woman can develop estrogen dominance. At that point, fat rapidly accumulates and becomes much harder to lose. Men can also experience similar age-related issues as testosterone falls and estrogen rises.

 Solution: Take a DUTCH test, which tells you what your hormones are doing over a twenty-four-hour cycle, if you are deficient in certain hormones, if your hormones aren’t being metabolized properly, or if they’re being metabolized too rapidly – all variables a common blood test can’t tell you. It can give you an accurate analysis of testosterone, estrogen, cortisol, melatonin, DHEA, and other hormones. You can then correct imbalances by following tips on your report such as eating more cruciferous veggies to balance estrogen (e.g. broccoli, broccoli sprouts and brussels sprouts), filtering your water of heavy metals and chemicals like fluoride and refortifying it with by adding pinches of a good sea salt to your food and water throughout the day, adding Aquatru “perfect minerals” or Quinton raw, unheated minerals from Water and Wellness (save 10% with code GREENFIELD) to your water, and using glass or stainless steel products instead of plastic, which contain endocrine-wrecking BPA. Check out the book Estrogeneration and my article “How to Protect Your Body from the Ten Hidden Killers in Your Home” for more information.

Reason #9: Toxins & Chemicals

Cause: Your body produces new fat cells to store chemicals like DDT, DDE, and BPA to protect other tissues and your internal organs.


Solution: The previous solutions for hormonal imbalances will work well to minimize toxin and chemical damage. Also, eat a full spectrum of whole food antioxidants to help eliminate free radicals and oxidants. Aim for 35 to 60 grams of dietary fiber per day from organic produce, berries, and limited fruits, seeds, and nuts.


Reason #10: Allergies & Intolerances

Cause: Allergies and intolerances to food cause a systemic inflammatory response and disrupt insulin function.

Solution: Take the Cyrex Array 10-90 (what I consider to be the best food intolerance panel) test to determine any intolerances or allergies you may have. Rather than giving you a frustrating and inaccurate laundry list of foods you are never supposed to touch again, it identifies an accurate, targeted list of foods to remove from your diet. Cyrex’s approach to testing for reactivity to cooked, processed, and raw foods sets them apart from competitors because once a food is heated to 118 degrees or more, its protein structure and potential for triggering an antigen reaction may change. For example, a person’s inflammatory response to cooked chicken may be far different than the response to raw chicken. As a result, the Cyrex Array 10-90 test minimizes the risk of missing reactivity or generating false positives in response to common foods. You can also order Cyrex’s Comprehensive Food Immune Reactivity Panel (even more informative because it combines tests for wheat and gluten cross-reactivity with tests for over 180 different food antigens) through your physician. Once you know what you’re intolerant to, simply avoid those foods. Another option is to do an elimination diet such as the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol.

Reason #11: Micronutrient Deficiencies

Cause: Deficiencies in certain micronutrients, such as vitamin Dchromiumbiotinthiamine, and antioxidants, can lead to issues like dysregulation of insulin and changes in glucose and amino acid metabolism.

Solution: Get the Genova ION (Individual Optimal Nutrition) Profile with 40 Amino Acids nutritional analysis to determine nutritional deficiencies. Or, cover your micronutrient bases by eating a widely varied diet rich in both plant and nose-to-tail animal sources, and taking a good multivitamin like Thorne Multi-Vitamin Elite.

Reason #12: Your ThyroidCause: Thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism, can be disrupted by deficiencies in iodine (use code BEN to save 15%) and selenium, excess training, and long-term caloric and carbohydrate deprivation.


Solution: Get a good comprehensive blood test for thyroid activity or a resting metabolic rate (RMR) test to evaluate if your metabolic rate is too low. You can also consider getting a device like the Lumen (save $50 with code BEN). It uses a CO2 sensor and flow meter to determine the CO2 concentration in a single breath, indicating the type of fuel your body is using to produce energy (fats/carbs). With this data, you can understand how what you eat impacts your metabolism and also use it to improve it. If you have thyroid issues, slow down and avoid stress.

Eat thyroid-supporting foods like seaweed and dulse for iodinebrazil nuts, shellfish and oysters for selenium and coconut oil for thyroid conversion and metabolism. Check out my recent podcast “An Interview With A Child Prodigy: Should You Skip Breakfast, Analyzing Your Poop, Cold Thermogenesis & Breathwork Strategies & More With Daniel Bissonnette.” for more on iodine (including little-known facts about iodine).

Reason #13: Disordered Eating

Cause: Research suggests that for some people, maintaining a regular eating schedule can improve the metabolic response to meals. This seems to be particularly beneficial for women.

Solution: Eat meals at the same time from day to day. I’ve had clients shed pounds simply by eating the same meals at the same time day in and day out for months, probably for two reasons: the less erratic eating patterns result in more metabolic efficiency, and the less decision-making fatigue around food results in fewer poor choices for a meal.

I know this all may seem like a lot and may be a bit overwhelming for those who are just starting out on their weight loss journeys. But as I mentioned earlier, start with dialing in inflammation and glycemic variability, then move through these next 13 roadblocks to fat loss as your body is able to. “The quickest way to lose weight” and “the quickest and healthiest way to lose weight” are two very different things; and if you chose the latter, you’ll finally be able to kiss the days of never-ending yo-yo dieting goodbye.



Debbie Potts

Health & Fitness Coach, Author, & Speaker

The WHOLESTIC Method’ Coaching Program

Host of ‘The Low Carb Athlete’ Podcast

PNOE Metabolic Efficiency Testing

FNTP, FDNP, NASM CPT, CHEK HLC, Ben Greenfield Coach


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