Why So Many ‘Healthy’ Women Can’t Lose Weight

Dr. Mära S Kevan, DACM is a licensed acupuncturist & Chinese herbalist. The focus of her practice: Food Is Medicine.

Women who are “healthy” but still carrying those last 5-10 pounds: this post is for you!  In contrast to gimmicky, quick-fix methods, this post examines the root of your problems.


  1. You have low Progesterone:

Levels of this important steroid hormone peak in the second half of a woman’s cycle after ovulation (the reason for progesterone’s name, which literally means “promoting gestation”).  When estrogen and progesterone are in balance, they work like yin and yang in the body. But hormonal imbalance in women is such a common modern world problem, that many women are getting by on the minimal amount of progesterone. And because of this, they are struggling emotionally and physically.


Many women, especially those of childbearing age, have an estrogen dominance problem.  Shocking but true: strenuous, all-out exercise may not be your friend!  If you exercise daily but still have excess weight around the hips, cellulite, and saggy skin, it’s likely that you’re using up your progesterone, and estrogen is dominating. Other causes of estrogen dominance include xenoestrogens found in environmental factors such as pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, topical beauty products, detergents, furniture and carpet.


We can order a hormone lab (Dutch Urine Test) to check your levels and then discuss which foods, supplements, and exercise regimens can bolster your progesterone (and decrease estrogen dominance).


  1. You’re not getting enough vitamin D:

Possibly due to our awareness of skin cancer and the use of sunscreen, our levels of vitamin D are lower than they were decades ago. Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies, and even cancer.  We can test your Vitamin D level and then the appropriate dosage of vitamin D3 can be prescribed.


  1. You have high cortisol:

A high level of cortisol, our stress hormone, is a big reason we tend to keep weight on the abdominal area.  Are you the kind of woman who wakes up very early to do an intense workout…then races home to get ready for work…then deals with family and home commitments?  Well, this hectic, on the go lifestyle increases your cortisol levels and works against your goals of having a lean body.  Think about our ancestors running from a saber tooth tiger: the body was only focused on survival (finding safety) and not focused on metabolism (because it didn’t know when the next meal would come, so held onto reserves).  We haven’t evolved that much from our ancestors, we’ve just translated modern day running around to running from a predator!  In time, we then experience adrenal fatigue.  So that’s an awesome combo: overweight & dragging ass.


If you feel like you need to be on a caffeine drip at all times, it means you’re having too many highs and lows with cortisol as a big culprit. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain.  You need to unwind everyday with whatever it is that shuts off your hypervigilance — even if it’s for 10 minutes per day.  Take a nap, get acupuncture, meditate, melt into a yin-yoga class for true restoration, and always enjoy quiet time in nature.


  1. You’re eating processed “healthy”:

Excess sodium, GMOs, sugar, inflammatory & carcinogenic ingredients are all hidden in modern day processed foods, which causes weight gain. Just because it’s at a health food store and it’s “gluten free” or “natural” DOES NOT mean it’s good for you.  It’s misleading and may be confusing because packaging with the words “natural” and “healthy” are very enticing.  If you have to read a label, it’s now how Mother Nature intended it.  Be vigilant!  Buy the whole orange, not orange juice in a container.


  1. You’re eating too much (bad) fat:

Our bodies do well with a minimal source of whole fat from organic foods.  My favs are: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, butter, ghee, and nuts – especially when added to greens!  Our gallbladder needs fat in order to release bile, to aid our digestion.  We assimilate protein more efficiently when it’s consumed with a little healthy fat (I.E. 1 egg + ½ small avocado).  But a small amount is best, be careful not to over-do it.  Quality over quantity!


Fat also tastes good!  Avoid “low fat” and “no fat” foods because if the fat is removed, something has to be added in order to make it palatable.  Typically the fat is substituted with sugar.  Eck!  This is NOT what Mother Nature intended.

  1. You’re skimping on quality sleep:

Quality sleep provides time for the body to truly restore & heal.  Your hormones need it to stay in balance, your muscles need it for repair, and your brain needs it to work optimally.


Do you find yourself waking in the middle of the night with anxiety, racing thoughts, and can’t fall back asleep?  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver correlates to the hours of 1-3AM and the organ is responsible for the smooth flow of emotions, Qi and blood.  It is the organ that is most affected by excess stress or emotions. A simple remedy is to not drink alcohol at night; this will lessen the detoxification roll of the Liver and not spike the blood sugar.  Letting the organ rest = you have a restful nights sleep, wake feeling fantastic, and look radiant!  Healthy nighttime habits: herbal teas, meditation, hot baths, reading a book, and going to sleep by 10pm.


The two hormones that are key in the relationship between sleep and weight loss are ghrelin and leptin. Put very simply, leptin tells us when to stop eating and when you’re sleep deprived. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat. When you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin so you want to eat unnecessarily…thus leading to excess weight.  So go to bed early and keep a regular, relaxing nighttime routine!


  1. You’re not eating your cruciferous vegetables:

Cruciferous vegetables from the vegetable family Brassicaceae include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and other similar green vegetables. Not only are they good for you because of the feeling of fullness you get from the fiber, but also they’re good for estrogen metabolism through a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is a natural source of DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) that helps promote estrogen balance. This is the cheapest, easiest way to get your hormones — and your weight — in balance.