May 14


5 Crucial Parts to Weight Loss

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

May 14, 2018

minutes read time


Tell me if you can relate to this phrase, “I’ve tried everything and I just can’t seem to lose the weight.”  You probably answered yes because most people do.  Many of my clients initially come to me to lose weight…and the work begins.

Weight loss is really a puzzle.  Learning how your body functions, listening to what your body is telling you, and adjusting as needed is the quickest way to lose weight.  It’s not a shake, pill, product, or potion.  Sure, you’ll lose some water weight quickly but you won’t actually lose fat and you won’t keep it off long-term.

Here’s another phrase…tell me if you can relate to it.  “I want to drop 10 lbs and then I want to gain it back in a few weeks.”  You probably can’t relate because most people don’t think or say this to themselves.  It’s usually the opposite…wanting to lose it and keep it off.

Here’s the catch…you have to put in the work.  Quality weight loss does not come overnight.  And it’s usually not entirely based on what you’re eating.  Many of my clients consume a solid diet; one that most nutritionists would be proud of.  And yet they aren’t losing.  Unlocking the puzzle by learning, listening, and doing is how you lose weight and keep it off.

In this blog, we are going to discuss the 5 primary puzzle pieces to losing weight and keeping it off. There are more than 5, however this is the prominent 5 I see in my office.

Balance your hormones

Your hormones are not the same when you’re 40 as they were when you were 20. Our bodies are in a constant state of change and keeping up with them is imperative.  Let’s first focus on estrogen.

As women, we all have varying amounts of estrogen at varying times during the month as well as in our lives. We can have excess estrogen in the body. This can lead to estrogen dominant breast cancer, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and endometriosis, to name a few.  As we age, our estrogen levels slowly decline until we hit menopause.  Men can also have excess estrogen…it’s not just a women’s issue.

Excess estrogen, in both men and women, can lead to increased weight retention or weight gain. Here are the common signs and symptoms of excess estrogen:


Weight gain



Water retention

Mood swings


Heavy bleeding

Foggy thinking

We can balance estrogen by reducing stress, improving our sleep, and cleaning up our diets.  Increasing our fiber is a big one.  And, when you increase fiber, you need to increase your fluid intake.  Supporting the liver is another part to clearing excess estrogen.  Often, I’ll use herbs or supplements to help the body metabolize estrogen better so we can reduce the amounts we have.  (You can always check out my 10-Day Body Reset program that is just for supporting the liver and ramping the body’s natural detox process.)

We also need to think about progesterone.  Sometimes, when we think we have too much estrogen, we actually have too little progesterone. Oddly, the symptoms of estrogen dominance are very similar to progesterone deficiency.  Here are the common ones:


Weight gain



Cyclical headaches

We can also improve progesterone by working on stress reduction.  Cortisol, the stress hormone, blocks progesterone receptors in the body. With that, let’s chat stress.

Reduce your stress

No one is stress free this day in age.  We all have stress.  The key is learning how to manage stress to reduce the effects of stress on the body.

When we feel a stressor, whether that’s running from an attacker at night or getting an email from the boss that really grinds the gears, the body goes through the same exact stress response.

First, we release epinephrine.  This is the adrenaline that gets us going.  You may notice staggered breathing, shaking hands, irritability, and increased heart rate.

Second, we release norepinephrine.  This gives us laser focus to duck into alley ways or complete a task.  Ever been against a deadline and notice the ideas you couldn’t conjure before now just start flowing?  That’s your norepinephrine.

Last, we release cortisol. We touched on this briefly when discussing hormones. Cortisol tells the body we need energy so the body releasing all the stored glucose so we can create energy to keep out of reach of our attacker.  Any excess glucose that was released and not used, gets restored as fat.

This is where stress can be a weight issue.  We are most often not outrunning an attacker.  We are sitting when we are stressed.  So, we aren’t using that massive influx of energy we’ve released, which means we restore it as fat.

We release cortisol when we are lacking in sleep, when we are stressed, and when we are working out…yes, exercise is a stressor (but usually a good one…unless we are over exercising).  Cortisol also increases cravings, which leads to snacking.

We can’t always remove the stressor but we can implement strategies to reduce the effects on the body. Meditation, belly breathing, walking, or doing something you enjoy are all great methods to reducing the stress response in the body.

Get enough sleep

I cannot foot stomp this one enough.  We do not get enough sleep.  We may get enough to function throughout the day, but we don’t get enough to thrive.

We need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and it needs to be quality sleep.  I know…that’s a tall order.  Baby steps.  Making small, sustainable changes to your sleep habits will do you wonders when it comes to weight loss.

I talk about sleep strategies in my 3-Steps to Overcome Fatigue blog and you can watch my YouTube video on fatigue.

When we are tired, we produce more cortisol.  We just talked about the damage excess cortisol does to the body, let alone the weight gain that comes from it.  When we have a lack of sleep, we have an increased production in cortisol.  So, you could be doing everything right when it comes to your diet, but if you’re lacking in sleep, you’re likely not losing weight.

Eat your vegetables

Sometimes, we are holding on to excess weight because we are feeding the body. Yes, we may be reducing carbs or calories but if we are not eating whole foods, or even excluding veg because we don’t like them…we’re cutting our progress short.

Please don’t undermine the nutrient content of veg.  I have had women in my office spark weight loss simply by increasing their vegetable intake throughout the day.  Most people overestimate the amount of vegetables they are getting in their diet.

Most people I interact with think they are getting 2-3 servings of veg per day. When we take a deep look at their food log, they’re really getting 1-2 servings per day.  We could spark some serious weight loss if we can get 7-9 servings per day.  I know that seems like a lot, but let’s break it down.

1 servings = ½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw

1 cup raw broccoli = 1 serving

1 cup cooked broccoli = 2 servings

Most people don’t consume veg because they don’t like it.  There are a few ways around this.  When we start cleaning up our diets, we start to notice new flavors more. By cleaning up the diet and removing processed foods, we tend to like more “natural” foods better.  Another way is to give them a fair shot.  If we try a new veg once and don’t like it, we likely won’t try it again.  An adult needs to try veg 4 different times cooked in a variety of ways to determine they don’t actually like it.

Smoothies are a sneaky way to get in veg as well.  Fruit will mask the veg taste in any smoothie.  Why not add 2 cups of spinach to a smoothie with a banana?  Now you’re 2 cups closer to your daily goal!

Heal your gut

Most people have a disordered gut.  Healing the gut doesn’t happen overnight and it’s always a work in progress.  I’ve talked about gut issues in various blogs. You can read them here:

Conversely, I have a YouTube video that goes with each blog as well.  You can find those videos on my YouTube channel.

Many of my clients come to me because they are desperate to lose weight and everything they have tried just isn’t working.  After a thorough intake session, I find that most have gut issues.  We then embark on healing the gut and within weeks, we have sparked weight loss.

When we have inflammation in the gut, we aren’t going to be digesting and absorbing our nutrients appropriately and we are going to retain water.  Once we start reducing the inflammation, the body responds immediately and let’s go of the weight it was holding on to.

Starting point

This is certainly not an all-inclusive list of reasons why people aren’t losing weight. This just happens to be the top reasons I see in my practice.

I highly recommend everyone seek the assistance of a nutritionist.  They can give you a road map to get your from point A to B without a million detours.  If you aren’t ready, pick one strategy and master it.  Then move on to the next.

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