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This article is from UI Extension Family Life intern Kyle Dickey, a senior at the University of Illinois studying interdisciplinary health sciences.

There are multiple reasons and benefits to losing weight. According to the National Institute on Health, most individuals can have improved blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugars by losing 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in healthy ways.

Losing weight can be a difficult process to take on, and could come with plenty of obstacles. You may feel that no matter what you're doing, you still can't seem to shake that excess weight. Here are a couple of potential reasons you are having trouble losing weight.

— Exercise: Aerobic exercise involves repetitive use of large muscle groups such as the arms and legs and includes exercises such as walking, swimming, hiking, running or biking. Aerobic exercises are very beneficial for endurance and cardiovascular health, as well as burning calories. Anaerobic exercises can be beneficial for increasing lean muscle mass and burning fat for energy. Some anaerobic exercises include lifting weights, yoga and stretching. However, muscle is more dense than fat and can often give the illusion of no weight loss or even weight gain, when there have been solid health improvements. It is important to incorporate both aerobic and anaerobic exercise to reap the benefits of both. Therefore, don't be discouraged if the number on the scale isn't changing. How are you feeling? What do your other numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) report?

— Calories count: Many people tend to start exercising and think they have unlocked their key to weight loss. However, exercise is only part of the solution and actually not the most important factor. It is estimated that your diet dictates somewhere around 60 to 70 percent of your physical health. Weight loss or gain comes down to calorie intake versus calorie expenditure, and if you are not consuming fewer calories than you expend, you will not lose weight.

— Following a fad diet: Fad diets are a problem because they are typically very restrictive and are not made to be long-term, with many people gaining the weight right back. It is important to have a diet that is not too restrictive and emphasizes foods in moderation. Cutting down on sugars and trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) is a great way to improve your nutrition.

— Alcohol and sugary drinks: Alcohol intake can hinder your weight-loss progress as it is a relatively high-calorie beverage that is considered empty calories. This is because there is essentially no nutritional value in alcohol, as it is typically made up of only ethanol and sugar. Your body also metabolizes alcohol first in an attempt to detoxify, meaning that it will stop metabolizing other nutrients such as proteins. Sugary drinks are also an often overlooked weight-loss aspect, as we tend to not associate counting calories when we think of our drink choices. Sugary drinks like soda can easily negate any progress made.

— Sleep and stress: Another overlooked aspect of weight loss and overall health is sleep. Sleep is the time that the body can recover, rebuild and rebalance. A lack of sleep can cause imbalances in neurotransmitters and hormones such as insulin, leptin and ghrelin. These hormones influence hunger and how satiated you feel after eating. Stress can causes imbalances in the hormone cortisol, which also increases insulin levels and causes you to crave sugary foods for the glucose. This is what is commonly referred to as "stress eating."

There is often no one way to lose weight, but it is often best to incorporate a couple of small changes toward better health. To recap, a balanced diet that is not too restricting, along with the incorporation of aerobic and anaerobic exercise, a good sleep pattern and reduction of alcohol and sugary drinks is a great plan for working toward a healthier you.

To read more family-life topics, visit the statewide family-life blog, 'Family Files,' at For more information on family-life-related topics and programs, visit our local University of Illinois Extension website at or contact Chelsey Byers Gerstenecker at 217-333-7672 or