Weight loss is a process — one that doesn’t always happen as quickly as you might like. While safe, healthy weight loss does take time, there are reasons you might not be losing weight that are worth considering as you gauge your progress.
When you lose weight, your body fights back.
You may be able to lose quite a lot of weight at first, without much effort. However, weight loss may slow down or stop altogether after a while.
Many things can influence weight loss, some of which may be more obvious than others. It’s worth considering all of them as you work to make changes that will get you results.
Common Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight
Internal health rarely factors into a person’s fat loss plan, but it’s one of the most underrated things to consider. Many hidden reasons prompt the body to hold onto excess weight.
Here are 20 common reasons why you might not be losing weight.
1. You might be losing weight without realizing it.
If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, you shouldn’t fret just yet.
It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This does not mean that you are not losing fat.
Body weight tends to fluctuate by a few pounds. It depends on the foods you are eating, and hormones can also have a major effect on how much water your body retains (especially in women).
Also, it is possible to gain muscle at the same time as you lose fat. This is particularly common if you recently started exercising.
This is a good thing, as what you really want to lose is body fat, not just weight.
It is a good idea to use something other than the scale to gauge your progress. For example, measure your waist circumference and body fat percentage once per month.
Also, how well your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror can be very telling.
Unless your weight has been stuck at the same point for more than 1–2 weeks, you probably don’t need to worry about anything.
2. You don’t have enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is crucial if you’re trying to lose weight, not just because of how it affects you physically, but mentally as well.
Sleep deprivation can make you feel cranky, confused, irritable, and even contribute to depression. It can affect your activity level and food choices.
Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, avoiding stimulants like caffeine If you get more than 9 hours of sleep a night, you may be the envy of your friends, but too much or too little sleep — less than 5 hours a night — can be linked to weight gain.
Both can throw off the way your body makes the hormones that control your appetite and hunger. And if you don’t feel rested, you may skip your workouts, too.
3. You don’t drink enough water.
Between 2 and 6 cups of clear, plain water each day can help you lose extra pounds. Water has no calories at all, so it satisfies your thirst without adding weight.
And when you drink enough water, you may be less likely to grab sodas, juices, or coffee drinks packed with sugar. High calories in sweet drinks can add up to a big weight gain.
4. Too much stress.
Stress and weight gain, or lack of weight loss, go hand in hand. Constant stress can contribute to several health problems, including affecting your weight-loss program.
- Cravings: When we’re stressed or unhappy, many of us reach for “comfort foods” that are high in sugar and fat.
- Cortisol: Like sleep deprivation, too much stress increases the production of cortisol. Not only does this increase appetite, but it can also cause extra abdominal fat storage.
- Motivation: Feeling down, tired, or stressed can make a workout seem too daunting.
Here is how this stops your efforts in losing weight. This process can prompt the body to store fat, particularly in the abdominal area, since blood glucose links to insulin (the fat-storage hormone.)
5. You wait too long to eat.
When you space out your meals too much, your metabolism slows down and isn’t able to burn off all the calories you eat in your next meal. Those extra calories may wind up as extra weight. And you may overeat because you’re too hungry.
Try eating smaller portions, and eat more often.
6. You’re not eating whole foods.
Food quality is just as important as quantity.
Eating whole foods can improve your well-being and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling than their highly processed counterparts.
Keep in mind that many processed foods labeled as “health foods” aren’t really healthy. Be sure to read the ingredients on the package and watch out for foods containing extra carbs.
Make sure to base your diet on whole foods. Eating too much processed food could negatively affect your weight loss success.
7. Eating too much.
Many people who have trouble losing weight are simply eating too many calories.
One of the most important factors in weight loss is how many calories you’re eating versus how many calories you’re burning — or the concept of calories in vs. calories out.
We tend to significantly incorrectly estimate how many calories we consume while simultaneously overestimating the calories burned during activity.
If you are not losing weight, you should try weighing your foods and tracking your calories for a while.
8. Exercising too little.
Exercise is, of course, a crucial element to weight loss, but it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right workouts or burning enough calories.
For weight loss, experts often recommend 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise each day. If you’re doing high-intensity workouts, that number drops to up to 30 minutes.
In addition to exercise, try to be as active as you can: Take regular breaks from the computer, take walks whenever possible, stretch, wear a pedometer to see how many extra steps you can get in, limit your TV time, etc.
9. You sit all day.
Your desk job or TV obsession may make it harder for you to drop those pesky pounds.
When you sit most of the time, your body can lose its ability to know when you’ve eaten too much — you can overeat and gain weight. Even brief exercise breaks during the day can help you stay healthy. Get up for three 10-minute walks around meetings or your favorite shows.
10. You’re not lifting weights.
One of the most important things you can do when losing weight is to do some form of resistance training, such as lifting weights.
This can help you maintain muscle mass, which is often burned along with body fat if you are not exercising.
Lifting weights can also help prevent metabolic slowdown and ensure that your body stays toned and muscular.
Strength training is an effective way to lose fat. It prevents the loss of muscle mass often associated with weight loss and helps maintain long-term fat loss.
11. You’re binge eating.
Binge eating involves rapidly eating large amounts of food, often much more than your body needs.
This can be a significant problem for many people trying to lose weight. Some may binge on highly processed foods, while others binge on relatively healthy foods, including nuts, nut butters, dark chocolate, cheese, etc. Even if something is deemed “healthy,” its calories still count.
If you frequently binge on food, it may be the reason why your weight loss journey seems to be at a standstill.
12. You’re not doing cardio.
Cardiovascular exercise, also known as cardio or aerobic exercise, is any type of exercise that increases your heart rate. It includes activities such as jogging, cycling, and swimming.
It is one of the most effective ways to improve your health. It is also very effective at burning belly fat, the harmful visceral fat that builds up around your organs and causes disease.
Try to do cardio regularly. It helps you burn fat, especially around your midsection. Lack of exercise could be one reason for a weight loss plateau.
13. You’re still drinking sugar.
Sugary beverages are significantly fattening items in the food supply. Your brain doesn’t compensate for the calories in them by making you eat less of other foods.
This isn’t only true of sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi. It also applies to “healthier” beverages like Vitaminwater and smoothies, which are also loaded with sugar.
Even fruit juices are problematic and should not be consumed in large amounts. A single glass can contain a similar amount of sugar as several pieces of whole fruit.
Avoiding all sugary beverages is an excellent weight loss strategy. They often make up a significant portion of a person’s calorie intake.
14. Too much alcohol.
Whether you like wine, beer, or mixed drinks, alcohol has calories that add to your daily amount. If you often have 3 or more drinks a day, you’re more likely to gain weight or be overweight, no matter what type of alcohol you drink.
Stick to light or moderate drinking, like one glass of wine with dinner. That may actually help keep you from gaining weight.
15. You make quick food decisions.
It’s worth your time to plan out your meals and healthy snacks so you’re not tempted to grab something on the go. Even if you get enough activity, you can gain an extra pound or two if you tend to eat fast food or sugary snacks or sodas.
Your body doesn’t seem to treat these calories the same as energy you get from healthy foods — it breaks them down too quickly. They’re also low in fiber, so you don’t feel full afterward and you’re likely to eat or drink more.
16. You might have a medical condition that is making things harder.
Some health problems can make it really hard to lose weight even if you diet and exercise.
Your genes can also play a role in how much you weigh or where your body stores fat.
Talk to your doctor if you just can’t seem to lose weight. Tests can show if you have a health problem that makes weight loss hard, and you can get medicine or other help to overcome it.
Sometimes people gain weight or are unable to lose weight despite Herculean efforts because their thyroid no longer produces enough thyroid hormone.
If this tiny gland in the front of your throat lags on the job, you could gain as much as 5 to 10 extra pounds. Your thyroid makes hormones that control your energy level and how your body breaks down food. If you don’t make enough of them, it can be hard to shed pounds.
You may also feel bloated because your body holds on to too much water and salt. If you think you might have a thyroid problem, talk with your doctor. Medication can help.
18. Your medication.
Some drugs you take for health problems could make you gain a little weight. For example, steroids can change your metabolism and make you feel hungrier — you may overeat and gain extra belly fat.
Even antihistamines that calm your hay fever could cause weight gain. They lower a chemical your body makes to control your appetite, so you may sneeze less but eat more.
19. You’re in menopause.
If you’re like most women, you may find your weight creeps up during menopause. Changes in your hormones, less muscle mass, and too little sleep from hot flashes can all lead to added pounds.
If you wake up tired, you’re more likely to want to munch on snacks for a boost of energy later in the day. Your genes may also make you more likely to get a “spare tire.”
20. You’re too focused on dieting.
Diets almost never work long term. If anything, studies show that people who diet gain more weight over time.
Instead of approaching weight loss from a dieting mindset, make adopting health-promoting habits your primary goal. Examples include eating a nutrient-dense, balanced diet, exercising as much and as often as possible, and doing those things that make you happy on a regular basis.
Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.
Weight loss is not always easy and numerous factors can bring it to a standstill.
At the most basic level, not reaching your weight loss goal can occur when calorie intake is equal to or higher than calorie use.
Try strategies such as mindful eating, keeping a food diary, eating more protein, and doing strength exercises.
In the end, changing your weight and your lifestyle requires patience, dedication, perseverance, and resilience.