Do you sometimes feel like you’re trying all the things and you’re still not seeing the scale budge? There could be several reasons why you’re not losing weight, and so it’s important to have an understanding of all the factors that affect weight loss.
The truth is, there may be reasons you’re either losing very slowly or not losing weight at all.
Your body prefers stability and tries to preserve its reserves whenever possible. While the early stages of weight loss may feel relatively easy, at some point it slows down or may even stop altogether.
This article shares 10 surprising reasons you’re not losing weight, and how to try to overcome them.
1. You’re Not Getting Quality Zzz’s
Quality sleep is one of the most overlooked factors in physical and mental health. You have probably heard the recommendation of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. But it’s not just the hours that matter, it’s also the quality of those hours.
The best way to evaluate the quality of your sleep is to assess how refreshed you feel when you wake up.
If you’re dragging yourself out of bed each day, chances are you’re not getting good quality sleep. Without good quality sleep, your stress and hunger hormones don’t get a chance to reset.
This means you could be waking up with higher levels of cortisol and ghrelin.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that tends to cause fat retention, particularly around that stubborn belly area. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases your appetite, and lack of good sleep can bring it into overdrive.
Practicing good sleep hygiene is good for everyone, but especially when you’re trying to lose weight.
2. You Stopped Tracking
I encourage my clients to track their food intake, but not necessarily just to count calories. I actually want to make them aware of what and how much they’re eating.
Studies show that keeping track of your diet helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries or photograph their meals consistently lose more weight than people who don’t.
While some people thrive off of tracking calories with tools like MyFitnessPal, another helpful tool I use with clients is called Ate, which is more visual and promotes mindful eating.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve tracked your food, it might be time to try it again for a few weeks to make sure you’re not missing anything.
3. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein
There is a reason everyone gets so excited about protein. Some even consider it the most important nutrient for losing weight.
Getting enough protein at each meal helps you feel more satisfied by your food. I recommend at least 20 grams per meal, depending on the person.
It can also drastically reduce cravings and desire for snacking. It can help stabilize blood sugars, preventing those sugar crashes that leave you reaching for a pick-me-up snack.
A high protein intake (25-30% of your calories) also helps prevent your metabolism from slowing down. Sometimes, a slowed metabolism is a common side effect of losing weight.
Need some suggestions on getting in more protein? Check out my favorite high-protein foods for inspiration.
4. You’re Relying Too Much on Processed Foods
Food quality is just as important as quantity.
Focusing on whole foods can actually improve your metabolism. Studies actually show that our bodies absorb more calories from processed foods than whole foods. Plus, whole foods are so much more satisfying than processed foods.
This doesn’t mean that you have to cook everything from scratch, or eat all raw foods! To get started, try swapping out convenience items in just one meal for less processed options.
5. You’re Eating Too Often
You may have heard that eating 6 small meals a day is better than eating 3 meals per day. The reality is that not everyone thrives on the same eating pattern.
In fact, studies actually show that meal frequency has little or no effect on fat burning or weight loss. Therefore, the answer isn’t necessarily to try intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating.
Again, research shows a calorie deficit is the best predictor of weight loss, regardless of when those calories were eaten. So if you are eating too frequently, especially when you’re not actually hungry, this can lead to an overconsumption of calories once the day is done.
That said, if you’re eating up until you go to bed, and then immediately when you wake up, you might not be giving your body the rest it needs. A 12-hour fast (stopping eating at 8pm and eating breakfast at 8am, for instance) is actually just normal eating.
6. You Only Do Cardio
Another reason you may not be losing weight is you’re only doing cardio.
Your muscles burn calories at rest (i.e., even while you’re sleeping), but fat cells don’t do that. One of the most important things you can do when losing weight is to add in resistance training, such as lifting weights.
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.
7. Your Weekends are Derailing You
If you feel like you keep blowing your diet on the weekends, one reason could be that you’re being too strict during the week.
YES, that’s right. All that “perfection” during the week builds up and explodes when Friday night hits! Eating this way can really slow your weight loss down. It’s also a big trigger for yo-yo weight cycles.
If you feel like you’re really good during the week with your diet but the scale is NOT moving, it’s time to take a hard look at how your weekends compare to the rest of your week.
8. You’re Not Eating Mindfully
Mindful eating may be one of the most powerful weight loss tools.
It involves slowing down and eating without distraction. It means savoring and enjoying each bite, while listening to the natural signals that tell your brain when your body has had enough.
As much as you can, prioritize eating mindfully when trying to lose weight. Mindless eating is one of the biggest barriers to weight loss, because you’re eating without paying attention to if you actually need that food at that moment.
Start with practicing mindful eating for one meal a day. The more you practice it, the easier it’ll get.
9. You’re Still Drinking Your Calories
Did you know that your brain doesn’t perceive calories you drink the same way it perceives foods you eat?
This isn’t only true of the obvious sugary drinks like sodas and specialty coffee drinks, but also fruit juices, kombuchas, and some flavored waters.
Don’t forget calories from alcohol. Sticking with liquors (like vodka or tequila) mixed with a zero-calorie beverage is often the best choice. Wine and lighter beers can also be good choices. Moderation is always the best option.
10. Your Hormones are Out of Whack
There are many ways that hormones can impact your weight loss goals. While many women immediately think about the sex hormones (pregnancy, postpartum, menopause), that’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Underlying medical conditions that impact hormones like PCOS, thyroid disorders (e.g., hypo-, hyper-, Graves, Hashimoto’s), insulin resistance, or diabetes can all make losing weight more difficult.
Finally, the role of stress in weight loss is significant. Cortisol, the stress hormone, tends to increase cravings for salt, sugar, and fat. This makes it harder to stick to a healthy eating plan. And even if you are staying the course, cortisol can actually slow down your metabolism on its own.
The first line of defense in your weightloss journey may actually be hormone replacement therapy or balancing blood sugars or stress management. Regardless of which of your hormones is off, you have to treat the underlying cause.
11. BONUS: You’re already at Your Best Weight
There is no perfect weight to strive for. Even the assessment tools we have as professionals, like BMI and ideal body weight, don’t tell the whole story.
If you’ve been dieting for a while and are still struggling… your body may be trying to tell you something.
We all have a weight that our body naturally gravitates towards. This is called your set point weight, and it may not always be the goal weight you had in mind.
It can be hard to come to this realization, and this can often trigger unwanted emotions.
But, do you have to be super strict or give up your favorite foods in order to achieve that weight? If so, it’s important to ask yourself is that worth it to you? And, is it a weight you can maintain and be happy?
I work with my clients to find a balance of achieving improved quality of life, health markers, and meeting their personal goals.
Weight loss is not always easy (in fact, it rarely is!) and there can be surprising reasons you’re not losing weight.
But, you can shake things up with a new strategy like mindful eating, keeping a food diary, eating more protein, or adding in strength training.
Behavior change is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone! Schedule a discovery call today to see how we can work together to help you meet your goals.