Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight
“Why am I not losing weight?” is a complicated question with a lot of different answers. No one answer is going to necessarily explain why you happen to be experiencing this. However, there are general ways that make it very possible to gain weight or plateau in the short-term while sticking to your diet.
The scale can only tell you one measurement – your total body weight. It can’t tell you exactly where the pounds are coming from. Not seeing any change in weight could be the result of you increasing weight from water, muscle, or food storage – even while simultaneously losing body fat, causing your weight to stabilize.
Even more disheartening than not losing weight, is the appearance of potential weight gain.
There are three main reasons why your weight may stay the same or you are potentially gaining weight while on a weight loss diet.
It’s also very important to realize that this is a short-term circumstance, not losing weight long term while at a caloric deficit generally means that something just isn’t adding up.
Calorie intake versus expenditure is the very basic formula to follow with any diet, if you are continuously burning more calories than you are eating or drinking, you will put your body into a caloric deficit which will result in some type of weight loss in the long-run.
Youre Eating Too Many Healthy Foods
Yes, sometimes too much of a good thing can be not so good. Just because you swapped your nightly bowl of ice cream for Greek yogurt doesnt mean you can eat twice as much. The basic rule of “fewer calories in, more calories out” still applies, even when what youre eating is healthy.
The one exception? Dr. Weiner says you really cant overeat vegetables . If you ate a pound of them every day, you would still lose weight because it would change your other eating behaviors, he explains, referring to the fact that if you filled up on veggies, you would reduce your appetite for other less healthy foods.
If You Want To Lose More Than 3 Pounds
You can use your daily base weight to help measure any amount of weight loss. One 2013 study suggests that daily weigh-ins can contribute to significant weight loss. The study also factored in exercise and diet.
Make sure you keep in mind that you need to burn more energy, consume less energy , or do a combination of both to lose weight. Generally speaking, losing
Determining your base weight by keeping things consistent is key. Here are a few tips for measuring your daily weight:
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Stop Gaining Weight By Eliminating Bad Habits
Some of the common mistakes people make that lead to weight gain include:
- Not making time for physical activity
- Mindless eating in front of the TV after dinner
- Drinking too much alcohol or sweetened drinks like specialty coffees
- Skipping breakfast
- Reaching for second helpings
- Eating too many simple carbs and not enough protein
The older you get, the more diligent you have to be, says Ward, author of The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to the New Food Pyramids.
Figure out where your own problem areas are, and find solutions to control calories and fit in more fitness. If you’re a sweet eater, no problem — just work a small portion of sweets into your diet. Ward recommends stocking the freezer with 100-calorie frozen treats to keep calories and portions in check.
Eating healthy does not mean following a super-restrictive diet. But you do have to watch what you put into your mouth.
For example, a diet high in simple carbs creates a vicious cycle. The more you eat, the more you want — because these foods aren’t as satisfying as foods with protein and fiber. That handful of chips with your sandwich here and half a cookie there adds up. And adults have very little room for those extra calories.
Experts recommend eating regular meals, paring down portions of high-fat and high-calorie foods, and never skipping breakfast.
“Gone are the days when you can skip breakfast and eat a 16-ounce steak and maintain your weight,” says Stoler.
Youre Not Cutting Back On Carbohydrates
If you have a higher amount of weight to lose and/or you have a metabolic condition such as type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you may want to consider a low carb diet.
In short-term studies, this type of diet has been shown to cause up to 23 times as much weight loss as the standard low fat diet that is often recommended (
To reduce your calorie intake, drink a glass of water before meals. Drinking water may also increase the number of calories you burn.
Also keep in mind that the alcohol itself has about 7 calories per gram, which is high.
That being said, studies on alcohol and weight show mixed results. Moderate drinking seems to be fine, while heavy drinking is linked to weight gain .
Alcoholic beverages are generally high in calories. If you choose to drink alcohol, spirits mixed with zero-calorie beverages are probably the best options when you are trying to lose weight.
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Youre Not Eating Enough
It sounds counterintuitiveeat less to lose weight, right?but thats not quite how it works. You can either exercise more and eat more, or exercise less and eat less, but you cant exercise more and eat less. It just doesnt work, Elsesser says. Of course that doesnt mean you should throw all moderation out the window. Eating to excess, particularly eating nutritionally-barren processed foods, is never a good idea. But you need to match increased training with properly increased fueling so you can recover and make progressincluding weight loss.
When you skimp on fuel, you not only never fully recover, but your body also goes into low-power mode , so your metabolism dips, and workouts suffer. Fuel yourself and satisfy your hunger with whole foods including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
You’re Too Obsessed With The Scale
Sometimes the scale doesn’t tell us the whole story, and that can especially be the case when it comes to getting more active. Our weight can fluctuate up to six pounds just throughout the course of a day, and exercise can have a direct effect on that.
Sweating during a workout can cause us to temporarily retain water, which can make us feel bloated and cause the scale to look higher than it did yesterday. Also, you may be losing fat, but you’re also building muscle at the same time, which can cause the scale to stay the same or even increase. Focusing on the way you feel, your energy level and the way your clothes fit are better determinants of weight loss than the scale a lot of the time.
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You’re Too Stressed Out
“Often when people are stressed, cortisol levels go up, which can lead to weight gain, as well as make it harder to lose weight,” says Kara Landau, RD and founder of Uplift Food Good Mood Food. “Although there are various forms of stress management techniques, interestingly, looking after your gut health can be a proactive way you can reduce the inflammation in your body, which can also reduce anxiety and depressive-like symptoms.
The solution: “Nourishing your gut with mood specific probiotics, together with prebiotic-rich foods that feed your good gut bacteria through eating a variety of plant-based foods, as well as specifically prebiotic fiber and resistant starch-rich foods in the form of green banana flour, Jerusalem artichokes, lupini beans , cashews and overnight oats just to name a few, can be a fantastic way of supporting your mental health, and therefore ultimately supporting your weight too,” says Landau.
Weight Fluctuation From Sodium
High-salt foods can cause water retention. The extra water adds up to pounds on the scale. Some people are very sodium sensitive and may retain more water, while others are less sensitive.
Many of us dont overuse the salt shaker at mealtime. But sodium can hide in unexpected places. Cold cuts, frozen meals, and savory sauces are often high in sodium. Canned soup is another common culprit. Many varieties of low-calorie soup are very high in sodium.
Even homemade soups can have a lot of added salt. If you are trying to cut back on big meals and you replace a meal with low-calorie soup, you might notice an increase in the scaleeven though the weight is simply water retention.What is Water Weight and Do I Need to Get Rid of It?
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Youre Not Recovering Properly
Training is a process in which you push your body harder than usual, then pull back and let it recover. This allows you to bounce back even stronger and more resilient, and you can repeat that process to perform at your best. Too many people push the first part of the process while shortchanging the second part . That can leave you with chronic inflammation and hormonal disruption, both of which can lead to stifled weight loss or even weight gain.
The good news is that there are tools available now that can help keep your recovery on track. Many Garmin products offer recovery time based off of your heart rate training to let you know how long you should recover before youre ready for your next workout. Or you can invest in a heart rate variability strap, which tracks your morning heart rate variabilitythe change in time between successive beats. Higher variability is a sign that all systems are recovered and ready to go lower means youre under-recovered. I like heart rate variability because its an indication of how youre responding and recovering to all your stress on a daily basis, Elsesser says.
Exercising And Calorie Deficit But Not Losing Weight
Imagine killing yourself at the gym five days a week, eating less than you did before, but the scale does not budge, or worse the numbers just keep going up. To most people trying to lose weight, this would be an actual living nightmare. It is even worse if this is your current situation, and you cannot understand why. Here are some reasons why the scale might not be showing what you would like it to:
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Your Weight Was Down Yesterday
Sometimes yesterdays weight can affect todays weight for reasons that are all in your head. Some people cannot get on the scale without judging themselves for the number they see, Lewis explains. If the number is up, they decide they have failed, feel bad and resolve to eat less and work out more. If the number is down, they decide they are a success, feel great, and decide they can eat more and work out less. Ideally, youd behave the same each day when dieting, and over time, your weight would start to trend downward, despite the normal fluctuations, but for many people, this is easier said than done.
If the scale makes you think this way, consider weighing yourself less often, so you dont see the natural ups and downs, she suggests. It may also be worth considering adding some alternative tracking methods to your routine, like weekly measurements and progress photos. That way, your weight is just one of the many ways you keep track of how youre doing, and suddenly, the inevitable peaks and valleys dont seem like such a big deal.
Originally published December 2017, updated with additional reporting
Make progress every day while you work on mini fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps or learning to track macros. Go to Plans in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.
Youre Not Doing A Calorie Deficit Right
At baseline, being on a calorie deficit means that youre taking in less calories than you burn. It can be tricky to perfectly calculate what kind of deficit you should be on, but the National Institutes of Health has a body weight planner that can at least give you some idea of how much youll need to cut out in order to see results.
But you also need to keep track of what youre eating all day, Gans says. You may think you are on a calorie deficit, but somewhere throughout your day, you are actually consuming more calories without realizing it, she says. Having too few calories in your day can also be problematic, Cording saysit can leave you hungry and more prone to overeat. A general rule of thumb is that you dont want to cut out more than 500 calories a day from your eating plan.
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You’re Not Eating Enough
You may be thinking wait not eating enough can make me gain weight? Even on a diet? Turns out, it can, especially if youre reaching for the wrong kinds of foods.
Skipping meals can cause you to get extremely hungry and stray from your planned healthy meals and snacks. So you may be tempted to grab whatever is nearby to satisfy your hunger including foods that are high in fat and sugar that dont support your diet or weight loss goals.
One way to avoid this from happening is to make sure your body is properly nourished by preparing healthy snacks to eat throughout the day. Eating snacks cannot only help you manage your hunger, but healthy snacks may also help prevent eating large quantities of food later on. However, snacking doesn’t mean you should grab the potato chips and cookies. Youll want to opt for low-calorie, nutrient-rich options that will not only give you energy but will nourish your body and support your weight loss goals.
Just remember to keep an eye on your portion sizes! This will help you stay on track with your weight loss goals, so that you can avoid weight gain on a diet.
Your Workout Regimen Cuts Into Your Sleep Schedule
Everyone always talks about the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen for weight loss, but there is another component we often leave out of the equation-sleep! Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night is essential for losing and maintaining weight because it affects our cravings, gives us energy to power through a workout and ultimately helps us make better food choices.
While it’s awesome to get up early and squeeze in that morning workout, that also means you should be going to bed earlier. Missing out on sleep will prevent your muscles from repairing properly and will make it that much easier to choose fast food for lunch or polish off that pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
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If You Want To Lose 2 To 3 Pounds
You can measure weight loss by weighing yourself at the same time of day under the same circumstances, such as with shoes off to determine if youve lost any real weight.
You will lose weight by expending more calories than you consume. Losing a small amount of weight will likely require just a bit more restraint than usual. Cutting out extra snacks or reducing your portion size may help you lose a few pounds within the next week or two.
You Packed On The Carbs
Eating pasta and bread isn’t making you fat, but they do contribute to water weight, says Sharp. When consuming carbohydrates, they get stored as glycogen, which is a storage form of carbs that makes you hold more water. One gram of carbs tends to store 3-4 grams of water, so it adds up pretty quickly.
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Youre Not Keeping Track Of What Youre Eating
Awareness is incredibly important if you are trying to lose weight. Many people dont have a clue how much theyre really eating.
Studies show that keeping track of your food intake helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries or photograph their meals consistently lose more weight than people who dont .
At the same time, there is a potential downside to food tracking, especially when its used for the purpose of weight loss. For people with eating disorders, calorie counting and food tracking has been shown to aggravate potentially harmful side effects (
If you are not losing weight, you should try weighing your foods and tracking your calories for a while.
Here are some helpful resources:
- Calorie calculator. Use a calorie calculator to figure out how many calories to eat.
- Calorie counters. This is a list of five free websites and apps that can help you keep track of your calorie and nutrient intake.
Tracking is also important if youre trying to reach a certain nutrient goal, such as getting 30% of your calories from protein. This can be impossible to achieve if youre not tracking things properly.
It is generally not necessary to count calories and weigh everything for the rest of your life. Instead, try out these techniques for a few days every few months to get a feel for how much youre eating.