Why Am I Not Losing Weight? Here Are 15 Genuine Reasons Why

Losing weight isn’t easy.

Trying to lose weight but making zero progress? Have you tried everything under the sun? There may be an underlying reason (or 15) holding you back.

Make sure you aren’t making any of these 15 slipups and get right back on track to shedding those pounds.

Not losing weight? Here’s why:

1) You’re not getting enough sleep

That’s right. Being short on sleep can have a big impact on your weight.

When you’re tossing and turning, your body makes more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and less of the appetite regulating leptin, leaving you hungry with an increased appetite[1].

When you’re tired, a workout is probably the last thing on your mind. This can have huge effects on your weight-loss regime – if you’re not exercising, you’re not burning calories.

Research has also suggested that poor sleep can slow down the body’s metabolism which can provoke un-expended energy to be stored in the body as fat[2]. When tired, the body produces more insulin and the stress hormone, cortisol[3] – both hormones can prompt the body to store energy as fat.

What’s the answer to better sleep? Try and reduce your exposure to blue light – that means turning off your TV or putting your phone down two hours before heading to bed.

2) You’re not exercising enough or exercising too much

Women working out

Not exercising enough can impact on your weight loss, but did you know you can also overdo it?

To see results, you should aim for around 45-90 minutes of exercise a day. That could be 30-45 minutes of running or 60 to 90 minutes of walking. High-intensity interval workouts – alternating 30-second bursts of exercise with a minute of recovery may trump non-stop moderate-intensity exercise for burning body fat[4].

Exercising too much is also unsustainable in the long term for many people. Pushing yourself can put a lot of stress on the body which can impact on the adrenal hormones that control stress response.  A study carried out on endurance athletes revealed that their long-term cortisol exposure was higher compared to controls[5].

What can you do about this? Maintain a healthy training plan. If you’re not seeing a change, think about your workouts and how you can switch them up to encourage fat burning. To limit the stress of exercise on your body, take regular breaks from intense training, leave intense sessions to later in the day (when your cortisol levels are lower) and eat the right foods to fuel your body after exercising.

3) You’re overwhelmed

Demanding jobs, longer working hours and the pressures of modern life can all contribute to increased stress levels. While stress can trigger a variety of health conditions, one of the most dominant is its impact on hormone levels and your body’s ability to stay at a healthy weight.

That’s correct, stress can put the brakes on your weight-loss journey and even cause weight gain[6]. Cortisol, the stress hormone your body circulates when you’re feeling a little overwhelmed can directly affect how your body stores fat. One 2017 study on both adult men and women found that people with chronic, elevated cortisol levels tended to have a higher body mass index (BMI) and larger waist circumference[7].

Stress may also cause you to overeat because cortisol can increase appetite[8].

Try and relieve some of your anxiety with these stress busters:

  • Meditate
  • Be more active
  • Talk things through
  • Write things down
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Practice deep breathing exercises

One study found that women who spent time with family and friends had increased levels of oxytocin, a natural stress reliever[9]. Deep breathing has also shown a positive benefit on the adverse effects of anxiety[10].

4) Your diet plan is doing more harm than good

Chicken breast - can help with losing weight

The choices you make in the kitchen can have a huge impact on your weight loss progress. As a general rule of thumb, weight comes down to 70 per cent diet and 30 per cent exercise.

Fuelling your body with the right foods can make sure you stay on track. This means making healthy food choices and including lots of lean protein, healthy carbohydrates and nutritious fats in your diet. Not sure what foods are what?

Lean protein foods include:

  • Beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • Lean beef
  • White fish
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey

Healthy carbohydrates are:

  • Oats
  • Sweet potato
  • Bananas
  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice

Good fats include:

  • Avocado
  • Cheese
  • Whole eggs
  • Fatty fish
  • Dark chocolate
  • Peanut butter

5) Your alcohol intake is too high

The weekend is here and it’s time to enjoy your favourite boozy beverage. But the calorie content of alcohol can be a huge barrier to effective weight loss. There are almost 125 calories in one glass (5 fl. oz serving) of red wine and one pint of beer averages at around 187 calories!

The calorie content of booze isn’t the only thing that can hinder weight loss. Alcohol has a sneaky way of affecting your metabolism. When you drink alcohol, your body uses it first as a fuel source. This means you’re not burning any other excess glucose or lipids which can unfortunately end up as fat.

What’s more, alcohol can make you overeat. An animal study demonstrated that food intake was significantly higher with alcohol in the system, suggesting that it may actively trigger hunger signals in the brain[11].

Must drink? Try and swap sugary mixers with diet alternatives.

6)  You’re lacking in protein

Protein is more important than you think when it comes to shedding pounds. As such, it should be part of every meal. Protein is needed to build and repair cells and promote healthy organs, muscle, skin and glands[12].

This nutrient contributes to satiety and satisfaction, and when consumed in high quantities, can reduce your levels of your hunger hormone, ghrelin[13].

Increasing your protein may also boost your metabolism due to its high thermic effect and the fact it takes a lot of your body’s energy to digest[14]. A high-protein diet has been shown to increase calories burned by 260 a day[15].

Add good protein-rich foods such as eggs, chicken, tofu and fish to your diet and you’ll up your content in no time.

7) You’re not strength training

Not losing weight? You probably don't do enough strength training

Pumping iron may not seem like it helps with weight loss. However, in the long run, building muscle can work in your weight-losing favor. That’s because it burns more calories than fat[16].

Muscle also helps to burn more calories at rest because of its metabolic demand.

The muscles in the body are continually being broken down and repaired which can demand a lot of your body’s energy. The more muscle you have, the more calories you may burn throughout the day.

Want a stronger, beefier physique? We’ve got you covered. Check out this detailed guide on how to build muscle.

8) You’ve not curbed the carbs

Carbohydrates aren’t all bad. However, cutting back on them or eating the right kinds of carbs can help with losing weight.

How can you use carbs to your advantage?

To understand how carbohydrates may aid weight loss, first let’s understand how they function. Carbohydrates are believed to be the most important energy source for your body.

When you eat carbs, your body turns them into glucose (sugar) which is absorbed into the bloodstream.  Glucose is used to fuel your body for all kinds of activities, whether that’s going for a jog or simply breathing.

Curbing carbs allows your body to turn to other energy sources (such as fat) for daily activities.

According to a 2015 study, a modest reduction in dietary carbohydrate had a beneficial effect on body composition, fat distribution and glucose metabolism[17] – specifically targeting belly fat.

To make a real change, keep your carb intake at a minimum. That could be anything between 20- 50 grams per day.

You could also limit bad carbs (such as refined grains and added sugars) and replace them with healthy carb sources. Good-for-you sources include whole grain rice, sweet potato and oats.

9)  Your expectations are too high 

Many people start out with crazy expectations when they start a weight loss plan – and the headlines don’t help.

However, losing weight is no easy feat. It will take time to get the results you want. In fact, research shows that shedding the pounds swiftly makes no difference in terms of health benefits. It is recommended that you stick to losing one to two pounds a week[18].

10) You’re not drinking enough water

Man drinking water

You’ve probably heard it all before, but the benefits of water for weight loss are beyond anything else. If you’re not already glugging those daily 8 glasses, it’s time to start.

Water (especially when cold) can boost your metabolism[19] and help your kidneys get rid of waste and extra fluid from your body[20]. On top of that, it can also suppress those hunger pangs that crop up every now and then[21].

Water tricks the stomach into thinking its full[22] and can help you eat fewer calories without leaving you feel those hunger pangs.

If you think water tastes boring, spice it up with a slice of lemon. The pectin in lemon may also aid digestion and provide vitamin C.

11) You’re not eating mindfully

Mindful eating is a habit you definitely want to pick up to keep in shape. It really is as simple as it sounds – being a more thoughtful way of eating. 

Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness. When applied to eating, it’s the process of noticing the smells, colors, flavors and textures of your food. You need to savor and enjoy each mouthful slowly, without any distraction.

When practiced correctly, mindful eating has been found to help with eating disorders and provoke significant weight loss[23].

How do you eat mindfully?

  • Sit down to eat
  • Slow down – it should take you 20 minutes to eat a meal
  • Put away your phone
  • Drink water when you start feeling full

12) You’re only doing low-intensity workouts

Exercise is important for weight loss. But if you’re only doing low-intensity workouts, chances are you’re not losing as much body fat.

Cue, high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT is an incredibly efficient way to burn off the pounds and feel amazing at the same. What’s more, it enhances your metabolic rate to burn fat way after your workout has finished[24].

In one study involving overweight young men, 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise reduced body fat mass by two kilograms and belly fat by 17 per cent[25].

Try mixing up your workout routine by including some HIIT workouts.

13) Maybe your metabolism has slowed down

We all know those type of people who can eat whatever they want and apparently never pile on the pounds. We also know the type who barely eat anything yet still gain weight.

If you suffer with the latter, your metabolism might be why. Your metabolism controls how your body creates and breaks down energy necessary for life. In simple terms, this is the rate at which your body burns calories.

Your metabolism is partly down to genetics and largely out of your control. However, there are certain external factors that can influence it. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle[26], don’t get enough sleep[27], or do any strength training[28], your metabolic rate may suffer.   

14) You have a medical condition

Losing weight isn’t all about eating or exercising properly. There may be something else keeping you from reaching your weight-loss goals.

Medical conditions can even sometimes cause weight gain – the complete opposite of what you’re going for. Underlying medical issues could involve your thyroid or hormone levels.

If you’re doing everything right and seeing zero progress or you’re concerned about a potential condition, speak to your doctor.

15) You might’ve hit a weight loss plateau

Losing weight can put an enormous amount of pressure on your body, so much so, it can almost become too much.

Perhaps you have lost weight but there hasn’t been a shift in a while. Don’t worry, a weight loss plateau is common. You might just need a break.

Maintain your body weight as it is for at least one to two months and start back up again.

The Final Word

Healthy, sustainable weight loss takes time, dedication and resilience. If you’re stuck in a rut, these 15 reasons should help you on your way to achieving a fitter, fat-burning physique. 

Remember that weight loss isn’t just about exercise or nutrition – it’s a combination of both.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC535701/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22996147

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9415946

[4] https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/53/10/655

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21944954

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900707002493?via%3Dihub

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28229550

[8] https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10941275

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27666392

[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms14014

[12] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/extra-protein-is-a-decent-dietary-choice-but-dont-overdo-it-201305016145

[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16400055/

[14] As source 12

[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25733634

[16] https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25527677

[18] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190129124800.htm

[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14671205

[20] https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work?dkrd=hispt0004

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23803882

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25893719

[23] https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mindful-eating-may-help-with-weight-loss

[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23438230

[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22720138

[26] https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physiol.00034.2014

[27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26538305

[28] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25293431

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