America's Energy Doctor
Losing weight isn’t easy. You’re bound to at least occasionally struggle with feelings of deprivation and with working up the motivation to stick to your healthy eating plan and fitness regimen. But when you’re making a real effort and not seeing the desired results on the scale, it’s pretty disheartening.
There are lots of possible explanations for why you’re not losing weight. And in many cases, it’s a combination of reasons, all contributing to the problem in their own ways. The reasons can be quite simple and related to your lifestyle choices, but that’s not the only possibility; sometimes, there are medical reasons for your inability to lose weight or for overly slow weight loss.
Why You Might Not Be Losing Weight
- You skip meals and/or healthy snacks. Cutting out food this way might seem like a great way to reduce your calorie intake, but it usually backfires. You just end up overeating at later meals to make up for low energy and excessive hunger.
- You eat more after workouts. Lots of people fall into this trap. They figure that since they’re exercising more, they can eat more. Or, others reward their hard work with a treat. Either way, you easily add back the extra calories you burn—and often you add more.
- You aren’t doing cardiovascular/aerobic exercise. Strength training is important, but it doesn’t burn calories like cardio does. Regular aerobic exercise is essential to weight loss.
- You aren’t doing strenuous enough cardio. It’s not enough to perform aerobic exercises; to enjoy weight loss and other health benefits, you have to push yourself hard enough to reach and sustain your target heart rate.
- You aren’t doing strength training exercises. While cardio is the key to burning calories, weight lifting and/or resistance training to build muscle boosts your metabolism. The best weight loss regimens combine aerobic and strength-training exercises.
- You’re building muscle. Don’t overlook this possibility. If you’re strength training or otherwise increasing your muscle mass, it can slow weight loss or even lead to a little weight gain, depending on your body condition. Muscle is heavier than fat.
- You eat when you aren’t hungry. If you mindlessly eat, like out of boredom or stress or while watching TV, you might eat more than you realize. Pay attention to hunger cues and avoid emotional eating, distracted eating, and other eating habits that undermine weight loss efforts.
- You consume more calories than you realize. Losing weight doesn’t require obsessive calorie counting, but you have be generally aware of how many calories you take in. If you don’t check the calorie content and serving sizes of your food and drink, you may overeat without knowing.
- You don’t keep an eye on beverage calories. It’s not uncommon for people to pay attention to food but overlook the calories from drinks. If you have things like juice, soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, or coffee with a lot of sugar, the calories add up quickly.
- You’re experiencing a weight loss “plateau.” This happens to everyone. Once you start losing weight, it takes fewer and fewer calories to maintain your weight. Also, if you do the same few exercises repeatedly and aren’t building up the duration or intensity, your body adapts and they become less beneficial. It’s important to cycle through many different workouts.
- You’re retaining fluids. There are a number of reasons people retain fluids, and water weight can be significant. Excessive salt intake, increased fiber intake without increased water intake, medication or supplement side effects, various health conditions, and hormone fluctuations are some possible causes.
- You take medication or supplements that affect weight. Not only can drugs and supplements trigger fluid retention, many can lead to weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Lots of antidepressants and steroids, as well as oral contraceptives, are common culprits in this regard. Check the listed side effects of anything you take.
- You have a health condition that affects weight. Similarly, many conditions also prompt weight gain or difficulty losing weight. Hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances, liver or kidney problems, and digestive disorders are some possibilities. And are you sure you’re not pregnant? If you can’t come up with other explanations for your trouble losing weight or if you have other symptoms, talk to your doctor.
- You have unrealistic expectations. This isn’t so much for those of you who can’t lose weight as those of you who think you should be losing faster. If you’re trying to lose weight in healthy, sustainable ways, you should only expect to lose about 1 pound per week. If you’re very overweight or newly trying, that might reach about 2 pounds per week. If you are losing 1 to 2 pounds per week, or even less if you’re not too overweight or you’ve been working at it for a while, the you’re doing just fine. Expecting more is unrealistic and it’s not safely achievable.