Exercising but not losing weight can be incredibly frustrating. Maybe your struggle is eating less but not losing weight. You’re about at the end of your rope with your lack of progress. Why is it that even though you’re seemingly doing everything right, the pounds just aren’t coming off?
You might not be losing weight despite diet and exercise for all sorts of reasons, such as creating an unsustainable calorie deficit. The weight comes off but then goes right back on. Other causes like hitting a plateau, high stress, and lack of sleep could also hinder your weight loss goals.
Without getting to the bottom of why your weight loss has stalled, it’s impossible to remedy the issue. I’ll guide you through the above reasons and more so you can finally begin seeing the results you want!
These Are the Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
You’ve Created an Unsustainable Calorie Deficit
What’s faster – scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist or downloading a free diet app and trying your hand? It’s the diet app, of course.
The problem with many diet apps is that they’re a one-size-fits-all solution. The app will recommend you eat no more than 1,200 calories per day no matter who you are, so that’s what you do.
Then you find after a few weeks that you’re eating 1,200 calories but not losing weight. This seems insane to you. How can you eat so marginally and still not have the pounds melt off?
I see a lot of women who have a calorie deficit but are not losing weight, and it’s the calorie deficit itself that’s doing it.
Don’t get me wrong; you need to create some calorie deficit to shed pounds. However, 1,200 calories don’t work for every woman.
That’s the problem with these free weight loss apps. They don’t account for how tall you are, how much you weigh, and how active you are.
An athlete who’s only eating 1,200 calories but spending hours on the field or in the gym cannot sustain that diet. It’s dangerous.
Even the average woman who works an office job and still trains after work will find that eating 1,200 calories is really, really difficult.
The diet isn’t sustainable in the long term, You’re being overly restrictive in the short, and so what happens? Like all unsustainable diets, you will fail. You’ll gain back all the weight you lost, and you could gain back even more weight too.
Why is that?
Your body doesn’t understand what you’re doing when you only consume 1,200 calories a day. You know that you’re trying to lose weight, but to your body, it’s practically the end-times.
Once you begin eating normally again, your body will slow your metabolism so that if you start depriving it again, the effects won’t be as detrimental. After a sustained period of eating at a calorie deficit, your body will adapt.
It’s smart, after all!
The next time you want to lose the re-gained pounds, you’ll find yourself fighting an uphill battle. A slower metabolism makes it even harder to lose weight.
As a caveat, I chose 1,200 calories as an example only. Not all 1,200-calorie diets will fail, especially if your doctor or nutritionist puts you on one. Please follow that diet!
You’re Only Focusing on One Metric, the Scale
For many dieters, the scale is the be-all, end-all.
If the scale shows them a lower number than what they thought, then they’re happy. If the number is higher, then it must mean the weight loss regimen isn’t working, right?
Not at all! In some situations, you might find yourself not losing weight but losing inches. If you only focus on the number on the scale though, you might not even notice.
You need to expand your definition of what successful weight loss looks like.
For instance, have you reduced body fat?
When you set out to lose weight, your goal should be fat loss primarily. Excess body fat puts you at a higher risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.
If you start there, you are losing weight, as reducing fat is its own form of weight loss.
Before you start your weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take down your measurements. Over time, measure yourself again.
Is your waist smaller? Your hips? Do you now fit into a pair of jeans that were too tight a few months ago?
These are all signs of success. Maybe the number on the scale isn’t moving all that much, but clearly, what you’re doing is working.
Some dieters will get frustrated at the lack of weight loss as dictated by the scale and then hop on a fad diet.
If they had just stuck with it, they could have achieved the results they wanted. Yo-yo dieting can cause a fluctuating metabolism like I mentioned before and thus isn’t recommended.
Are you stressed?
This almost seems like a rhetorical question, because of course, almost everybody would answer yes. Life is so nonstop and fast-paced these days that it’s a miracle not to feel this way.
Stress isn’t good for your health, which I’m sure I don’t have to tell you.
When you’re feeling stressed, be it from work, school, or life in general, you’re likelier to have digestive issues, muscle tension, high blood pressure, headaches, body pain, and exhaustion.
Worse yet, the weight loss you’ve been expecting since you began your exercise and diet regimen doesn’t come.
When you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, your body produces more cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that your body uses in a variety of ways.
For instance, cortisol can increase your energy (temporarily), affect your sleep/wake cycle, raise your blood sugar, manage your blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and alter how your body processes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
Cortisol can also cause your body to hold onto more fat, especially abdominal fat.
Your fat metabolism also slows to a crawl, which will impede your weight loss efforts even if you’re doing everything else right.
Your body will stop producing excess cortisol when you learn stress management techniques.
I love some meditation and deep breathing, but you can do whatever works for you. Write in a journal, take a walk outside, connect with friends and family, or spend some me-time on a hobby or interest.
Controlling stress will allow you to reap the full benefits of your diet and exercise routine.
You’re Not Sleeping
Cortisol isn’t the only hormone that impacts weight loss success. There are also leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin comes from your body’s fat cells. Its sole responsibility is to control your body weight.
Ghrelin is produced in the gut and can trigger a growth hormone secretagogue receptor or GHS-R.
To keep it simple, ghrelin is called the hunger hormone because too much of it can make you hungrier.
So what does this have to do with sleep, you ask?
According to a 2004 study in PLoS Medicine, which is one study of many on the topic, when 1,024 people underwent a sleep study and had their hormones tested, a higher BMI was attributed to less sleep.
The participants who didn’t get eight hours of shuteye per night had a drop in leptin by 15.5 percent and an increase in ghrelin by 14.9 percent.
That’s the main connection between sleep and weight, but it’s not the only one. When you don’t sleep regularly, you’re awake longer. Your eating window is larger as a result.
Further, being exhausted can cause you to throw your healthy eating decisions by the wayside and eat comfort food, fast food, and whatever else sounds quick and convenient.
You’ve Hit a Plateau
If you’re eating less but not losing weight and combining that with exercise, then you can feel like you’ve hit a wall. And indeed, maybe you have.
Weight loss plateaus are all too common among dieters.
For a while, your nutrition and exercise plan is going swimmingly. The number on the scale is getting lower, you look trimmer, and you couldn’t be happier. What you’re doing is working!
So you keep it up, and your weight loss plan keeps working. Then it doesn’t.
Why does this happen?
A weight-loss plateau is attributed to several causes. For one, when you exercise the same muscles in the same way all the time, your body gets used to it.
You don’t have to work as hard anymore to do the same thing because you could probably do it in your sleep by now.
If you like the exercises you do, you don’t necessarily have to stop doing them.
Even changing up the order and doing your weight training session before cardio will mean you have more energy to lift and challenge your strength.
I’d recommend implementing something called progressive overload. In a nutshell, this means you should aim to lift slightly more weight, or do a couple more reps each time.
That said, don’t be afraid to throw in new exercises too! This will keep you on your toes and make your workouts more engaging and less robotic.
Another reason that a plateau occurs is due to the nature of weight loss.
Making a huge dietary (and exercise) change almost always works at first. As you move into a calorie deficit, your body will take a stored sugar known as glycogen from the liver and use that as your energy source.
Glycogen is comprised of water, so a lot of the initial weight loss you see is water weight.
The next time you find yourself frustrated with your weight loss progress (or lack thereof), stop and assess your exercise, diet, and lifestyle choices.
Are you on an unsustainable diet track? Could you be getting more sleep per night? Maybe you need to manage your stress?
Don’t forget too that not losing weight but losing inches doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. If anything, it’s a sign that you’re burning fat, which will eventually lead to weight loss!