It can be very frustrating to try to lose weight and not see results. You may feel like you are doing everything right, but the scale isn’t moving. This can lead to wondering why you aren’t losing weight.
First, breathe. Next, know this: While exercising regularly and eating well are important, they’re just two of the many factors that can influence weight loss. “It also depends on your starting weight, your age, and your gender,” says obesity expert Matthew Weiner, MD, the director of bariatric surgery and the medical director of telemedicine at Tucson Medical Center.
While it is important to have goals, Dr. Weiner says the best way to estimate weight loss from diet and exercise is to calculate 10% of your total body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can expect to lose about 15 pounds. Any weight loss beyond that will be difficult because your body will try to resist it and maintain your fat and energy stores.
Younger adults can lose a lot of weight by eating right and working out, but postmenopausal women would only lose a little bit.
It’s generally slower for women to lose weight compared to men. Dr. Weiner says, “Men do tend to lose weight faster than women, but when you look at the total amount of weight loss over time, it’s not as different as you might think. It might take men two to three months to lose 10 percent, while it takes women five to six months.”
Losing 10% of your weight is still a lot, and you will need the right tools to help you reach your goal. It’s understandable that you might rely on certain weight loss methods that are not quite right since this kind of stuff is not taught in school.
11 Reasons Why Your Diet is NOT Working
There are some behavioral reasons that might make it difficult to achieve weight loss goals. Here are some of the biggest ones, along with suggestions for fixing them.
1. You’re way overestimating your muscle weight.
If you’ve ever stepped on the scale and thought that you were losing fat but just gaining muscle because you were strength training hard, raise your hand.
We have all most likely done it, however Dr. Weiner states that it does not work that way: Muscle is just as dense as water (whereas fat is more dense), so it is not a direct exchange. In other words, if you do not change your weight-loss strategy because you are “working on building muscle,” the fat composition will not go down.
A good way to think about how much muscle one pound is, is to compare it to a 16 oz. can of soda. Both have a similar density. If you were to add one pound of muscle to your body, you would see it.
If you’re not seeing results in the form of muscle growth, it may be time to adjust your routine. Try increasing the intensity of your workouts to burn fat and build muscle.
2. You’re eating less, but still picking unhealthy foods.
Weiner says that if you want to lose more than 10% of your weight, you need to change your diet, rather than just cutting calories.
The speed at which food digests can impact how full you feel, says Keri Gans, RD, the author of The Small Change Diet. “Sugary foods digest quickly, leaving you hungry sooner than later, versus foods rich in fiber,” she says. Fiber-rich foods, like fruits, veggies, 100 percent whole grains, and legumes, help promote satiety and can be an easy weight loss tool.
If you make the switch to healthier lunches on a consistent basis, you will eventually see weight loss. This is because you are consuming better quality calories that have more satiating power. By making this switch, you will naturally eat less and weight loss will continue.
Even if you’re cutting calories, you should focus on the quality of the calories you’re consuming, says Jessica Cording, RD, CDN, the author of The Little Book of Game-Changers. “I really encourage people to eat foods that provide a lot of nutrients—there’s a difference, for example, between having a slice of white bread and whole-grain foods,” she says. “The nutrient value will carry you much longer.”
3. You’re not keeping track of what you’re eating.
It’s human nature to judge ourselves better than we really are, according to Dr. Weiner. We tend to dismiss or underestimate our bad decisions and emphasize our good ones.
You’re more likely to pat yourself on the back for eating a salad on Tuesday if you’re tracking your calorie intake in a visible way. Dr. Weiner says this can help “eliminate the bias we all have toward ourselves.”
4. Maybe you are losing without realizing it.
Don’t worry if you think you’re stuck at a weight loss plateau.
In fact, your body may be losing fat quite rapidly during these times It is not uncommon for the scale not to move for a few days or weeks at a time. This does not necessarily mean you are not losing fat. Your body may be losing fat rapidly during these periods.
Your body weight can vary by a few pounds depending on your diet and how much water your body is retaining. Hormones can have a big effect on water retention, especially in women.
Loss of fat and gain of muscle at the same time is possible, especially if you have just started exercising.
It’s a good thing to lose body fat instead of just weight.
It is a good idea to use other means to gauge your progress instead of just the scale. Measuring your waist circumference and body fat percentage, for example, could be done once a month.
Additionally, how your clothes fit you and how you look in the mirror can give you a lot of information.
Unless you have not seen a change in your weight for more than 1-2 weeks, you do not have anything to worry about.
5. You’re eating too many calories.
Many people who have trouble losing weight are eating more calories than their body can burn.
Even if you think this doesn’t apply to you, studies show that people tend to underestimate their calorie intake by a fair amount.
You might not be losing weight because you’re not accurately tracking your calorie intake. Try weighing your food and tracking your calories to see if that makes a difference.
- 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.
If you’re trying to stick to a specific nutrient goal, like getting 30% of your calories from protein, it’s important to track your progress. This can be really difficult to do if you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating.
These techniques do not need to be used all the time, only every few months to get an idea of how much food is being consumed.
6. You’re not eating whole foods.
Food quality is just as important as quantity.
Eating unprocessed foods can improve your wellbeing and help you regulate your appetite. These foods are usually much more filling than processed foods.
Be wary of “health foods” as many of them are processed and not actually healthy. Make sure to check the ingredients before eating and be aware of foods that have extra carbs.
One of the most important things you can do to lose weight is lift weights. This will help maintain muscle mass and prevent metabolic slowdown. Lifting weights can also help keep your body toned and muscular.
7. You’re not doing cardio.
Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that increases your heart rate.
Exercise is a great way to improve your health and burn belly fat. Belly fat, also known as visceral fat, is a type of fat that builds up around your organs and can cause health problems.
8. You’re still drinking sugar.
Sugary beverages are one of the main causes of weight gain. Your brain does not make up for the calories in them by making you eat less of other foods.
Sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi are not the only problem. “Healthier” beverages like Vitaminwater are also loaded with sugar. Even fruit juices can be problematic, as a single glass can contain a similar amount of sugar as several pieces of whole fruit.
9. You’re not eating enough plant-based protein.
Protein has a lot of benefits, such as making you feel full so you eat less and helping you build muscle. However, when it comes to weight loss, different types of protein have different effects. Dr. Weiner warns that eating too much animal protein, which usually has a lot of fat, can lead to weight gain and other issues like diabetes.
Plant-based protein is not the same as other types of protein (for example, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains). You can eat more of these foods without worrying about negative effects on your health, Dr. Weiner says. “I’ve never seen a study suggesting that sources of plant protein like nuts cause weight gain,” he adds.
10. You have a medical condition that is making things harder.
There are some medical conditions that can make it difficult to lose weight, including hypothyroidism, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and sleep apnea.
Some medications can make it more difficult to lose weight or can cause weight gain. If you think any of your medications might be causing these issues, speak with your doctor about your options.
11. Your expectations are unrealistic.
Weight loss is a slow process for most people. Many people give up before reaching their goal.
The majority of people will not be able to lose weight at a rate faster than 1-2 pounds per week.
One challenge people face when trying to eat a nutrient-dense diet and exercise is that they may have unrealistic expectations about what they can achieve.
It’s okay if you can’t look like a fitness model or bodybuilder because those photos are often enhanced.
If you’ve lost weight but the scale isn’t moving much, try focusing on accepting your body the way it is.
Once you reach a point where your weight is comfortable for your body, it is not worth it to try to lose more weight. This could have negative effects on your health.
The bottom line
There are many reasons why weight loss might not be happening even if someone is watching their calorie intake. Some factors that can contribute to this are a person’s metabolism, how active they are, and what kinds of foods they’re eating.
Mindful eating, keeping a food diary, increasing protein intake, and strength exercises are all possible strategies to help you on your weight loss journey. Remember that weight loss is a process that takes time, effort, and determination.