David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.
So you’ve been dieting for a while now, you’re exercising regularly, and you've managed to lose a few pounds. But now you’re stuck and not losing any more weight. No matter what you do, you can’t seem to lose any more. What could the problem be? Well, it could be any of a number of things, but here are the 10 most likely reasons for why you are not losing any more weight.
Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
- You’re consuming too many calories.
- You’re eating too many starchy carbs.
- You’re eating your carbs at the wrong time.
- You’re eating too much fat.
- You’re eating too many nuts.
- You’re drinking your calories.
- You’re not lifting weights (or you’re training too light).
- You’re doing too much cardio (or not enough).
- You’re under too much stress.
- You’re not getting enough sleep.
1. You’re Consuming Too Many Calories
This may seem obvious, but there are still people who will tell you that calories don’t matter as long as you eat the right foods. But that's just not true. Although the effect of calories from certain foods may be different from those obtained by eating other foods, when it comes right down to it, if you are eating too many calories you won’t lose weight.
If you are one of those people who eats every two or three hours to "boost your metabolism," you could easily find yourself eating more than you need over the course of the day. But, if you cut your calorie intake down to 10–12 times your body weight (in pounds), it would be difficult not to lose weight.
Eating less may be a bit of a challenge; although, if your diet centers around whole natural foods, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, you should not need to go hungry. But anything in life that’s worth accomplishing will take a certain degree of effort and discipline. So, if you’re not losing weight the way you want to, the answer may be very simple: Eat less!
2. You’re Eating Too Many Starchy Carbs
If you are overweight, there's a good chance you won’t be very insulin sensitive, so you won’t be able to handle carbohydrates very well. Most people don’t do enough physically demanding work to warrant a high carb intake anyway.
If you are quite lean and you train hard, you can eat a good amount of carbs, but if you have a lot of fat to lose, reducing your carbs can be an important step to take in order to facilitate effective weight loss. Don’t go too far though, especially if you are training regularly, as you will need some carbs to help fuel your workouts, as well as to help preserve your muscle mass as you lose fat.
3. You’re Eating Your Carbs at the Wrong Time
You don’t want to be eating starchy carbs at every meal or your insulin levels will constantly be raised. You can’t burn fat if your insulin levels are high.
The best time to eat them is post workout, in the evenings, and possibly at breakfast time. You are most insulin sensitive after training and before you have eaten anything in the morning. However, carbs cause more serotonin to be released in the brain, and this puts you into "relax and repair" mode, so avoiding them during the day and eating them in the evening instead can be a very effective strategy (just don’t eat them too close to bedtime).
4. You’re Eating Too Much Fat
Dr. Atkins had it wrong. You can’t just cut your carb consumption and then eat as much fat as you want. Fats have more than twice the amount of calories per ounce as either protein or carbohydrates, so if you eat too much you can easily overshoot your daily calorie needs.
However, I’m not advocating a low-fat diet. You do need some good healthy fats in your diet for a whole variety of reasons. Get these from oily fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, and butter from grass-fed cows.
5. You’re Eating Too Many Nuts
Nuts (and nut butters) are good wholesome foods, and very nutritious, but they are very calorie dense and high in fat, so you don’t want to be eating too many of them if you are trying to lose weight. If you can eat just a few and then stop, that’s fine. But, if you find them habit forming, it might be best to avoid them or just use them as an occasional garnish.
6. You’re Drinking Your Calories
If you are trying to lose weight, it's better to chew your calories. By drinking protein shakes, milk, fruit juice, etc., you can easily consume a lot of extra calories without thinking about it. By all means, have a whey protein shake after your workout, but apart from that make sure you stick to solid food. Additionally, the simple act of chewing and digesting food burns more calories than drinking them does.
7. You’re Not Lifting Weights (Or You’re Training Too Light)
If you are dieting to lose weight, you will lose muscle tissue as well as fat, and this is not what you want. Muscle burns up extra calories just by being there, so if you have less of it, you will find it more difficult to lose fat. You also need muscle to maintain your strength for your daily activities.
That’s why it’s really important to lift some weights when you are dieting. However, most people make the mistake of training with light weights, doing high reps and having very short rest periods between sets. If you are an experienced lifter and normally train heavier, this is a big mistake. You will get weaker by doing this. Even if you are just starting out, heavier weights will give you much better results.
When you are trying to lose body fat, keep the weights heavy and the reps in the low to medium range—the same as you would if you were trying to get big and strong.
Women should lift weights too. It won't make you big and masculine looking. Take a look at my article on weight training for women for more information on this.
8. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio (Or Not Enough)
Traditional steady-state cardio, such as jogging, will not do a great deal to help your weight loss efforts. And too much can actually be counterproductive. The reason for this is that excessive cardio causes your body to produce more cortisol (a stress hormone), and that can lead to muscle wasting, fat deposition, and many other health problems.
A much more effective type of cardio is high-intensity cardio, such as sprint training. This really boosts your metabolism, so you’ll burn fat for hours after your workout has finished. But don’t do too much of this either, as it is much more difficult to recover from than lower intensity forms of cardio. Two or three sessions per week will be enough for most people.
Another great form of cardio is walking. This is very low intensity, but ideal for burning off that little bit of extra fat, and it's also easy to recover from. So, if you go for a fairly brisk walk for half an hour each day you’ll be making a very positive contribution to your weight loss efforts. However, remember that your diet is the most important factor.
9. You’re Under Too Much Stress
Stress causes your body to produce too much cortisol, which, as I have said, can lead to an increase in fat storage, especially in the abdominal area. Most people today are constantly stressed, which means their cortisol levels are always high. This makes it very difficult to lose weight, even if your diet and training are perfect.
So, remember to take the time to de-stress. Meditate, listen to music, laugh, do fun things, and try not to take life so seriously. Good stress management is important for successful weight loss.
10. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
People who are sleep deprived also have high cortisol levels. Lack of sleep reduces your insulin sensitivity too. Obviously, both of these things will hinder your ability to lose weight.
During sleep you produce more growth hormone, which helps your body burn fat more effectively. So, if you miss out on your sleep, you’ll miss out on this important aid to fat loss. In fact, having adequate sleep improves every aspect of your health, so make it a priority to get enough sleep each night.
So, if you are not losing weight in the way you would like, these are the 10 most common reasons for that. Take a good hard look at the areas you feel you could improve on, and then take the necessary steps to make them right. When you do, you’ll be able to get the results you want and achieve the weight and body composition you desire.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
David (author) from Birmingham, UK on March 07, 2014:
You are welcome Meltaway. Glad you enjoyed it.
Inga from New York on March 06, 2014:
Very good article! Thanks! :)