You feel like you’re doing everything right. You’ve given up pizza and packaged foods and are faithfully adding more whole foods to your diet – and you’re consistently working out. Much to your dismay, when you step on the scale, nothing has changed – you still weigh almost as much as when you started. Why aren’t your efforts paying off and why are you not losing weight?
Everyone loses weight at a different rate. Some people can drop ten pounds quickly while others struggle to lose even a few pounds. In general, the more weight you have to lose, the faster it comes off. When you’re already close to your ideal body weight, shedding those last few pounds is often the most challenging.
Why do some people lose weight faster than others? Genetics play a role, but so do metabolic and lifestyle factors. Let’s look at some reasons why the weight may not be coming off as quickly as you hoped.
Not Losing Weight? – Metabolic Issues
At least 25% of overweight and obese people are insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a condition where an affected individual has high levels of insulin circulating in their bloodstream. Insulin makes it more difficult to shed body fat. It interferes with fat loss by blocking its oxidation or breakdown. With too much insulin around, it’s hard to burn those stubborn fat stores. It can take weeks to months of eating a healthier diet, lower in processed carbs, to slowly reverse insulin resistance.
The key with insulin resistance is to be more selective with your carbs. Insulin resistance is fueled by processed and high-glycemic carbohydrates. Start by eliminating “white foods” – white flour, white rice, and white potatoes from your diet – and replace them with fruits, vegetables and moderate amounts of whole grains. Think high-fiber combined with lean protein. If you’re just focusing on calories and not on diet composition, you’ll struggle to lose weight if you have any degree of insulin resistance.
Another less common problem that can stall weight loss is an under-active thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is the gland that sets your metabolic rate. When it’s not producing enough active thyroid hormone, your metabolism slows. Thyroid issues, especially an autoimmune thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, become more common after menopause. If you’re experiencing symptoms like fatigue, constipation, thinning hair, brain fog, dry skin, intolerance to cold or slow heart rate in addition to problems losing weight, ask your doctor to check your thyroid function by doing a blood test.
Not Losing Weight? – Medications
People are often surprised to learn that some medications make it harder to lose weight, even common ones you buy at the drugstore. Have you ever taken an antihistamine for allergies? Antihistamines are linked with weight gain. Some prescription medications are too, including anti-seizure medications, drugs used to treat mental disorders, steroid medications, some diabetes medications, and beta-blockers, a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems. Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills also cause weight gain in some women. If you’re not sure whether you’re taking any of these medications that affect your weight, ask your doctor.
Not Losing Weight? – Unintentionally Being Too”Lax” with Your Diet
You may be eating more than you think you are. The little unplanned snacks you nibble on, the sample at the grocery store, the taste or two of a cookie a co-worker asked you to try all add up. Being too liberal with portion sizes is another common problem that stalls weight loss. If you eat out at restaurants, you’re probably consuming more calories than you think you are. Plus, it’s hard to account for them since not all restaurants have calorie counts on their menus.
You may be consuming several hundred daily calories than you’re aware of. Time for a reality check. Keep a food journal for 2 weeks. Be compulsive and write down everything you eat and drink. When the 2 weeks are up, you’ll have a better idea of how much you’re REALLY eating.
Not Losing Weight? – Out-Eating Your Workouts
Closely related to being too lax with your diet is out-eating your workouts. The sequence of events goes something like this: “I just completed a tough workout, so I deserve this chocolate brownie. Plus, I burned enough calories to compensate.” This is a bad habit and creates the wrong mindset. For one, there are a lot of calories in a chocolate brownie and you probably didn’t burn as many calories as think. Plus, diet quality is important after a workout. You need protein and healthy carbohydrates for muscle recovery and to replenish glycogen stores. A chocolate brownie doesn’t rank high in the nutritional department.
Most people overestimate the number of calories they burn when they exercise. In one study, subjects believed they had burned 800 to 900 calories during a workout. The reality? They had only expended 200 to 300 calories. Exercise is essential for health and for improving body composition, but it’s not a magic weight loss bullet. It also matters what you eat and how much you eat. Don’t let exercise become a license to overindulge.
Not Losing Weight? – You’re Doing the Wrong Type of Exercise
Too many people still subscribe to the idea that it’s how many calories you burn DURING a workout that matters. To burn more calories they run 6 miles or spend an hour on the treadmill or elliptical machine working out at the same intensity at each session. In response, your body quickly catches on to what you’re doing and becomes more efficient at doing those movements. As a result, you burn fewer calories. Plus, a steady-state workout does little to boost your metabolism after you finish.
In contrast, high-intensity interval training leaves you with a fat-blasting after-burn, so your metabolism stays higher for hours after you’ve completed a sweat session. Resistance training, too, can give you the extra metabolic boost you need to shed body fat. When you weight train using heavy resistance your body releases anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone that help burn body fat. In addition, you build more metabolically active muscle to slightly boost your resting metabolic rate. Look at the types of workouts you’re doing. Make sure at least half of your workout time is devoted to resistance training and a portion of the cardio you do is high intensity.
Not Losing Weight? – You’re Chilling Out Too Much Between Workouts
Yes, you need time to recover after a workout and you even need a whole day off once a week, but that doesn’t mean you can plop down in a chair and sit for hours just because you worked out for 45 minutes. The movements you do throughout the day count when it comes to energy expenditure.
According to the Mayo Clinic Endocrinology Update, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), the non-structured exercise you do every day that includes things like climbing stairs, fidgeting and cleaning house, accounts for the majority of exercise people get on a daily basis. NEAT can vary as much as 2,000 calories daily between individuals. Spend less time sitting and more time moving around, even when you aren’t doing structured exercise if you’re not seeing the pounds come off.
The Bottom Line
It’s frustrating when you’re making a conscious effort to lose weight and it’s not working. Make sure one of these six reasons isn’t a factor.
Impruvism.com. “9 Reasons Fat Loss is Slower Than You Think”
Endocrinology Update. “The Role of Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis”
WebMD. “Is Your Medicine Cabinet Making You Fat?”
Medscape. “Hashimoto Thyroiditis”
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