Have you noticed a plateau in your weight loss? Are you asking yourself what can be done to kick-start your progress again? A simple change in behavior might be all you need. Here are 10 reasons you’re not losing weight and what you can do about it:
1. Not Knowing Your Caloric Intake
Eat too many calories and you stay at your current weight or you gain weight. Not eating enough forces your body into starvation mode where calories are conserved, not burned.
First, you’ll need to figure out your personal caloric range with a calorie calculator app or the Harris-Benedict equation. Once you know your daily calorie needs, start keeping track of what you’re eating and how many calories you’re consuming by using an app such as MyFitnessPal.
Portion control is one of the best ways to reduce caloric intake and support fat loss. I also recommend cooking meals in bulk and dividing them into plastic containers for the days ahead. This will save you time, energy, and money; it will also help you avoid fast-food temptation.
2. Drinking Empty Calories
Your favorite beverage could be the reason you’re not losing weight. Most sodas, alcohols, and sugar-sweetened coffee beverages are packed with empty calories. For example, the 16-ounce Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino from Starbucks contains 69 grams of sugar; that’s 267 calories from sugar alone!
Stop drinking soda and sugar-based drinks. If you’re trying to ween yourself off of soda, drink diet soda. Eliminate or cut back on alcohol. If you must have an alcoholic beverage, choose a low-calorie beer or one ounce of a clear liquor with a calorie-free chaser.
3. Using “Healthy” Products
There are certain words, such as fat-free and green, which most people associate with healthy foods. Take a closer look at the label and you will see a different story. Fat-free products have removed the fat but replaced it with sugar for a better taste. “Green” drinks also contain sugar to offset the bitter taste of overly-processed vegetables that have lost their nutritional value.
Avoid fat-free items and processed juices. Make your own smoothies or juices at home with fresh vegetables and fruits. Smoothies can be naturally sweetened with honey or flavored protein powder.
4. Cheat Meals Become Cheat Days
Slipping up on a diet is to be expected. One cheat meal during the week is encouraged to help you satisfy cravings and reward yourself for good eating the rest of the week. This becomes a problem when a cheat meal turns into an entire day of eating junk food.
Schedule a day and a time for one cheat meal—not an entire cheat day. The end of the week works best for most people. I eat my cheat meal on Sunday, the same day I prepare my healthy meals for the rest of the week.
5. Not Being Active
Diet makes up 70% of the results you’ll see in the mirror, but physical activity also plays a critical role in weight loss. The benefits of exercise for weight loss include increased calorie burning, better cardiovascular health, and obesity prevention.
Outside of an exercise program, you can focus on small and consistent changes in your physical activity level:
- Get up, walk, and stretch for a few minutes every hour.
- Bike to work or park farther away.
- Walk on your lunch break.
- Plan activities that require you to get up and move (e.g. hiking, 5K races).
- Perform bodyweight exercises throughout the day.
6. Not Changing Your Workout
When starting a new weight-loss and exercise program, you’ll often see a spike in progress. After months of the same workout program, progress plateaus. Change up your workout routine to place a greater demand on your cardiovascular and muscular systems, and rev up your results. Here are a few tricks:
- Acute Variables: Increase the number of sets, repetitions, or intensity. For example, if you’re currently using light weight for 12 to 15 repetitions, increase the weight and lower the number of repetitions.
- Exercises: Try different exercises or advanced versions of the same exercises. Instead of barbell back squats, use sumo squats.
- Workout Length: Extend the time you exercise by 5 to 10 minutes; this will be enough time for a few more sets or an additional exercise.
7. Lack of Sleep
Studies show a correlation between lack of sleep, weight gain, and an increase in preventable disease, such as diabetes and obesity.
I’d recommend adopting a nighttime routine to ensure you sleep for 7 to 9 hours:
- Power Down: No electronics with blue light an hour before bed; this includes your cell phone, laptop, and tablets.
- Read a Book: E-readers such as a Kindle are okay because they use e-ink, although I prefer a physical book.
- Be Cool: Make sure your room is cooled down before getting into bed.
- Drink Tea: Enjoy a caffeine-free tea, such as chamomile or mint.
- Supplement Sleep: Consider taking a natural supplement, such as ZMA, which supports recovery and promotes sleep.
8. Stressed Out
High-stress lifestyles result in greater releases of the stress hormone, cortisol. Studies show that too much cortisol can lead to muscle breakdown, memory problems, and weight gain, especially in the abdomen. If you’re stressed, you’re probably not sleeping well, and that will exacerbate your weight gain.
Address the areas of your life causing the most stress and look for practical ways to alleviate it. I recommend trying meditation or yoga, as both have been shown to help lower stress levels and bring about a sense of calm.
You only need a few minutes per day to lower stress levels. Check out my article on the benefits of meditation and get started meditating right away.
9. You Have the Dieting Mindset
Weight loss and healthy eating are not short-term destinations. Overhauling your entire way of eating, opting for a radical diet, and hoping for fast results rarely works and only leaves you feeling discouraged.
Change your mindset and look at diet and exercise as a permanent lifestyle change. Focus on taking small and consistent steps in the direction of long-term progress. It’s okay to slip up and fall down, but you have to get back up and continue in the right direction. Remember that adjusting to this new lifestyle will take time, so be patient with yourself.
10. Underlying Medical Issue
If none of the tips above apply to you—if your diet, exercise program, sleep schedule, and lifestyle are flawless—then you might have an underlying medical condition. Common medical issues that increase weight gain include hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, and diabetes.
Age and hormones can also play a part in weight gain. Women gain weight during menopause while men going through andropause experience low testosterone levels and gain weight as a result. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your current lifestyle and issues with weight gain.
What Changes Will You Make to Start Losing More Weight?
Will you learn portion control? Do you need to switch up your workout with something new and challenging? Let me know in the comments below!