Weight loss an be an extremely rewarding journey for people with that type of health goal. However, it can also be very, very frustrating at times. Consistent progress can often come to a screeching halt. Or maybe you’ve tried everything and haven’t made the progress you would expect.
Over the years, I have found there can be a pattern as to why people can’t lose weight. My top 10 reasons are:
- You’re Not Keeping Track of What You’re Eating.
Awareness is incredibly important if you are trying to lose weight. Many people don’t have a clue how much they’re really eating. Studies show that keeping track of your nutrition helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries consistently lose more weight than people who don’t. I encourage new clients to dedicate 6-8 weeks of tracking early on to establish a relationship with healthy portion sizes.
- You’re Not Eating Enough Protein.
Protein is the single most important nutrient for losing weight. Eating protein at 30% of calories can boost metabolism by 80–100 calories per day and make you automatically eat several hundred fewer calories per day. It can also drastically reduce cravings and desire for snacking. This is partly mediated by protein’s effects on appetite-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin and others. If you eat breakfast, be sure to load up on protein. Studies show that those who eat a high-protein breakfast are less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day.
A high protein intake also helps prevent metabolic slowdown, a common side effect of losing weight. Additionally, it helps prevent weight regain.
- You’re Not Lifting Weights.
One of the most important things you can do when losing weight is to do some form of resistance training, such as lifting weights. This can help you maintain muscle mass, which is often burned along with body fat if you are not exercising. Lifting weights can also help prevent metabolic slowdown and ensure that your body stays toned and muscular.
- You’re Not Sleeping Well.
Good sleep is one of the most important factors for your physical and mental health, as well as your weight. Studies show that poor sleep is one of the single biggest risk factors for obesity. Adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese, respectively.
- You’re Not Eating Whole Foods.
Food quality is just as important as quantity. Eating healthy foods can improve your wellbeing and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling than their processed counterparts. Keep in mind that many processed foods labeled as “health foods” aren’t really healthy. Stick to whole, single-ingredient foods as much as possible.
- You’re Not Drinking Enough Water.
Drinking water can benefit weight loss. In one 12-week weight loss study, people who drank half a litre of water 30 minutes before meals lost 44% more weight than those who did not. Drinking water has also been shown to boost the number of calories burned by 24–30% over a period of 1.5 hours.
- You’re Not Eating Mindfully.
A technique called mindful eating may be one of the world’s most powerful weight loss tools.
It involves slowing down, eating without distraction, savouring and enjoying each bite, while listening to the natural signals that tell your brain when your body has had enough.
Numerous studies have shown that mindful eating can cause significant weight loss and reduce the frequency of binge eating.
Here are some tips to eat more mindfully:
Eat with zero distractions, sitting down at a table with just your food
Eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Try to be aware of the colours, smells, flavours and textures.
When you begin to feel full, drink some water and stop eating.
- You’ve Been Starving Yourself For Too Long.
It may not be a good idea to “diet” for too long. If you’ve been losing weight for many months and you’ve hit a plateau, then perhaps you just need to take a break. Up your calorie intake by a few hundred calories per day, sleep more and lift some weights with the goal of getting stronger and gaining a bit of muscle. Aim to maintain your body fat levels for 6-8 weeks before you start trying to lose weight again.
- Maybe You Are Losing Weight Without Realising It.
If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, you shouldn’t fret just yet.
It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This does not mean that you are not losing fat. Body weight tends to fluctuate up to a few grams to kilograms. It depends on the foods you are eating, and hormones can also have a major effect on how much water your body retains (especially in women). Also, it is possible to gain muscle at the same time as you lose fat. This is particularly common if you recently started exercising.
This is a good thing, as what you really want to lose is body fat, not just weight. It is a good idea to use something other than the scale to gauge your progress. For example, measure your waist circumference or do an Inbody scan once per month.
Also, how well your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror can be very telling.
Unless your weight has been stuck at the same point for more than 2 weeks, you probably don’t need to worry about anything.
- You’re Too Focused on Dieting.
Diets almost never work in the long term. If anything, studies actually show that people who diet gain more weight over time. Instead of approaching weight loss from a dieting mindset, make it your primary goal to become a happier, healthier and fitter person. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.
The Bottom Line
Weight loss is not always easy and numerous factors can bring it to a standstill.
At the most basic level, weight loss failure occurs when calorie intake is equal to or higher than calorie expenditure.
Try strategies ranging from mindful eating to keeping a food diary, from eating more protein to doing strength exercises.
In the end, changing your weight and your lifestyle require dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience.