You’ve made some great changes to your diet and started a good exercise program, but you’re not dropping pounds. Or you’ve been able to lose a little bit of weight, but it seems like you always regain it back, and then you wonder, “Why am I not losing weight?”
There may be a few reasons why.
The big thing to acknowledge, first off, is that you have made the decision to start getting healthy. This is the first big obstacle to overcome, and if you’ve gotten underway with working out or making changes in your diet, you’ve cleared the biggest hurdle.
Of course, everyone needs some extra info and knowledge to approach weight loss in the best way. So if you’ve been wondering why you aren’t losing weight, here are 7 things that may be causing it.
1. Working out Too Much
You’ve started a new exercise routine, and you’re getting the hang of it. It’s exciting to get in tune with your body through physical activity and get feedback by feeling better after. It’s also great to see some increases in strength, and even some lean muscle.
If you’ve been enjoying it and seeing some positives, it might make sense in your mind to start working out longer and harder. If three days a week has felt great, then why not five? Why not seven straight days of strength training and cardio?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way, and you’re better off allowing your body to rest. When you work out too much, you can tax your central nervous system. You put your body into a situation where it’s constantly being stressed and releasing stress hormones.
Overtraining can lead to injuries, muscle tears, and strains. It also can weaken your immune system and make you more prone to sickness. You want to avoid this overtraining syndrome to be able to keep losing weight.
When your stress hormones are up, it’s more difficult to lose weight, as your body wants to preserve what it has. Therefore, exercise regularly, but allow yourself time to rest and recover to improve your fitness and weight loss.
2. Not Getting Enough Sleep
This is going to piggyback off point number one. If you are not getting adequate sleep, you can create this same overtraining syndrome in your body.
If you’re experiencing a lack of sleep, your body starts to think there is some sort of trauma happening, or else why wouldn’t you be asleep?
This can also lead to higher stress hormone levels, and, over time, they can get pretty nasty. They can lead to a lot of inflammation in the body and may be at the core of a lot of bad diseases. Along with that, these stress hormones also make weight loss very difficult, and your metabolism also starts to slow.
Studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain due to increased food intake. One study pointed out that “increased food intake during insufficient sleep is a physiological adaptation to provide energy needed to sustain additional wakefulness”.
This is fairly logical. If your body doesn’t receive energy from sleep, it will look elsewhere (food) in order to make up for the lack.
Make it a point to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. This means creating a good wind-down routine, sticking with it, and starting it at the same time each night.
Look to cut out blue light from electronics that can disrupt sleep, and don’t drink alcohol or caffeine later in the day.
Keep your room as dark as possible and a touch on the cool side to promote better rest and rejuvenation. With your body fully rested and repaired, you set the stage for better weight loss and improved fitness.
3. Not Eating Enough
This may seem confusing, as if you’re eating less, surely you should be losing weight, right? This all comes back to metabolism, and again, that stress hormone issue. If you find yourself wondering, “What am I not losing weight?” it’s time to take a look at what and how much you’re eating, as you may be experiencing a calorie deficit.
Think of your body fat as a back-up fuel source. When times of stress or trauma hit, it can be broken down and used as energy by your body.
When the number of calories you take in isn’t sufficient for your body type, your body thinks there’s another form of trauma, like a drought, happening since you’re not feeding yourself. Body fat storage can be your body’s form of a contingency plan.
When you don’t eat enough, your metabolism slows down as your body doesn’t want to waste what it has. Everything becomes about conservation at this point, and losing weight is not going to be top on your body’s priority list.
Add to this overtraining in the gym, and it can really stall your weight loss. This is where injuries and sickness can also happen as your body may be trying to slow things down as much as possible.
Allow yourself to be fed and nourished with healthy foods. Your body needs consistent fuel in order to function properly and lose weight in the long term.
4. Not Building Muscle
We’re not talking giant bodybuilder muscle here, but good, lean muscle can be part of what helps you lose weight.
First off, just the act of having to build the muscle through strength training is going to take a full body effort. This burns a lot of calories, which will help in weight loss.
Also, the style of training that helps to build muscle—a high-intensity style—is going to put your body into a better state hormone-wise. Your body will be able to burn calories long after your workout is done. Your metabolism will now be higher, and losing weight will be more achievable.
Along with this, just having more muscle increases your ability to burn calories. Lean muscle is metabolically active, even at rest, so when you have more muscle, you’ll be burning more calories, even if you’re sitting still.
5. Not Eating Enough Protein
You probably hear about protein all the time, and its main goal is not just to build muscle mass.
Protein is important for so many different functions in the body, from building hormones to regulating tissues and organs in the body.
Protein also has a thermogenic effect, meaning that it takes calories just to eat and digest it.
Have you heard of the “meat sweats”? This is that thermogenic function in action, as it takes a lot of energy for the body to digest and absorb protein. This act of muscle protein synthesis can be a big calorie burner in the body.
Protein can also be good at holding off cravings and can keep blood sugar more stable. This way, you won’t get those big peaks and drops that can lead you to craving more carbs and possibly gaining more weight.
6. Eating Too Much
If you’ve been serious about losing weight, you’re probably more aware of your food portions and calorie intake. Calorie counting is not as simple as it may seem, as not all calories are created equal. 100 calories of walnuts is going to act differently in your body than 100 calories of a soft drink.
However, it’s still important to be aware of how much you’re eating, even if you’re eating healthy, as you may be surprised by how many calories you’re taking in without knowing it.
To lose weight, it’s important to stop drinking your calories. This means cutting out soft drinks, juices, sports drinks, specialty coffees, etc. These are fast-acting calories that don’t fill you up and can make you want to eat more.
Since these drinks are all sugar, they can spike your blood sugar, leading to a crash. This crash phase is where you tend to crave more of those fast-acting carbs in the form of simple sugars or refined carbs. This is going to make weight loss difficult, so do yourself a favor and stick to water.
You can try to track your calories for a few days just to get an idea of where you stand. From here, you’ll know how you need to restructure things.
Take almonds, for example. They are a great, healthy snack, and having a small handful can be great. But say you do this multiple times over the day. Just one cup of almonds has around 530 calories, which may be more than you were planning to take in.
You don’t have to be a slave to tracking food and calories, but get a general idea where you’re at and adjust as needed.
7. Eating Too Many Carbs
You may be sick of hearing about everything to do with carbs, but if you find yourself asking, “Why am I not losing weight?”, you need to be aware of them.
If you’ve been having issues losing weight, or have blood sugar issues such as type 2 diabetes, you may want to go lower-carb.
This is something you want to talk over with your doctor, but the majority of the carbohydrates we’re exposed to are not needed at all.
Things like white bread, white rice, white flour, and white sugar, for example, are providing you no nutrition and are very high glycemic. This keeps your blood sugar elevated and makes it harder to lose weight.
Keeping things lower carb can have positive effects on triglyceride levels and cholesterol, along with controlling blood sugar and losing weight.
In one study, which measured 63 obese men and women who were randomly assigned to a specific diet, “subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet had lost more weight than subjects on the conventional diet at 3 months”.
Carbs based around your workout can still be great for energy, but look to the best choices. Aim for things like steel cut oats, wild rice, sweet potatoes, and quinoa—the more color on your plate, the better!