Updated: Feb 26
Weight loss is a contradiction. On the one hand, it’s a simple equation of energy intake with energy output. Yet on the other, it’s a much more complex balancing act of minerals, vitamins, sleep, mood, muscles and more.
So, whether you’re beginning your weight loss journey or have found your progress has plateaued, let’s take a closer look at the top five reasons you might not be losing weight.
1. Too Much Food
Essentially, the body needs to consume less energy than it expends. This way, the body looks to our fat reserves for energy once it has used up the carbohydrates from our food. This is referred to as being in a caloric deficit.
Notice the reference to the word calorie? If you’ve gone on a diet but you’re still not losing weight, it could be that you’re still not hitting your calorie goal. That’s definitely not to endorse not eating or skipping meals, but it’s a good idea to speak with a nutritionist, personal trainer or GP to understand your personal goal.
There are also online calculators that can give you a target number of calories to consume each day, but a word of warning; it’s not considered safe to lose more than 1-2lbs a week, and the quality of food consumed within your calorie allowance DOES matter. Healthline.com has a calorie calculator and good complementary article for losing weight.
2. Not Enough Food
Yes, this is a real reason that you might not be losing weight. As mentioned before, the quality of your food is important, and that’s because it fuels your body to perform its daily functions. From our unconscious actions of breathing and digesting food, to our daily actions like walking and thinking, to exercising and conditioning our muscles, our brain needs enough energy to perform.
In fact, when our body feels starved, it reverts back to its primal state and can conserve energy, rather than use it.
3. Lack of Sleep & Too much Stress
Sleep is something we often take for granted, and while some people can perform on five or so hours of sleep, most of us need a good seven-to-eight hours of shut-eye a night. When we sleep, our bodies set about repairing themselves (among many other tasks). This is vital for restoring the muscles you’ve used, but also the digestive and immune systems (among others) back to full health and working condition. If you’re skipping the zzzs, you can bet you won’t be firing on all cylinders the next day.
While sleep can restore our bodies’ natural balance, stress sets out to disturb it. While it’s inevitable that we’ll face stressful situations throughout our lives, developing our coping mechanisms and actively avoiding unnecessary stress will do wonders for your mental and physical health.
With both sleep and stress in check, your body will have more energy to power through those workouts. Plus, you’ll find you have more willpower to resist sweet treats and more patience to spend a little longer cooking up some healthier meals.
4. Too Little Exercise
Not to undermine your efforts, but sometimes our workouts need to push us a little bit harder before we start seeing results. Usually, the greatest fat loss will be seen at the beginning of a weight loss journey, as the body accesses plentiful fat stores. However, once the body’s metabolism and muscles get used to your workouts and you find a balance of energy in versus energy out, you’ll find yourself plateau, ‘getting stuck’ at a certain weight, body shape or size. This is why it’s always good to switch up your workouts every six or so weeks.
If you find your workouts easy, it’s time to take things up a gear. Personal trainers and group fitness classes can be great for giving you added accountability when it comes to pushing yourself in each training session. Not only will you feel great physically for giving all you’ve got (thanks to those endorphins), but you’ll also get a mental boost when you beat personal bests or recognise your progress from just a few weeks ago.
5. Too Much Exercise
This might come as a shock to some of you, but for my dedicated athletes out there training for events and personal bests, too much exercise can stall your weight loss. Over a longer period of time, the body’s metabolism changes as it gets used to using energy more cleverly, ultimately decreasing the number of calories burned on rest days.
Age, body size, gender and genes all play a part in the make-up of your metabolism. However, eating a balanced diet and exercising should ensure your body is burning the calories it needs. If you have more questions about this, it’s good to speak with a nutritionist, personal trainer or GP, who will be able to give you more personalised recommendations.