Updated: Oct 24
Wondering "Why am I not losing weight"? These factors could be to blame.
Food journal? Check. Regular workouts? Yes, indeed. Enough fiber to keep you regular? Got that too. Many women follow all the popular tips when they set a weight-loss goal, but as the weeks pass, many don't make progress and face frustration despite their best efforts.
If you're all too familiar with this scenario and are determined to finally make a breakthrough, I've included my six top, little-known — and sneaky! — reasons why your efforts haven't resulted in weight loss.
Why You're Not Losing Weight
Keep in mind that before beginning any weight-loss efforts, it's important to check in with a medical professional who can help you figure out whether weight loss is a healthy goal for you. If you've set out to lose weight at their recommendation but aren't seeing progress, these factors may be to blame.
1. You don't drink enough water.
Most people know how important H2O is when you're trying to lose weight. It helps to suppress appetite, so you're less likely to overeat. But that's not all: When you're dehydrated, your kidneys can't function properly, so the body turns to the liver for additional support. Because the liver is working so hard, more of the fat you consume is stored, rather than burned off.
Most surprising, though, is that if you're upping your fiber intake but not also regularly filling up your water bottle, things tend to get a wee bit backed up, making it important to add fiber gradually and increase water intake at the same time. Otherwise, instead of helping with digestion, fiber may actually lead to constipation.
Just how much water should you be drinking? About one-half your body weight in ounces every day, especially if you're exercising, So the eight-cups-a-day rule applies only to sedentary people who weigh 128 pounds. If you're one to consume an aggressive amount of fiber, an additional 8 to 16 ounces of water per day is a good idea, she adds. Just be warned: That amount of liquid requires serious effort and will turn you into a peeing machine, so I recommend increasing your water intake gradually so your bladder can adapt.
2. You skimp on protein.
High-protein diets result in greater weight loss, at least initially. That's because protein enhances the feeling of satiety and prevents you from losing muscle as you lose fat. You also have dietary thermogenesis, which is the energy you burn to process and use the food you eat, on your side. Your body expends more energy to metabolize protein than carbs or fat, so higher protein diets make you burn slightly more calories.
So, how much protein do you need in a day? It depends on your age, height, weight, body type and goals such as losing fat and/or gaining lean muscle mass. Some ways to get your protein requirements, try oatmeal with a half to full scoop of your favorite protein powder, a nutrient rich smoothie (25-30 grams), or a cup of egg whites (26 grams) for breakfast; eat few ounces of lean poultry (25 grams) or fish (22 grams) or a heaping helping of black beans (15 grams) or lentils (18 grams) at lunch and dinner. When you need a snack, mix Greek yogurt with half a scoop of your favorite protein powder (30 grams), eat a few ounces of chicken (25 grams) with some veggies. As a result, you will feel fuller so you can stick to your daily calorie and macronutrient goal without feeling hungry or deprived.
3. You sit most of the day.
Despite logging exercise almost every day, outside of that, if most of your time is spent sitting in front of a computer, this could be a big culprit in why you're working out but not losing weight.
Dedicated workouts simply can't compensate for being sedentary the rest of the time. Sitting for just a few hours causes your body to stop making a fat-inhibiting enzyme called lipase.
If you're sedentary most of the day, set a timer on your computer to remind you to move every hour, or tap into your fitness tracker's ability to notify you to take a movement break and aim for 10,000 steps a day. To accomplish that, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park farther away from the entrance of a store or building. You can even jog in place while brushing your teeth and watching TV. Move-more mission: accomplished.
4. Your numbers are off.
Always considered myself a math whiz and assumed you had the whole calories-in, calories-out formula down, but not losing weight?
Here's how to determine how many calories you should eat a day: Look at your basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the number of calories you need to maintain your weight) using an online calculator, and enter your level of activity level. The BMR calculator already factors in the calories you burn with your workouts, so you shouldn't add them in again or what you think your daily needs are will actually be higher than they're supposed to be. Still not sure how to figure out your calorie needs — and whether calorie tracking is right for you — schedule a health strategy session with me and we can discuss.
5. You work out regularly.
I know, I know. How can an exercise routine make you gain? For starters, people tend to eat more when they work out, either because they feel they've "earned it" or because they're overestimating how much they've burned — or both. This is especially true in the early stages of a fitness program, when your body is getting used to the decrease in calories consumed and the increase in calories burned.
Working out can also make you retain water. To ensure that you don't get dehydrated, the plasma in your bloodstream will store an extra two to four pounds of water. You'll always carry that extra water unless you become inactive; it's not fat or muscle, but simply hydration. It's a good thing. It's also a good thing to keep chugging H2O, which can, counterintuitively, help minimize additional water retention. So stay active, well-hydrated...and off the scale. And also remember that exercise is more about overall fitness and health than weight, and yes, gaining muscle can mean a shift up on the scale. (And that's a good thing to feel stronger and burn more fat over time.)
6. You're a stress case.
Do you turn to food and gain weight when you're under duress? The stress hormone cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response, which is an appetite stimulant. In addition, it steps up the production of a certain brain chemical, neuropeptide Y, which increases cravings for carbohydrates. So there's actual science to support why you want to eat all the bread when you're super stressed.
Even when you don't give in to cravings, stress can stall your weight loss. Too much cortisol slows your metabolism. Even worse, excessive stress causes fat to be stored in the abdominal area, where weight is harder to lose.
Luckily, exercise can help ease your angst and will reduce stress. Balanced, nutritious meals can repair the damage that stress does to the body, and a social support network also helps.
How Get Weight-Loss Results
So does exercise help you lose weight? If you've increased your water and protein intake, move more throughout the day, and trying to stress less, then yes! But one of the best things you can do is not weigh yourself too frequently from the outset. It will be tempting in the beginning, but stick to your scale embargo for a month. Then, weigh in weekly on the same day and at the same time of day, and don't let the fluctuations bother you. After all, body weight can fluctuate by up to five pounds on any given day, so the amount you shed can easily get lost.
At the end of the day, remember that you're making progress toward your health goals, no matter what the scale says. Plus, you can leverage other ways to measure your journey (shout-out to the non-scale victories!). For example, try on the same pair of jeans and shirt every six to eight weeks to see how the fit changes. Or, tune into how your body feels — do you have more energy? Are you sleeping better, or feeling less stressed? Finally, you might consider keeping a workout log and track how much weight you can lift and how many miles you can walk or run.
Regardless of whether you end up losing any weight, changing your habits will make you feel healthier and more confident in yourself — and that's something no scale can take away.
Struggling with your weight loss journey? Schedule a free health strategy session with me today to discuss your goals and how to achieve them.