Weight loss: a term that causes so many headaches for so many of us. If it’s not something you’ve personally battled your whole life, you probably know a friend who has. For many of us, losing weight is the one thing we feel like we just can’t figure out.
And yet, we’re told it’s simple. . . “Simply” eat less than you burn, move your body, and you’ll lose weight – “it’s science.”
Simple as the basic formula of energy expenditure and caloric intake may seem, we’ve either been that person or known someone who can’t lose the weight even though they’re doing “everything right.”
If this is you, you’re not alone. But don’t throw in the towel yet. Your struggle to lose weight could be due to several factors that aren’t as commonly known. Read on to learn the surprising reasons that may explain why you’re not losing weight.
Here Are 7 Reasons That Could Explain Why You’re Not Losing Weight:
1. You’re Undereating
It sounds backward . . . aren’t we supposed to eat less to lose weight?
In general, yes, but only to a point.
If you’ve been dieting since forever, your body may have actually gone into “starvation mode” and your metabolism has probably slowed way down, meaning your body clings to each calorie it gets, and you can feel like you’re eating less and less but gaining more.
Start revving up your metabolism by doing things like lifting weights to build more lean muscle mass (more on that in number four on this list). Living off of rice cakes and green juice won’t cut it – make sure you’re getting ample portions of protein, carbs, and healthy fats daily.
Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, dipping below 1200 calories a day is not recommended.
2. You Sit All Day
We all know we’re sitting way too much. Not only does sitting harm our health in a vast number of ways, it can also be what’s to blame for your struggle to lose the weight.
If you have a typical day of sitting at a desk for more than 6 hours, unfortunately, an hour at the gym isn’t enough to counteract this sedentary lifestyle. Even worse – many of us spend way more time that that seated (think about your daily commute, when you eat, and your evening habits of reading or watching TV – all sitting).
Studies show that movement is key because it triggers the release of certain molecules in the body that help process the fat and sugars we eat. This doesn’t happen when we sit all day, which can lead to weight gain.
Focus on incorporating more movement throughout your day whenever you can – take a walk during your lunch break, stand up when you talk on the phone, or try this 30-day movement challenge for more ideas on how to get moving.
3. Your Thyroid Could be Off
Did you know that 20 million Americans have a thyroid issue, and up to 60% of them aren’t even aware of it? The thyroid plays a huge role in processes like metabolism, sleep, and yes – weight gain – and loss.
If you suffer from hypothyroidism (where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone), losing weight can be a huge struggle.
Talk to your doctor about getting bloodwork done to test your thyroid function. Even better, talk to an integrative/functional doctor who can look at the big picture and work with you to address any underlying issues.
4. You’re Just Doing Cardio
If you’ve been using elliptical machines for months or years but still haven’t seen a physical change in your body, it may be because doing solely cardio isn’t the best way to shed the lbs (not to mention it can be super boring, and no one wants to stick to a workout they dread!).
The more lean muscle mass we build, the more our metabolism revs – think of it like you’re increasing the size of your body’s engine, which will in turn burn more gas. Weight lifting helps you burn calories in the long-term and not just while you exercise (like cardio).
5. You’re Undertraining In General
Aside from only doing cardio, another contributing factor to why you’re not losing weight could be that you’re undertraining.
A lot of us underestimate our own strength and ability. Jillian Michaels – fitness-guru extraordinaire – says she sees this problem all the time.
If you are giving yourself extra long rest breaks in between sets or sticking to the light weights, you may be cutting your progress short. If your workout is starting to feel easy, pick up some bigger weights, and/or add a few more reps.
6. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
You’re probably sick of hearing how you need to be getting more sleep, but honestly, there’s a reason why every health article ever tells you to get enough shut-eye.
Our bodies repair from our workouts while we sleep – meaning the real progress happens not when we’re in the gym or yoga studio, but that night. If you’re cutting into your sleep to fit in your workout, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Secondly, the hormones that regulate our hunger and appetite as well as our metabolism are impacted when we don’t get enough rest. Translation: not getting enough sleep could result in weight gain.
Next time you’re tempted to say something like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” just remember, you’re making it harder on yourself to grow muscle and lose fat, and also making it that much harder to resist the break room donuts or that sugary latte.
7. Your Cortisol Levels Are High
Cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone, and our bodies have elevated levels of it anytime we’re stressed or not getting enough rest. While it’s normal for cortisol levels to spike in response to stressful situations like giving a presentation at work, it should be a short-lived instance and not an ongoing issue.
The issue is many of us go about our day-to-day lives with cortisol levels constantly through the roof, resulting from unchecked anxiety and stress. Dealing with a hectic schedule, a stressful commute, or a rocky relationship is more than enough to do it.
Being constantly stressed out = constantly high cortisol levels, which hampers weight loss and can even cause our bodies to gain weight.
Try some techniques like meditation or learning new emotional coping skills to help your body and mind relax.
Losing Weight Is Possible When You Are Aware of Possible Contributing Factors
Weight loss can be a headache, but it is not impossible – when you do it in a healthy and informed way.
One of these tips might change the game for you, or it might take a little more research to figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. Working with a nutritionist to get some individualized dietary advice is a great step, as is working with an integrative doctor who will take a holistic look at your health.
No matter what your situation, there is never a single magic pill for health or weight loss. Remember to be focused on your overall health – mind, body, and spirit – not just weight. Prioritize choices that make you healthier inside and out, not ones that just get you quick and often unsustainable weight loss.
Can weight loss be hard? Yes, but what change isn’t!? And ultimately, what’s more deserving of time and effort than our own health? You’ve got this!
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.