7 Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight

There may just be a million possible reasons why you might not be losing weight. But, speaking as a trainer who has consistently and predictably helped clients permanently lose weight, people are usually focused on the wrong things – leading to wasted energy, time, and eventually burnout. The process of losing weight is often a long and difficult one, but it is by no means impossible or unattainable. So before deciding that lasting weight loss just isn’t in the cards for you, try to analyze your current situation and identify if there are any major factors that you have left unchecked. Boiling down all the possible reasons why someone might not be losing weight down to just seven is in some ways a daunting task, but patterns emerge once you have successfully helped many people through the process. There exists a clear hierarchy of variables to focus on, and those at the top of the list are extremely basic, usually free, and only take some lifestyle modifications and effort to implement. Just cutting calories and ramping up cardio will work in the short term, but that strategy dries up extremely quickly – leaving you temporarily lighter, but no closer to reaching a point of sustained weight loss. Ask yourself if any of the following mistakes may just be the reason you aren’t losing weight, and then begin to alter your behavior or approach and start creating progress once again.

Here’s a quick rundown of the 7 Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight

  1. Poor Sleeping Habits

    If there is any single factor that can completely ruin any attempt to lose weight, it is poor sleep habits.

  2. Eating Too Many Calories

    At the end of the day, weight loss or gain is a matter of energy balance. Finding ways to control calorie intake is essential.

  3. Metabolic Adaptation

    How quickly and severely experience decreased metabolic rate caused by prolonged caloric restriction is highly individual, but everyone will likely develop some degree of metabolic adaptation during the dieting process.

  4. Training too much

    As a society we tend to think that more is always better. Ironically, if you are wanting to create lasting changes with your training and nutrition approach however, this could not be further from the truth.

  5. Relying on Cardio to Burn Calories

    Relying on incessant cardio sessions to create an energy deficit and hopefully fat loss will almost certainly end in frustration, a whole lot of wasted energy, and an eventual plateau.

  6. Not Moving Enough

    On the other side of the energy balance equation from the calories you eat is energy out. As a society, we are highly sedentary. Find fun ways to start moving more.

  7. Weekend Sabotage

    One of the more prevalent examples of weight loss self-sabotage happens over just a few days out of each week.

Now, for the in-depth look at the reasons we can’t lose weight. It is only fitting that we start with what is one of the most common reasons people are unable to reach and sustain a weight loss goal – poor sleep. 

Reason #1: Poor Sleeping Habits

If there is any single factor that can completely ruin any attempt to safely, healthily, and permanently lose weight it is routinely getting poor sleep. If you aren’t already doing so, prioritizing getting enough quality sleep should be your primary focus when you are starting out on any fitness journey – especially weight loss. Paying close attention to and protecting your sleep like your life depends on it will help prevent you from having to experience a whole host of unwanted effects caused by acute and chronic sleep deprivation which seem perfectly designed to hinder the weight loss process. If you skip on sleep you can expect to experience: 

  • An increased drive to demolish hyperpalatable, calorically dense foods. (Research has found that even partial sleep deprivation leads to around 400 or more extra calories eaten the next day when compared to well-slept subjects). 
  • Decreased hormonal function (thyroid, sex, and adrenal output will all be impacted). 
  • Decreased executive function (objective decision making is reduced). 
  • Depressed immune function (not necessarily related to weight loss but developing disease certainly puts a hold on healthy weight loss). 

Few variables can have such a profound impact on your health and fitness in the way that sleep can, but the next mistake absolutely can and fundamentally does limit weight loss entirely. 

Reason #2: Eating Too Many Calories

At the end of the day, weight loss or gain is a matter of energy balance (an excellent and meticulous explanation of all things energy balance can be found here: Energy Balance. Having a positive energy balance means you will be adding weight – whether that weight is muscle or fat, calories are needed to create it. Although you may not think or feel that you are eating too much food, it is the calories in the food that matter. Inconveniently, most food products nowadays are processed and designed to be chock full of calories and include ingredients that fuel the drive to eat more. This effect is compounded by the fact most food products are missing any semblance of actual nutrition, and our body’s know it. Our innate drive to eat food includes a variety of factors, but two that are fundamental to this urge include the need for calories (energy) and the drive for nutrition (nutrients including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.). Fulfilling our need for energy, without also satisfying our body’s need for nutrition will usually result in a perpetual drive to eat more in search of the nutrients it needs. 

Eating too many calories is absolutely going to prevent weight loss, and create weight gain if done consistently. Energy balance is a law of nature that is inescapable, despite what some diet gurus and zealots may say. Prioritizing whole, natural foods that are full of actual nutrients is a great way to set yourself up for energy balance success but it is far from a panacea – at the end of the day, calories in vs. calories out is the rule of weight loss or gain. The next common roadblock to weight loss however, is much less understood – not just by the average person but most fitness professionals as well.  

Reason #3: Metabolic Adaptation

You will have very likely heard of the dreaded “starvation mode” – a feared (and largely imagined) state where you are unable to lose weight no matter how few calories you eat. Luckily this mode does not exist, but you can expect and plan for a decline in hormonal output, decrease in libido, reductions in lean body mass, and a few more undesirable effects if you cut calories too low for too long. How quickly and severely you specifically will experience these potential effects caused by prolonged caloric restriction is highly individual, but everyone will likely develop some degree of metabolic adaptation during the dieting process. Pushing yourself to the point of becoming metabolically adapted to an unsustainably low calorie intake can absolutely pump the brakes on your weight loss progress – so the trick is to avoid reaching this point at all by planning appropriately and strategically. The best strategy to avoid this common pitfall is pretty simple: 

  1. Consistently bring your calories up to maintenance or slightly above for at least 48 hours. How often you need to do this will depend on many factors, but around every 2-3 weeks is probably often enough for most people. 
  2. Eat enough protein. Getting enough protein helps to spare lean body mass and thus aids in mitigating part of how the body becomes more efficient with the calories you give it (remember, in this context efficient is bad!). 
  3. Lift weights. Similar to eating enough protein, lifting weights can prevent much of the lean body mass loss that is expected to occur when dieting for weight loss by convincing your body that keeping muscle is in it’s best interest. 

These three strategies should each be part of any weight loss diet even if you haven’t experienced any significant degree of metabolic adaptation just yet – for a far more comprehensive illustration, check out The Metabolic Adaptation Manual built by Dr. Eric Trexler, one of the leading researchers in the physique modification realm. Extremes on the training spectrum can be just as detrimental to weight loss progress as extreme dietary restriction, and both are usually reached by working without an intelligent strategy. 

Reason #4: Training too much

As a society we tend to think that more is always better. Ironically, if you are wanting to create lasting changes with your training and nutrition approach however, this could not be further from the truth. All forms of training can be pushed to the point of diminishing returns, but some are able to hit that point rather easily like most HIIT style training, crossfit, unreasonably high volume workouts, and quite a few others. Training for weight loss progress is a physiologically and psychologically difficult form of training, and it should be treated as such. Thinking that you can simply hold your training volume extremely high, burn a ton of calories, and endlessly shed excess pounds is an antiquated approach that is more reflective of the rise in the popularity of high intensity group training than what is actually effective for the average person. 

Again, weight loss is a difficult process for your body, don’t make it more difficult by stomping down your body with long, arduous, and inappropriate workouts everyday. You absolutely should lift weights and stay active, but don’t ask too much of your body too soon! Staying active and doing cardio aren’t the same thing, as you will see with our next common mistake – relying on cardio to burn calories. 

Reason #5: Relying on Cardio to Burn Calories 

Relying on incessant cardio sessions to create an energy deficit and hopefully fat loss will almost certainly end in frustration, a whole lot of wasted energy, and an eventual plateau. This mistake is so commonly made because cardio will absolutely result in quicker weight loss progress than any other form of exercise – but this advantage doesn’t play out over the long-term. Manually burning calories through frequent cardio sessions is an extremely strong signal to become more efficient with the calories that you feed it (efficient isn’t helpful with weight loss). This adaptation would have been beneficial in the not-so distant past, but if we are seeking permanent fat loss, it is actually the exact opposite of what we want. Check out our article that covers exactly why resistance training is better than cardio for fat loss here: Restance Training

If you keep pushing for weight loss success from cardio without first taking care to manage your daily activity levels, you are missing out on some almost free progress. Most of the people you see killing themselves on a treadmill or living on an elliptical seem to not realize they could have simply walked around the block instead. 

Reason #6: Not Moving Enough

On the other side of the energy balance equation from the calories you eat is energy out. This can be more technically referred to as total daily energy expenditure or TDEE, and the number is the sum total of all the calories your body used in a day – a number that can be highly variable and difficult to fully determine. Some of the factors that contribute to your TDEE you can actively manipulate in various ways, some you can’t. Staying active and moving a reasonable amount everyday is likely going to be your easiest and most sustainable method of increasing your energy use over the course of the day – not adding frivolous cardio. 

Cardio can be a great tool for weight loss if used sparingly and in a manner that adds to your current level of activity. When it is used as a means to haphazardly establish a baseline level of activity however, the benefits begin to quickly dissipate. Moving enough throughout the day is also essential to the function of your lymphatic system and overall health – the less you move, the less healthy you are overall. Increasing your daily activity through steps is an easy way to start managing the energy balance equation, but the next common mistake has more to do with managing behavior.

Reason #7: Weekend Sabotage

One of the more prevalent examples of weight loss self-sabotage happens over just a few days out of each week. Awareness surrounding the daily habits and practices that are required for producing weight loss often fades during the weekend and choices are made that can reduce or eliminate any progress that was developed during the week. Our body’s respond and adapt to the demands you place on it, but those demands must be as consistent as possible. This means that if the energy balance equation is catapulted in the wrong direction thanks to a few meals out or some drinks over the weekend , you have effectively reduced your weight loss progress. This effect is further compounded if you are more inactive during the weekend than during work week – dragging down the energy-out side of the equation and boosting your likelihood of gaining body fat as a result. 

Remain as consistent as you can during the weekend. Try to sleep at the same time, eat on the same general plan, keep training, and stay active and you will be dramatically reducing the likelihood of any diet self-sabotage over the weekend! 

How to Avoid All Seven Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight

Hopefully this list helped you identify some key areas where you weren’t exactly cutting it before. If you recognize more than one of these mistakes in yourself, start working on one major variable at a time. Weight loss is a difficult process, and so is changing the habits that cause weight gain in the first place – but neither task is anywhere close to impossible. Stick to the basics and be consistent.

Services to Boost your Weight Loss Efforts

It is essential to understand and implement the foundational principles of weight loss that were touched on in this article. At the core of health is our sleep, exercise habits, calorie consumption and nutrient intake, and most of all, consistency. Once you have a decent grasp on each of these, there are a number of services that can help you in your efforts. At Ikon Health we offer a number of services that can improve your weight loss efforts, and some of these services are listed below.

  • IV for Weight Loss: Nutrients that boost energy, support liver function, and boost metabolic rate
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  • Wellness Coaching: Our coaching program is the best way to help you to choose goals that will provide the most results with the least initial effort, and keep you accountable.
  • Anti-Aging Peptides: Peptides are likely the most powerful service that we offer at Ikon Health. Boost fat loss, muscle building, strength, energy, sleep, vitality, appearance, and much more.

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