Many people have experienced a struggle with losing weight at some point in their lives. One survey in 2016 showed that about half of Americans were trying to lose weight. With more than 328 million people in the United States, it’s safe to say you aren’t alone.
The fitness industry is booming these days and is only expected to continue to grow. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that social media and the fitness industry have experienced exponential growth somewhat simultaneously over the last decade. Not only are we exposed to more information, we are also exposed to more people. What’s worse is that because of the disconnection from real life that social media allows, we’re comparing ourselves to those people. But not the real people, the filtered people with edited photos and impossible standards that no one is actually meeting.
You might be wondering what any of that has to do with the 6 sneaky reasons you might not be losing weight. I believe that, first and foremost, we should each understand the “why” behind any change we think we want/need to make. Sometimes we don’t actually need to change and because we don’t need to, we will struggle even more. There’s a fine line between taking care of our bodies and being obsessed with the way our bodies look. I hope you’ll take an honest look at your “why” before you stress out about weight loss.
If you’re comfortable with your “why” and you have been working hard but you’re feeling stuck and not losing weight, see if any of these six sneaky things might be the reason.
6 Sneaky Reasons You Might Not Be Losing Weight
1. You Eat “Healthy” Food
You choose foods labeled “fat free”, “sugar free”, “diet”, “light”
This isn’t the post to dive deep into the food industry and just how tricky they are, but it’s worth touching on. The food industry follows trends, it studies mental and emotional behavior, it has the best marketing professionals money can buy. They strategically place items so that we’ll be attracted to their display and the convenience of where they are located in the store. They package for visual appeal and mental/emotional appeal. If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out this post about an eye-opening documentary that will change the way you see food.
An example is a package of sugar on the shelf at the grocery store with the label “naturally fat free.” Yes, that’s a true story. We all know sugar is bad for us, but if we’re thinking about what it doesn’t have (fat) then we’ll focus less on what it is. Never mind that sugar turns into fat in our bodies. Most people don’t understand that process so in that 5 seconds it takes you to decide if you’re buying sugar or not, that “naturally fat free” label helps seal the deal.
Generally, if you see an item labeled “sugar free”, that means it contains artificial sugar. There are many conflicting opinions on whether artificial sugar actually aids in weight loss. One study in 2017 found that consumption of artificial sugar over time results in a higher risk of weight gain and other health issues. Either way, it’s more than just an issue of calories versus zero calories. It’s an issue of other side effects that you don’t initially consider.
“Low fat” labels are attractive because if we don’t know how our body uses fat, the word has a negative connotation. We assume that it’s healthier if it has less fat, which might be the case depending on the food. The problem is that most “low fat” labeled foods are loaded with added sugar and can be high in calories.
You don’t read and/or understand food labels
It all feels very overwhelming when you start getting into it. Not because it’s hard to understand, it’s just a lot of information at first. Also because you finally see how unhealthy the food is that is being so heavily marketed to us. If you are using calorie counting to lose weight, it’s important to know where your calories are coming from. Just because you stayed under your allotted number of calories for the day, that does not mean that you will be losing weight. If you’re not reading nutrition labels on your “healthy” food you could be sabotaging your progress.
You can learn the basics here. Another option, if you’re calorie counting, is to use an app like MyFitnessPal. It can be used on your phone, tablet, or computer. Not only will it help you keep track of our calories, it also breaks down where your calories are coming from and how much of each macro nutrient you are consuming versus how much you need. This can be a huge help with weight loss because it’s more of a guide for what to eat instead of a meter just for overall calorie consumption.
You aren’t eating enough whole foods
The bottom line when it comes to diet is that the body performs optimally on real, whole foods. Not refined, not created in a lab, not laden with preservatives, and so on. If you have been stuck at the same number on the scale, it’s probably time to try giving your body exactly what it needs. Whole foods are any foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible, free from additives and other artificial substances.
Think meat, vegetables, 100% whole-grain or whole-wheat products, brown rice, spices, etc. You still have lots of options. You can check out a list of some whole foods here.
2. You Are Eating Too Much or Too Little
Your calorie intake is wrong
It seems counter intuitive to say that you aren’t losing weight because you aren’t eating enough food. Still, as a personal trainer, I can tell you that it is one of the most common issues I’ve seen with weight loss. If you are eating a healthy, whole foods diet, it will be harder for you to reach the number of calories you should be consuming daily. Tracking your food is the best way to make sure you’re getting enough of what you need every day. Your body works very strategically. If you’re not giving it what it needs, no matter how hard your working, your results may be much different than you’re expecting.
On the other hand, you may be consuming too many calories. This is commonly the case with people who have not adjusted their calorie intake as they have lost weight over time. If you have made some progress and now you’re at a stand still, recalculating where your calories should be now is worth a shot. As you lose weight over time your recommend number of calories per day will decrease. If your level of regular activity has changed since your last calorie calculation that is another reason to recalculate.
Keep in mind that calorie calculators are not 100% accurate. There are entirely too many factors that play into that number for each individual. Calorie calculators are just estimates, an attempt to predict a person’s energy needs. Are they still useful? Absolutely. They help you stay consistent with the amount of food you are eating over a period of time, which will allow you too find out if it’s working for you or not. Then you can adjust accordingly. Overall, just remember that calories matter but so do macro nutrients (where your calories are coming from).
You aren’t paying attention to portion size
Portion size is a huge issue in America. In a society that believes we should get more for our money, our restaurants load our plates down with enough food for two or more meals. Then we eat it all in one sitting. In fact, I remember, before I understood portion, sizes my husband and I went to a new restaurant for our anniversary. The prices were high and the portions were small. I felt cheated. We went to Burger King on our way home because we were used to huge portions and we were still hungry (and overweight). The truth of the matter was that fancy restaurant catered to people who valued health and quality over quantity. Their portion sizes were perfect for a healthy diet. You don’t find this often.
It’s a common misconception that the food industry always has our best interest in mind. Because of that, we automatically believe that they wouldn’t steer us wrong and we don’t give any of it a second thought. To be fair, if you read nutrition labels they clearly tell you what a serving size is, so we can’t entirely blame it on the food industry. We don’t want to think about it. We are all to blame. Them for misleading us and us for following mindlessly. When you learn things like portion size and reading nutrition labels, you can drastically change your health and speed up your weight loss progress. I use the 2B Mindset Plate It guide to keep my portions under control.
3. You Aren’t Planning Ahead
You’re making too many quick food decisions
Being prepared with healthy food at all (or most) times is one of the biggest game changers for weight loss. Like I mentioned above, when you’re eating healthier your meals will have fewer calories. That means you’ll need to eat more often in order to stay full and satisfied. It’s unrealistic to expect to stay prepared 24/7. Not many people want to carry a cooler bag of food around with them everywhere they go. But the fewer restaurants, fast food or otherwise, that you have to eat from, the better. If you can’t always be prepared with healthy food, you can still be prepared with the knowledge of what to eat when you’re eating out. Check out these tips from Eat This, Not That about how to eat healthier at restaurants.
You wait too long to eat
Even if you’re prepared with healthy food, if you wait too long to eat it then it won’t be satisfying enough to ward off bad food cravings. If you’re serious about weight loss then you need to set yourself up for success. Plan your meal times ahead and try to stick to them everyday, as closely as possible. Your body will learn the schedule, get used to the portions, and be totally happy with the amazing food you’re feeding it. Sometimes you might have to waiver from that schedule because of things like work or school. Just do your best and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Always carry a snack that you can eat anywhere, just in case.
4. You Aren’t Exercising Strategically
You aren’t working hard enough
Ladies, I’m going to call somebody out. Some of you are coming to the gym just to mark it off your to-do list and leaving looking like you came in for a tour, not a workout. Here comes some tough love from the personal trainer in me. I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in, unless you have an injury that you’re nursing back to health, you should look gross when you finish your workout. Better yet, half way through it.
Some of you are just uncomfortable or shy. I hear a lot, “I don’t want to look stupid.” You are not alone. I promise, I used to feel the same way. Please, please ask for help. Don’t be ashamed to reach out to a trainer in your gym. As scary as it sounds spend some one-on-one time with them. Another option is to get into a group exercise program of some sort. You’ll be feeling so much more confident in no time. Diet is a huge part of losing weight, but exercise plays an important role for weight loss and overall health.
You don’t switch up your workouts
Even if you are working your butt off at the gym, maybe you aren’t switching up your workouts enough. Maybe you don’t know what else to do or you don’t like doing other things. But your body is pretty awesome and whatever you throw at it, it’s going to get used to that if that’s all you ever do. Then it won’t be a challenge for you anymore. Constantly changing the way you exercise is critical for any kind of progress. We’re talking weight loss, muscle development, heart health, bone density/health, etc.
You’re not taking rest days
On the flip side, maybe you’re working too hard. You have to get that sweet spot combination of hard work and rest. I’ve seen some ladies so determined to see a change that they show up to the gym seven days a week and push themselves every single time. You will probably see progress doing that at first. But your body is going to start protesting. That might be through injury or it might just be through a halt in progress. If your body doesn’t have time to recover from workouts then it will put progress on the shelf. Just because all it can do at the moment is try to keep up. It’s in survival mode. Does this sound like you? Make sure you’re resting two days a week, one at the very least, with some of those work days being active recovery days.
5. Your Medication is Sabotaging Your Weight Loss
Some prescription medications can cause weight gain or prevent us from losing weight. Some examples are medications used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders, seizures and even migraines. Don’t ever quite taking a medication without consulting your doctor first. If you’re concerned you can ask your doctor if it’s possible to switch to a different medication or even if your issue can be controlled by diet instead of medication. Then you can work toward making that happen. It’s important to be aware of what is causing your weight gain so you aren’t beating yourself up for being stuck.
6. You’re Putting Too Much Pressure on Yourself
You are mentally and emotionally stressed
Stress is known for causing weight gain and preventing some of us from losing weight. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So important, in fact, that one can have an extreme affect on the other. If you are putting too much pressure on yourself to lose weight you could have a negative physical health response. If you are pushing yourself too much physically you could have a negative mental health response. Set realistic expectations for yourself. Know that your journey to better health will look different than everyone else’s. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Remember your “why” and take it easy on yourself.
You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is a huge factor in the body’s process of repairing and recharging — and losing weight. Not getting enough sleep puts mental and physical stress on the body. When you don’t get enough sleep your body over produces ghrelin, the hunger causing hormone. On top of that, you’ll have a surplus of the stress hormone, Cortisol, which can also increase appetite. Getting on a regular sleep schedule can be tough, but it’s worth putting a lot of effort into and not just for your weight loss.
Check out these related posts:
The Comparison Trap and Seeing Through it
Listening to Your Body: How to Know When to Rest
Things You Should Know if You’re Thinking About Hiring a Personal Trainer