Stalled weight loss can happen for any number of reasons, but from my personal coaching experience, there’s a good chance you’re not losing weight due to one or more of the following reasons…
You Just Started
Your body undergoes many new changes when you start a fitness program. If you went from eating processed food and couch potato to healthy eating and extremely active, it’s entirely possible you won’t lose a single pound the first couple of weeks.
Increased muscle glycogen storage in response to more exercise is a big reason people don’t see weight loss at first. You have to push through this transitionary period.
You’re Being Impatient or Have Unrealistic Expectations
Most people severely overestimate how much weight they should lose each week. It’s as if anything less than 2lbs/week is a failure.
There are going to be days and weeks where you don’t lose weight even though you’re doing everything right. And there will be weeks where you lose more than expected.
Focus on the trend over the pace. So long as things are trending in the right direction over time and you have realistic weight loss expectations, you will eventually get to your goal.
You’re Not Eating Enough
The most common scenario people come to me with is they aren’t eating enough calories to lose weight.
Most people create too large of a calorie deficit with the hopes of losing weight faster. They quickly back themselves into a corner, and before you know it, they’re eating 1200 calories per day and working out every day but can’t drop a single pound.
Don’t try to starve the fat off. Feed the fat loss.
You’re Eating Too Much
While eating too few calories is the most common caloric issue, there are still others who are eating too much relative to their activity levels.
If you’re eating more than 12 times your body weight in calories and aren’t losing weight, it’s likely your calories need to come down some. So make sure you know how many calories to eat and how to make those necessary adjustments.
You’re Focused On the Scale and Weight
The scale is a good progress measurement tool, but it’s not the be-all-end-all. You have to use it in conjunction with other tools – tape measurements, progress pics, health, strength, confidence, etc.
Body transformation is about fat loss. If you’re losing fat, you’re doing great.
That’s right – weight loss and fat loss are not always the same thing. You could be making progress and not even realizing it if you’re relying solely on the scale for feedback.
You’re Not Including Strength Training
When most people think of losing weight, they think of cardio and long drawn out sessions on the treadmill, elliptical, bike, or other cardio equipment.
In reality though, strength training, not cardio is the real fat burner, and should be the focal point of every weight loss exercise routine.
Strength training builds the muscle that will feed on body fat at all hours of the day. It is more metabolically active, so you end up burning more calories each day.
You’re Not Very Active
Do you sit behind a computer all day? A little activity can go a long way. Sometimes a single workout followed by a day of inactivity just isn’t enough.
Your NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, is the amount of activity you do going about your day. It has more of an impact on your metabolism and daily caloric burn than exercise does.
Download a free pedometer smartphone app and track the steps you take in a day. If it’s less than 5000, you probably need to get moving a little more.
Lack of Sleep or Too Much Stress
Recovery is just as important as your nutrition, exercise, and mindset when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle and losing weight. Yet so many of us are under-recovered, lacking sleep, and coping with too much stress.
Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can affect your appetite, glucose metabolism, and the amount of physical activity you get. If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, you’re making your weight loss goals much harder to reach.
In addition, too much stress can affect the hormones that influence your metabolism. So make sure you’re working towards lowering the amount of stress in your life and finding healthy ways to cope with it.
You’re Being Inconsistent
Consistency and adherence are the two most important habits to have when transforming your life. Without both of them you will never stick to your plan long enough to experience transformation.
Your approach to eating should be the same regardless of whether you’re eating at home, on vacation, at a holiday party, or anywhere else. Every meal should be approached the same way – slow, mindful, and then stop at 80% full.
The same goes for your exercise. Pick a workout frequency you know you can stick with for the long term. You can always add more exercise in the future once you’ve proved to yourself you can handle the current work load for an extended period of time.
You’ve Reached a Weight Loss Plateau
Weight loss plateaus are very common. They are supposed to happen. It’s a natural part of the weight loss process. But not everyone knows how to break through them.
Here are a couple of strategies I implement with my own clients to help get things moving again. I only use these things when systematic calorie reduction isn’t working as it should.
- add refeed/cheat days once or twice per week
- restructure your calories by using nutrient/carb timing principles
You Don’t Need to Lose Any More Weight
I have a lot of people come to me wondering why they can’t lose weight. They tell me all the things they’re doing to try and overcome this struggle, but then proceed to tell me they weigh 110lbs.
Have you ever considered that you might not be losing weight simply because you don’t have any weight to lose? If you’re already small in stature, the problem might be a lack of lean body mass, and not an excess of weight.
Yes, you might have some fat to lose still, but gaining some muscle while maintaining your body weight means you’re losing fat. Focus on body composition over weight.
You Have a Medical Condition or Take Medications
Yes, there are medical reasons for why your weight loss isn’t going anywhere; however, these affect a very small percentage of people. In addition, many of these issues are lifestyle related and not the cause of your weight loss woes.
That being said, some people have legitimate medical issues, and if you think you’re one of them, definitely talk to your doctor.
Medications are also a big wild card, with side effects including both weight loss and weight gain. So do a little research on what you’re taking and the potential side effects.
Snacks are not a necessity – they are a tool. Yet so many people plan snacks into their meal plan without any real purpose other than they think they’re supposed to be there.
Snacks are tools for getting you to your next core meal. If you aren’t hungry then don’t eat them.
But if you are, choose a small 100-300 calorie snack. Measure out your serving beforehand instead of eating straight from the container.
Your Metabolism Has Adapted
Metabolic adaptation is real and is a natural consequence of prolonged caloric restriction combined with too much exercise.
Your body adapts to calorie restriction and large deficits by slowing its production of metabolic hormones. This means your body ends up using the calories you eat much more efficiently.
There is a way out of that negative feedback cycle, and that’s through the process of reverse dieting.
You’re Neglecting the Mental Aspects of Weight Loss
The four cornerstones of weight loss are mindset, nutrition, exercise, and recovery. Most people tend to only focus on the middle two, but your mindset is the foundation for everything you do.
How you think influences what you do, and it’s these behaviors that impact your weight loss. Anyone can download a meal plan or exercise program to follow. But it’s your mindset that determines whether you’re going to actually follow it.
Take a close look at your relationship with food, the scale, and exercise. Do you avoid struggles or take them head on? Are you losing weight for you or do you feel outside pressures?
Your Diet is Nutrient Deficient
Calories are the #1 driver of weight loss. However, not all calories are created equally, and your metabolism is influenced by the types of foods you eat and the nutrients you get.
In other words, while eating less than you burn will always result in weight loss, the amount your burn can fluctuate too based on other factors. One of these factors is the amount of nutrients in your diet.
Without a nutrient sufficient diet, your metabolism can down-regulate. That means you will have to eat fewer and fewer calories to net the same results – creating a downward spiral of fewer calories creating a slower metabolism, leading to less food and nutrients, which further slows your metabolism.
So what do you think? Do any of the above reasons for your weight loss struggle resonate with you?
If so, tackle the issue one problem at a time. Pick something to improve and work on that until you feel good about it. Don’t try to change everything at once.