Here at Dioxyme, we get asked all the time “Why can’t I lose weight?” and the reality is that there are a number of reasons you may not be seeing the kind of weight-loss results you’re after.
From filling up on empty calories to not getting enough sleep, there are all sorts of factors that can affect your ability to lose weight. In order to get you pointed in the right direction on your weight-loss journey, we’re going over 16 of the most common reasons people have a hard time dropping weight.
16 Fact-Based Reasons Why You Can't Lose Weight
1. There Are Too Many Calories in Your Diet
If you’re not experiencing a steady, gradual reduction in your weight, it’s very likely you’re taking in too many calories in your daily diet. In fact, it’s probably the most common reason people aren’t able to lose weight.
While you may think you have a pretty good grasp on your calorie intake, the reality is that most people overestimate how many calories their body actually needs. That’s where knowing your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) comes into play.
TDEE is an estimate of how many calories your body burns off in a day. In order to lose weight, you need to be taking in fewercalories than your body requires at your current weight. You can easily estimate your caloric needs using an online TDEE calculator.
Once you’ve figured out your TDEE, you’ll have a better picture of what you need to do in order to lose weight. For most people, a calorie restriction of 25% - 35% is the optimal range for healthy, gradual weight loss. That means you’re taking in twenty-five to thirty-five percent fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re actually hitting your daily calorie goal is to weigh your food and keep track of what you’re eating. In combination with a food scale, tracking apps like My Fitness Pal make figuring out how many calories you’re taking in throughout the day incredibly simple.
While it may sound like a chore to weigh and log your food, it doesn’t have to be a life long task. After a few months of tracking, you’ll be able to better estimate how many calories you’re consuming just by looking at what you’re eating.
2. You’re Eating Empty Calories
In addition to eating too many calories in your daily diet, another reason you may be having trouble with weight loss is that you’re eating empty calories. Condiments like most salad dressings, along with things like ketchup and mayonnaise, for example, can add hundreds of extra calories into your daily diet without really adding any nutritional value.
For instance, let’s say you have a salad for lunch. You may think it’s a low-calorie meal option, but if you’re loading it up with things like dressing and cheese, that can easily turn into a 500+ calorie meal. So while you may think you're going low-calorie, you're actually taking in hundreds of extra calories you didn’t consider.
If you really need to add some extra flavor to your food, consider using condiments like apple cider vinegar or hot sauce which contain minimal amounts of calories.
3. You’re Drinking Empty Calories
On top of eating empty calories, drinking them can also make losing weight problematic. While it’s easy to overlook, if you're drinking things like juice and soda every day, you’re also adding hundreds of unnecessary calories into your diet.
For example, if you were to drink two 20 oz bottles of coke a day, you’d be adding almost 500 extra calories to your diet. While it might not sound like all that much, if you want to hit your daily calorie target, that's now 500 fewer calories you can get from healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
Because sugary drinks don’t do much to quell your hunger, however, it can make it pretty difficult to limit your food intake as much as you need to in order to lose weight.
4. There Are Too Many Processed Foods in Your Diet
Managing food cravings can be one of the more challenging aspects of losing weight and if you’re eating a lot of processed foods, it can make it even more difficult to keep your appetite in check.
Compared to whole foods that contain minimal ingredients, processed foods are far less filling, which can ultimately lead to feeling hungry again not long after you ate.
Even processed meals that are marketed as “healthy” ultimately won’t satiate your hunger to the same degree as all-natural, unprocessed foods. While this doesn’t mean that you can never eat processed foods, keeping them to a minimum in your diet can help you to better manage your hunger.
5. You’re Not Planning Ahead Enough
While it’s tough to beat the convenience of fast food, especially when you’ve got a busy schedule, it can often get in the way of weight loss.
In addition to containing lower amounts of fiber, which makes them less satiating, fast food options like pizza and cheeseburgers are also very calorically dense, which makes overshooting your calorie target much easier.
For example, if you eat 2 double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s -- which isn’t all that hard to do -- that’s almost 900 calories and that’s not even including the fries and soda that often come along with the meal.
Instead, fibrous foods that aren’t as calorically dense can help you to assure that you’re not eating too many calories, and preparing them in advance can make them every bit as convenient as fast food. Spending a few hours over the weekend to prepare next week’s meals ultimately means that when your hunger strikes during the week, you have a quick and healthy option ready to go.
6. You’re Eating Out Too Often
It’s not just fast food that you need to worry about if you’re having trouble losing weight either. If you’re eating out too often, it can become very difficult to shed excess body fat.
Although there are certainly some restaurants out there that have healthy food options, one of the main issues is that in many cases it’s difficult to know for certain how many calories you’re consuming when you eat out.
While you may be able to take a rough guess, being able to consistently lose weight requires precision. The more you eat out, the more difficult it becomes to make an accurate assessment of your calorie intake. This doesn’t mean to you can never eat out if you want to lose weight but rather that it should be done in moderation.
7. You’re Eating Too Many Carbs
When it comes to weight-loss diets, many people tend to focus on limiting their dietary fat, however, it may, in fact, be more advantageous to reduce your intake of carbohydrates instead.
In particular, heavily processed foods that are high in things like corn syrup and/or sugar can actually cause hormonal changes in your body, leading to increases in your appetite.
On top of that, processed carbs can also raise your insulin levels and decrease your metabolism, which can make it far more difficult to lose weight.
Diets like the ketogenic diet, however, are centrally oriented around limiting your carb intake, which may help to improve your ability to lose weight if you’re currently having trouble with weight loss on a high-carb diet.
8. There’s Not Enough Protein In Your Diet
Another reason you may not be losing weight is that you’re not eating enough protein. A high-protein diet is one of the single most important factors when it comes to weight loss.
To maximize your weight-loss potential, 20+% of your total daily calories should be coming from healthy protein sources.
In addition to boosting your metabolism, which ultimately forces your body to burn more calories, a high-protein intake also helps to increase your body’s production of hunger-fighting hormones.
On top of that, consuming an ample amount of protein will also help to attenuate muscle loss during your weight cut.
When your calories are restricted your body turns to both fat and lean muscle mass to meet its energy needs. Consuming a high-protein diet, however, helps encourage your body to more exclusively focus on burning fat rather than muscle.
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9. You’re Eating Too Frequently
There is a common misconception amongst many dieters that eating smaller meals more frequently will help you to stave off hunger and cravings. While it doesn’t sound all that preposterous, there’s actually not a lot of science to back it up.
In fact, most research shows that the frequency in which you eat your meals has no significant effects on your ability to lose weight loss. And worse yet, it can actually make it easier to overshoot your daily calorie goal. Because smaller meals aren’t as filling, you may be more likely to turn to snacks in between meals.
10. You’re Consuming Too Much Alcohol
If you’re having trouble losing weight, it could also be because you’re consuming too much alcohol. Beer, wine, and especially sugar-heavy mixed drinks contain a considerable amount of calories, so even with just a few drinks, it can be easy to eclipse your daily calorie target.
For example, one 12oz can of bud light contains 110 calories. If you have an entire six-pack, that turns into 660 calories! That’s quite a lot of calories, particularly when you don’t have a lot to spare.
Compared to carbs and protein, which have 4 calories per gram, alcohol has 7, which can really add up quickly even if you’re just drinking spirits. On top of that, the higher the proof is, the more calories it has. For example, an 80 proof shot of vodka contains 96 calories while a 100 proof shot contains over 120.
In addition, alcohol is a sugar that unlike every other type of food, can't be stored in your body, which means that your body has to burn it off first. Ultimately, that means that when you consume food while you’re drinking (or after), your body is much more likely to store it as fat instead of using it for calories.
While this doesn’t mean you have to give up drinking alcohol completely, you’ll certainly have to drink in moderation if you want to see healthy, gradual weight loss.
11. You’re Weight Loss Goals Aren’t Realistic
The unfortunate reality is that weight loss takes time. While it would be nice if you could get down to your target weight in a matter of weeks, it’s a gradual process that can often take months.
After the initial stages of weight loss, where you may be able to lose weight more quickly, most people can expect to lose somewhere around one or two pounds each week. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, it can really add up after a few months of steady dieting.
On top of that, the reality is that not everybody is going to be able to look like an athlete or model no matter how much they diet and exercise. There are a number of different body types and depending on which type you have, it may be difficult to get incredibly lean and shredded naturally.
With that being said, everyone is capable of improving their body composition with the right diet and exercise routine. While you may not have chiseled abs anytime soon, it doesn’t mean that you can’t still look and feel better than ever.
12. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Poor sleep hygiene is another factor that can make losing weight more difficult. When you don’t get enough sleep, it triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol. When your cortisol levels are elevated, your body is prompted to conserve more fuel, which can make losing weight much more difficult.
Not getting enough sleep can also lower your insulin sensitivity. Insulin plays an important role in converting carbohydrates into energy and if you’re insulin resistant, your body will try to compensate by producing more. The main issue is that having too much insulin in your bloodstream can lead to a number of serious health problems including obesity and type 2 diabetes.
On top of all that, not getting enough sleep can also make you more prone to overdoing it with your calorie intake. In addition to being vital for recovery, sleeping can also help you to avoid food cravings, which can become especially strong late at night.
13. There’s an Issue With Your Thyroid
If you’re having issues with weight gain, it could also be due to a condition known as hypothyroidism, which occurs when your thyroid isn’t able to produce enough hormones to keep your body functioning normally. It can disrupt everything from your metabolism to your heart rate.
In addition to weight gain, other signs of hypothyroidism include fatigue, lethargy, and mood swings. If you’re experiencing these kinds of symptoms, you’ll need to consult a doctor to get your thyroid hormone levels measured. Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism is a treatable condition.
14. You’re Not Active Enough
The fact of the matter is that many of us are sedentary in our daily lives. Whether it’s at work, in the car, or at home, many of us spend the majority of the day sitting -- and being seated all day doesn’t exactly burn a lot of calories.
In order to maximize your weight-loss potential, it’s important to be more active. Adding a walk into your routine or making time to get up and move around a few times throughout the day is one of the easiest ways to torch some extra calories in your daily life.
15. You’re Not Doing Cardio
Even if you lead a relatively active daily life, you still may not be burning enough calories to actually lose weight, and that’s where cardiovascular exercise (cardio) comes into play.
In addition to improving your heart health, cardio also helps to increase the number of calories your body burns, which is why it’s such a popular weight-loss tool.
While many people tend to think of steady-state cardio like running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes, research suggests that High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)may be even more effective when it comes to weight loss.
HIIT consists of short intervals -- as little 15 to 30 seconds -- of high-intensity exercises like sprints, split up by brief resting periods. Compared to steady-state cardio, HIIT keeps your metabolism heightened to a greater degree in the hours after your workout.
Increasing your metabolism ultimately means that your body is going to have to burn more calories to meet its demands. The higher your metabolism and the greater your calorie deficit, the more weight you’re going to be able to lose.
16. You’re Not Resistance Training
Another great way to keep your metabolism elevated is through lifting weights -- AKA resistance training. As with HIIT, an intense session of weight lifting can also spike your metabolism and increase your calorie-burning potential.
In addition to helping you to burn more calories post-workout, resistance training is also important for maintaining your muscle mass during weight loss. As we’ve already discussed, when your calories are restricted your body doesn’t only burn fat, it also burns lean muscle mass, which can make improving your body composition more difficult.
However, in combination with a high-protein intake, resistance training helps to mitigate muscle loss, which ultimately means you’ll be able to more exclusively lose fat, not lean mass during a weight cut.
Weight loss can be a difficult process and there are several factors that can impinge on your ability to shed excess body fat. The most common reason people have trouble losing weight has to do with consuming too many calories. In order to lose weight, you'll need to be consuming fewer calories than your body burns off in a day.
On top of that, if you want to maximize your weight-loss potential, you'll need to eliminate empty calories like sugary drinks and calorie-heavy condiments from your diet.
Increasing your activity level with things like aerobic and anaerobic training can also be helpful when it comes to breaking through a weight-loss plateau.
Losing weight takes both patience and precision. In order to see the results you're after, you'll need to make sure your diet is dialed in and you're making healthy lifestyle choices both inside and outside of the gym.