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Weight Loss » What To Do When You Can’t Lose Weight: How To Stop The Scale From Creeping Up

What To Do When You Can’t Lose Weight: How To Stop The Scale From Creeping Up

what to do when you can't lose weight

Have you been dieting and working out but not losing considerable weight? You must be missing out on some basic weight-loss tips that are hindering your progress. The good news is that there are thousands of people who are struggling to lose weight, so you are not strange. 

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Do not be discouraged if you have been trying really hard but can’t seem to lose weight even after following some routines that you thought would be effective. First things first, gender affects how you lose weight (13). Research suggests that men lose weight faster than women. However, long-term efforts result in more success in women than in men (13). Also, men tend to lose belly fat fast, unlike ladies (13). Below are more evidence-based tips that will help you attain your weight loss goals.

How Does Weight Loss Work? 

To get to the bottom of why you are not losing weight, you need to understand how weight loss works. According to Mayo Clinic, you need to burn 3500 calories to lose 1 pound and recommends that you lose between 1-2 pounds a week for healthy, sustainable weight loss (4). In a comparative study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, it was established that walking or running a mile may result in burning 100 extra calories. Therefore, to lose 1 pound a week by this method alone, you should run or walk an extra 5 miles a day, every day (3). However, it may be impossible to do that due to lack of time, so combining relevant workouts and healthy lower calorie meals will help you cut extra pounds effectively.

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Why Am I Not Losing Weight? 

You need to burn calories to lose weight, so the reason why you are not losing weight is because of the various factors that determine how your body burns calories. These include:

  • Diet

The type and quantity of food that you eat affects the burning of calories. The food we eat is transformed into energy, and when it enters the body, it fuels the functions of the body, gets stored as fat, or passes through as waste (14). For effective and sustainable weight loss, you must constantly consume fewer calories than you burn so that the body is forced to tap into the stored fats to obtain the required daily energy for proper functioning. However, skipping meals or following a very low-calorie eating plan may reduce the rate at which you burn calories, making it more difficult to lose weight

  • Genes

Some bodies are inherently better at burning fats than others, so if yours is slow at burning calories, you need to work harder. For instance, some people may naturally not have adequate muscle mass. Those with a lean muscular physique tend to burn more calories than individuals with a higher body fat percentage (14).

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  • Age

As you get older, your metabolic rate reduces by about 2-8% every 10 years because of decreased muscle mass (14). This means that the older you get, the more difficult it may become for you to lose weight.

Other reasons for weight gain are:

  • Hormones, proteins, and chemicals

These may affect your energy and metabolism. For instance, hypothyroidism, a condition that occurs when your thyroids are underactive, which may lead to weight gain because of salt and water build up in the body (14). Those with hyperthyroidism may lose weight, but since it makes you feel hungrier, some people with this condition tend to add more weight.

  • Medical conditions

Your weight issues may be due to eating disorders such as bulimia, sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and heart conditions, among others (14). Also, pills for depression, birth control, allergies, epilepsy, diabetes, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, and schizophrenia, etc., may hinder you from losing weight. You may not be able to change or withdraw from such prescribed drugs, so it is best to consult your doctor to know the best weight loss plan for you (14).

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  •  Reaching equilibrium

Your resting metabolic rate slows down when you begin to lose weight because it requires less effort to fuel all the functions in your body. There is less weight to carry than before, hence fewer calories than before will be burnt (7). For this reason, you may witness stagnation in weight loss after some time because you are just doing the same things. Therefore, you have to adjust your calorie intake and its burning to continue losing weight.

  • Adaptive Thermogenesis

The body adjusts based on the number of calories burnt, and because of that, it is possible to reserve body fat in a process called adaptive thermogenesis. Naturally, the body wants to maintain extra fat for future use, so when you lose some few pounds after working out, you will always have an issue keeping the weight off. Research confirms that adaptive thermogenesis creates the perfect condition for weight regain, evidenced by the fact that 80-90% of long-term weight loss study participants return to their previous weight percentiles (1). Therefore, to sustain weight loss, you need a lifetime of meticulous attention to energy intake and expenditure (1).

  • Surroundings of the body

These include menopausal factors, environmental factors such as Cinnabon, psychological challenges such as depression, etc., all of which makes the body crave for food, store it, and make it difficult to control calorie consumption.

In summary, your gender, age, genetics, and diet may be the reason why you are not losing weight. Moreover, exercising may not guarantee weight loss as the body tries to preserve its fat stores. The environment may also challenge your weight goals, and your metabolic rate may slow down as well when you cut off some pounds, making weight loss a permanent journey, or else you may gain back the pounds you shed.

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What to do When You Can’t Lose Weight: Often-overlooked Reasons that are Holding You Back

Experts recommend embracing a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating nutrient-rich foods, exercising, and healthy habits, such as getting 8 hours of sleep daily.

 Here are some tips on how to lose weight:

  • Have a doable weight loss plan

Being overly ambitious will leave you frustrated. Come up with realistic weight loss goals, both short-term and long-term, that will help you stay motivated. For instance, if you plan to lose 10 pounds in two weeks, you may give up one week later because you will not have lost half that amount.

  • Consume nutritious low-calorie foods

Forget about how to drop weight fast and fad diets that offer outcomes that are too good to be true. You cannot overcome years of bad choices in a week or two with an extremely restrictive beverage or diet, so, these are simply ways to get your money by promoting the products of specific people or companies which promise tremendous results in a short period (14). Yes, you may lose some water weight, but these crash plans are not sustainable in the long-run. You will gain back the lost fats, or even more, as soon as you go back to your usual lifestyle. Focus on a healthy lifestyle, bearing in mind that your body is unique, so play around to know what works best for you. 

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Here are some of the nutritious, low-calorie, and filling foods that may reduce your desires to overeat, and those you should avoid or minimize:

    • Consume healthy proteins such as eggs and lean meats like free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, fish, and lean parts of organic pork.
    • Go for more whole and unprocessed  foods that will make you eat less refined carbohydrates, sodium, and added sugar. Avoid frequent intake of inorganic sweeteners in food, including dairy products.
    • Eat foods that can manage bacteria in the gut. There are trillions of bacteria in the gut, both good and bad. Bad bacteria in the gut may increase the amount of energy that you get from food, and this results in a fat deposition, which is automatic weight gain. Foods that can help resolve this include prebiotic foods (dietary fibers consumed by gut bacteria) like garlic, onion, avocado, oats, bananas, asparagus, barley, and leeks. Also, fermented foodstuffs like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, and tempeh can help fix bad gut bacteria.
    • Take more fresh products such as veggies and fruits because they are high in fiber, making you feel full without consuming many calories. You can snack with fruits such as apples, berries, bananas, and avocado, which contain healthy fats.
    • Eat whole foods such as brown rice, vegetables, nuts, fruits, eggs, and seeds because they are high in fiber, making you feel fuller for longer.
    • Take healthy drinks such as water, coffee, herbal, and green tea. You can take water that has been flavored naturally with fresh cucumbers or lemons if you do not like the taste of plain water. Avoid sweetened juices and other sugar-filled processed beverages.
    • Avoid high-calorie processed foods such as bread, pasta, and fast foods, which you can easily overheat. This can be resolved by eating more home-cooked foods and taking nutrient-dense and calorically-light food such as fruits, proteins, and vegetables mentioned above, in place of junk.
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  • Avoid alcohol, crackers, candy, and cookies

  • Opt for lighter salad dips, dressings, and spreads with fewer calories

Such as salsa, hummus, or mustard. Considering they contain fewer fats than mayonnaise. Also, avoid those that contain high sugars, particularly those bought from the stores.

Controlling your portions is also important because it directly correlates to the amount of weight that you gain, so be sure to take fewer portions. Be knowledgeable by noting down how much calories each serving of food that you take contained. This will help you know if you are taking fewer calories needed for weight loss.

Some of the best weight-loss diets that you may follow long-term include the Mayo Clinic, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, and Vegan diets (8).

  • Meal Timings 

Other than including the above in your meal plan:

  • Take a healthy, high-protein, and fiber-packed breakfast as it will make you feel full for longer. For instance, you can take greek yogurt with a banana or eggs with whole-wheat toast, or cottage cheese with fruit. Skipping breakfast may make you hungrier later on, making you overdo lunch. Some sources recommend taking this first meal of the day within an hour of waking up (13). 
  • Take dinner about 3 hours before bedtime because eating late at night can increase your blood sugar, body temperature, and insulin, making it difficult for you to burn fat (13). Snacking after supper may not do you good because it increases your calorie intake and you may not be in a position to engage in physical activity at that time.
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  • Avoid Stress

Relax, meditate, and workout to avoid stress, which may make you eat high-fat, high-calorie foods. Also, your body may store more fats (13).

  • Physical activity, exercise,  and strength training 

Engage in physical activity because dieting alone may not guarantee desired weight loss. This includes sitting less, walking instead of driving, and taking stairs instead of using the lift.  

When it comes to body composition, strength training is different from exercising (14). Concentrate on exercise that you love, and strength-train as often as you can. You will enjoy and never get bored repeating the exercises that you love, unlike forcing yourself to do workouts you hate. One study confirms that resistance weight training during caloric restriction improves lean body weight maintenance, while another one established that both resistance and endurance exercises may preserve muscle mass during weight loss. Besides, resistance-type exercise enhances muscle strength (10) (9).

Your muscles break down when you strength train by picking something heavier, then strongly rebuild themselves within 24 to 48 hours by diverting as many calories as it can in muscle-building, as well as the additional calories from stored fats to burn as fuel to handle the enhanced muscle-building. For instance, lifting weight may increase your metabolism by boosting your lean muscle.

Betterme also recommends doing squats, skipping rope, push-ups, kettlebell swings, and mountain climbers (8).

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  • Get enough sleep 

Not sleeping enough may slow down your metabolism, making it impossible to burn calories as fast as you would like (5). It may affect your diet choices, for instance making you opt for sweets instead of fruit. It also makes you less-energetic, hence the difficulty in working out, which is necessary for weight loss. A study referenced on Health established that those who slept for less than required hours ate 300 or more calories daily than those who had adequate sleep (12). When your metabolism is less effective, the body may store unused energy as fat.

Inadequate sleep also leads to the overproduction of cortisol hormone, which is the stress hormone that controls your mood, fear, and motivation. Excess cortisol production triggers fat storage that causes rapid weight gain (8).

Betterme will keep you laser-focused on your weight loss journey! Nutrient-packed meal plans, fat-blasting workouts, galvanizing challenges and much more. Try using the app and see for yourself!

  • Track your progress

Have a journal documenting everything that you have eaten during the day. Also, record the workouts done and any healthy lifestyle choices made. This will help you reevaluate your weight loss journey by giving you a clear idea of what may have gone wrong and at what point.

Maybe you are not losing weight because you are not putting in the right efforts, even when you know them. For these tips to be effective, you must come out of your comfort zone, develop a positive perspective, make sacrifices, and shift to the recommended healthy habits to enjoy long-term weight loss.  

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FAQs

  • Working out but not losing weight?

Exercising to lose weight may not be effective because your appetite may go up due to the involving workouts, hence no weight loss. A 2009 article published in Time Magazine, backed with expert opinion and primary experience, confirms that exercising will spike your cravings by making you hungrier, hence, you may end up eating lots of junk to feel good (16). 

Another reason why you are exercising and not seeing a change is maybe because of the type of workouts you are doing. Research published in the American Journal of Medicine  in 2011 concluded that isolated aerobics are not effective in weight loss. Also, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise programs of 6 months to 1 year induced only a modest reduction in weight and waist circumference in obese and overweight individuals. However, they concluded that aerobic exercise may be effective for weight loss when combined with a proper diet (6).

  • How to lose weight when you can’t exercise?

You can lose weight without exercising by eating right, considering that dieting may have more impact on weight loss than exercising or a combination of both. According to Nerdfitness, 80-90% of constant, permanent weight loss and maintenance depend on nutrition (14). The results in research whose participants were older obese adults found a 10% decrease in body weight in the diet group, 9% decrease in the diet–exercise group, and only 1% in the exercise group. However, a combination of weight loss and exercise provides a greater enhancement in physical function than either intervention alone (11).

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Conclusion

These tried and tested tips on what to do when you can’t lose weight should help you overcome your problem. Some of the benefits may make you feel better about yourself, health, and look, as well as fit your desired clothes size, among others. However, it is still important to make sure you consult the relevant professionals, including your general physician before trying any weight loss routine.

Check out this 20-min Full Body Workout at Home.

 DISCLAIMER: 

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Adaptive thermogenesis in humans (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Can’t Lose Weight? Here’s How I Lost 60 lbs Eating Healthy on a Budget (n., listenmoneymatters.com)
  3. Comparison of energy expenditure to walk or run a mile in adult normal weight and overweight men and women (2010,pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2020, mayoclinic.org)
  5. Implications of Sleep Restriction and Recovery on Metabolic Outcomes (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Isolated aerobic exercise and weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (2011, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Metabolic Slowing with Massive Weight Loss despite Preservation of Fat-Free Mass (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. No Matter What I Do I Can’t Lose Weight: True Reasons Your Scale Won’t Budge And Viable Solutions (2020, betterme.world)
  9. Preserving Healthy Muscle during Weight Loss (2017, .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Resistance weight training during caloric restriction enhances lean body weight maintenance (1988, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  11. Weight Loss, Exercise, or Both and Physical Function in Obese Older Adults (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. When You Skip Sleep, You Eat 300+ More Calories the Next (2016, health.com)
  13. Why Can’t I Lose Weight? (2019, webmd.com)
  14. Why Can’t I Lose Weight?” 8 Uncomfortable Truths Holding You Back (2020, nerdfitness.com)
  15. What to Do When You Can’t Lose Weight (n., gracefilledplate.com)
  16. Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin (2009, content.time.com)
Jedidah Tabalia

Jedidah Tabalia

Jedidah is a passionate writer with over 5 years of experience in researching and providing content on healthy eating habits, specifically in relation to nutritious dieting, exercising, and weight loss that contribute to a person's overall well-being. She injects her go-getter mentality and can-do attitude into every article because she believes that happiness begins with good health, so the more people she inspires to embark on a healthy journey, the better. Jedidah provides tailored, evidence-based content that will ensure her readers that fitting healthy diets and workouts into their hectic lifestyles is not only possible, but easy and affordable.
She believes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and a steadfast commitment to a healthy lifestyle is bound to pay off.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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