13 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight

Weight loss is often the result of eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. Still, you may find yourself wondering, "Why am I not losing weight?" This can happen when you are doing everything "right" but not seeing your desired results.

Not experiencing weight loss could be due to a number of factors, such as medications you're taking, the way you're doing your exercise routines, or dietary patterns. Read on to learn more.

Doing Too Much Cardio

Yes, cardio is a necessary part of your workout routine, as it helps keep your heart healthy. However, only doing cardio—or too much of it—can have adverse effects.

Cardio can cause the body to become more endurance-focused, storing energy as fat to ensure it has plenty of reserve fuel to keep you going. It also dramatically increases your appetite. This increase may make you more susceptible to unnecessary snacking or overeating.

Not Weightlifting

If you're working out but not losing weight and your primary goal is fat loss, do other exercises besides cardio. You can lose weight and build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to your cardio. Muscles allow for more calorie burn.

If you're not ready to give up your cardio routine, add interval training by performing short bursts of all-out effort mixed into your regular session. These workouts are much more effective at promoting hormones that target stubborn fat. Then, start adding some resistance training to your routine.

Not Doing Post-Workout Recovery

Recovery and rest are often more important than the workout itself. Getting enough recovery time allows you to prepare for the next workout you do. Not resting can result in worse performance later.

When you're feeling your workout the next day, those are the days to focus on different muscle groups. If you prefer to work out your whole body, establish a workout routine where you work your entire body one day. Then, take the next day to do light cardio, stretching, or complete rest.

Sitting Too Much

Sitting for long periods may be the reason for weight gain or a lack of weight loss. Research has found a person's risk for obesity increases by 5% for every two hours of ti sitting.

Physical activity recommendations suggest adults can be physically active for:

  • Up to 300 minutes weekly for moderately-intense exercise
  • Up to 150 minutes weekly for vigorously-intense exercise
  • At least 60 minutes weekly minimum, if they're just starting to exercise

However, what matters most is moving. If standing up is inaccessible to you, just engaging in the habit of being active can benefit your general health.

Not Balancing Food With Activity

Some people focus all their energy on burning off calories, so they don't take the time to consider what they're putting in as fuel. Also, you can gain weight instead of losing it if you consume more calories than you burn.

Ensure that you eat enough calories to manage your weight while you're being physically active. The amount of calories will differ based on factors such as age, height, and how active you are.

Also, aim for a balanced diet that includes:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Various protein sources, from nuts and seeds to seafood and eggs
  • Limited added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol

Limiting Macronutrients Too Much

Cutting out an entire macronutrient from your daily diet—like carbohydrates, which are the body's primary energy source—can make you feel deprived and tempt you to binge.

Instead, consider the following for macronutrients:

  • Reach for healthy, complex carbs. Sweet potatoes, oats, and quinoa are just a few complex carb choices. Limit simple carbs, like candy, soda, sugary sweets, and processed foods with added sugar.
  • Choose lean or plant-based proteins. These options include lean pork loin, chicken, turkey, beans, and lentils.
  • Add healthy fats to your eating plan. Foods with healthy fats, or unsaturated fats, may include chia seeds, hemp seeds, and fatty fish like salmon or sardines.

Eating Too Much or Not Enough

If you've already refined your diet and are still not losing weight, you may be simply eating too much. To lose weight, your body needs to run a calorie deficit, meaning you need to burn more calories than you consume.

That being said, you don't need to limit yourself too much, either. Not eating enough can lead to an increased appetite and possible weight regain later.

Eat whenever you're hungry and eat slowly enough so you can stop just before you get full. Also, don't be afraid to eat the foods you really enjoy from time to time in a healthy amount.

Not Drinking Enough Water

You may tend to keep yourself hydrated with water when you're exercising. However, it's important to drink water whether you're active or not, as it can impact your weight.

Drinking water can help you manage your weight by keeping calorie consumption low. Water also has several health benefits beyond helping weight management, including:

  • Helping the body get rid of wastes
  • Keeping joints cushioned and lubricated
  • Preventing dehydration
  • Regulating body temperature

Not Getting Adequate Sleep

In general, most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. However, not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis can lead to weight gain.

Sleep deprivation or a loss of sleep has been associated with both obesity and increased risk of weight gain in the future. That's because the same hormones—namely ghrelin and leptin—that play a role in the sleep cycle also have a role in appetite.

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone, while leptin is a satiety hormone. Ghrelin levels can increase and leptin levels can decrease when your sleep pattern is out of whack, leading to more hunger and less satiety.

Experiencing Too Much Stress

Exercise is a stressor on your body. When you have a healthy balance of exercise-related stress and recovery time, your body is healthy and can lose its excess fat.

However, not giving your body enough time to recover can also be a negative. You can start to produce an excessive amount of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Cortisol is both normal and important when working out. It's involved in processes that give your muscles the energy needed to get moving. Yet, when your body is exposed to cortisol for longer periods, it starts to cause negative effects—like fat that takes a while to lose.

Exercise isn't the only stressor that can produce excess cortisol. A stressful personal or professional life can also make your body produce too much of this hormone. When you stop exercising, your body stops producing cortisol. However, it may not be quite as easy to turn off the mental stressors going on in your life.

Taking Medications That Causes Weight Gain

Some medications can lead to weight gain, including:

  • Antipsychotics: such as clozapine, olanzapine, and risperidone
  • Antidepressants: SSRIs and SNRIs
  • Anti-epileptics: valproate
  • Anti-diabetics: rosiglitazone
  • Beta-blockers
  • Corticosteroids
  • Insulin

Having a Health Condition That Affects Your Weight

Some health conditions may be responsible for why you're not seeing any decrease in your weight. The conditions are one such as:

  • Cushing syndrome
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hypogonadism
  • Menopause
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Underactive thyroid

Experiencing a Weight Plateau

Sometimes, you're exercising regularly and eating healthfully, but the numbers on the scale won't budge. This means that your weight loss has plateaued, and there are lots of reasons this can happen.

A decrease in calorie consumption can result in an initial rapid drop in weight as your body burns stored glycogen for energy. You might even lose a little muscle along with fat. To rev up your weight loss again, you may need to change your calorie intake or amp up your physical activity.

Tips for Facilitating Weight Loss

Keeping the following in mind can be helpful when you're trying to facilitate weight loss:

  • Add resistance training to build muscle and burn fat.
  • Build up to lifting actual weights by using bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges.
  • Engage in healthy snacking during the day. Grapes, cucumbers, bananas, and apples are all great whole-food snack ideas.
  • Give yourself time to fully recover, so you're ready to work hard the following day. 
  • Look for foods with the fewest ingredients on the label and shop the produce section of the grocery store.
  • Make sure you're keeping your mental and emotional health in check in addition to your physical health.
  • Maximize time spent at the gym, in a fitness class, or in your at-home workout routine.
  • Mix up the exercises in your workout routines so you get a good balance of cardio and strength training.

Most importantly, listen to your body: Push yourself, but also give your body some love.

A Quick Review

You might experience a halt in your weight loss for many reasons, despite your best efforts. You may not be maintaining a calorie deficit or doing too much of one type of exercise. If you are feeling stuck, reach out to a healthcare provider to help determine the reason for your plateau and help you get back on track.

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Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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