Nothing is more frustrating than busting your butt in the gym and making healthier food choices, but still not losing weight. Trust me, I know; it's one of the biggest complaints I hear from new clients. Most of them are desperate for results and feel like they've tried every diet, every workout plan, every low-fat food on the market.
There are two general categories of people in this predicament: People who just can't seem to lose weight, and people who can lose weight for a while but gain it all back—and then some. Whichever category you're in, have faith: There is a solution. You may think there's some complicated hormonal problem preventing you from losing weight, but 99 percent of the time, it's one of the reasons below.
Keep in mind that whatever approach you take to losing weight, you have to combine it with consistent, vigorous exercise. Do both, and your chances of reaching your weight-loss goal increase astronomically!
1. You don't stick to your diet long enough
You try "Diet X" for a few weeks, and at first, you lose a couple of pounds. But the next week, you don't lose an ounce—even after all the sacrifices you've made. So you decide that Diet X isn't right for you and move on to another plan. And so on. All the while, your weight stays pretty much the same.
Time for a reality check. The problem isn't the diets plans you're choosing. It's you! This may sound harsh, but the fact is that there's no magical diet out there that can suddenly make all the weight melt off and stay off. Fat loss can be a slow, sometimes painful process. You have to commit to something for longer than a few weeks if you want lasting results. After all, you didn't gain all the weight overnight, so don't expect to lose it overnight.
Solution: Your challenge is to choose a plan that seems realistic for your lifestyle and stick to it. It's that simple. Stop questioning whether there's a better program out there, and commit to the task at hand. Consistency is key when it comes to achieving weight loss. This might not be the sexy answer you were hoping for, but it's the truth.
2. You don't consume enough calories
This next reason for an unsuccessful diet is a bit counterintuitive. Many people assume that if they're not losing weight, it's because they're eating too much. So they eat less. And while this may be the right course in some cases, drastically reducing your calories doesn't work in the long run.
When you cut your calories, you can start to lose muscle as well as fat. You can also put your body into survival mode, adjusting to fewer calories by slowing down your metabolism.
Solution: Instead of starving yourself, start by keeping a detailed and accurate food journal for a minimum of 1-2 weeks. A clear picture of what you eat every day will emerge. Then, make small adjustments to your food choices so that you start to lose weight—but without losing muscle. Start by aiming to lose no more than 0.5-1.0 percent of your current body weight per week to maximize muscle retention. If you weigh 130 pounds, try to lose 0.6-1.3 pounds per week. If you weigh 160 pounds, shoot for 0.8-1.6 pounds.
3. You've been dieting for too long
Do you remember the last time you weren't dieting or doing something to try to lose weight? If you're not sure, you've probably been focusing on fat loss for too long. Most people who are unsuccessful in their weight loss tend to diet year-round. Typically, they go through periods where they're "being good" and getting results, but then eventually fall off the wagon—hard.
This cycle of compliance/weight loss and non-compliance/weight gain becomes a pattern that can be hard to break. That's because your body has a natural "set point," a certain body weight or body-fat level it will fight to maintain.
Think of it like the thermostat in your house. When you don't get all the calories you need for long periods of time, your body regulates itself by turning down your metabolism, just as a thermostat would if your house got too hot. It's a regulated system designed to keep your metabolism in line with your daily caloric intake.[2,3]
Solution: Give your body a break! If you've been consistently dieting for more than three months, or if you're spending way too much time fantasizing about the pastry shop down the street, take a break from dieting. Oddly enough, ending a diet can sometimes make it easier to lose weight. Eating normally for a while can help your cravings subside. And that can make it easier for you to choose healthier foods, give yourself more reasonable serving sizes, and lose weight.
- Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 11(1), 20.
- Set Point Settling Points and Bodyweight Regulation Part 1. (n.d.). Retrieved from
- Rosenbaum, M., Hirsch, J., Gallagher, D. A., & Leibel, R. L. (2008). Long-term persistence of adaptive thermogenesis in subjects who have maintained a reduced body weight. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88(4), 906-912.