Common reasons why you aren’t losing weight

Healthy weight loss can take time and when it comes to shedding some pounds, there really isn’t any quick fix, it’s all about eating a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.

However, if you’re struggling to lose weight or shift those last few stubborn pounds, there may be underlying reasons why you’re struggling with weight loss.

Ask yourself… what are your reasons for losing weight?

Before we look at why you’re struggling to lose weight, ask yourself why you want to (or even need to) lose it in the first place.

For example:

  • Are you overweight or have a medical condition and a healthcare professional has advised weight loss might be able to help?
  • Are you on the top end of your BMI weight and would like to sit more comfortable on the chart?
  • Or is it because you have an event coming up e.g. wedding or holiday, and you’re worried you don’t look your best?

Sometimes, weight loss is necessary but if you have low self esteem and you’re a healthy weight, it might be worth exploring the underlying problem and practicing some well-being rather than losing weight as a quick fix.

If you still feel like you need to lose weight and have been trying really hard to achieve this goal, with no results, then here are some reasons why this might be happening.

You have a medical condition

If you have a medical or chronic condition, this could explain your reason for excess weight. Here are some conditions that can make losing weight difficult.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with being overweight and obese, as it is usually developed by a poor diet and lifestyle. While type 2 diabetes isn’t the cause of weight gain, it can be very difficult to lose weight if you’re used to this lifestyle and taking insulin, which increases your appetite, plus you’re often eating more to keep your blood sugar levels table.

However, if you commit to changing your lifestyle, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes and lower your blood glucose levels naturally and reduce your risk of future health issues.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

In addition to causing fertility issues and excess hair, polycystic ovary syndrome can cause you to gain or retain weight as a woman. You can seek a blood test and ovary ultrasound to measure your ovaries to check if you suffer with this, and while there is no specific treatment as such, it is possible to address weight issues by changing your diet and exercising with this condition.

Hypothyroidism (thyroid issues)

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, which can cause the metabolism to slow down. This makes it harder for you to maintain a healthy weight. Other symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness and constipation.

If you are worried you have hypothyroidism, visit your GP who can perform a blood test and talk through treatment options. Once you’re thyroid is treated, you should be able to lose weight by following a healthy diet and active lifestyle.

Ageing & menopause

As you get older, your metabolism slows down and muscle mass tends to reduce, which might be a reason for your weight gain. For women, oestrogen levels also start to drop during menopause, which can also contribute to weight gain.

It is possible, however, to keep healthy and look after your body as you get older, again by eating a healthy diet and staying active. It’s never too late to start improving your health.

Cushing’s syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome is an extremely rare condition that is caused by a high level of glucocorticoid in the body from taking steroid medication long-term or by the body making too much cortisol. If you’re taking steroid medication for a condition and you’ve gained weight, see your GP and ask about your options.

If your reason for weight gain isn’t medical-related, it could be one of the following reasons.

You’re eating too much

This may seem obvious but to lose weight, you have to reduce the amount of calories that you are eating. If you consume more food than you need, excess calories turn into fat. To lose weight, you need to try and eat fewer calories than you burn to help you create a calorie deficit.

Dietician experts suggest a woman consumes 1,200 – 1,400 daily to lose 1-2lbs a week, and a man consumes between 1,600-1,800 calories daily.

Many foods are now labelled with calories and nutritional value, but some fresh goods are difficult to assess and you can easily forget how much you’re actually eating during the day.

How to fix it: Keep track of how many calories you’re consuming by keeping a food diary or using a free fitness app to log your meals.

You’re not eating enough

Not eating enough can be just as detrimental for weight loss as eating too much. If you’re restricting yourself too much then when you return to a standard diet with more calories, then you may find you put all the temporary weight you lost back on.

How to fix it: Avoid quick-fix diet plans like shakes, juicing and weight loss teas, which are designed to help you lose water weight, rather than genuine weight.

Your diet lacks in protein & nutrients

Calorie counting is good for weight loss, but it can distract you from healthy eating. You may be more inclined to focus on the number of calories on a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar, rather than its nutritional value.

If this is the case, eating processed food can mean you are missing out on important protein and nutrients to keep your body burning fat and functioning at its best.

How to fix it: Choose fresh, healthy food high in protein and nutrients, such as lean meats like chicken or fish and vegetables with lots of iron such as spinach and broccoli.

Stress, anxiety & depression

If you feel stressed, anxious or depressed, psychological food cravings may take over. Without even realising it, by ordering that takeaway pizza or picking up a tub of ice cream, you’re using ‘comfort food’ to try and boost your serotonin levels and make you happy again.

Feeling overwhelmed can cause your cortisol production to kick in. This is what frees up sugar and this isn’t burnt off in time, it converts into acids and ultimately fat.

How to fix it: Control your cravings by adopting a healthy habit such as walking 10,000 steps daily. Being outdoors increases your mood and you won’t be tempted to eat if you’re keeping your mind occupied.

This also reduces the temptation to order a takeaway or to eat bad snacks when you get home from work or have a stressful day.

Not drinking enough water

Drinking the minimum amount of water on a daily basis (approx. 2 litres) can really aid weight loss, as it flushes out toxins and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

If you’re not drinking enough water, your body can trick itself into thinking you’re hungry, when you actually just need some H2O.

How to fix it: Invest in a reusable water bottle to take with you wherever you go to ensure you are getting the amount you need.

You reward yourself too much for exercising

Physical activity burns calories and is an important part of weight loss. However, studies have shown that most of us are likely to overcompensate with food once we have completed a workout, in other words rewarding ourselves for our hard work. You might also be inclined to overeat after a workout because your hunger levels will increase post-workout.

This means that you might actually be eating too much and all your exercising efforts may be in vain.

How to fix it: Try to plan a healthy meal straight after your workout to avoid temptation of snacking or unhealthy ‘cheat meals’ and drink plenty of water during and post workout. If you’re keeping a food diary and tracking how many calories you’re burning, try to avoid the temptation of adding your calories burned to your daily allowance.

You’re not sleeping enough

If you’re having trouble trying to lose weight, sleeping more would probably be the last thing you’d expect to hear, but getting a good night’s sleep has been proven to help aid weight loss.

Sleep has an important effect on important hormones ‘ghrelin’ and ‘leptin’.

  • Ghrelin – this hormone increases when you’re sleep deprived and amps up your appetite, so you end up eating more
  • Leptin – makes you feel full when you’ve eaten. Leptin levels drop when you’re tired so it takes more food to make you feel full

How to fix it: Make sure you’re doing everything you can to get a good night’s sleep and improve your sleep quality by switching off your phone and TV before bed and avoiding caffeine at night.

Register your interest in our mysleep support programme now to get extra support and guidance on how to improve your sleep.

Drinking too much alcohol & fizzy drinks

When you’re trying to lose weight, these types of drinks are known as ‘empty calories’ because they waste valuable calories you could be using to get your extra nutrients.

Plus, when you’ve drank alcohol you’re more likely to make poor eating decisions, and when you drink fizzy drinks, you can crash or feel sluggish, again encouraging bad eating habits.

How to fix it: Try to drink water or herbal teas instead of soft drinks instead.

Working long hours

Working late nights or sitting at a desk for too long can really affect your diet and weight loss efforts. If your body is supposed to be resting when it’s not, you may want to overcompensate and eat more.

Plus, at many workplaces, the temptation of cakes and snacks are often there.

How to fix it: Getting out of the office on your lunch break is always recommended for mental health, and opting for healthy snacks such as almond nuts and having them on your desk will keep your blood sugar levels stable and reduce your cravings for those office cream cakes and other temptations!

Not moving enough

If you’re driving to work and sitting at a desk all day while eating, then driving home and sitting down to eat, without any exercise in between, your lifestyle is very sedentary. This means you’re not burning enough calories to create a deficit and therefore lose weight.

How to fix it: Try and move more during the day. This could involve making small changes such as walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator, cycling to work or getting off the train/tube/bus a stop earlier and walking the rest of the way.

Lack of consistency

Have you ever heard of the term yo-yo dieting? This can be really bad for your body, as it puts extra pressure on it by constantly gaining and losing weight. If you’re swapping diets or trying fad ones on a regular basis, your body will start to hold onto fat and your metabolism may slow down too as a result.

How to fix it: If you’ve been ‘dieting’ on and off for a while now without steady weight loss results, try being consistent and eating healthy and exercising more and cutting out diets that promise quick, long-lasting results.

If you are still struggling with weight loss and would like additional support and guidance, our free mywellbeing support programme covers a range of topics including weight, gut health and nutrition, heart health and more.

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence based articles are accredited by the PIF TICK, the only UK quality mark for trustworthy health information. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

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Next review: 3 July 2022