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Not Losing Weight? Here are 20 Reasons Why

woman chained to scaleStalled weight loss can happen for any number of reasons, but there’s a good chance your weight loss troubles fall under one or more of the following 20 reasons for not losing weight.

You Just Started

Your body undergoes many new changes when you start a fitness program. If you went from eating processed food and couch potato to healthy eating and extremely active, it’s entirely possible you won’t lose a single pound the first couple of weeks. Increased muscle glycogen capacity in response to more exercise is a big reason people don’t see weight loss at first.

Working out but gaining weight? Here’s why…

You’re Being Impatient

It’s been a month and you’ve lost 4 pounds. Great! Or is it? To many, this is a failure. They aren’t getting back what they put in. Give it some time. Get it out of your mind that weight loss is a week to week event. Be happy about what you’ve accomplished. Progress is progress. Keep it up and it accumulates over time.

You’re Eating Too Many/Too Few Calories

Calorie intake is a tricky subject because eating too few calories is just as bad, if not worse than eating too may. It’s very difficult to overeat when you eat whole foods, so that’s why I focus on having people eat more food.

It’s entirely possible you are not eating enough calories to lose weight. You need calories, and just as important – nutrients, if you expect your body to let go of its fat.

See why not eating enough will stall your weight loss in no time.

You’re Focused On Weight

Weight, weight, weight…we all seem to be obsessed about it. So much obsession, yet it’s so meaningless. Body transformation are about fat loss. If you’re losing fat, you’re doing great. Put the scale away and buy some body fat calipers to track your progress.

Here’s a cheap pair of body fat calipers I recommend.

You’re Not Including Strength Training

When most people think of losing weight, they think of cardio and long drawn out sessions on the treadmill, or running to lose weight. In reality though, strength training, not cardio is the real fat burner, and should be the focal point of every weight loss exercise routine.

See why strength training will be your fat loss savior.

You’re Not Very Active

Do you sit behind a computer all day? A little activity can go a long way. Sometimes a single workout followed by a day of inactivity just isn’t enough. Buy yourself a pedometer and track the steps you take in a day. If it’s less than 5000, you probably need to get moving a little more. A walk after dinner couldn’t hurt.

Lack of Sleep

How much sleep do you get a night? If it’s not 8-9 hours, you’re making your weight loss goals much harder to reach. Sleep affects everything from appetite to glucose metabolism. Make sure you’re making it a priority.

Find out how sleep helps you lose weight.

Too Much Stress

How is your mental health? Your “mental fitness” is an often overlooked part of a fitness program, yet there is such a strong connection between mind and body. Stress affects hormone levels, motivation, and weight loss.

Here are 50 ways to fight fat-lovin’ stress.

You’re Being Inconsistent

A workout here or there isn’t going to get you anywhere. Consistency is a major key to success. The same goes for your diet too. You can’t expect to eat processed food whenever you get the urge and still make progress. Make a plan and stick to it.

You’ve Reached a Weight Loss Plateau

Weight loss plateaus are very common. Weight loss doesn’t occur in a straight line. You might lose 3 pounds one week and 1 the next. It’s unpredictable. However, if you’ve been stuck at the same weight for weeks, you might want to consider implementing a few “tricks”.

Try one of these 8 tips to break a weight loss plateau.

You Don’t Need to Lose Any More Weight

Have you ever considered the fact that you are not losing weight because you don’t need to lose any more? If you’re already small in stature, the problem might be a lack of lean body mass, and not an excess of weight. Yes, you might have some fat to lose still, but fat loss does not always equal weight loss.

Find out the difference between weight loss and fat loss.

Your Workouts Lack Intensity

Are you just going through the motions when you exercise? Give your body a reason to change. You need to be pushing yourself to your limits when you work out. Don’t expect your body to drop the fat if you don’t physically show it it needs to. Boosting your intensity can increase your fat loss.

Here are another 8 reasons you should increase your exercise intensity.

You’re Not Really Eating Healthy

I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me they were eating healthy, only to find out that their diets were filled with processed foods. Make sure you’re eating whole foods. For the most part, that means there should only be 1 ingredient on the label (oats, beans, etc).

You’re Eating Too Many Carbs

Before you freak out, I am not anti-carb. Carbs are necessary to efficiently fuel high-intensity exercise and central nervous system function. The keyword is “efficiently”.

Carbs should be eaten in proportion to activity levels. The more active you are, the more you’ll need. If all you do is a work out and then sit behind a desk, you won’t need as many as someone who is very active.

You’re Lacking Willpower/Motivation

Motivation, or lack thereof is a big problem for many people, and weight stagnation certainly doesn’t help things. What do you do? You find that source of inspiration that got you started in the first place, or you pick one of these 101 ways to get motivated to lose weight.

You Have a Medical Condition

Yes, there are medical reasons for why your weight loss isn’t going anywhere; however, these affect a very small percentage of people. Understand that a low thyroid is many times (but not always!) an effect of a poor lifestyle choices, and not the cause.

That being said, some people have legitimate medical issues, and if you think you’re one of them, definitely talk to your doctor. Medications can also make it more difficult to lose weight.

You Haven’t Learned the Art of Grocery Shopping

You’ve probably already heard the golden rule of shopping – shop the perimeter of the grocery store. That’s where 95% of the healthy food is. If you spend more time in the aisles, then you know your problem.

You’re Over-Snacking

For many people snacking goes hand-in-hand with sitting at your desk, or watching TV. These calories add up fast. In addition, many of the 100 calorie snacks from the stores are just empty calories that do nothing to help you lose weight.

Make snacking work for you. You don’t want it to just not hurt you, you want it to help you. If you’re intent on snacking, at least consider eating one of these healthy snack ideas instead.

Your Metabolism Has Adapted

Prolonged calorie restriction can wreak havoc on your metabolism. Your body adapts to calorie restriction by slowing its production of many hormones. You can combat this through cheat meals, exercise, or any one of these other 8 ways to boost your metabolism and fat loss.

You Still Haven’t Changed Your Lifestyle

As I’ve said over and over again, successful long-term weight loss doesn’t come from dieting, it comes from changing your lifestyle. If you’re the person who jumps on and off diets, you need to take a different approach to weight loss – one that focuses on lifestyle changes. Weight loss is a side effect of living a healthy lifestyle.

  • Jody – Fit at 54

    GREAT POST!!!! Patience is so important! It takes time! :-) Other bigges you wrote about – people tent to underestimate what they really eat & how much & overestimate how many calories were burned off. Ya can’t out-train a bad diet! :-)

    • Coach Calorie

      Thanks Jody. Taking your thought one step further, I find that people tend to overestimate their calories for a healthy diet (don’t eat enough), and underestimate a processed diet (eat too much).

  • Kim Peterson

    How about age? Now that I am over 45 it seems so much harder to lose weight.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Kim, age certain plays a factor, with all the changes in hormones, but the same principles for weight loss apply. You just might have to work a little harder at it ;)

  • deedee dockery

    My weight has stalled over the last few months. Basically I go up and down 2-3 pounds all the time, which I know is natural but I am stuck around 140. I have lost 60 pounds over the last year, am keeping an online journal using the daily burn of all the food I eat and the exercise that I do (which is cardio and weight training 5-6 days a week for 2-3 hours per workout). Im wondering if you can have too much of a calorie deficit and if that can pause or stall weight loss. On many days I have a 1500 or more calorie deficit. Do I need to add more calories to my diet on days when I workout hard? I am losing some inches but that also has slowed alot and I know that I still have a good bit of fat around my thighs and butt to lose especially.

    • Coach Calorie

      Absolutely deedee, if you’re working out 2-3 hours a day (a lot), you need to be eating a good amount of food. Create a smaller calorie deficit. The goal is not to eat as little food as possible, the goal is to eat as much food as possible and still lose weight.

      • deedee dockery

        Thank you so much. I am gonna try to up my calories a little more and see how it goes. Btw what are your thoughts on juicing and cleansing diets?

        • Coach Calorie

          Honestly, not a big fan of them. They tend to be gimmicky and unnecessary. A healthy diet and exercise is cleansing in and of itself.

  • Vix- Miss Fitness Life

    I totally agree with your comment about people underestimating how many calories they should be eating when it comes to eating healthy food compared to overeating calories of processed food. Many of my clients have been shocked at how much clean, unprocessed food they should be eating compared to what they thought they should be eating.

    Not eating enough food can totally stall your results as well.

  • Annie

    Great post. Sometimes the truth is hard to take. We all seem to kid ourselves….eating more than we think, cheating or just skipping workouts. I am having a hard time finding my maintenance amount of calories and the amount of exercise I need to do each week. It seems that as soon as I back off a little on exercise (once every other day instead of 2 times a day and daily) I start to gain (slowly), but it adds up. Being almost 51, the weight goes on faster than it comes off when I rev up my activity. I have success with a 2.6 mile run and a set of tennis and a 10 mile bike ride each day alternating one of the three with weights every other day or 2. I really eat healthy most of the time. So its a little frustrating to think I have to do that much exercise just to maintain. I was at my goal weight, but have gained about 6 lbs back trying to back off of that grueling schedule. Any suggestions for me?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Annie, I would add in some form of strength training. The cardio is nice, but building muscle will make fat loss so much easier. If you combine that with a diet void of processed foods, I guarantee you will make progress!

      • Annie

        Hi Coach,
        As stated I already do weights every other day or two. I work on arms, abs, legs and also include pilate/yoga for stretching after my free weight sessions. I seem to see that “you’re not eating enough calories” is the predominate theme here, but don’t really think that’s my issue as when I increase them, I gain weight. Wondering though how many grams of protein do you think I should be eating each day?
        Thanks for the response.

      • Antoinette

        Hi Annie,

        Would just like to say that i did a lot of cycling during the winter and gained weight! It built up so much muscle in my thighs that my jeans would not fit. The only thing that works for me is power walking or slow jogging. I have only realised that i am the type of person who seems to build muscle easily, without strength training. Love this blog.

  • francesca

    I’m a 33 year old woman and have been greatly increasing my exercise over the past year. In May 2011, I joined a heavybag cardio kickboxing gym. I was going 2-3x/week, up until this summer, when I began to attend 5-6 classes/week. I eat a wide range if foods, but I do not restrict myself from any foods. I have recently increased my consumption of water and green teas, and have tried to reduce after-dinner snacking. Let me tell you, the kickboxing is beyond intense, and I leave dripping, drenched, and frequently a bit disoriented from the intensity. I am pretty solid, but my biggest concern is I don’t believe I am losing inches. My clothes are still about as tight as they were prior to my joining of the gym, and I’m at a loss because of how much more I increased my frequency and maintained it for over 2 months. the truth is, I am not overweight, so I am assuming it is more difficult for me to lose weight. i also quit smoking a year ago, which may be delaying some loss. Is there anything you can suggest that I change, or add to my routine? I am very frustrated; I just want my clothes to fit better, nothing too drastic! But I am losing hope, since despite all of the hard work, I have yet to lose inches. The muscle tone is evident, especially in my thighs and arms. How can I lose some inches now? Thank you

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Francesca, your exercise sounds intense. Make sure you’re eating enough calories to support it. You don’t want too big of a calorie deficit. Feed the fat loss.

  • Tara M

    Do you have an article on strength training? I go to the gym but I am more comfortable just doing cardio there. Is there something I can do at home with small weights and resistance bands?

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Tara, search for strength training in the search box at the top of the site. Other than that, there are plenty of bodyweight exercises you can do. Pushups, pullups, squats, and variations thereof all can be used for strength training.

  • Lauren


    Great information! Question, what are your thoughts on the paleo diet? I followed it pretty strictly for 2 months, lost a ton of weight, but wasn’t exercising regularly. I am no longer following it but try to cut grains as much as I can. I also workout 5x a week intensely. I am no longer losing any weight and I’m finding that I’m always hungry and always tired if I am not eating grains. Basically, I just wanted to see what your thoughts are on this issue. I still want to lose weight but I want me energy up too.. thanks!

    • Coach Calorie

      Hi Lauren, I have no issues with eating Paleo. I don’t really think it’s necessary in most cases though. If you’re having energy problems on that diet, I’d recommend eating more starchy carbs. Sweet potatoes are OK to eat on it, and it should give you plenty of energy.

  • Rebecca

    I’ve been so bummed out these past three months. This year is one with a lot of firsts – for one I just started a new full time job, while taking graduate courses two days a week. Since December, I’ve put on about 15lbs, and it’s been a real pain in the you-know-what getting it off. in essence, this has turned from a 70 weight loss to a 55 weight loss. But I’m noticing that this time around, the 15lbs is taking forever to come off. I’m so depressed, but I’m not willing to quit just yet. Do you have any links for at home exercises that I can do??

    -Overly Bummed Out

    • Deanna Schober

      Rebecca, I have a post coming this week with 10 best exercises you can do anywhere-stay tuned! Try to stay positive, I know it’s hard!

  • Kay Kalenga

    I’m a newly 40 year old female, 5’9 1/2, 201lbs. I use the ERG rowing machine 2/week (in a rowing class), I burn minimum 500 calories a class (w/HRM). I eat smoothies for breakfast (no dairy), huge salad and maybe a Boca burger or turkey burger for lunch, and chicken and veggies for dinner. Snacks include, fruit, almonds, almond butter. My weight is staying as is. I’ve been rowing for 1 1/2 months now. What’s going on?

  • Coach Calorie

    Do you know how many calories you’re eating, Kay? It doesn’t look like much food, but I can’t see any portion sizes.

  • vongai

    I would like to loose on my bum. I have a very flat stomach and a small upper body. I have been trying to shed off my bum for as long as I can remember. I am of an African origin and there is a history of bigger hips in my family. Everytime I try to loose weight, the only place that’s seems to loose is my tummy and my face which then looks to skinny and makes me look too old. I am 40 years, I weigh 98kgs and my height is 168cm
    Please help

  • Coach Calorie

    It’s hard to control where the fat goes on and off, as they is mostly a factor of genetics and some physical things such as hormones and insulin sensitivity. I would suggest getting down to the body fat percentage you are happy with and then work on accepting your body for what it is – healthy. Good luck!

  • julie

    I am a 48 year old female and recently gained 15lbs all in the mid section. All I hear is you won’t be able to get rid of it until you get your hormones in check. Is this true and what can I do.

  • Janice

    Thank you! This article helped me a lot. I have already lost 100 lbs but gained about 15 lbs back due to eating horribly over the holidays. I have about 35 lbs to get to my goal weight which is 10 pounds higher than my weight in my 20s (I am 50 yrs old). Now I am stuck. I eat well all day but for some reason night time eating causes me to eat, perhaps low calorie foods but not natural foods. I work out anywhere between 50-90+ minutes 5-6 times a week. I try to do cardio mixed with strength training (still hate those push ups and planks!!). I use to track my calories and workouts. I usually eat about 1300-1500 a day. Maybe I need to stick to 1200 to get my body to burn the fat. After reading your article, I am wondering if it is too many carbs in my diet. I am usually under for fat intake.

  • Coach Calorie

    1200 is likely too low. I’d focus my efforts on improving the quality of my diet before cutting calories more than is necessary.

  • Coach Calorie

    Hormones certainly play a role, but do you have any reasons to believe that hormones are the cause of your struggle. What changed with your lifestyle that causes a 15lb weight gain? Take an honest look and see if you can create healthier habits.

  • Jenilee

    I know this may not specifically be your area of expertise, but I was wondering if the body stores / releases fat is any different postpartum and while breastfeeding? I have heard both sides, that the fat will melt off if you breastfeed because of the extra calories it burns to provide, or that the fat will hang on while you breastfeed because it is needed to provide… ? It is still early in the game for me, my son is only 4 months old, but it just seems to be much harder now than before. I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Deanna Schober

    Hi Jenilee, I think some women tend to hang on while others burn it off like crazy. You do burn more calories while breastfeeding, but your body also likes to store reserves, usually in your hips and thighs. Breastfeeding also causes uterine contractions that helps to shrink the uterus back down sooner. I was one of the “lucky” ones whose body would not begin to release fat until my milk was no longer needed. Don’t be mad at it though, it’s trying to protect your baby :) good luck!

  • disqus_eslqC70Xbi

    I have found that I can eat a lot more than I formerly thought and still lose weight, especially when eating healthy foods. My exercise, even if it’s walking several miles with my dog, helps my stress. Now, if I could just be paid for exercising outside as a part time job (to supplement my full time job), I’d be thrilled.

    How do you know when you’ve reached your healthy weight? I’d like to lose another 20 to get close to my prepregnancy weight, again. I’m now within days of turning 55. I’ve been at that weight previously but let myself go after some traumatic events in my life. Btw, I’ve been told by my dr not to lose too much.

    • Coach Calorie

      I’d look more towards maintaining a healthy body composition instead of weight. In other words, use body fat % as your guide. For women, “healthy” can be as low as 15% (or potentially lower) for athletes, or up to 20-25% on the upper range. You’ll know by how you feel.

  • Paty

    Hello Tony great article ! I have been doing body pump 3 time a week for strength training and spinning 3 times a week. I am a stay home mum and been using a colorie counting app. It asked me my activity level but does not give that choice. If I chose light active it only gives me 1450 calories to eat daily but if I chose active it gives 1700. Do you think 1450 is not enought ? I am not losing any wait but not put any on. Really want to lose 5 kg. I have been eating healthy and drinking over 2l water a day . what would you suggest ? Please help many thanks !!

    • Tony Schober

      Hard to say without knowing your stats, but you shouldn’t have to go below 10 times bodyweight in pounds.