If you’re eating healthfully and working out but not losing weight, there may be a reason. Your body fights back when you try to lose weight, so changing your strategy could help.
If you’re trying to lose weight, you may be able to lose quite a lot at first without much effort. However, weight loss may slow down or stop altogether after a while.
This article lists 14 common reasons you’re not losing weight. It also contains actionable tips on how to break through the plateau and get things moving again.
1. You’re losing without realizing it
If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, you shouldn’t fret just yet.
It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This doesn’t mean that you are not losing fat.
Instead of relying solely on the scale, it’s better to measure your waist circumference and body fat once a month.
A weight loss plateau may be explained by muscle gain, undigested food, and fluctuations in body water. If the scale doesn’t budge, you might still be losing fat.
2. You’re eating too much
Many people who have trouble losing weight are eating too many calories. This can occur for several reasons:
Not keeping track of what you eat
Studies show that keeping track of your food intake helps with weight loss (
That said, food tracking has a potential downside for people with eating disorders, for whom calorie counting and food tracking may aggravate potentially harmful side effects (
Binge eating involves rapidly eating large amounts of food, often much more than your body needs. Even if you’re bingeing on relatively healthy foods like nuts or dark chocolate, it can still prevent you from losing weight (
Many people binge eat occasionally, which can contribute to weight gain. If you’re binge eating frequently over a prolonged time, consider seeing a healthcare professional to be evaluated for a binge eating disorder.
Eating too fast
It is common to eat quick meals as we’re rushing through our fast-paced daily routines. However, mindful eating may be one of the world’s most powerful weight loss tools.
It involves slowing down, eating without distraction, savoring, and enjoying each bite while listening to the natural signals that tell your brain when your body has had enough.
Keeping a food diary can be helpful when you are trying to lose weight. Pay attention to your eating habits and avoid binging by eating in moderation. If you’re struggling with this, speak to your doctor about binge eating disorder. Eating mindfully can also help you track how much you eat per meal.
3. You’re not eating enough protein
This happens because protein can help you feel fuller for longer and helps preserve your resting energy expenditure (REE), partly due to protein’s effects on appetite-regulating hormones, such as ghrelin (
A high protein intake also helps prevent weight regain (
That said, eating protein may not have an effect in cases of intermittent fasting in adults with obesity, so more research is needed to understand when a protein diet can be most effective for weight loss (
Low protein intake may bring your weight loss efforts to a standstill. Make sure to eat plenty of protein-rich foods.
4. You’re not eating whole foods
Food quality is just as important as quantity.
Make sure to base your diet on whole foods. Eating too many processed foods could negatively affect your weight loss success.
5. You’re not exercising enough
Getting regular exercise can help you lose weight. Aerobic exercise and resistance training, such as weightlifting, have been shown to be effective in helping with weight loss over numerous studies (
That said, exercise alone is less effective in promoting weight loss unless combined with the right dietary approach (
Consult your doctor or a registered dietician to see what combination of diet and exercise is best for you.
Both aerobic exercise and strength training can help you lose weight, but make sure to eat healthy for optimal effectiveness.
6. You’re still drinking sugar
Sugary beverages are significantly fattening items in the food supply. Your brain doesn’t compensate for its calories by making you eat less of other foods (
This isn’t only true of sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi. It also applies to “healthier” beverages like Vitaminwater, which is also loaded with sugar.
Even fruit juices should not be consumed in large amounts. A glass can contain a similar amount of sugar as several pieces of whole fruit.
Avoiding sugary beverages can be an effective weight loss strategy. They often make up a significant portion of a person’s calorie intake.
7. You’re not sleeping well
Good sleep is one of the most important factors for your physical and mental health and weight.
Lack of quality sleep is a strong risk factor for obesity. It could also hinder weight loss progress.
8. You’re not cutting back on carbohydrates
If you have a higher amount of weight to lose or a metabolic condition such as type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, you may want to consider a low-carb diet.
On the other hand, a trial in 2018 found little difference in the results of a nutrient-dense, low-fat diet versus a nutrient-dense, low-carb diet (
If you aren’t losing weight, consider trying a low carb diet. Many studies show that a low carb diet can be an effective weight loss strategy, at least in the short term. A balanced, whole-food diet may be more beneficial in the long term.
9. You’re eating too often
It is a myth that everyone should eat many small meals daily to boost their metabolism and lose weight.
Studies show that meal frequency has little or no effect on fat-burning or weight loss (
Some evidence suggests that snacking can be beneficial, but this depends on choosing healthy snacks and limiting your daily eating to no more than four to five small meals (
On the other hand, one effective weight loss method called intermittent fasting involves deliberately and strategically going without food for extended periods (15–24 hours or more).
Some snacking throughout the day isn’t going to hurt if you choose healthy snacks, but eating too often may result in excessive calorie intake, which curbs your weight loss efforts.
10. You’re not drinking water
A meta-analysis of six studies found a mean weight loss of 5.15% due to increasing water intake. At least in one of the studies, this was related to replacing caloric beverages with water (
For this reason, it can help to switch out as much of your liquid consumption with plain water and drink a glass of water before eating.
To reduce your calorie intake, drink a glass of water before meals. Drinking water may also increase the number of calories you burn.
11. You’re drinking too much alcohol
That being said, studies on alcohol and weight show mixed results. A 2019 study found that heavier drinking appears to be associated with a higher chance of obesity in women. However, reducing alcohol consumption may increase your chance of weight gain (31).
What is more certain is that if you’re going to drink alcohol, it may be best to stick to spirits (like vodka) mixed with a zero-calorie beverage. Beer, wine, and sugary beverages are very high in calories. Alcohol itself has about 7 calories per gram, which is high.
The evidence on alcohol and weight gain is mixed. However, alcoholic beverages are generally high in calories. If you drink alcohol, spirits mixed with zero-calorie beverages are probably the best options.
12. You have a medical condition that is making things harder
Certain medications can also make weight loss harder or cause weight gain. If you think these apply, speak with your doctor about your options.
Here are some reasons why you might be gaining weight unintentionally.
Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, and PCOS may be hindering your weight loss efforts.
13. You tend to eat too much overly processed food
A 2021 meta-analysis has found that at least 15% of a sample of child and adolescent subjects fit the criteria for food addiction, with higher numbers among those already in the overweight or obese category (
In addition, in a poll on healthy aging, 44% of older adults indicated at least one symptom of addiction to highly processed food (35).
If you are dependent on highly processed food, eating less or changing your diet can seem impossible.
If you have strong food cravings or a dependency on processed food, weight loss can be challenging. Consider seeking professional help.
14. Your expectations are unrealistic
Weight loss is generally a slow process. Many people lose patience before reaching their goals.
Although it is often possible to lose weight fast initially, few people continue to lose more than 1–2 pounds per week.
Weight loss isn’t always a linear process. It’s common to hit a plateau. Breaking it will involve identifying and addressing the root cause directly (
The truth is, not everyone will be able to look like a fitness model or bodybuilder, and that’s OK. The photos you see in magazines and other places are often enhanced.
If you have already lost some weight, but the scale doesn’t seem to want to budge any further, perhaps redirecting your focus to accepting your body can be your next goal.
People’s expectations may sometimes be unrealistic when it comes to weight loss. Keep in mind that losing weight takes time. Focus on developing an individualized weight loss plan and goal based on your needs.
How can I lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks to a month?
To lose weight fast, you must ensure you eat fewer calories than you burn. Sustainable weight loss typically means losing about 1–2 pounds a week (
How can I lose weight off my stomach?
Many of the same strategies for general weight loss will help you lose belly fat. In addition, research shows that combining a healthy diet with exercise is more effective in helping you lose abdominal fat than just dieting alone (
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) seems to be particularly effective in reducing what’s also known as visceral fat (
Weight loss is not always easy and numerous factors can make it stand still.
At the most basic level, weight loss goals may be affected when calorie intake equals or exceeds calorie use.
Try strategies such as mindful eating, keeping a diary, eating more protein, and doing strength exercises.
Ultimately, changing your weight and lifestyle requires patience, dedication, perseverance, and resilience.
Watch the video below for more information on 10 of the common reasons you’re not losing weight: