Listen, we have all been there. We think we are on the healthy train. We are reading the back of packages, we are counting the number of potato chips in our bowl, and we are drinking gallons of water. We are increasing our fruit and vegetable intake, and doing CrossFit or running six days a week. So why then have we been busting our butts for the last several months (years?) without a change on the scale? Discover the reasons you are not losing weight, and try these tips and tricks to get back on track.
Ten Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight
1. You’re not losing weight because… you don’t have a plan.
I don’t mean a diet plan, but a plan on how you’re going to lose weight. No, they’re not the same thing. You must plan for success! What food will you buy? What will you take for your lunches? Snacks? Will you exercise? Where? When? You have to set yourself up to succeed! Without SMART goals for weight loss, you are doomed from the start.
What to do instead: Check out this post for SMART Goals for Weight Loss tips and a free downloadable worksheet!
2. You’re not losing weight because… you’re not weighing and measuring your food.
It isn’t enough to read the label and hope that 11 chips equal 65g. Even between measuring cups and spoons, there can be a difference between measurements. A few grams here, and a few milliliters there, and over time you can sabotage your diet.
What to do instead: Invest in a food scale. It can be annoying and tedious at first, but once it becomes a habit it is second nature. I use a relatively cheap scale from Amazon Basics, and it is excellent! There are certainly other options out there, both in terms of cost and features.
3. You’re not losing weight because… you have no idea what a serving of peanut butter is and you’re still not measuring all your food.
One tablespoon of peanut butter is 15g and has 90 calories. 8g of fat, 3g of protein and 4g of carbs make up one tablespoon of deliciousness. When you weigh out 15g of peanut butter you’ll see how paltry one tablespoon really is!
What to do instead: Place the peanut butter (or other hard to measure items like honey or oil) container on your food scale. Turn it on and if it does not read 0, press the tare or zero buttons. Take out a tablespoon of peanut butter. Weep when you read ‘-31.’ Adjust. This ‘reverse’ measuring lets you easily measure food while avoiding a mess.
Even though you’re weighing your food, a good set of measuring cups and spoons are so helpful! Check out this set of measuring cups and measuring spoons.
4. You’re not losing weight because… you’re overeating healthy food.
Have you ever seen those delicious smoothie bowls on Pinterest or Instagram? Looked on in awe as someone ate an entire avocado or half a bag of almonds because they’re eating ‘clean?’ It is super important to eat healthy food from a variety of sources, including foods rich in fats. However, it is very easy to overdo it, especially when we are fixated on ‘eating clean.’
What to do instead: Measure your food! Just because an item of food is healthy or nutritious doesn’t mean you have a free pass to eat as much as you want. Make sure you are eating a good variety of food and getting adequate amounts of macro and micronutrients.
5. You’re not losing weight because… you’re mindlessly snacking or grazing.
Listen, I get it. I have had many snackciddents in my time. I have accidentally devoured an entire bag of chips over the course of a day or sampled as I cook. Since these blips aren’t always a conscious effort we may forget to account for them when looking at our ‘food budget.’
What to do instead: If you bite it, write it.
You can use an app like MyFitnessPal, or you can use paper and pen. I really like this planner for weight loss:
6. You’re not losing weight because… you’re undereating during the day and stuffing yourself in the evening.
Or you’re militant about what you eat during the week and it all goes to hell on Friday night. Or you have a cheat meal that turns into a cheat day, weekend, week, month, year, decade. I’m never going to be the person who tells you that you can’t enjoy yourself, but moderation is key. If you lower your calorie deficit by 500 calories a day through diet an exercise Monday to Friday, then go out for a heavy meal with a few drinks. A bottle of wine, a shared platter of nachos, and a burger and fries later… You have canceled out all the work you put in- in one meal.
What to do instead: Moderation and pre-planning are key here. Have a look at the menu early in the week or day. See what options are available, make a plan and stick to it. Don’t deprive yourself! But don’t overdo it either. Maybe have a wine spritzer instead of wine. Try lettuce wraps instead of nachos as an appetizer. Check out their lean meats for your main. Decide on one part of the meal as your treat and leave it there.
7. You’re not losing weight because… you’re drinking your calories.
I know, it’s criminal. Wine, mocha fraps, smoothies. Regular pop. Coffee with creamer. It all adds up. For some of us, it’s all we have ever known. For others, we are straight up addicted to coffee or pop and you will pry it out of our cold dead hands.
What to do instead: Start making swaps for lower calorie options. Some people don’t like aspartame, and others swear by diet pop. An option could be to use something like a soda stream. Gradually switch your creamer to milk or nondairy almond milk, or even drinking it black! Try sugar-free and fat-free versions of your favorite drinks at the coffee shop. And if it has calories- you still have to measure it as part of your daily calorie intake.
I like these sugar free Torani syrups for my coffee- makes them just like Starbucks!
8. You’re not losing weight because… you’re not drinking enough water.
I think some people definitely go overboard with the water drinking, but it is kind of essential to life, so perhaps they are on to something. Drinking water is one of the easiest ways you can create and stick to a habit. Anecdotally, things move a lot easier on a diet if you’re drinking lots of water. Plus, water can help increase feelings of satiety, or making yourself feel full.
What to do instead: Drink more water! There are tons of ways to incorporate more water into your life. I try to drink a 12oz glass as soon as I wake up and before I go to bed. I keep a Contigo stainless steel water bottle at my desk and try to drink a full bottle in the morning, during my lunch, and in the afternoon. I am a bit of a coffee fanatic, so I have to offset that somehow, right?
9. You’re not losing weight because… 10,000 steps aren’t enough.
If you aren’t new to the Fitbit train, you are probably aiming for your 10k steps a day. Don’t get me wrong, walking that much is definitely a step in the right direction. If nothing else it adds to our ‘getting around town’ calories burned. To really torch calories, though, you need to up the ante.
What to do instead: Try finding new activities that keep you moving. Try a dance class, an extra walk on hilly terrain, or join a sport. Keep meeting and exceeding your goals!
There are so many smart watches out there. I’ve had a Fitbit on and off for the last ten years, and I have stayed pretty loyal- Last year, I got the Fitbit Versa. I love it!
10. You’re not losing weight because… you’re being inefficient in the gym.
You’re religiously going to the gym, hopping on the treadmill or elliptical, and meandering while reading a magazine. Or, you’re spending your time between sets on your phone, and your rest periods are way longer than they need to be. Just *being* in the gym doesn’t help you lose weight- but getting in the door is a good start!
What to do instead: Try a group exercise class like Zumba! Or you can look online or in your local book store for workout plans and ideas. You should aim to do the most you can in the shortest period of time. Even better, look up HIIT workouts- High Intensity Interval Workouts. You do something as hard and fast as you can (like sprints) for a minute or two, then rest. This allows you to work out super hard in a shorter period of time.
11. You’re not losing weight because… you’re not resistance training.
Cardio is great. Honestly. Cardiovascular health is an important part of overall health… but it is just a part. Once you step off the treadmill, your calorie burn diminishes rapidly to your regular rate. When you incorporate HIIT training or resistance training, your body burns calories well after your workout has finished. Read this great article at Nerd Fitness for more information! When you have more muscle, your body expends more calories to keep your body running. More muscle means more calories burned at rest! Get svelte while you sleep? Sign me up.
What to do instead: There are lots of resources for starting a resistance training program. Whether you are starting at bodyweight exercises like pushups and squats, or moving onto lifting weights, there is something for you. A great place to start is the Nike Training App for body weight and lighter weight exercises, and Strong if you’re ready for some iron. I’ve used both at different times in my life and still go back to them from time to time.
12. You’re not losing weight because… you’re overestimating how many calories you burned at the gym.
I too have done leg day at the gym and accidentally ended up ordering a pizza when I got home. It happens. What didn’t happen is you burning enough calories to cancel out your pizza. Abs are made in the kitchen! 80% of weight loss is accomplished through eating alone, and not through calorie burn.
What to do instead: Track your calories burned by using a heart rate monitor. Polar makes awesome wrist units that you can use a chest strap with, like the Polar A300. I actually used that for ages before switching to the Fitbit Versa. Neither will be totally exact, but it is nice to have a ballpark idea. Plan the meal after your workout so you aren’t cruising home from the gym and stopping at a drive-thru along the way. Take a banana for some quick carbs, and make sure you’re hydrated! Fail to plan, plan to fail!
13. You’re not losing weight because… you’re not sleeping enough.
With so many demands on our time and weight loss becoming a large time sink of its own, how are you supposed to find the time to sleep? It’s hard enough carving out time to go to the gym, meal prep, do laundry, cook supper, keep small humans alive, and go to work. Now you’re expected to sleep, too? Yes! Your body repairs itself while you sleep. Calorie reduction and hard workouts can take their toll on you, and sleep is your first line of defense.
What to do instead: Find a sleep schedule that works for you and stick to it. It’s not easy, especially with all of the screen time we subject ourselves to daily. If you are anything like me, 12 hours minimum of my day is spent staring at a screen thanks to a desk job. Everyone needs different amounts of sleep- some get by on six while others need nine. Try journalling and practicing good sleep hygiene to find what works for you.