Medical reasons for slow or no weight loss are very rare.
Sounds obvious but however much you want to lose weight, if you haven’t actually started doing the things that will get you that result (namely, eating fewer calories that you burn), then how can you expect to actually lose any?
I hear people all the time saying they’re ‘trying’, or they’ve ‘tried’ in the past. But unfortunately when it comes to clear cut steps (reduce calories, move more), there’s no such thing as trying. You’re either doing it or you’re not. You didn’t ‘try’ and resist the cake and failed. You ate the cake. Eat too much cake (or any other food for that matter, healthy or otherwise) and the calories will add up and you won’t lose weight. It’s simple maths.
If you’ve been kidding yourself that you’re ‘trying really hard’ but aren’t actually changing your behaviours, guess what? The end result won’t change either.
Another obvious one, but easily missed if you don’t have much knowledge of the caloric value of foods. Reducing calories enough to burn more than you eat is the no. 1 factor required for weight loss to occur.
You might be cutting out biscuits, Friday night fish & chips and alcohol, but perhaps you didn’t realise how much the little drizzle of salad dressing, coconut milk in your ‘clean’ smoothie, and nibbling on ‘super healthy’ almonds were adding up.
I partly credit this misunderstanding that nutritious foods can be eaten in unlimited amounts to the super-clean food bloggers with their pretty Instagram food pictures and coffee table worthy cookbooks. Dates? Nut butters? Coconut cream? Very nutritious, but very calorific.
If that’s confused you after the last paragraph then let me explain. When I ask people what they are doing in an attempt to lose weight ‘reducing portion sizes’ is a common answer. But since it’s a reduction in calories we’re after, this doesn’t necessarily translate to less food.
Vegetables are very low in calories, so it’s very hard to over eat them. A plate piled high with broccoli is going to contain not many calories, despite being a lot of food.
If you eat too small portions, you may leave yourself unsatisfied and hungry, and are much more likely to reach for more food (calories) soon afterwards. It takes willpower of steel to resist hunger pangs since our body’s natural instinct is to (quite rightly) not let us starve.
Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Reduce the amounts of more calorie dense foods you eat, and fill up on low calorie high fibre vegetables, fruit, and salad. A caveat is protein. Protein such as chicken, eggs and Greek yoghurt are the most filling foods, calorie for calorie, so don’t cut back on protein – reduce starchy carbs, sugars and fat first.
Knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. Often people think about exercising, look up healthy recipes, and research diet options, but getting started actually doing any of them is another matter entirely.
At this point you have to be asking yourself, ‘What am I waiting for? Why am I being resistant to change? What am I worried about that’s holding be back?’
Usually there’s fear around time commitment or whether you’ll be able to follow through (or feel like a failure).
You might even be waiting to feel motivated before you start. Newsflash – you might not feel motivated, at least not at first. Sometimes you just have to do it anyway, and the positive feelings of accomplishment you get will then begin the motivation-reward cycle you’ve been waiting for. I might take time, but you can learn to love exercise and good food.
(Watch this too – 20 Ways to Boost Weight Loss Motivation)
Have you ever weighed yourself in the morning, then again in the evening, only to find you’ve gained weight? It’s crazy how many people I see doing this!
Losing (or gaining) fat and/or muscle is a much slower process than this. Daily fluctuations are a result of how much water you’re holding, the clothes you’re wearing when you step on the scales, how recently you went to the loo, and the volume (weight, not calories) of food and drink you’ve consumed in the last 48 hours.
Weigh yourself once a week at most, in the same light clothes (e.g. underwear), first thing in the morning before eating and drinking. Go for a pee first too if you can! This will give you more consistent results.
Life is increasingly busy and stressful for most people these days. And none more so than for the busy Mum juggling kids, running a home, a husband and possibly a job too. But we all have the same number of hours in the day and if you have priorities higher on your list than losing weight then these will always come first.
You may not even realise you’ve been prioritising the wrong things, rather viewing them as necessities like doing the washing up rather than a quick 10 minute HIIT workout and doing the washing up afterwards, or justifying watching TV as your ‘downtime’ rather than spending 30 minutes doing an online shop for healthy and nutritious foods so your fridge is stocked.
Sure we all need leisure activities in our life and time to chill out and spend time with friends and family. But workouts don’t have to take a long time, so simply cutting down your coffee meet up with a friend to 30 minutes rather than 45 frees up 15 minutes you could slot in later for a quick home workout.
Calories burned throughout your day all contribute to creating the calorie deficit required to lose weight, but it doesn’t matter so much how you burn those calories in the end. This isn’t to say some exercise types aren’t more efficient than others (HIIT burns way more calories in 10 minutes than a 10 minute stroll), but so long as it’s all adding up that’s the most important thing.
An office worker who stops by the gym for a spinning session en route to work, then another class on the way home only to spend the evening watching Netflix, may in fact be burning fewer calories over all than the stay at home Mum who goes for long walks with the buggy to get her baby to sleep!
Exercise is great, but it’s only one part of the puzzle – every bit of movement adds up.
There are times in life when losing weight is not, and should not, be a priority.
A Mum who as a one week old baby and gained weight during pregnancy will want to get fit and lose weight at some point, but right now recovery, rest, gentle activity (such as aforementioned walks with the pram) and nourishing her body with good food is important right now. In fact get all of that in check and chances are the weight will come off naturally.
Competing in sports is another reason to eat appropriately rather than to lose weight. Again to be honest if an appropriate diet for your sport or race is combined with the training required, it’d be difficult not to stay a healthy weight. If you’ve been training for a charity race and you’re not losing any weight, it means you’re still eating too many calories. The difference is that too few (or the wrong types) will hinder your performance. Finding the right balance will mean you win all round.
Highly stressful situations. Divorce, family illness or death, moving house, starting a new, more stressful job. All of these things need you be on top form as much as possible so you are able to deal with them. Like after having a baby, the focus has to be on nourishing your body and resting with just enough exercise to exercise you but not enough for it to be an additional stress. And again, the foods that nourish you (in the right amounts) are (helpfully) the same nutrient dense foods that go into a healthy weight loss diet.
If you’ve been wondering why you’re not losing weight then hopefully this list has provided a lightbulb moment and you’ll have seen where you’re going wrong.