Why Am I Not Losing Weight?
avocado tape measure

So, you’re doing all the right things but still left wondering, “why am I not losing weight?”

Perhaps methods that have previously led to weight loss are not working this time around?
 
This can be very frustrating but please know you are not alone. We have many clients who come to us in this very situation. With the right questions, tests, counselling and advice we can usually get to the bottom of what is leading to your struggles with body weight.
 
This article will delve into the Top 5 reasons you might not be losing weight. We also discuss a revolutionary & unique way to approach your struggles with body weight. Keep reading for the details.
 
But before we dive into the Top 5 list, let’s get one thing straight. Despite what you may have read and learned elsewhere, this Registered Dietitian is here to tell you…

Weight loss is NOT as simple as Calories In < Calories Out

The media often drive the unproven assumption that body size is controllable through self-discipline and is a personal responsibility. This portrayal is not in line with current scientific evidence, which shows that body weight regulation is not entirely under an individuals control.
 
That’s right. Cutting back your calories and working out more does not automatically mean you will lose weight. The same way that eating more doesn’t necessarily mean your body fat stores will increase. This is because determinants of body weight are multi-factorial and include (but are not limited to):
 
  • genetics
  • metabolism
  • stress & sleep
  • illness & disease
  • food intake
  • physical activity
  • social & environmental factors
  • age/life-stage
So whilst some of these factors are within our control, many such as genetics, environment, age and illness are not.
 
Weight loss is therefore, certainly not as simple as calories in, calories out. And even if calorie restriction has worked for you in the past, it doesn’t mean it will continue to work. In fact, it’s likely that it won’t continue to work. We explain why this is below.

Top 5 reasons you’re not losing weight

As discussed above, weight is influenced by a myriad of factors. The factors discussed below are those which we see most commonly in our clinic. Please always discuss your individual concerns with your healthcare provider.

1. Restriction is leading your metabolism to slow down

Dieting, fasting and food restriction can trigger your body to conserve energy for another time. Ie) If you do not meet your calorie/energy needs for an extended period, your metabolism will slow down.
This is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into our physiology. Your body can’t tell if you’re eating less because you want to drop a dress size or because you’re stuck on a desert island. This is a big reason why restrictive eating/diets do not work for weight loss.
 
In fact, there is a body of research suggesting that most people who lose weight through dieting will regain weight within 2-5 years. Some research even suggests that the cyclical process of losing and regaining weight with weight loss attempts leads people to sit at a higher body weight in the long term (likely, partly due to metabolic changes).
 
So…what’s the alternative to restrictive dieting? It is to find your body’s natural set-point weight (its happy place). More on this is below.
 
2. You’re already at or below your set-point weight
Have you heard of Set Point Weight Theory before? It is a scientific theory that explains why losing weight can be a struggle for many.
 
Many parts of our physical and psychological makeup are determined either in part or completely, by our genes. For example, height is mostly determined by genetics. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born.
 
In the long term, the same principle applies to weight. Genetics plays a large part in determining our body weight. Between 40-70% of human body weight is determined by genetics. Research suggests that each human body has a weight range that it is genetically predisposed to maintain. This weight range is called your “set point” and is usually a 3-5kg weight range where your body naturally wants to stay.
 
If our body weight falls below this range, your body sees this as a threat to your survival. And so regulatory mechanisms kick in to help us get back there. For example, if you eat a little more than you need, then typically your body temperature will rise and your metabolism speeds up to burn off the extra energy. If you eat too little, then your metabolic rate slows down to spare the available calories. Also, if the body is not getting enough energy, you will feel more hungry, and/or be more preoccupied with food.
 
You do not have to meet society’s thin ideal to be healthy. And if your body is larger than this ideal, it does not mean you have to restrict and deny your body food. In fact, this is likely doing damage to your physical and mental health, whilst paradoxically leading you to become heavier in the long term. There is a lot of research that shows that people can be metabolically healthy and fall into the “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories. 

 

3. You are struggling with binge eating

If you are feeling out of control around food or experiencing binge episodes please know, you are so not alone. This is such a common experience and usually, it makes a lot of sense in the context of struggles with body weight.
 
Not eating enough (as with dieting/restriction), naturally leads to binge eating. Again, it’s a survival thing. More on that here
 
Biologically speaking, the body has a set amount of energy that it needs you to take in from food. This will vary day to day. If you don’t get this, then it is going to ramp up your hunger hormones, which drive you to eat. Often this eating is experienced with great emotional intensity and you may eat more than usual to make up for the lack you have been experiencing.
 
Emotional factors can also lead to binge eating. You can read more about emotional eating here

 

4. You’re focusing too hard on the numbers

Are you obsessing too much over a few pounds on the scale?
 
Did you know that weight can fluctuate as much as 5Ib/2-3kg each day just with fluid shifts, poos, wees, hormones and food intake.
 
Focusing too much on the number on the scale can lead to unhealthy behaviours and obsessiveness. This is why I recommend ditching the scales or at least reducing the frequency with which you weigh yourself. Instead you can measure your progress through your energy levels, how you feel and by noticing how your clothes fit.
 

5. There is something going on medically

There are many medical conditions that can affect body weight. Common ones include thyroid diseases, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Diabetes, Insomnia and Depression. I would recommend discussing any sudden and unexplained weight gain with your GP to rule these out. 
Women eating a meal in restaurant

How to not focus soley on weight loss

How has the persuit of weight loss affected your life thus far? Has it bought you the happiness and health that diet culture promises?

 
For many of our clients, the persuit of weight loss has lead them to become unhappy, disillusioned and less healthy in the long-term.
 
Perhaps it is time to turn away from dieting and any other method of restriction in the pursuit of weight loss.
 
After all, the research proves that restriction leads to further weight gain over time for the majority and can cause a great deal of physical and mental damage along the way.
 
So what’s the alternative?  Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach that takes the focus off body weight and instead focuses on nourishment, fulfilling hunger and allowing body weight to settle at it’s set-point. Intuitive eating doesn’t discourage weight loss but rather it takes the heavy focus OFF of weight loss and ON to health. This framework includes the principle of Body Respect, which involves learning to care for your here-and-now body.
 
You can learn more about Intuitive Eating through our article library here and on our about page, here

A big part of Intuitive Eating is relearning how to listen, and appropriately respond to hunger and satiety cues. This is really helpful when trying to stop counting calories. The freebie below has tips and tools that can help you get started with this.

Stop Obsessing and Regain Control With Food: Your 7-day Guide 

Practical, easy-to-implement tips to feel less obsessive and out-of-control around food.

Stop Obsessing and Regain Control With Food: Your 7-day Guide


 
Do you want to work with a qualified professional who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like here.

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Welcome to Nude Nutrition

We are a team of specialist registered Dietitian’s and professionals who have a wealth of experience in helping people heal from difficult relationships with food and their body.

We are on a mission to strip back on nutrition nonsense and help you to find a happy, healthy, trusting and freeing relationship with food and your body.

We take the most up-to-date evidence-based nutrition information and empower you to make changes to your health and lifestyle via personalised nutrition coaching.

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