8 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Sometimes, people can diet and work out and track their calories and do everything right—but still not lose weight. I can't begin to tell you how often members, friends and even acquaintances ask me why they're not losing weight despite doing X, Y or Z. It's one of the most common questions I get as a trainer. Sometimes, the answer isn't that easy to come by.
But usually, when someone seems to be doing the right things but not making progress, a list of possible problems runs through my head. These are the most common scenarios I tend to see that stop people from getting results—and they could be the culprits for your weight woes, too.
So here are a few cold, hard truths about why you're not losing weight.
You're eating back all the calories you burn.
When you work out, you're burning extra calories. That's why exercise is so important in the weight-loss equation. But a lot of people overestimate how much they burn—and even use the "I exercised today" excuse to later overeat, overdrink (think alcohol) or overindulge. How many times have you faced a food temptation and thought, "Well, I worked out today, so it's OK this time." Or even, "I'll have this now, but work out extra hard tomorrow to burn it off." If that sounds all-too-familiar, this is one major reason why you're not losing weight. For the exercise to help you lose, you can't re-eat all those extra calories you burned. And in most cases, we overestimate how many calories we actually burned and underestimate how many calories we're actually eating, which means using that 3-mile walk (240 calories burned walking) to justify that restaurant meal (1,000+ calories, anyone?) leaves you in a worse position than if you may realize: at a calorie surplus. If this sounds like you, you may be interested in our guides on what to eat before you workout and what to eat after you workout.
The Takeaway: Exercise can help you lose when you're really using it to burn extra calories, not as a reason to eat more.

You're relying on exercise alone to do the trick.
Yes, exercising can help you lose weight (and it has so many other health benefits) because it helps you create that calorie deficit needs to drop body fat. But here's the truth: Exercise alone will not help you lose weight. For emphasis, I'll say it again. If you are relying on exercise alone to lose weight, you are fighting an uphill battle. Here's why.
Exercise burns calories, but not as much as people think. When you consider how many calories you burn in a day, exercise burns very little. And it takes a lot of time and effort to burn even a few calories. A full hour of intense exercise may only burn 400-500 calories for a lot of people. On the flipside, it's easy to eat hundreds or thousands of calories in even a few minutes. But it would take hours of exercise to offset those calories. If you are not changing your diet and reducing your calorie intake, exercise alone probably won't help you much. As they say, "you can't out-train a bad diet." No amount of exercise can make up for a poor or high-calorie diet. You've got to have both (calorie reduction through diet and exercise) for optimal weight-loss results.

The Takeaway: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on what you eat and increase your burn through exercise—not one or the other.
You're not eating as healthfully as you think.
We know that Americans and others who eat a Western-style diet have a lot of health problems—and weight problems. The vast majority of people are overweight these days. Yet research shows that the vast majority of people also think they eat healthfully and consider eating healthy a priority. Are you as confused about that as I am? Clearly, we are not eating that well if we continue to see steady increases in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity.
Here's the thing: We all think we eat pretty well. Even people who eat a pretty bad diet don't think it's that bad. No one really wants to admit that their diet might be pretty unhealthy. We all think we're probably doing better than others. This is especially true if you compare your diet to what you see your friends, family or co-workers eat and consider your choices to be "better." Whether that's actually true or not, the truth is that the vast majority of people could (and probably should) improve their diets immensely. 
The Takeaway: If you're not meeting basic guidelines for a healthy diet (which involves way more than just counting calories alone) and/or you don't actually track your food/nutrition to see how it all adds up in black and white, don't make assumptions about how "good" you really do eat. Research confirms that people underestimate the quantity of food they eat, so read labels and measure.
You're doing the wrong kinds of exercise.
If you are exercising regularly, you're already doing a very important thing to improve your health. But when it comes to exercising for weight loss, there's a lot of confusion out there. One day you hear that strength training is the best way to lose weight. The next day you're told to focus on cardio—but not just any cardio, intervals. Then you hear it has to be high intensity intervals or Tabata training. What gives?

The truth is that all types of exercise will burn calories, which can help with weight loss. But when it comes to losing weight, it's all about burning calories. And in most cases, cardio is the calorie-burning king. Strength training is important, too (for many reasons), such as reducing the amount of muscle loss that occurs during weight loss, but it's typically not a major calorie burner. So if you are relying almost exclusively on strength training as your weight-loss strategy, it could backfire.
The Takeaway:  The best exercise plan emphasizes cardio for calorie burning, but still includes strength training to preserve lean muscle. Both are important; neither option can do everything.

You're not being consistent enough.
When you're struggling to lose those final 5-10 pounds or to overcome a plateau, consistency in your efforts is even more important.  A lot of people stick to strict diet and fitness programs for days or weeks at a time, but their habits simply aren't consistent for long enough. Ever eat "perfectly" and exercise "religiously" for a whole week, only to step on the scale that weekend to see that you haven't lost an ounce? "What's the point!" you may think as you go on an all-out eating fest and skip the gym for a couple days. Maybe you don't even make it a few days "on track," but rather you eat right for one day, then fall of the wagon the next.
Or perhaps you do feel pretty consistent in your habits, but the occasional slice of birthday cake or drinks with friends happens more often than just occasionally. Eating that restaurant dessert that's 4-5 times a standard serving size (and packed more sugar and fat than seems physically possible) doesn't really count as moderation, even if it's the only sweet treat you've had all week. Moderation needs to apply not just to the frequency of treats or rest days, but the amount, too. Practice portion control—so that you don't go overboard and set yourself back.
The Takeaway: Eat right and exercise as consistently as possible and apply both moderation and portion control when it comes to indulging.
You're not measuring the right things.
A lot of people complain that they're not seeing the scale move, even though they are losing inches and clothing sizes. Despite these obvious signs that they're getting leaner, they still want to see the scale change.
If you are noticing other improvements in your body shape or size, you are losing fat. The scale might not always reflect that you've lose weight—but ultimately it is the shape of your body and the amount of lean muscle vs. body fat you have that shows you're making progress.
The Takeaway: Don't just rely on the scale to measure your weight loss. That number won't really tell you everything you need to know.
You don't need to lose weight.
If you are at a healthy BMI or a body fat percentage in the healthy range, you probably don't need to lose weight for any health or medical reasons. Still, you may want to lose some pounds for vanity's sake, or even to improve your athletic performance. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to lose weight when you're already at an acceptable weight. But, when you only have only a little body fat to lose, it can be extremely challenging for some people.
Your body is usually content to be right where it is, weight-wise.  For many, their body has sort of settled in to what it feels like is a good, natural weight—which may not be your ideal weight in your head. It's certainly possible to drop your body fat percentage and get leaner, but it will often take even more dedication—and time—than it will for someone who has a lot of weight to lose. For some, it may involve dieting or exercising to extremes rather than a moderate amount. But with diligence and some experimentation, you can get there—especially if you follow the other tips outlined here (consistency being #1).  
The Takeaway: When you have less fat to lose, the road may be harder and longer; consistency is key!
You have an underlying issue.
When all else fails and you've truly adhered to your program—and all the advice here—and you're still not losing weight, you may secretly wish you had some kind of underlying medical problem that would explain it—a slow thyroid, some kind of hormonal disorder, or something that popping a pill could fix and then magically help melt away the pounds. While it is true that people with certain medical issues or on certain medications can have trouble losing weight, most people struggle with losing it because they struggle with consistently burning more calories than they eat. The only way to do it is to track, measure and weigh your food honestly and accurately, and burn excess calories through increased physical activity.  

The Takeaway: If you've truly tried everything discussed here and more—and simply aren't making progress—it would not hurt to check in with your medical provider to see if any underlying issues are at play.
Here are a few other common reasons you may not be losing weight despite doing everything right:
Weight loss seems simple, but it doesn't happen easily. But many, many people just like you have fought the battle and won—and you can, too. Just be consistent. Track, track, track. Ask for help and support. And slowly but surely, you will get there.
Can you relate to any of these tips? What do you think is the main reason people struggle with weight loss? 

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I can add one more thing... You are not eating enough! I've been stuck forever. Gained back about 30 lbs. Didn't change my tracker. I updated it a week ago. Freaked out at the amount of calories that Sparkpeople was telling me to eat. Decided to trust the system. Dropped 4 lbs. in less than a week. I'll keep watching to see what this means. Report
This article is why the phrase "The more you burn, the more you can eat!" on your nutrition tracking page has never made sense to me. Why bother exercising if you're just going to eat the calories you burnt? Report
This is a good article, made me think of things I hadn't thought of.....ideal weight versus, what my body is happy with.... maybe I don't need to lose that last 5 lbs, but continue to work on diet and exercise for other reasons, endurance when snow shoeing, or working toward a run/jog/walk instead of just a walk.... goals are not always on the scale - thanks! Report
The best way to lose weight is to cut back on what you eat and increase your burn through exercise—not one or the other. I like this takeaway the best.... when I just exercise I get frustrated by the scales... when I just diet, I can't stand the flab that jiggles but love the scales. You hopefully will provide me with a win win solution! :) Report
I am one of the ones who follows the program without cheating and the scale doesn't move. I don't eat extra when I exercise. I can also rule out the idea that I don't need to lose weight. I am going to try doing more cardio and eating more veggies and fruit. Report
Given the first point in the article, why does the newer nutrition tracker factor calories burned into available calories to eat? That's the same philosophy that hurt me with Weight Watchers 2 years ago, and the reason why I still use the old sp nutrition tracker now. Report
I just learned that I have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and I had been gradually gaining weight with no explanation and it was so frustrating! Once I was diagnosed, I did a lot of research and have found that I am probably insulin resistant because of a hormonal imbalance. It sucks, but I am glad I have an explanation other than "i'm not exercising enough or eating healthy enough."
If you are having issues with menstrual cycles, excess hair in unwanted places, experience intense sugar/carb cravings, weight gain or inability to lose weight, then you might want to ask your doctor about PCOS.

my friend and I started a blog to share our experiences with PCOS
Thanks! I am the on again, scale doesn't reflect my effort, off again. I like your tips and feel motivated to stick to my program and focus on other signs (clothes, feeling more energy etc.) to keep me on track. Report
I know for myself, if I diet for one day I expect to see a loss on the scale the next day ("But, I tried so hard!"). Unrealistic expectations could be #9 on the list. It is frustrating to want instant results but losing weight requires commitment and life changes. Report
you know people always assume i havent been truthful about what i do to lose weight. i was complaining to my cousin about how im not losing weight and she says well it takes more then a day of effort. yes except ive been following a strict diet and workout plan (with some variations now and then so i dont get bored) for 2 years! i eat between 1400 and 1600 calories i burn at least 1000 calories every day. you would think i would lose right? nope. turns out i have a medical issue that my sisters doctor found in her and then tested me for it when i went with her to her app. its a potassium deficiency disorder. i lose potassium faster then normal. my sister is more severe she can drop to near fatal levels in a heart beat. she has to carry pills with her to take when she randomly gets low. but this disorder acts like hypothyroid. my doctor had my thyroid tested before the potassium issue came out and it was clean. but i have every single symptom of hypothyroid. including weight loss problems.
people always assume im just making bad choices and i am over weight by choice. yes i admit i didnt eat well when i was a teenager. i ate like crap because i was at work or volunteering or doing my homeschool high school or at college. all at the same time. i was barely home so i ate crap. i gained weight with that. but for the past 2 years ive eaten great and i workout i just joined a gym so i can change up my workouts a bit. i have lost all of 5 lbs in 2 years. lovely. Report
Great article - and we are all guilty of at least one of these things at some point in our lives! I found some other good, quick tips for weight management here: www.healthsource-solutions.com/blog
Also, I believe that to achieve our weight goal and to permanently shrink our body is by growing our mind! If the answer was in a diet regimen, in a magic pill, a shake or a cookie... If it worked, if it were, the global weight control products market would NOT expected to reach almost $47 billion by 2015 and members of this industry would have to find another business idea! Dont you think? Of course we must be physically active and eat healthily, but so many times we eat and skip our work-out plan to cope with the events of the day and our life. That is why I think growing our mind is an essential part of being at the weight and size we desire. Report
great article,all of these point makes more sensible.
fortisbariatricsurgery.com/ Report
This is great advice however, I do not agree with cardio being over strength training. I have lost more weight doing some cardio and more strength training then the reverse and of course eating right. Strenght training does burn more calories long after your workout. Muscle boost your metabolism to burn calories. Cardio does burn calories but only when you are doing the cardio. I lost weight and when I did I had a much better shape as I was losing. Eating is definitely 80% of the battle, then ST and cardio combined. Report
I TOO have been having problems losing weight. I am 59 years old. I am in the best shape of my life. Each day I walk at a very fast pace 7 - 10 miles. I have a FITBIT that I wear 24/7 even sleeping. It tells me how far I have been, how many calories I have used etc. In my early 40's I went from 130 to 151 almost overnight because I hit Menopause early. My body wanted to be 151. I joined Weight watchers and lost it back down to 128. kept it off for years. As I hit 50 I changed again gaining up to 186 at my highest. Went back on Weight Watchers, lost again. Got back to 148. Today I cannot maintain 148. My body refuses to get there and stay. It will go to 151 as in my 40s and I can maintain that weight but only if I continue to eat only 3 meals a day, no snacks, drink my 48 oz of water and do my fast pace walking (and I am talking 4.0 to 4.5, per treadmill) If I continue that I can maintain my weight. I went on vacation for a week and gained 4.5 back so come monday I had to get right back on track. Of course on vacation I did not eat as perfectly as I usually do. But I can gain weight OVERNIGHT but I cannot lose weight OVERNIGHT. Today is Friday and I have lost 2 of those 4.5. It will take me another 2 weeks to get the other 2.5 off. I get frustrated a lot because I try so hard. My clothes fit good great and I am a size 12. So I am satisfied at being a size 12 at 59 years old. I have tried to come to the realization that this is what I am going to be and that I will try to be healthy at this weight and size for my age. I hope I have helped someone else who is struggling like me. Just to give you an example of my daily intake of food which is almost exact each day....Great Grains protein cereal 1 cup, blueberries, 6 oz of Almond Milk, coffee, Ahave sweetener 1 tsp. Fat Free Half and Half. that is breakfast. Lunch is mostly salad with Lean Quisine Salad Fixins 250 to 260 calories and a piece of fruit of some kind. water throughout the day, no tea, coke. Supper usually a grilled piece of meat, greens of some kind or salad and sometimes baked potato or rice. Milk 1 glass. Even on the weekends I will eat my cereal and fruit for breakfast, sometimes we eat out for dinner on Friday or grill out on weekends. I do not snack at all throughout the day, three meals, that's it. Im not gaining or losing I am at least maintaining. But this is my life if I want to keep this up. I would love to be a healthy elderly woman and be very active, so in the next 20 years Lord Willing I hope to be where I am now...lol...Thanks for letting me rant :) Report
Hey what do you think about my diet formula? youtu.be/vPrfGPh0dzk Report
So then even if I eat just carbs a day at 1200 calories I won't lose weight? Report
Great article.
Thanks for sharing Report
My Greatest hurdle is eating out! I've ramped up workouts and am tracking away....This article is definitely a huge help. Report
Barring metabolic problems, it's all calories in/calories out. Tracking is the best and most reliable tool I've found in my weight loss/maintenance phases. Report
good artical Report
this was all very good advice. I think my problem with continuing to lose is perhaps a little of everything. I need better portion control. more consistent cardio exercise, although I have been very consistent with stretch and tone exercises and I do see results there. I had stopped tracking and when I restarted I saw where I was eating more then I realized, even if most of it was the right things. I have recommitted to tracking my nutrition and exercise, and hope to get off this plateau I have been on for so long. Thanks for the suggestions Report
It's the consistency that gets me. I get so into exercise, the diet, etc. and then when I go a bit off track, I'm liable to fall off the wagon altogether. I'm working on it! Report
Should people eat what they exercise, if you've eaten 1200, and burned 600? So that you're always at least at the minimum? Report
great article which I have bookmarked so I can come back to! I'm down to 8llbs from a healthy BMI, so semi-stalling is the name of the game. S--L--O--W but progressing! Thanks for a good reminder :) Report
Another recycled blog from 2012 that we can't get points for Report
I am at my last 15 pounds and I am struggling a bit. So I started a running routine, actually training to be a runner,this is is my first week. We see how that goes. My thinking behind it is, if I do something different perhaps that will get my weight loss back I gear. I have to fight for every pound. my husband can lose so easily lucky man, ha Report
I have found out that my weight is coming off from smapp portion of food and exercising everyday. I know that I have to really hang in to lose the extra pounds that I put on over eating. Report
Interesting... Report
disappointing, bio on the author states she's a certified personal trainer, how is it that she's completely skimmed over the rest of the story on strength training? Like anything else in life, Balance is important. A combination of both is cardio and strength with a good diet when done right will give short term results and make long term maintenance easier to avoid gaining it all back Report
this article sucked, i thought it was going to tell me how i can lose weight when i am doing all the right things, i am doing all of that, tracking my food and exercise so i eat the right amounts of calories and eating my 3 serving of veggies a day and 2 fruits and i try and get in protien with every meal, so what am i not doing that i need to. Report
Having seen the same before and believe me to see it again and again is a real motiving factor for me. To return back to blogs and/or articles that make me take stock of who I am, where I am and where I want to go/be. I can’t say enough about how I need to be reminded again and again, I didn’t gain my weight in a year and I sure as heck better believe it will take me more than a year, if not longer to rid my body of the excess pounds. I know my weaknesses and short comings and slowly am learning how to face them, make better/wise choices, stop dressing like a “slob”, and stop blaming others for my poor choices. I can overcome my weight and I will overcome my weight, I will be a healthier me. Thanks Nicole! Report
Wow. I wish I knew what my RMR was. I've been trying to lose weight for over 20 years. At one point I was exercising every single day until it became routine. I didn't lose an ounce. I didn't gain weight so I guess the exercise just supplemented my diet. I never ate often because I worked too much but when I did eat, boy did I eat. I love the good stuff but it's never around when I do decide to eat. I love my vegetables but they're so boring. My main problem is drinking water. I absolutely do not drink enough of it. It's almost 5pm now and I think I've only had about 2oz. Anyway I've jumped off script. That test is unaffordable but I really do wish I knew what my RMR was. Great information. Report
This is a REALLY good article, Nicole! I concur on every point. I'm sharing it on my FaceBook page. Report
cardio was the key for me, i was losing consistently, about 2 to 3 lbs a week, walking 2 hours a day, then broke my foot and strength training wasnt doing anything for me, and i hated the bike more than a bee sting!!! so im slowly adding my walks back now that my foot is healing and hoping to start seeing a weight loss again after nearly 3 months of being stalled. Report
Try menopause! Report
Great blog. Thanks Report
Great blogging here and so true. I'd even like to think I've inspired some the points in this blog. I've been losing weight slowly, but my clothes are getting lose, but my fav comment in this that people think they eat healthier than they might be. I eat extremely healthy, COMPARED TO MANY around me, but still, I've always been more disciplined than most my family and friends. Still, I'm learning even healthier habits everyday!
There were alot of good points in this article. I really needed to be reminded that I have to be honest with myself if I want to improve my life and health. Thanks for the slap. Report
My biggest issue is DEFINITELY consistency.

I don't think this article is trying to say "You aren't trying hard enough!" I feel it is more a gentle reminder (okay, the picture says 8 Cold Hard Truths, so maybe not so gentle) that we often have a tendency to only see the RIGHT things we are doing as opposed to the WRONG things.

I see the foods I put in my grocery cart (usually 1/2 from the produce section) compared to what most people put in their carts (usually 1/2 frozen pizza boxes) and think "But I eat so healthy--- why are these last 10-15lbs hanging on to me so desperately???"

Well, for me it is mostly because, sure, most of my groceries are healthy. But I also go on weekly candy binges whenever a holiday comes up. I will miss a day at the gym which becomes 2-3 weeks of no gym. I will think "oh, I did YOGA for an hour, so obviously it's okay if I go eat at a Chinese BUFFET." (Yoga is wonderful, but it surely doesn't balance the calories I can consume at a buffet.)

I think the point of this article is to say "Yeah, you are probably doing a lot of things right, but there is more to it than just the things that come easily to you. You have to have a consistent, thoughtful, ALL AROUND effort." Report
I am confused by this article. It said it was going to be about why you don't lose weight when you are doing everything RIGHT. Instead, it talks about why you don't lose weight....when you are doing everything WRONG. I was really hoping for new info. It turns out, this is the same old blame game. You aren't losing weight, because you just aren't trying hard enough! *Sigh* Report
Thank you for this excellent and informative blog! Really worth reading it! Report
A big thank you for a timely article in my case. Am finishing up the 8 week Diabetes Challenge and have not lost weight. But I recognize myself in several paragraphs above. So, as someone said, it is a big (and helpful) slap in the face. Report
Good blog.

The only piece missing from the puzzle is the one about the body's rhythm (because Coach N. doesn't say for HOW LONG one hasn't been losing weight).

Many/most bodies seem to go through lose/plateau patterns without anything being 'wrong' with the person's plan. So sometimes patience and determination, rather than change, are what's needed.

The poster who commented about the SP ranges not being appropriate for all weight categories has a very good point...and how is one to know? Report
This is an excellent blog. It is like a cold hard slap to the face but one that can do so much good when understood. Thank you for this. Report
stress and hypothyroid,, I don't count my exercise... Report
This is an excellant article. Very helpful Report
When I starting my weight loss journey this year, I was suffering from a SEVERE hormone imbalance. Doctor told me that no matter what I did to try and lose weight, I probably wouldn't see much success until I got my hormones back on track.

At 49, I was experiencing some really severe pre-menopausal symptoms. Without going into the gory details, I immediately started a HRT program. WHAT A LIFESAVER!!! In less than a year, my pre-menopausal symptoms are almost non-existent and I've lost 60lbs. While some women may experience nothing more than some minor inconveniences during this time in their lives, there are so many of us that are going through a living nightmare during this process.

Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to get the help you need, whatever it may be, and don't let anyone else (especially other women) tell you that you're problems are "no big deal" or that "taking a pill" is not the answer. This is what Coach Nicole would call "an underlying issue". I assure you, for any women with this issue, no matter what you do to try and lose weight, you won't see any "real" progress until you address your hormone imbalance. I speak from experience when I say that.

On another note, I feel for AZUREBREEZES. A few months ago, I hit a plateau for nearly two months. It wasn't until I discovered that the pre-determined ranges that SP had set for someone of my height and weight were probably contributing to my plateau.

After reading a bunch of stuff about diet, exercise and weight loss, I adjusted my nutritional ranges to what I had determined them to be. Within two weeks, I had broke my plateau and have been losing again ever since.

I 'm almost to my goal (six lbs away) so my weight loss has definitely slowed down but I am still losing. I also no longer weigh myself every week either; once a month these days and I am still losing weight every month.

Sorry to hear you had to pay extra to get your ranges right but if that ever happens again, try and do some research on the problem first. There is so much info on the topic and I'm sure you would be able to fix the problem yourself without having to pay extra for it. Just a suggestion. Report
a very GOOD blog Report

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