Few things are more frustrating than the experience of having a consistent exercise plan and healthy diet, but not seeing weight loss on the scale. Many people find themselves in this situation, despite their best efforts. If you are trying to lose weight but don't seem to be getting anywhere, here's what science says about why losing weight may take time and what you can do to change the situation.
The BetterMe team explains the factors that can affect your weight loss journey, so read on!
There are a few different reasons why someone might not see weight loss even though they are in a calorie deficit.
Reason 1 – You're Not Actually in a Calorie Deficit
This one is fairly simple. In order to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit, meaning you are burning more calories than you are taking in. If you are not in a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight.
There are a few mistakes you might be making that could lead to you thinking you are in a calorie deficit when you're not.
1) You might be underestimating how many calories you are eating. This is particularly common if you are eating more processed foods than whole foods, as it is easy to eat more than you realize when you are eating things like chips or crackers.
2) You might be overestimating how many calories you are burning. This is common if you are not tracking your activity level and just guessing at how many calories you are burning. Remember, several factors affect calorie burn, including weight, intensity of activity, and genetics. Just because you feel like you are working hard doesn't mean you are burning as many calories as you think.
3) You might be eating more calories than you realize on “cheat” days or when you eat out. It is easy to underestimate how many calories are in that slice of pizza you had for dinner last night, or the bagel you grabbed at the bakery on your way to work this morning.
There are a few different ways to make sure you are actually in a calorie deficit.
First, determine your maintenance calories (how many your body needs for day-to-day activities) using an online calculator. This calculator will take into account your weight, height, age, and activity level to estimate how many calories you need to eat in order to maintain your weight.
Once you know your maintenance calories, you can create a deficit by either eating less or exercising more.
If you want to eat less, figure out how many calories you need to eat in order to lose weight at the rate you want. A good general rule is to create a deficit of 500 calories per day, which should lead to a weight loss of about 1 pound per week.
If you want to exercise more, figure out how many extra calories you need to burn in order to create the deficit you want. For example, if you want to create a 500-calorie deficit, and you know that one mile of walking burns about 100 calories, then you would need to walk 5 miles.
Remember, you can also create a deficit by doing a combination of both eating less and exercising more.
Next, and most importantly, track your food intake and activity level using a reliable app or online tool. This can be time-consuming, but it is the best way to ensure you are in a calorie deficit.
Once you have been tracking your calorie intake and activity level for a week or two, take a look at the numbers to see if you are actually in a deficit. If not, adjust your diet and/or exercise routine accordingly.
Reason 2 – You're Losing Fat While Also Gaining Muscle
If you are working out regularly, it is possible that you are gaining muscle while also losing fat. This is particularly common if you are new to exercise, as your body adapts to the new activity level by becoming more efficient.
The problem is that muscle tissue is much denser than fat tissue, so it takes up less space. This means that you might not see a change on the scale even though you are losing fat and gaining muscle.
The best way to track your progress is to use measurements in addition to the scale. For example, measure your waist, hips, and thighs once a week. If you see these numbers going down, then you know that you are definitely losing fat and gaining muscle.
If your measurements stay the same, you might be gaining a little bit of muscle, but you may also need to adjust your diet and/or exercise routine. Use the tips in this article to make sure you really are in a calorie deficit, eat more protein to support muscle growth and recovery, and focus on compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups.
Reason 3 – You Are Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep is important for many reasons, including weight loss. When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone can increase appetite and lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
In addition, sleep deprivation can make you feel more tired during the day, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. When you are not active, you burn fewer calories and it becomes more difficult to lose weight.
To improve your sleep, establish a regular sleep schedule and create a calming bedtime routine. In addition, avoid caffeine and screen time before bed, both of which can interfere with sleep.
If you are still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about strategies that can help you get more shut eye each night.
Reason 4 – You Have Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones play a role in weight loss, and an imbalance can lead to weight gain. If you have been struggling to lose weight, talk to your doctor about the possibility of a hormonal imbalance.
There are several hormones that can affect weight, including:
- Cortisol: This is the stress hormone that can increase appetite and lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Leptin: This hormone tells you when to stop eating, but low levels can lead to increased appetite.
- Ghrelin: This is the hunger hormone that increases appetite and leads to cravings for high-calorie, carb-rich foods.
- Insulin: This hormone helps to regulate blood sugar, but high levels can lead to weight gain.
If you have a hormonal imbalance, your doctor can prescribe medication or recommend lifestyle changes to help get your hormones back on track.
Reason 5 – You Have an Underlying Health Condition
There are several health conditions that can cause weight gain or make it difficult to lose weight. If you have been struggling to lose weight, talk to your doctor about the possibility of an underlying health condition.
Some common health conditions that can cause weight gain include:
- Hypothyroidism: This is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough hormones. This can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): This is a hormonal condition that can cause irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and fertility problems.
- Cushing's syndrome: This is a condition in which the body produces too much of the hormone cortisol. This can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and weakness.
- Depression: This mental health condition can lead to increased appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods.
- Anxiety: This mental health condition can lead to emotional eating and weight gain.
If you have an underlying health condition, your doctor can recommend treatments that can help you lose weight and feel healthier.
Reason 6 – You Have Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can lead to weight gain. When you are under stress, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. This hormone can increase appetite and lead to cravings for unhealthy foods.
In addition, chronic stress can make you feel more tired during the day, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. When you are not active, you burn fewer calories and it becomes more difficult to lose weight.
If you are struggling with chronic stress, talk to your doctor about strategies that can help you manage your stress levels. Some options include exercise, meditation, and counseling.
Reason 7 – Your Scale Is Faulty
If you have been dieting and exercising but not seeing results, your scale may be to blame. Sometimes, scales can be inaccurate, especially if they are old or not calibrated correctly.
If you think your scale is inaccurate, try stepping on and off the scale several times to see if the number changes. You can also try weighing yourself on multiple scales to see if the results are consistent.
Reason 8 – You've Been Yoyo Dieting
If you have been yo-yo dieting or making drastic changes to your diet, this can also make it difficult to lose weight. When you severely restrict calories and cut out entire food groups, your body responds by slowing down its metabolism.
This means that when you go off the diet and start eating normally again, your body will store more fat because it thinks it is going to be starved again in the future.
Yo-yo dieting can also lead to emotional eating, as well as feelings of deprivation and guilt when you “cheat” on your diet.
If you have been yo-yo dieting, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about more sustainable ways to lose weight. They can recommend a healthy diet and fitness plan that works for your lifestyle and won't cause you to yo-yo between “dieting” and overeating.
How BetterMe Can Help You Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals
If you are struggling to lose weight, the BetterMe app is here to help! This app is designed to jumpstart your weight loss journey by helping you make small, healthy changes in your daily routine.
The app comes with a meal plan and exercise program that can help you reach your goals. Plus tracking tools to help you stay on top of your progress, and a supportive community to keep you motivated.
Ready to take the first step towards a healthier, happier life? Download BetterMe today!