If the scale refuses to budge regardless of how well you’re sticking to your diet, you may need to consider one of these four reasons you aren’t losing weight.
While eating a clean diet is important, there are actually several other significant factors that play a role when it comes to weight loss.
These four factors, in particular, could be the reason you’re hitting a plateau in your fat loss.
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4 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight
1. You’re Stressed
When we’re trying to lose weight, we often focus on two main things: diet and exercise. However, managing stress should be just as high on your list, as it plays a big role in weight loss.
When we’re stressed, our body produces the hormone cortisol also known as “the stress hormone”. While this stress response serves us in emergency situations, our modern lifestyle is loaded with too much emotional stress from everyday life, like work and finances. When left unchecked, your high stress levels can become chronic.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels lead to significant weight gain, especially around the abdominal area. This is because cortisol can increase insulin resistance, which causes your blood sugar to stay elevated – encouraging your body to store more fat. (1, 2)
Stress can also stall weight loss efforts by making us crave carb-laden or sugary “comfort” foods. These indulgent treats hit the reward centers in our brain, which triggers the release of “feel good” hormones like serotonin. When we’re chronically stressed, this makes us temporarily feel better, so we end up reaching for second helpings. This response is known as “stress eating”, and can make weight loss an even bigger challenge. (3)
Tips to reduce stress:
- Roll out your yoga mat. Studies show that engaging in daily yoga practice reduces cortisol levels. (4) Start with these five de-stressing poses!
- Try meditation. Research shows it can help calm the nervous system to reduce stress levels. (5) Begin with just 10 minutes of mindfulness!
- Get out in nature. Take at least 20 minutes out of your day to sit or walk in a natural setting to lower your stress hormones. (6)
2. You Aren’t Sleeping Enough
If you’re not getting a solid seven or eight hours of sleep at night, it could be contributing to your weight problems. One study found that women who reported sleeping less than five hours per night were at greater risk of weight gain, and in general, weighed more compared with women who slept seven or eight hours per night.
Poor sleep hygiene does a number on our hormones. First, the stress of not getting enough sleep raises our cortisol levels, which as we know, leads to fat gain. It also disrupts the hormones that regulate our appetite, making it easy to overeat the next day.
Research proves that a lack of sleep can make it more difficult to lose fat. One study examined weight loss participants who slept under 5.5 hours a night for two weeks and then slept for more than seven hours a night for two weeks. During sleep restriction, fat made up only 26% of the weight loss, while fat made up 57% of the weight loss during the normal sleep period. In other words, the participants who slept more lost more fat. (7)
Tips for getting better sleep:
- Turn out the lights early. This includes your electronics, too! Studies show that the blue light from electronics can disrupt our sleep and wake cycles, resulting in less sleep. (8)
- Put down the coffee. If you can’t quit caffeine entirely, limit your intake to a cup or two in the morning. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening.
- Try valerian root. Studies show that taking this herb fights insomnia and improves sleep quality. (9)
3. Your Hormones are Out of Balance
The way our hormones work make a big difference in how we lose weight. Specifically, hormones like cortisol, leptin, and insulin play a key role in fat loss.
Leptin is a hormone produced by your body’s fat cells and sends signals to your brain to tell you when you’re full. This is why it’s often referred to as the “satiety hormone”. It essentially works like this: high levels of leptin tell your brain that you have enough fat stored and that you can stop eating, while low levels tell your brain that fat reserves are low and that you should eat.
It’s possible to develop a resistance to leptin, especially if you have high levels of body fat. In this case, your brain stops responding to the signals from leptin and assumes that you need to eat more, even when you don’t. Obviously, this can result in cravings and overeating, which don’t bode well for weight loss. (10)
Insulin is another hormone that can hinder fat loss. It is responsible for regulating our blood sugar levels, and also affects fat storage. When we consume sugars or carbs, our body releases insulin to help shuttle those sugars into our cells to be used for energy. If we consume too much sugar, insulin will convert and store the excess as fat to keep our blood sugar stable.
Similar to leptin resistance, people with chronically elevated blood sugar levels from a bad diet or blood sugar issues can develop insulin resistance. Here, our cells stop responding to the effect of insulin, leaving a higher amount of sugars and carbs to be stored as fat instead of used for energy. (11)
Tips for dealing with hormonal issues:
- Visit your doctor. Either your primary doctor or naturopath to test your hormone levels.
- Eat well. Get plenty of hormone-balancing foods, and avoid processed foods.
- Do calming yoga. The right breathwork and poses can help. Try this healing yoga routine to regulate your hormones.
4. Eating Too Many Calories
One of the most basic weight loss rules is that your energy expenditure needs to be greater than the amount of energy you’re taking in. If you’re eating more calories than your body burns per day, the excess will be stored as fat.
Even on a Paleo diet, it can be easy to over-consume calories, especially since we tend to eat a lot of healthy fats like avocado, coconut, and nuts. While these are healthy and you should definitely enjoy them, it’s helpful to remember that they are extremely calorie-dense.
Portion control is everything. Consider this: eating a small, palm-sized handful of nuts will give you roughly 180 calories. If you mindlessly snack out of the bag, you could be looking at over 500 calories in one sitting – roughly the amount in a meal. (12)
Tips for managing calorie intake:
- Be mindful of portions. Divide snacks into single-portion sizes before you start eating. Remember to measure out oils as well, which contain roughly 120 calories per tablespoon.
- Avoid liquid calories. While a keto smoothie or jug of coconut water may seem like no indulgence at all, these can quickly add up to 100 calories or more, and they rarely help you feel as satisfied as whole foods.
Remember: The Scale Isn’t Everything
Don’t forget that the number on the scale isn’t telling the whole story. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you’re relying strictly on a scale to tell you whether you’ve lost just fat, you may be disappointed for no reason.
Instead, a better strategy is to take regular measurements of your waist, hips, or arms to see how many inches you’re losing. This is especially important if you’ve started lifting weights because you’ll be more likely to gain muscle weight while losing fat.
The Bottom Line
It can be frustrating when you aren’t losing weight, even when you’ve optimized your diet. Before you throw in the towel, consider these four reasons you might not be losing weight and see if any may apply. A few lifestyle tweaks could make all the difference in reaching your goals.
Read This Next: From Zero to Macro: An Easy Guide to Measuring Macros
Not getting enough sleep can
make you fat, kill your sex drive,
trigger depression, and even DOUBLE your risk of death.
Not getting enough sleep
can make you fat,
kill your sex drive, trigger
depression, and even
DOUBLE your risk of death.