You’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness routine, cooking your own nutrient-rich meals at home and ordering the healthiest options on the menu whenever you get takeout. So, you’re probably wondering: Why am I not losing weight? Before you get frustrated, take a breath. Remember that the most important thing is that you’re living a healthy lifestyle—and that bodies are beautiful at any size.
Plus, this is something that many people experience at one point or another during their weight loss journey. The plateau that you’ve hit is likely a result of a few small things that you may be unknowingly doing. And the good news is that many of these are easy fixes.
From shifting your attention to being more mindful when eating to changing up your snacks or switching up your workouts, here are 13 expert-backed tips that can help make your weight loss more of a reality.
Why am I not losing weight?
You’re viewing weight loss in terms of what you need to eliminate
Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, head of nutrition and wellness at WW, says this is a no-go. “When we want to lose weight, our tendency is to think about what we need to ‘cut back,’ ‘limit,’ or ‘restrict’—but that’s as time and energy-consuming as it is counterproductive,” she explains.
London explains that long-term, this mentality can lead to a life-long “binge-and-restrict” pattern of eating, which is both physically and psychologically damaging. Instead, London suggests thinking about what you can add more of to your daily meals and snacks: Produce, seafood, whole grains, plant-based protein sources (chickpeas, lentils, beans, and peas), and nuts and seeds.
Related: Every Quote Chrissy Metz Has Said About Her Weight Loss Journey
Your body is bored with your workouts
Doing the same YouTube workout five days a week? Your body may be over it. “We plateau when we’re no longer challenged in our workouts,” explains Andrea Rogers, celebrity trainer and founder of the international brand Xtend Barre. Thus, it’s important to constantly switch up your workouts to keep your body on its toes. So if you do a hike one day, try a yoga session the next, and then throw some strength training or a HIIT session into the mix.
For best results, rotate between a bunch of different workouts and constantly try new ones. Rogers adds that increasing the intensity or pushing yourself more in a tried and true workout can also help. “Many times we press play but aren’t giving the workout our best effort, which in turn means we’re not getting into your challenge zone,” she says. To remedy this, Rogers suggests giving it your best effort every class, every workout. “You showed up, might as well make it count!” she says.
Related: Best Free Workouts
You’re skipping breakfast
“Eating more, earlier in the day, can help us cut back naturally without ever giving it a second thought,” says London. She adds that research suggests that you’re more likely to burn more calories throughout the day after having a big breakfast. “And skipping breakfast is linked to burning fewer calories throughout the day—negating any weight-loss benefit of taking in fewer calories to begin with,” London explains.
Her current go-to breakfast is avocado and egg toast. “Not only is it delicious, but it combines protein, stick-to-your-ribs fat, and some fiber-filled carbs. This combination is key to feeling full and energized,” says London.
You’ve been taking an “all or nothing” approach
If you approach a weight loss plan with this attitude, you could find yourself quickly derailed. Dominic Matteo, a nutritionist and partner education lead for Precision Nutrition says with this mentality, people eat one “off-plan” meal, then feel guilty and eat away from their goals the rest of the day/week/month.
Rather than doing this, he suggests having some self-compassion and recognizing that you will run into roadblocks and bumps. “When you do, dust yourself off and keep plugging away,” he says. “This is part of why playing the long game is so important,” he says, noting that “consistency of action” is what ultimately leads to desired results.
You haven’t mastered portion sizes
It doesn’t matter how healthy you’re eating if you don’t eat the right portion sizes. Lacey Stone, a celebrity trainer and CEO of LA-based Lacey Stone Fitness, says overeating, even when you’re eating low-calorie or healthier foods, can still add up. “My advice is to cook yourself a meal and eat half of it. That’s usually the right amount of caloric intake for one meal. Then in a couple hours, eat the other half so your metabolism doesn’t stall and keeps firing the entire day,” she says.
You’re not sleeping enough
If you’re doing everything right and not getting enough sleep, you may not see results. “Lack of sleep can make you feel less motivated to exercise, slows your metabolism and increases your appetite making you more likely to give into cravings,” says certified personal trainer Zarina Briggs. Sleep deprivation, she says, “also increases ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and decrease leptin, the hormone that stimulates fullness, encouraging even more snacking.”
You’re drinking too many calories
When it comes to beverages, Briggs says water is always her top choice. “When eating clean and exercising, it’s easy to forget the affect fluids have on calories,” she explains. Briggs adds that “sugary drinks, coffee drinks, fruit juices, and even ‘healthier’ choices like Gatorade or Vitamin Water, are some the worst things we can ingest and that consuming them can double our calories.”
And don’t forget to limit your alcohol intake or even avoid it altogether when you’re trying to lose weight. “Alcohol provides empty calories, which are stored as fat, and can lead to weight gain,” says Briggs.
You’re not eating enough protein
If your meals are lacking in protein, you may be unknowingly sabotaging your weight loss goals. “Protein is a vital macronutrient when it comes to weight loss, and can increase your metabolism,” says Hannah Daugherty, a personal trainer, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living. She adds, “consuming protein also helps to reduce cravings and unnecessary snacking throughout the day, since it helps to keep you full.” Try adding in protein with every meal. Have scrambled eggs for breakfast, try some celery and peanut butter for a midday snack, or sprinkle nuts over your salads for some easy boosts.
Related: Can You Eat Too Much Protein?
You’re not drinking enough water
“If your water intake is too low, your body moves to the third internal thermostat, the insulatory thermostat. If you don’t drink enough water, your body will automatically adapt the survival strategy of storing fat to act as insulation to maintain a constant core temperature,” says certified nutritionist and co-founder of G-Plans, Dr. Philip Goglia. He recommends this for weight loss, but also for overall health, to aim for 1/2 oz. to 1 oz. of water per pound of body weight per day.
You’re eating foods that might be making you feel hungrier
Snacks, says Gogilia, “are like bridges that get you to your next meal.” They should contain some protein as well as carbohydrates to provide that bump in energy. He says starchy, sugary, processed snacks may be doing the opposite: Diet soda can simulate unwanted sugar cravings, processed cereals and pastries can leave you hungry and with low energy, green juice lacks fiber to fill you up, fat-free snacks can be spiked with sugar, and most protein bars “are candy bars in disguise.”
All of these things won’t leave you satiated and will likely have you reaching for another snack sooner than you need to. Per Goglia, the best options for snacks are whole foods like fruit and twelve almonds or fruit and a tablespoon of nut butter. “The nuts provide a good amount of fat and protein for sustainable energy while the fruit has the sugar component to give you that spike in energy,” he explains.
You’re cutting your calories too much
“Our body has a number of calories it needs to operate at its optimal function called the resting metabolic rate or RMR,” says Kelley Vargo, faculty of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University.
She notes that we need this basic number of calories to convert food to usable energy, walk, sleep, breathe, basically just exist. “If we try to use starvation methods or continuously not eating the basic caloric needs of our body, our body senses this and goes into ‘survival mode’ and thus making it harder for us to shed some pounds,” she explains. Vargo says starved bodies will start to use internal calorie-burning muscle tissue as a source of fuel, “and thus our resting metabolic rate will decrease.” Shena Jamamillo, a dietitian in Ellensburg, Washington, says “the minimum caloric intake should be 1200 calories a day.”
You’re not doing any strength training
“Yes, you have probably heard the term ‘skinny-fat’ and it does exist,” says Vargo. She explains that muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue and is a “calorie burning machine,” whereas fat is a “calorie storing warehouse.” By increasing the amount of muscle mass on our frame, Vargo says we can elevate our metabolic rate and in turn, our resting metabolic rate. “Lift those weights!” she says.
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You could have an underlying medical issue
Conditions like hypothyroidism can cause weight to stay on. “Hormones help to maintain body weight and if those guys are out of range, this could be affecting your weight,” says Katie Chapmon, a consultant dietician for ProCare Health. She says this can be the case for both men and women. Other conditions that can hinder your ability to lose weight include Crushing’s Syndrome, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and depression. Chronic stress may also be a cause. “Stress can wreak havoc on your body,” says Evan Lawrence, a New York City-based personal trainer and co-creator of the Daily DeFusion mind/body fitness class. “It increases the hormone cortisol, which can increase cravings, cause higher insulin levels, and makes it difficult to regulate blood sugar.”
Next up, here are 30 virtual fitness classes to help you get fit during coronavirus.
Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, head of nutrition and wellness at WWAndrea Rogers, celebrity trainer and founder of the international brand Xtend BarreDominic Matteo, a nutritionist and partner education lead for Precision NutritionLacey Stone, a celebrity trainer and CEO of LA-based Lacey Stone FitnessZarina Briggs, certified personal trainerHannah Daugherty, a personal trainer, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter LivingDr. Philip Gogliam certified nutritionist and co-founder of G-Plans. Kelley Vargo, faculty of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington UniversityKatie Chapmon, a consultant dietician for ProCare HealthShena Jamamillo, a dietitian in Ellensburg, Washington, says “the minimum caloric intake should be 1200 calories a day.”