Why is it so hard to lose weight? Some people spend all their free time working out, eat healthily, and still don’t see the results. And the most frustrating part is that they don’t know what they’re doing wrong. There are many reasons why you can’t drop the extra pounds. Our nutritionists have analyzed them and selected 12 significant factors that can sabotage your weight loss.
There is a belief that by minimizing your calorie intake and eating only green salads, you will lose weight faster. This approach works for short-term results, but multiple studies show that it rarely leads to long-term sustainable fat loss(1). You might lose fat fast on an overly restrictive 1,200 kCal meal plan or a low carb diet, but you won’t maintain the results as these diets are unsustainable.
If you think that you’ve tried everything and still can’t lose weight, maybe the time has come to try something different? How about eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats and keeping to the well-balanced not-too-restrictive meal plan? This approach will help you lose fat slowly, consistently, and maintain your new weight for longer(2).
Track what kind of food you eat and how many calories you’re taking in. Minimize your consumption of sugar, overly refined carbs, and processed foods. Ensure that your eating plan provides you with a sufficient amount of proteins(3) and fats(4) as they help you feel satiated for longer.
Don’t rush during your meals and give your body some time to realize that it is satiated: This will help you to avoid overeating.
You might think that as we’re against harsh calorie restrictions, we will offer you eating more. But don’t forget that it is a calorie surplus that made you weigh as much as you do!
When it comes to quality vs. quantity, many people are ignorant that they can be in a caloric surplus even when they eat the so-called “healthy” food like cereals, granola, nuts, or dried fruits, loaded with sneaky calories. You can overeat with healthy options and junk food, and both variants will equally lead to fat gain.
Even though calorie counting is not that necessary for weight loss, tracking your daily calorie intake can dramatically boost your progress. Calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and eat 10% to 20% less than your body needs. If this is a problem for you, you can opt for ready-to-use personalized meal plans that have calories and macros calculated for you.
Alcohol is calorie-dense. One milliliter of ethanol contains seven calories, this is even more than carbs or protein (4 Kcal per 1 gram). If you’re prone to drinking more than is recommended(5) by the healthcare experts, you can end up consuming part of your daily calorie intake from booze.
For example, a 100 ml glass of dry champagne contains 125 Kcal that is equal to 30 g of cheddar cheese or a large apple. However, from cheese, your body gets protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, and an apple will fill you up with dietary fiber and vitamin C. At the same time, champagne will only boost your mood a bit and fill you up with empty calories.
Sleep is necessary(8) for proper digestion and muscle regeneration. Adequate rest is essential if you’ve added sports to your daily routine. Getting enough sleep is vital(9) when you’re on a calorie deficit, as in this case, your body needs more time and resources for rest. What’s more, if you don’t have enough sleep, your body produces more ghrelin, the hunger hormone that increases your appetite.
People are frightened of changes. This is why so many of us are unable to lose weight even though we know that this will improve our quality of life. This also explains why people around you: your parents, your significant other, friends, and colleagues try to sabotage your weight loss and are rarely ready to support you in your endeavors.
You have to explain to them that your personality hasn’t changed, you still love them, and right now, you need their support more than ever!
Physical activity such as lifting weights and cardio are great fat-burners. Lifting weights prevents you from losing lean mass and makes you grow new muscles. The latter is excellent for weight loss in the long run, as a pound of muscle needs more energy to sustain than a pound of fat. Cardio and endurance training also help you burn calories and prevent metabolic slowdown(10).
People say that we stop doing sports because we age, but the correlation is quite the opposite. We age because we stop doing sports.
Have you noticed that your hunger skyrockets after an extreme workout? You’re surely not alone in this problem. First of all, people tend to indulge themselves after working out as they think that they’ve burned enough calories. Unfortunately, their evaluation of calories spent is frequently overestimated.
The second reason why intensive exercises can cause weight gain is that physical activity can affect(11) your hunger hormones by suppressing or stimulating them depending on your workouts’ type and duration.
Stress is another factor that correlates(12) with fat loss. Cortisol, the primary “stress hormone,” dramatically affects fat burn and fat gain. In some cases, stress can suppress your appetite but what is more frequent is stress causing “emotional hunger” that you can’t satiate.
To lose weight faster, manage your stress level. This will help your body focus on your priority: Helping you achieve the perfect physique.
Water is vital for all living beings, and humans are no exception. Make sure that you get your daily half an ounce of water for a pound of body weight. Studies show(13) that water can help burn calories, specifically during high-intensity workouts. Don’t be afraid to quench your body’s thirst! Even if you see a slight weight gain when you start drinking an appropriate quantity of water, the adequate hydration level will help you lose fat in the long run.
Remember that not all liquids are beneficial for fat loss. Don’t drink your calories if you can help it. Opt for skim milk instead of its full version if it fits your macro goals, deny all the sugary syrups and other add-ons to your coffee, and keep track of your boose. Alcohol might make socializing more enjoyable, but multiple studies(14) have linked its excessive consumption to weight gain.
Working out and controlling portions from day to day, knowing that the next week and the next month will be the same, can be challenging for someone who loves their current unhealthy lifestyle. Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint, and you will have to deal with that. Changing your body will take time and will affect your daily routine in the future.
Don’t try to run on your willpower alone. Willpower is a limited resource(15), so creating a routine and relying on discipline is a better approach to weight loss.
Set long-term goals: Think of how healthy you will become, how strong your muscles will be, and how relaxed you will feel around food. These goals are more efficient for sustainable weight loss than plans like “I want to lose 15 pounds until the 1st of June” or “I want to fit in my high-school jeans.” Remember that the path to the body of your dream always starts in your brain, not in your gut.
Remember that you haven’t gained all your extra pounds in a night, and you won’t drop them off in a week. It’s essential to make changes slowly. Praise yourself for every small achievement! Set realistic expectations and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. Just keep on going and don’t give up. Be kind to your body, even if it wants a lemon muffin instead of carrot with hummus.
If you’re a woman, consider your menstrual cycle. Weight loss is harder than ever during periods as the body tends to hold more water(16). Don’t get upset if scales show 2-5 pounds more than usual on certain days of the month: It’s just water, and it will go away as quickly as it came.
Every year, we need fewer and fewer calories per day to function because our basal metabolic rate (BMR) decreases. For example, a woman 5’2 height who weighs 150 pounds needs slightly different amounts of calories in her 20s and in her 30s to sustain her body’s basic functions.
Of course, your total daily energy expenditure depends on much more factors than your age, including your physical activity level and the body fat percentage.
People tend to lose muscle mass(17) with age. This alone and hormonal changes can lead to a slower metabolism. A person of 55 years needs 150 calories less than a person with the same height, weight, and activity level but in his or her twenties. What is more, in our 50s we often discover that our body can’t cope with health conditions as easily as it used to, which leads to a decrease in physical activity.
If you’re a woman, around fifty is when the menopause hits with all its challenges(18) —your estrogen falls, leading to changes both in the hormonal system and sleep patterns..
Nutritionists say that two main factors can sabotage weight loss(19) after delivery: Stress and lack of sleep. Both of them have a dramatic effect on your hunger hormones and food choices, and the bad news is that you seldomly can eliminate these obstacles as a young mother.
When you don’t have enough sleep, your body tries to take the energy it lacks from calorie-dense food. With stress, your body reaction is alike: It doesn’t see the difference between psychological anxiety and physiological threats, so it tries to fill you up with the extra energy you might need to run away or fight a threat.
Another reason that explains why it’s so hard to lose weight after pregnancy, is that new moms often don’t have enough time. They simply can’t find an extra hour to workout or prepare proper meals.
When trying to lose belly fat after pregnancy, don’t push yourself too hard. You’ve just created a new life, and you well deserve some indulgence!
Some studies say(20) that we have body weight set points that our hormones try to maintain. This is why people who used to be slim all their lives tend to lose extra pounds rapidly. On the other hand, people who used to be overweight for decades tend to gain the pounds they’ve lost back. The set point theory might explain why overly-restrictive diets don’t work: Your body simply fights back!
However, you can change your body weight set point by implementing life-long changes to your nutrition and eating habits. If you have a lot of weight to lose or some hormonal imbalance, like insulin resistance(21), move slowly and make small steps towards your goal weight. Only in this case will you be able to lose fat and keep your new weight for longer.
Weight loss isn’t easy: your body will try to fight you back by decreasing your total daily energy expenditure level and increasing the level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and cortisol, the stress hormone. However, by opting for a balanced, not-too-restrictive diet full of all nutrients your body needs, managing what you eat, how you eat, and how you treat your body, you’ll get to the desired number on scales. Take care of your body, and this will allow you to continue your weight loss journey smoothly and see the results you’re looking for faster!