Weight loss is a process—one that rarely happens as quickly as we might like.
If you think you are experiencing a weight loss plateau, you shouldn’t fret just yet. It is incredibly common for the scale not to budge for a few days (or weeks) at a time. This does not mean that you are not losing fat.
It is common to gain muscle at the same time as you lose fat if you recently started exercising. This is a good thing, as what you really want to lose is body fat, not just weight.
It is a good idea to use something other than the scale to gauge your progress. For example, measure your waist circumference and body fat percentage once per month.
While healthy weight loss can take time, if your weight has been stuck for 4 weeks or more, here are 7 reasons you might not be losing weight that are worth considering as you gauge your progress.
1. You’re not sleeping enough
Good sleep is one of the most important factors for your physical and mental health, as well as your weight.
Studies show that poor sleep is one of the single biggest risk factors for obesity and that sleep deprivation may affect the secretion of cortisol, one of the hormones that regulate your appetite. Adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese, respectively.
Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, avoiding stimulants like caffeine several hours before bedtime, and other changes can go a long way in improving the rest you get.
2. You’re stressed
Stress and weight gain, or lack of weight loss, go hand in hand. Constant stress can contribute to a number of health problems, contribute to unhealthy cravings, or cause you to skip workouts.
Taking short moments throughout the day to consciously check in with yourself and lower your tension levels is a good starting place for dealing with chronic stress. Mindful meditation is a good way to bring more calm to your life.
Keep in mind that chronic stress may not easily be solved on your own. Talking with a counselor or your doctor can help you identify your stressors and the best ways to manage them.
3. You’re eating more than you realize
It may seem obvious, but unless you’re tracking your calories each day, you may be eating more than you think. You may think that this does not apply to you, but keep in mind that research consistently shows that people tend to underestimate their calorie intake by a significant amount.
Studies show that keeping track of your diet helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries or photograph their meals consistently lose more weight than people who don’t.
4. You’re not eating whole foods
Food quality is just as important as quantity.
Eating healthy foods can improve your wellbeing and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling than their processed counterparts.
Keep in mind that many processed foods labeled as “health foods” aren’t necessarily healthy. Make sure to base your diet on whole foods. Eating too much processed food could ruin your weight loss success.
5. Your metabolism has slowed
Metabolism can slow for a number of reasons, one of which is age, particularly if you don’t preserve your muscle mass. Some estimates show that muscle mass declines about 4 percent each decade from ages 25 to 50, which is important as lean muscle burns more calories than fat.
If you’re still eating the same number of calories as your metabolism drops, your weight may creep up over time. Start or continue exercising and add weights to your routine now to keep your metabolism in check.
6. Your expectations are unrealistic
Healthy weight loss is generally a slow process, no matter your method. Many people lose patience before reaching their end goal.
Although it is often possible to lose weight fast in the beginning, very few people can continue to lose weight at a rate of more than 1–2 pounds per week.
Another major problem is that many people have unrealistic expectations of what is achievable with a healthy diet and exercise.
The truth is, not everyone can look
At some point, your weight is going to reach a healthy set point where your body feels comfortable, which is unlikely to be like the body of a fitness model or bodybuilder. The photos you see in magazines and other places are often enhanced, even after the hours each they’ve spent working on their bodies.
7. You have a medical condition
Weight loss is a complex process involving a variety of factors. Some we can control, such as our diet and exercise. We can also work to manage stress and develop good sleep habits.
But there are several health conditions and medications that can drive weight gain and make it much harder to lose weight. These include thyroid conditions, diabetes medications, corticosteroid medications, some antidepressants, beta-blockers, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and sleep apnea. If you think any of these apply to you, speak to your doctor about your options.
Weight loss is rarely easy and numerous factors can bring it to a standstill. In the end, changing your weight and your lifestyle require dedication, self-discipline, perseverance and resilience.