The Main Reasons You Can't Lose Weight Feature Image

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Deciding to lose weight is a significant step towards a healthier life and improved body confidence. It requires a great amount of willpower – and to achieve the goal, you may even need to completely transform certain areas of your life.

Which is why, if you have been strictly following a diet of your choice for a while, but see no positive results, you may feel extremely frustrated. It may seem like all your effort is going down the drain – and you may be wondering if it’s even worth carrying on anymore.

But don’t be disheartened. There are many reasons why a diet may not be working – and even the most experienced dieters sometimes fall prey to common dieting mistakes. Identifying these is the first step to ironing out the kinks in your weight loss plan and making it more effective.

In this article, we are going to pinpoint the 10 common reasons why your diet may not be working, so you can get back on track and succeed in achieving your weight loss goal.

Reason 1: You Don’t Consume Enough Calories.

This may seem counterintuitive, but it is one of the common reasons why your diet may not be working. Our bodies are intelligent, and when we reduce our calorie intake below the amount we need to function healthily – our bodies know what we’ve done. Not only that – but they adjust to the lower calorie intake and slow our metabolism to help hold on to the calories we consume for longer. For example, when you skip breakfast, your body recognizes that food is a scarce resource, and slows your metabolism – burning less calories than it normally would. Prolonged under-consumption of calories makes your body go into what’s called “starvation mode” – doing all it can to preserve energy. Going into “starvation modedoesn’t happen overnight – but over time, not giving your body enough calories can certainly slow down your weight loss.

Reason 2: You Don’t Eat Regularly During The Day – Then Eat Too Late.

It isn’t just about what you eat – when you eat matters. If you don’t eat regularly during the day, chances are you’ll eat more in the evening or at night. 24/7 access to food is a double-edged sword – meaning that it’s tempting to eat more in the evening, when we have more free time. However, consuming a large portion of your daily calorie intake in the evening means your body stores those calories as fat rather than burn it as energy. Alternatively, time-restricted eating (eating within a certain window during the day), has been shown to help people lose weight and reduce the risk of certain illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. Meals take 3 to 5 hours to digest, so by the time you go to bed, the food you have consumed throughout the day will be metabolized and stored fat will be burned overnight.

Reason 3: You’re Not Drinking Enough Fluids.

We’re constantly being told to drink more water – because water is a key element our bodies need to function optimally. But did you know that fluids are also essential in helping your body burn fat? A study by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that drinking approximately two tall glasses of water sped up the participants’ metabolism by 30 percent. Not drinking enough water may have the opposite effect and could be sabotaging your diet – without you realizing. Moreover, not drinking enough water can cause water retention, which can make you temporarily gain weight. This happens because your body holds on to the water you consume to prevent dehydration. So, drink up!

Reason 4: You’re Not Eating Enough of the Right Foods.

If you are on a calorie-restricted diet, you’re probably keeping a close eye on how many calories you consume daily. However, even if your body gets the right amount of calories each day, could it be that you aren’t incorporating enough of the foods that help you lose weight faster into your diet? There are foods that help you burn off excess fat – and these include foodstuffs like full-fat yoghurt, almonds, avocados and bananas. Avocados, for example, are a great source of healthy fats and have been found to lower the “bad” cholesterol, as well as reduce belly fat. Chia seeds, another item on the list, are high in fiber – which is closely linked to weight loss. If your diet isn’t giving you the desired outcome, you may want to make sure that you are eating enough of these types of foods.

Reason 5: You’re Not Exercising.

Taking up exercise and changing your diet simultaneously has been found to be more effective in achieving weight loss than only doing one of the two. You could lose weight with dieting alone but keeping the pounds off without exercise would be a real challenge. Don’t get us wrong – you don’t necessarily need to sign up to do the marathon right this second (unless you want to!). According to the experts, 60 minutes of brisk walking a day can help with weight management, while 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise daily would help you shed unwanted pounds. Plus – you wouldn’t only be contributing to achieving your weight loss goals, but also gaining a ton of additional benefits, from disease prevention to better mood.

Reason 6: You Reward Exercise With “Bad” Food.

Incorporating physical activity into your weight loss plan is the way to go! But, if you often reward your commitment to exercise with a high-calorie post-workout treat, it could be that you’re inadvertently hindering weight loss. When we’ve “been good” and exercised, it is easy to fall into the trap of overestimating the number of calories we’ve burnt off, making us feel like we deserve a “treat” afterwards (even if it’s not food our dietician would approve of). While re-fueling after exercise is important, it’s all about what you eat after a workout. Make sure to eat a meal that is high in complex carbohydrates and healthy protein, such as brown rice, nuts, whole-wheat bread, salmon – not things that you may be craving after a workout, like soda, chocolate or fast-food.

Reason 7: You’re Not Eating Mindfully.

Mindful eating is the practice of paying more attention to the food you eat and learning to appreciate its taste, smell and texture more. The practice enhances our senses and the pleasure of eating by allowing us to experience food more intensely. When we’re not mindful, we often inhale our food, don’t chew properly and don’t pay enough attention to what and how much we’re eating. These are bad habits that can lead to digestive problems and overeating. Start paying more attention to your meals by eliminating common distractions, like chatter and TV – so that you can focus more on the food in front of you.

Reason 8: You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep.

We all know that not getting enough sleep can turn a person into a dragon. But did you know that not getting enough sleep may also mean you’re not shedding pounds as quickly as you’d like to? Research shows that sleep is a key factor in achieving and maintaining healthy body weight – and ensuring that your body generally functions well. If you are sleep-deprived, your body can’t properly use insulin, which leads to storing fat. Plus, not getting enough shut-eye makes our bodies release more of the hormones which make us feel hungry, which leads to snacking more to keep us going.

Reason 9: You’re Not Portioning Correctly.

You may think that weighing and measuring your food is a little over-the-top, so you tend to eyeball it and hope that you’re having the right amount. However, portioning correctly is critical for achieving your weight loss goals. Once you start using a food scale, you may find that a typical serving is much smaller than you thought. Not having more than the recommended serving size will help make sure that you are not overeating – even though sticking to it could be difficult at first. To help you keep your portion distortion in check, make sure that you eat regularly – and allow yourself to have a healthy snack in between meals. For example – you could have breakfast at 8am, a snack at 11am, lunch at 1pm, another snack at 3pm – then dinner at 6pm. Snacks will help you feel satisfied between meals: it’s a well-known fact that when you’re starving, you are more likely to overeat.

Reason 10: You Often Slurp Diet Drinks.

Diet sodas are a popular beverage option for people who are looking to reduce their calorie and sugar intake. However, the fact that these drinks are “diet” doesn’t make them a healthy drink choice. They use artificial sweeteners, like cyclamate, saccharin, aspartame and sucralose – which have actually been shown to have the same effect on the body as sugar: they trigger insulin, which tells your body to store fat, and that leads to weight gain. Plus, it has been suggested that diet soda can actually stimulate hunger hormones and increase appetite, so if do yourself a favor and replace these with a better, healthier beverage (such as carrot or grapefruit juice).


Our ability to lose weight is impacted by a number of factors, and it isn’t just about how many calories we consume a day. If your diet isn’t working as well as expected, chances are that you’re unwittingly making some of the common dieting mistakes. We hope that this article will help you get back on track – and achieve your ideal weight.

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Fact Checked

This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.