Nutrition Articles

3 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

Why Weight Loss is Harder for Some People than for Others

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You've been sticking faithfully to your calorie range and exercise plans for awhile now, but you're not seeing the results you want on your scale. Meanwhile, your weight -loss buddy is happily watching the pounds melt away week after week. Not fair!

Or maybe you're losing weight but not from the areas where you really want to shed some fat. (Skinny feet are nice, but not so much when your muffin top is still as big as ever.) And then you have that other friend who can eat anything and everything without gaining a pound, while just watching him or her eat seems to make you gain weight.

What's going on here? Why don't your efforts seem to be paying off while weight loss seems so easy for other people? Is there anything you can do to get better results?

Sometimes there is a simple, general reason why one person loses weight faster than another. For example, men tend to lose weight more quickly than women, mainly because most men naturally have more lean muscle mass (thanks to their higher testosterone levels), and more muscle translates into a faster metabolism. Men and women also tend to store excess weight in different places—men in the abdominal area ("apple" body type), which is usually easier to lose; women in the hips and thighs ("pear" body type), which is usually harder to take off.

People who have more weight to lose may also drop the pounds more quickly in the beginning of a weight-loss program. This is because the more you weigh, the more calories you burn during any given activity. (Walking with an extra 50 pounds on your frame is harder than walking with 20 extra pounds of weight.) A person who weighs more can also cut more calories from his or her diet without jeopardizing the body's ability to function efficiently. If you weigh 300 pounds, you may need 3,500 calories per day or more to maintain that weight; cutting 1,000 calories from your diet (down to 2,500/day) will let you safely lose 2 pounds per week. But if you weigh 150 pounds, you may only need 1,800 calories to maintain your weight, and if you try to cut the 1,000 calories from your diet (down to 800/day), your body won't have enough fuel and your metabolism will slow down drastically, making fat loss harder, not easier. Therefore a person with less weight to lose needs to aim for a smaller calorie deficit, which will translate to a slower rate of weight loss.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • 1254KATE
    I just want to get off to a good start - 8/22/2014 10:09:34 PM
  • There was no mention in the article of the effect of repeated weight loss on your metabolism. If you have been a serious yo-yo dieter like myself, your body may not respond normally anymore. My body doesn't trust me anymore. It is always on the look out for the next famine and hangs on to weight for dear life. I can religiously follow a strict program for weeks on end and lose absolutely nothing and then one day, bam! I step on the scale and it appears as if I have lost 8lbs overnight! It can be depressing to not have your body respond like everyone tells you it is supposed to. Weighing myself weekly is pointless. - 8/6/2014 5:37:42 PM
  • ALJ218
    The article makes some pretty good points. However, I do think some people can count everyday movement as activity. When I was coming down from a much larger weight, taking the stairs, doing light housework, and parking at the end of the grocery store parking lot made all the difference.

    I still count some things as activity that are not considered traditional exercise (for example, my walk to and from school, laundry,) but they're not all I do. - 7/2/2014 9:18:46 AM
  • The point which the article I believe is making; Everyones body and reactions to weight loss will be different. I can usually tell before I get on the scale if I lost weight or not. I cant lose weight unless I starve myself Im a man on a 1300 cal diet a day. the scale has read 202 for 4 weeks now. Ive been walking every other day for 3 miles and riding my bike for 20 min a day hard. On the other hand ..... You hear about Snooky loosing 40 lbs in six months. Is their a secret weapon for for people on tv. Im not giving up . I keep in mind it took 25 years to get this fat and ive only been at it for 3 months - 9/20/2013 7:56:18 AM
  • YOOVIE
    What about - YOU AREN'T WORKING OUT HARD ENOUGH?

    and this: "A pound of fat represents about 3,500 calories of stored energy, so you can predict that a calorie deficit of 3,500 will translate into one lost pound, give or take a little."

    No you cant. You cannot predict methodical weight loss. There are too many factors involved for each person and telling them that they can predict a 1 pound loss by burning 3500 calories is setting them up for failure. You cannot do that. You have to do this with something other than that number in mind - otherwise you are teaching people that the only function of exercise is to eradicate calories and that is messed up. I cant read any further. Sometimes the reason you arent losing weight is because you are letting yourself get away with mediocre effort.

    throws hands in the air. - 1/29/2013 9:59:23 AM
  • This article reminded me about some key factors that I have overlooked lately in terms of my own weight loss. Thanks! I got more out of this article than many I have read. - 1/25/2013 10:00:10 PM
  • These are all very good and valid points. Another one is that a lot of times people aren't eating ENOUGH. They think that because they bring their calories down uber-low they are doing great, when in all reality their metabolisms are lowering in self-defense against starvation and they wind up losing less than if they ate at a higher caloric level. - 1/25/2013 3:07:34 PM
  • I struggled for a long time with mixed success and lots of yo yo weight loss/gain. I went on a low carb diet because a friend of mine convinced me to try it. Never thought I would do it since I loved bread so much. I've never felt so good or had such success. I've lost 68lbs and best of all no longer have cravings. The carbs are hard to give up, very similar to giving up caffiene (i.e. headaches, feeling crappy, cravings). If you are like me, once you get them out of your system, the difference can be amazing. - 1/25/2013 9:03:17 AM
  • I was so glad to read this artical. I am 58 been on SP since November and lost only 8 pounds. I weigh everything that I eat and I try to enter everything I eat of course there are times I miss somethings. I also exercise everyday either walking or interval walking and running I do at least 4 miles a day. I knew there was a reason for not losing weight faster but really just blamed myself for doing something wrong. I have 13 pounds to lose so I guess it will be a long hall before I see that number on my scale. But I actually enjoy watching what I eat and planning my meals ahead of time so I guess I will keep doing it. - 1/25/2013 8:53:54 AM
  • Thanks Dean.....that was a great article and so true. It's hard to understand why things don't go as expected until you look at all the factors you mentioned. For me I'm carb sensitive, have hormonal changes, and need to boost my cardio and strength training. - 1/25/2013 5:28:16 AM
  • I read an article in a reputable - not quacky - magazine where a trained nutritionist explained that ALL grains (rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, pasta) whether whole grain or highly processed turn to sugar in the bodies digestive process... which FREAKED ME OUT! Grains are the building blocks of the western diet: Toast for brekkie, sandwich for lunch, stir fry with rice for dinner...

    So, I am trying to plan my meals with less of a grain component. It's only been a week so I don't have any results to post, but it would be interesting to hear from anyone who has an opinion on this. I am in no way trying to push a dieting solution on anyone - if it works for you = cool, if not, then all good. - 10/7/2012 2:19:32 AM

  • Is this a reasonable format or setting for inquiring about the graphs for Calorie Differential Over Time - gauged or evaluated week to week.

    I understand discouraging folks inclination to perhaps focus on day to day differentials, however it seems that with the month to month, or perhaps even better would be the week to week graphing might well be quite interesting and helpful?

    I have notions as to what is happening with the graphing of my week to week calorie intake and burn rate ... however I have notions only, and would certainly welcome specific feedback regarding same.

    I noted that the caloric intake line was gradually climbing and had even cut up from about 2/3rds of the height of the into the BMR on up to about 1/5th portion of the bar graphing.

    Thanks for any assistance you may be able and willing to provide. - 8/24/2012 12:07:10 AM
  • GFIKE1566
    I eat a good breakfast every day, yet crave sugar in the mid-morning hours. It's a temptation that I cannot seem to avoid (no willpower) as my secretary continues to put out peanut M&Ms and fun size candy bars. The only way I can overcome this is during Lent, when I give up all sweets, successfully, for those 6 weeks. However, during the rest of the year, I seem to have problems avoiding them....I've asked my office manager to not put them out, but she continues to do so. HELP! - 7/24/2012 12:01:50 PM
  • THEWAYGIRL
    Weight watchers online! Finally I am seeing results. - 7/24/2012 7:42:19 AM
  • Good article. Another point is to be eating the right foods at the right time. Very small breakfast for those who are slow to get going in the morning, ie, slower metabolism. And dinner is the main meal of the day when their metabolism is highest. When eating right for your metabolism and body type the weight loss happens naturally. I completely transformed my health this way. I have so much more energy! - 7/24/2012 6:56:02 AM