Nutrition Articles

3 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Weight

Why Weight Loss is Harder for Some People than for Others


Likewise, factors like age and body type can affect how fast you can shed extra pounds. Older people, for example, often lose weight more slowly, perhaps because of hormonal changes and/or because they have less muscle mass or may be less physically active.

So, if you're comparing your weight loss to someone else's, make sure you're not comparing apples to oranges (or pears)—that's just going to be frustrating and won't tell you anything useful about your own efforts.

Sometimes, though, people who seem to share a lot of these factors—similar body size, weight, age and activity levels—just don't get the same results, even when they do the same things. A lot of individual factors, including your individual genetics and quite a few medical conditions (like hypothyroidism, PCOS,and insomnia) and medications (like corticosteroids, or antidepressants), can make weight loss difficult. If you're in this boat, you may need to work closely with your health professional to find an individualized approach that will maximize your weight loss results without jeopardizing your health.

But more often, slow or non-existent weight loss can be traced to very common problems that can be identified and overcome with the right kinds of changes in diet, exercise, or daily activity patterns. That's what we'll be looking at below.

The No. 1 Problem: Your numbers aren't right.

In a healthy, "normally" functioning body, weight loss occurs when you use (burn) more energy (calories) than you take in from food. This calorie deficit forces your body to take fat out of storage and turn it into fuel that your cells can use to maintain necessary body functions. 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.

By far the most common reason why weight loss seems to be going slower than people expect is that their calorie deficit is not as large as they think it is. Either they're not burning as many calories as they think they are, or they're eating more than they think they are, or a combination of both.

The formulas used to estimate how many calories people need to maintain their current weight aren't accurate for everyone—they can be off by as much as 30-40%, especially if your body fat percentage is pretty high, your physical activity level is significantly higher or lower than average, or you're counting almost everything you do (e.g., light housework, grocery shopping, walking up one flight of stairs) as "exercise" even though it doesn't actually meet the parameters of what counts as fitness (a high enough intensity to elevate your heart rate to an aerobic range; a duration of at least 10 continuous minutes for the activity; the moving of large muscle groups in a rhythmic way).
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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

  • STSO888
    Great article and to know that you started at 50 is very inspirational to me! Congratulations on your weight loss. It gives me hope that I can do it to at 51! - 8/19/2015 12:44:31 PM
    This article was very helpful to intellectually understand the lack of success I am having; but it sure doesn't make it any less frustrating to know that age,medicine, and metabolism are fighting me every step of the way. I think changing my mindset to returning to a healthy daily diet needs to be my goal and hope, with time, weight loss will follow. - 7/28/2015 5:36:45 PM
    Thanks so much for the great blog. I find so much interesting and helpful info here. I just wanted to mention again that hormones are definitely a huge factor in losing weight. Metabolism slows as we age and women are already at a disadvantage because their bodies are naturally hardwired to process hormones that control weight differently than men. It's not an even playing field, unfortunately. You can't change Mother Nature but it's manageable. There's an amazing women's weight loss program called The Venus Factor that's filled with tons of valuable info and advice on female metabolism and the effects of hormones on weight. It's definitely worth a look for any woman who's struggled with their weight and is looking for a real solution that works! I highly recommend checking it out. You can see the page here:
    Or get more info here:
    h?v=bgmykC3yrkI - 7/2/2015 1:39:07 PM
    Thank you so much for the useful information! Each time I read a blog like this I already feel healthier! For those of you who are interested in beating the scale and really targeting weight loss please read below!
    I am casting for a new TV show with a nutritionist, looking for people who are trying really hard to eat well and maintain a healthy diet, but are having trouble losing weight or seeing dramatic changes on the scale. If you have friends and/or family members that might be interested in learning more about the casting, please email me at untitlednutrition
    - 6/11/2015 10:25:28 AM
    This is amazing, but I really wish they went into more detail on what she did for her exercise. Dieting is very important, but to really be healthy you need to find that good balance between the two.

    This reminds me a lot of the diet I've been using and the same process of making slow changes instead of dramatic over night changes. You can find a thorough review of the diet that I used here

    Weight loss isn't an over night thing, it's a lifestyle change that takes time, but is well worth it! I lost over 40 pounds doing this and both me and my husband love the new me! - 3/5/2015 6:26:26 AM
  • Another reason could be quite simply that you don't *need* to lose any more weight. If you have to struggle to lose that last 5 pounds just to reach a magical number on the scale, how easy will it be to maintain it? Our bodies know where they need to be. - 2/11/2015 4:04:27 PM
  • This article REALLY finally made certain aspects of weight loss make sense to me. I had noticed that with some people I work with that are attempting to lose weight and are quite heavy that they were able to lose a lot of weight in quite a short period of time while I struggle to get the scale to move even a pound. - 1/3/2015 2:55:55 AM
  • This article REALLY finally made certain aspects of weight loss make sense to me. I had noticed that with some people I work with that are attempting to lose weight and are quite heavy that they were able to lose a lot of weight in quite a short period of time while I struggle to get the scale to move even a pound. - 1/3/2015 2:54:50 AM
  • Terrific information in this article!! Thank you! - 12/14/2014 3:12:44 PM
    I'm puzzled. After loosing 20 lbs & being just 5 lbs from my goal I had lab work done & I've learned my total cholesterol has gone up (205 from 176) & my blood pressure is borderline too high. I am consistant with at least 30 minutes, sometimes more, of activity most days. Any thoughts? Could it be what I'm eating? I eat very little bread, when i do it's always whole grain/sprouted. No red meat ever, poultry 1-2 a week, loads of cooked & raw fruit & veggies. Splenda or stevia when I want to sweeten something, just can't figure it out. - 10/13/2014 5:07:38 PM
    This is a great article, and many of the member comments are most informative and helpful. I'm glad I joined SparkPeople! - 9/21/2014 9:47:29 AM
  • I thought this article would be simplistic, but it was actually quite thorough. Cramperella's comment about the effect of yo-yo dieting on metabolism is well worth considering too. - 9/21/2014 7:19:29 AM
  • Very informative. I've been sitting at the same weight from the start although I have made changes to diet and activity. I just changed thyroid med to synthroid maybe that will help.. - 9/20/2014 6:49:09 PM
  • The culprits are sugar and carbs. Believe me...reduce unnecessary sugar at first then learn to do without it. Reduce carbs (white flour, bread, crackers, etc). Whatever you not eat LOW-FAT anything. You will gain weight because low fat foods are high in sugar. Processed foods contain sugar too! Learn more about a low carb lifestyle. - 9/3/2014 1:00:56 PM
  • 1254KATE
    I just want to get off to a good start - 8/22/2014 10:09:34 PM

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