You put in work at the gym daily and eat clean—but the number on the scale still refuses to move. This can be infuriating if you’re trying to lose weight. However, the combination of consistent workouts and a healthy diet isn’t necessarily the golden ticket to weight loss. Here are five common reasons you’re not losing weight, despite eating right and exercising all the time.
You’re super stressed.
When you’re anxious or overwhelmed, it’s easy to put your workout on the backburner in favor of delicious carbs or a glass of wine. Emotional eating isn’t in your head, either. Research shows that when you’re regularly stressed, your brain sends messages to your adrenal glands, which produce hormones that trigger a fight-or-flight response. They also release cortisol, which increases appetite and stores extra fat in the body.
Stress also negatively impacts your workouts, leading to decreased performance, slower recovery, and a higher risk of injury. Additionally, if you’re stressed about trying to lose weight, you might put yourself at an even greater disadvantage. “When you are constantly jumping on the scale every five minutes to see if you lost weight, you will be surprised that it can fluctuate,” says Aaptiv trainer Jaime McFaden.
You pushed yourself too hard, too fast.
Remember that time you swore you were going to get in shape, so you went running every day for a week and then injured yourself? We’ve all been there. The impulse is well-intended: you want to see progress, so you assume more is more. However, pushing yourself too hard, too fast, won’t actually help you reach your goals sooner.
“Recognize everyone is different, and weight loss will most likely happen more slowly than you’d like,” says Aaptiv trainer Jennifer Giamo. “But, slow and steady is more sustainable than dropping pounds too fast and then watching the weight come right back on.”
Candice Cunningham, Aaptiv trainer and fitness coach, suggests monitoring progress in small ways to stay motivated. “Pay attention to progress in other areas, like inches lost or how well your clothes are fitting—not just the scale. Pay attention to how strong you feel. Maybe you weren’t able to do one push-up a month ago, and now you can do six. Or maybe you changed your diet, and you’re now off medication as a result,” she says.
Your diet is completely out of whack.
“Abs are made in the kitchen,” right? Well, unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. “Take a hard look at your nutrition: the amount of food you are consuming and the type of food,” notes Giamo. “Is it nutrient-dense? A poor diet can easily sabotage much of your efforts in the gym,” she says.
Likewise, too much sodium or not enough water can also lead to weight retention, adds McFaden. Eat enough protein for energy and muscle building, and stay hydrated before, during and after each workout.
Finally, you may think about cutting foods out of your diet or slimming down portion sizes in an attempt to lose weight. Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase likes to remind people to eat enough calories—because food is fuel. She struggled with weight loss, due to issues with her metabolism, hormone levels, and thyroid, all because she was constantly working out, but not properly fueling her body. “Although I was eating all the right nutrient-dense, whole foods,” she says, “I was not eating enough.”
You always do the exact same workout.
“Our bodies will plateau,” says Cunningham. “Running at 5.5 mph a month ago might have been a struggle, and made you burn more calories and fat because you were working harder. But, we adapt, so once that pace becomes easy, that will no longer be the case. It’s the same thing with weights or even high-intensity workouts. Doing the same thing for an extended period of time will only get you so far, then you have to adjust either the weight, the speed, the reps, the timing [and/or] the tempo,” she recommends.
Also, be sure you’re moving enough. It’s tempting to think that a quick 20-minute workout each day is enough to counteract the effects of sitting for eight hours, but that’s not enough. You’ll want to at least meet the recommended national requirements for adults: at least 75-150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardio and strength building workouts, twice weekly.
A better option? Keep your body moving and guessing. Even though cardio is excellent for overall health, only doing cardio will ultimately diminish lean muscle mass. Mix up a strength training routine with HIIT and core strength moves for a full-body muscle tone and higher fat burn.
“I can’t stress this one enough: If you’re sleep-deprived, rest is more important than your workout,” advises McFaden. Add regular rest days into your exercise routine, and make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye every night.
Above all, try to take good care of this one body you have. “Exercise is a fraction of a healthy lifestyle,” says Chase. “If you’re not seeing a change in weight, look at the bigger picture. What are you eating and how much? Are you doing any low-impact or stress-reducing exercises, such as yoga, pilates, meditation or walking? Typically, if you’re not seeing a change in weight or inches,” she adds, “there’s some sort of imbalance that requires a change, elsewhere.”