How frustrating is it when you just can’t lose weight? You’re trying to eat right and exercise, but the numbers on the scale don’t move. Many registered dietitian nutritionists work one-on-one with clients and have experience as to why your waistline isn’t shrinking. I asked 5 dietitians the most common reason folks don’t lose weight and you’ll be surprised by what they had to say.
1. You’re cutting too many calories
“When you diet and restrict calories too low, your body’s metabolism starts to slow down, necessitating a larger caloric deficit to lose weight. Meanwhile, your hunger hormone (ghrelin) gets out of control, which simultaneously leads you to overeat,” says Abbey Sharp, RD, blogger at Abbey’s Kitchen.
Instead: Sharp recommends stopping the good food, bad food mentality, and focusing on your body’s unique hunger and satiety signals. Once you stop restricting, your body will stop feeling the need to overcompensate and binge whenever it gets the chance. When you eat mindfully, you eat in response to your body’s true needs, which helps prevent episodes of overeating.
2. You’re eating too much of a healthy food
“My clients often have trouble losing weight because they are consuming too much of a good thing,” claims Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “When I share that 1/5 of an avocado is one serving, people gasp.” Other good-for-you foods that are high in calories include nuts, nut butters, olive oil, and hummus.
Instead: Measure portions of higher calorie good-for-you foods until you get the hand of it.
3. You’re eating more than you think
Oftentimes folks underestimate the amount of food and calories they are eating. They forget about the handful of nuts or half a homemade muffin they were offered by their officemate. Drinks also tend to fall off the grid, and if you’re downing specialty coffees or numerous cocktails during happy hour you’re for sure taking in hundreds of calories there.
Instead: “When I first started in private practice 22 years ago, I found that without fail, my clients who consistently kept a food diary were the ones who were more successful in their weight loss efforts,” says Colleen Gerg, MA, RDN, a nutrition and mindfulness coach. Writing down everything you eat and drink creates awareness of habits and keeps you honest.
4. You’re stressed out
“Stress affects our eating, exercise, and sleep habits-most often in negative ways. Stress also affects our cortisol levels which makes it hard to lose weight,” declares Rebecca Clyde MS, RDN, CD owner of Nourish Nutrition. Clyde explains where “I have so many clients who are trying to be perfect at following restrictive diets who just are terrified to ‘fall off the wagon’ and stressed out about sticking to their diet.”
Instead: If your diet is stressing you out, it’s time to find a better way to eat healthy and lose weight. There is no need for you to be miserable when trying to lose weight.
5. You’re not getting enough sleep
Most people don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night. “Lack of sleep can make us feel foggy headed and lethargic the next day,” explains Lauren Manganiello MS, RD, CDN owner of Lauren Manganiello Nutrition & Fitness in NYC. “Our body then craves food, especially sugar, to help combat our lack of energy. It’s very difficult to eat mindfully and listen to our hunger cues when we’re sleep deprived.”
Instead: Get to bed at a decent hour and remove things keeping you awake. This means turning off the television and charging your electronic devices in a separate room so you don’t have the urge to get on them in the middle of the night.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.