Eating in a calorie deficit (which means eating less calories than you’re burning off throughout the day – you can use this basic calculator here to find out what your calorie deficit number is) is the science-backed method to losing weight, and it definitely works – for most people. If you have quite a lot of excess fat to lose, eating in a calorie deficit while partaking in regular exercise will more often than not see you shed the kilos relatively quickly. However, this isn’t the case for everyone, especially when we bring health issues like diabetes, insulin resistance, PCOS and stress into the mix.
At the end of the day, if you’re doing all the right things – like eating in a calorie deficit and working out regularly – but still not losing weight, the below reasons could be why. However, there is no one-size fits all solution, and you may have an underlying condition that needs attention from a GP or professional. It’s heavily advised that any form of weight loss regime is overseen by a health-care professional.
You’re Eating the Wrong Foods
When it comes to weight loss, you can exercise all you like, but if you’re not eating the right foods, you’ll certainly struggle to lose the kilos. OK, but what does “right” food mean? Everything’s a balance, but typically when you’re trying to lose weight, eating whole and unprocessed foods is key. Theoretically, you could eat McDonald’s for every meal as long as you’re still eating in a calorie deficit and still lose weight. However, this obviously isn’t advised as McDonald’s isn’t going to provide you the nutrients your body needs, and you won’t be very healthy internally. However, even if you’re steering clear of fast foods, processed foods like chips, biscuits, crackers and even things like pasta can really set you back on your weight-loss journey.
Pro Tip: When not buying fruit or veg, look for packaged items with the least amount of ingredients.
You’re Leaving Out Whole Food Groups
When many people think about weight loss, they also think about cutting out carbs. However, carbohydrates are a vital macronutrient in your diet. Often when we cut carbs, our bodies feel deprived and make us more likely to binge. You can eat carbs and still lose weight. In fact, carbs can help you lose weight! Now, we’re not talking bread and pasta and potato chips, but rather complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice, quinoa, oats and beans. This rule of thumb might be different for those with diabetes, insulin resistance or on a keto diet, but for most people with no underlying health condition, carbs are not the enemy.
Top Tip: Choose complex carbs which are digested more slowly and won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
You’re Eating Too Much (Or Too Little)
If you’re eating healthily and still not losing weight, it could be because you’re eating too much. Too much of a good thing can still cause you to gain weight (or simply stay the same and not lose weight). This is why it’s important to eat in a calorie deficit and know what your calorie deficit is. It’s different for everyone depending on age, height, current weight and activity level.
Surprise! Did you know eating too little can actually hinder your weight loss efforts? Our body has a natural instinct to protect itself, so if we’re not eating enough, it will go into “starvation mode”, which causes the metabolism to slow down and for the body to hoard the food you eat and store it as fat (to save you from starving, basically). So while you want to eat in a calorie deficit, you don’t want to eat too little, either. It’s a balance!
Top Tip: Create a meal plan for the week and make sure each meal you’re hitting your daily calories. There are tonnes of apps to help with this, or you can speak to a professional dietician.
You’re Not Doing the Right Type of Exercise
It can be hard to know what type of exercise to do in order to lose weight. Some professionals say cardio, while others say weights. Some say both, while others say high-intensity interval training is best. Basically… it really depends on your body. Personally, doing HIIT in the morning on an empty stomach helped me lose the last 5kgs, but I also have a friend who lost a tonne of weight by running outside. It’s always good to consult a personal trainer when it comes to finding the right exercise to help you lose weight. Also, you need to find an exercise you enjoy doing. If you enjoy the exercise, you’re more likely to stick to it and therefore more likely to lose weight. There’s no point starting a weight lifting routine when you hate lifting weights and would rather be hiking outdoors. While you might find better results lifting weights, doing something you love will ultimately benefit your weight loss and keeping the weight off in the long-run.
Top Tip: Find an exercise you love and stick to it. Also, book in a session with a PT.
You’re Not Recovering After Exercise
If you’re working out an hour a day, seven days a week, you’re undoubtedly putting your body under a lot of stress. A body under stress with high levels of cortisol (the hormone produced by stress) makes it hard to lose weight (more on that below), which is why you need to take the time to recover. Often, recovery and rest are more important than the workout themselves because it’s in the rest periods your body does most of the fat burning. You don’t have to have a complete day off exercise if you don’t want to, but light cardio or stretching every other day is highly recommended.
Top Tip: Rest, recover and listen to your body. Work hard, but rest hard, too.
If you’re stressed out at work or because of other issues going on in your life, your body is going to have a high level of cortisol running through it. Cortisol is both normal and important for the body, but when it is exposed to cortisol for longer periods of time, it starts to cause negative effects, like stubborn fat that won’t budge no matter how good your diet and exercise regime is. So, once you get your stress under control, you might find the weight starts slipping off, too.
Top Tip: A healthy mind equals a healthy body. It’s a balance. Take care of your mental health, and your physical health will follow.
You Have an Underlying Health Condition
There are a range of health issues which may prevent you from losing weight, even when you’re doing all the other “right things”. Diabetes, PCOS, Hypothyroidism, Depression, and hormonal changes can all make it difficult to lose weight. For this reason, if you are struggling to lose weight, it’s important you speak to a health professional to rule out any health conditions you may have.
Pro Tip: Whenever undertaking a new health regime, always speak to a health professional.