Getting stuck in weight loss is frustrating, but these plateaus are also learning opportunities.
Below I summarize 10 common reasons why you don’t lose weight and some practical ideas for overcoming them.

10 Causes You Don’t Lose Weight
Getting stuck in weight loss is frustrating, but these plateaus are also learning opportunities.
Below I summarize 10 common reasons why you don’t lose weight and some practical ideas for overcoming them.

  1. You are losing weight but you don’t realize it
    Your weight fluctuates from day to day due to a multitude of factors: hydration level, glycogen, stomach contents, fluid retention, menstrual cycle…
    If you weigh yourself once a week and don’t see any variation, you might think that you haven’t lost anything. To improve monitoring I recommend weighing yourself daily and calculating the average weight for the week. Comparing the weekly average will smooth out the daily fluctuations and you will be able to see the real progress.

  1. Evaluating progress by weekly average weight avoids being misled by daily fluctuations
    This is especially relevant after the rapid losses of the first few weeks.
    Also, if you are strength training (and you should be), you will gain muscle mass. This will help you burn more fat, but the total weight loss will be less.
    If you lose two kilos of fat and gain one kilo of muscle the scale will only reflect a total weight loss of 1 kilo, although this is very good progress. However, someone who does not strength train may lose two kilos of fat and one kilo of muscle. Looking at the scales, he or she would be very happy (3 kilos less!), even though it is a much worse result.
    Also remember that weight is just one more metric of progress, not necessarily the main one.
    Another example: if you start supplementing with creatine it is normal to gain 12 kg in a short time (study, study), but it is not fat, just water.
  2. You eat more than you think
    Most people underestimate the calories they eat (study, study, study, detail), and the difference is especially large in the most overweight people (study, study). Many studies note deviations of 20-50%.
    We are clearly unaware of this error, because we continue to underreport calories even though we know they will be verified later (study) or even though we are paid to improve accuracy (study). We are very easily fooled.
    Even dietitians underestimate their calories by 10%. That’s less than half that of the rest of the population, but it’s still a big enough error to produce stagnation.
    What are the most frequent calculation errors?
     We underestimate portions. What looks like 100 grams of rice to us is actually 150.  We remember the foods that make us look good (spinach and kale) but tend to forget those we are less proud of (like donuts).  We count the hundred calories in the salad but not the three hundred in the dressing.
     We log the coffee but not the three tablespoons of coconut oil and butter (which is why I don’t recommend bulletproof coffee).  We don’t count liquid calories. Our satiety-signaling mechanisms are little influenced by liquid calories, so it’s best to reduce them.  We don’t consider the small snacks we take during the day.  How to minimize this mistake? Buy a weight like this one and record for a week everything you eat, with apps like myfitnesspal or FatSecret.
  3. You don’t base your diet on real food.
    Calories matter, but so does their origin. Real food (minimally processed fresh food) has many benefits over more processed foods:
    It is more satiating, and thus facilitates calorie control.
    It requires more energy to digest, which reduces the calories that are ultimately absorbed.
    It is more nutritionally dense, and micronutrients also participate in the satiety signal.
    The result is that by basing food on real food, weight loss is more easily achieved (study).Diets based on fresh foods facilitate weight loss, those based on ultra-processed foods promote the opposite. Source: Adapted from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31105044/
  4. You don’t eat enough protein Protein-rich diets improve body composition in several ways: They increase satiety. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient. They increase thermogenesis. Some 20-30% of protein calories are expended in their own digestion, making it difficult to ultimately be stored as fat . They minimize muscle loss. Or even facilitate muscle gain if the diet is accompanied by strength training. What level of protein is ideal for weight loss? Between 1.5 and 2 grams per kg of weight per day .
  5. You relax too much on the weekend Many people do well with their diet during the week but relax too much on the weekend. There is no problem in including days with more calories (and we will see that it even has benefits), but if you increase the consumption of alcohol and ultra-processed foods from Friday to Sunday (in addition to reducing physical activity) you will ruin all the progress of the week.
  6. You do not sleep well (or enough) Sleep deficit damages metabolism by multiple mechanisms . It makes us lose insulin sensitivity, reduces anabolic hormones and increases hunger. We also become more impulsive and find it difficult to control our appetite. If you want to lose weight, pay attention to sleep.
  7. You have been dieting for a long time If you have a lot of fat to lose you must spend months in caloric deficit, and your body interprets that as a threat. Its defense strategy is to slow down metabolism and reduce energy expenditure. In extreme cases it disables entire systems, such as the reproductive system. The result is that losing weight becomes increasingly difficult, and continuing to drop calories only makes the problem worse. After a certain point you should start to include reloads or even whole weeks of rest, where you return to your maintenance calories. This way you reverse the metabolic adaptations that slow down your progress and restart your weight loss, as well as allowing you a psychological respite. Paradoxically, eating more will help you lose weight.
  8. You move not enough Losing weight through diet alone is possible, but not recommended. For starters, you will lose more muscle mass, damaging your aesthetics and your health. In addition, after a certain point, cutting more calories will become too hard, and will only increase your appetite and frustration. Adding physical activity is the solution. When thinking about energy expenditure we tend to focus on the workout, ignoring the rest of the movement. However, all that low-intensity movement we do throughout the day, called NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is often what determines whether you lose fat or plateau. Between two people of similar size there can be variations of up to 2,000 calories per day far more than what is possible to achieve in the hour we spend training. By moving more you will be able to eat more while still losing weight, the dietary holy grail. Technically we call this effect “high energy flow”, which makes the process much more bearable.
  9. Your microbiota is altered Our bacteria influence countless metabolic processes, many of them associated with weight regulation. For example, butyrate produced by your bacteria in the colon reduces appetite and improves metabolism (detail, detail).

A poor microbiota promotes overweight. Source. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6464/eaaw9255
The type of bacteria you have (and their balance) influences your appetite for some foods or others, the amount of calories you absorb from food, the production of butyrate, your level of inflammation… and all these factors determine how easy it is for you to lose weight.
Including the right food for your bacteria will help you lose weight.

  1. Taking medications
    All medications have side effects, including, in some cases, weight gain. It is more difficult to lose weight with many types of antidepressants, glucocorticoids and beta-blockers.

Prolonged consumption of antibiotics is also associated with more overweight, due to its negative effect on the microbiota.
Obviously you should take the medications you need, but be aware of their possible effects

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