How to Figure Out Why You Aren't Losing Weight

Three Parts:Evaluating Your DietMonitoring Your LifestyleTaking Actions to Restart Weight Loss

Losing weight can be a difficult and stressful endeavor. If you've ever tried a diet before or have attempted weight loss, you may have noticed that there are some periods of time when weight loss is slower or you stay the same weight. These weight loss plateaus and stalls are normal and to be expected with any diet plan. However, it's important to try to figure out why you've stalled. Sometimes it's natural and there is no cause, but many times it's small slip-ups in your diet, exercise routine or lifestyle. Keeping track of your diet and lifestyle changes can help you track your weight loss and figure out why you're not losing weight if you've hit a stall.

Part 1
Evaluating Your Diet

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    Do a 3 day food recall. A food recall is very similar to a food diary. However, it's generally only kept for a certain amount of days and is very detailed. A food recall is the one of the first places to start when you're not sure why you're not losing weight. [1]
    • Doing a 3 day food recall will help you get a really good and solid idea of what you've been eating. It can give you a lot of insight to whether or not your diet is causing your plateau.
    • Make sure to include every meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner), snacks (even little nibbles here and there), beverages and portion sizes of items. Try to remember everything that you eat, including sips, tastes, samplers, taste tests, etc. Sometimes the answer to weight gain can be in the small details of your eating habits.
    • Also note whether or not you ate out, order take out or had a portion of a higher calorie or higher fat food.
    • Once you've completed your food recall, you're ready to evaluate it to see if there are any issues that are causing your weight plateau.
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    Look for increased portion sizes. Portion size is a really important issue when it comes to weight loss. Even if you feel like you're eating nutritious and healthy foods, if you're eating too much, that could hinder weight loss.
    • Take a look at your food recall. Did you note meals or snacks where the portions were a little large? Did you go out to eat and order an appetizer, entree or dessert?
    • Also note whether or not you stopped measuring portion sizes. Many times if you're following a diet or weighing foods for a diet, you may stop after awhile. This can lead to error in portion sizes and you may end up eating too much.
    • Be very honest regarding portion sizes. It's natural to feel like you're correct in guesstimating what portion size is correct. However, our brains are now wired for bigger portions. Restaurants serve bigger portions, we use bigger plates and even our kitchen cabinets have gotten bigger to accommodate bigger dinner plates.[2]
    • Make notes on your food recall where you think the portions were a little large. Noting what meals or foods you need help measuring will guide you on how to correct your mistakes later on.
    • Even if it might seem tedious to measure every crumb and drop, those crumbs and drops might be accounting for your weight plateau or even your weight gain.
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    Check for increased consumption of high fat foods or sweets. Another very common reason you may be hitting a weight plateau is due to increased snacks or the consumption of treats.
    • After a little bit of weight loss, you start to feel great. As you continue losing you may begin to feel more comfortable having an extra treat or indulging in a higher calorie food. You've earned it right?
    • These little slips can make a big difference by the end of a week or month. If you feel like you've been including more treats and food-related rewards for your weight loss, this may be the cause of your stall.[3]
    • Review your food recall to check to see if you notice some of these food treats popping up more often. You'll need to discontinue this behavior to restart your weight loss.
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    Recheck your calorie math. A common method for weight loss is calorie counting. It helps you track exactly what you take in and what you burn through daily activities and exercise. However, your math may be wrong and be the cause of your weight plateau.[4]
    • Be honest with how well and how accurate your calorie counting is. Just like you may increase your food treats, you may be getting a little sloppy with calorie counting.
    • In addition, note that some calorie counting and fitness apps overestimate how many calories you burn during exercise or daily activities. It's typically not recommended to follow this amount as they have been found to be inaccurate.
    • If you use this to guide how much you're allowed to eat during the day, it could cause a plateau and even a gain eventually.
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    Consider adjusting your total calorie intake. You may also need to adjust your total calorie intake and lower how many calories you aim for every day. Over time and after weight loss, you may need less calories.
    • Although a certain calorie level may have resulted in weight loss initially, that same calorie level may be causing you to plateau later on. After you've lost some weight, your body doesn't need as many calories since there's less weight to move around.[5]
    • You'll need to lower your intake or increase exercise to help account for this adjustment. This helps offset the decrease in metabolism that you've experienced from your weight loss.
    • Try cutting out about 100-200 calories extra daily or increase your exercise to burn off an extra 100-200 calories daily. Reassess to see if this helps restart weight loss.
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    Track your protein. You may be surprised that it's not just calories that are important to weight loss. Protein actually is the most essential nutrient when it comes to weight loss and if you're not eating enough you may hit a plateau.[6]
    • Protein is essential for the normal functioning of your body. However, it specifically helps maintain your energy levels, lean muscle mass and metabolism (your body's calorie-burning engine).
    • If you're cutting calories and portions, you may end up cutting out too much protein. When this happens, your metabolism may slow down and your weight loss will be slowed or halted.
    • Review your food recall and check for adequate protein. Are you having a source of protein at every meal? Are your snacks high protein? You want to aim to have a 3-4 oz serving of protein at every meal and snack to meet your goals.
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    Evaluate your water intake. In addition to tracking foods and snacks on your food recall, you should also be tracking how much fluid you're drinking. Aim for a minimum of 64 oz everyday of clear and hydrating fluids.
    • Water is essential to your health. It helps your body function appropriately and keeps you hydrated throughout the day. If you're not drinking adequate fluids you can become dehydrated very quickly.
    • Even though you may not feel dehydrated, mild dehydration can affect weight loss. Thirst may be confused for feelings of hunger. This may be the cause of those extra snacks or slightly bigger portions you've been having.[7] Also, dehydration can slow down all your metabolic processes and negatively affects your body's ability to use fat for fuel.[8]
    • Although 64 oz or 8 glasses is the typical recommendation, some people may need more fluids. Depending on your age, gender and activity level, you may need 13 glasses of hydrating fluids each day.
    • And remember, sugary or caffeinated beverages do not count towards your daily water goal.[9]

Part 2
Monitoring Your Lifestyle

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    Do an exercise recall. Just like your food recall, you should also consider doing an exercise recall. Being active regularly during your week plays an important role in your weight loss.[10]
    • Take a look back and see how often you actually exercised during the last week or so. Did you skip more often? Was it rainy and you weren't able to go out? Did work get too busy?
    • Many times we want to be hitting the gym or going for a run several times a week, but it may not have been realistic for you. If you skipped more often than normal, this could effect how fast you're losing weight.
    • In addition, as you lose weight, you may need to exercise a little more often or at higher intensities to continue weight loss. If you've been doing the minimum (or even missing a few workouts), this could be the cause of your plateau.
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    Monitor your daily activities. Another source of activity that can affect your weight loss is daily or lifestyle activity.[11] Think about how active you were during the day and how often you moved during the day.
    • Lifestyle or baseline activities are the ones you do on a regular basis or as part of your typical day. Walking to your office or taking the stairs at home are examples of lifestyle activities.
    • Although these activities do not burn many calories, they can add up by the end of the day and have a significant impact. If you haven't been as active or taking as many steps, this may influence your weight loss or cause a plateau.
    • Look back on your exercise recall and think about how often you took extra steps, took the stairs, did household chores (like vacuuming) or parked father away. If you weren't as active during the day, this is an area that you can improve on to restart weight loss.[12]
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    Consider your stress level. Another issue that could be affecting your weight is your stress level. It's natural to have fluctuations in stress, but if you're on the high of end of stress you may notice a weight stall.
    • Stress plays a big role in your weight loss. When you feel stressed, you have increased levels of stress hormones. These can increase your hunger, increase cravings for sugary sweets or high fat foods and make you more tired.[13]
    • These feelings can lead to you sleeping through or skipping a workout, snacking more often or reaching for those not-so-good for you foods.
    • Think about how stress in your life has affected your eating habits or exercise routine. If they have, you may need to make a point to manage your stress more effectively. You could incorporate yoga, breathing exercises, or something creative into your daily schedule.
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    Track how much you're sleeping. Like stress, sleep plays another big role in your weight loss. If you've been skipping those critical hours of sleep, you may notice a weight stall.
    • Studies have shown that those people who get less than 6 hours of rest each night are more likely to be overweight and have a much more difficult time losing weight.[14]
    • Think about how much you've been sleeping lately. Have you been getting the recommended 7-9 hours each night?
    • Also think about the quality of your sleep. You may be in bed for 8 hours, but are you actually sleeping? Do you toss and turn a lot? Are you up watching TV? Are you waking up frequently? These can all affect how much solid sleep you're getting.

Part 3
Taking Actions to Restart Weight Loss

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    Talk to your doctor or dietitian. After evaluating your diet, exercise patterns and lifestyle, it'll be important to try to discern why you're not losing weight. However, if you're having difficulty figuring it out or need help to restart weight loss, talk to your doctor and dietitian.
    • Speak to your doctor about your weight loss efforts and how they've recently stopped. You'll need to let them know how much weight you've lost and how long you've been at a stall.
    • It's especially important to let your doctor know about other health changes. Are you not sleeping well? Are you having more difficulty managing stress? These are things that can affect your weight but your overall health as well.
    • A dietitian may be a good resource for you too. These nutrition and health experts are very familiar with weight loss. They can help you reassess your diet and lifestyle and get you back on track with healthy weight loss.
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    Get consistent with a food and exercise journal. Something that can help prevent weight plateaus or help you correct them is a food and exercise journal. These help you stay accountable and provide you with information if you need to make changes.
    • Studies have shown that those people who track their food and exercise more regularly are able to lose more weight and keep it off longer.[15]
    • Start keeping a pen and paper journal or download a journaling app on your smart phone.
    • Make sure to track most days. It's when you skip multiple days of tracking that you might be making more slip ups.
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    Restart measuring portions. Another important long-term accountability measure is portion control. Make sure to measure most of your portions to help you make sure you're eating the correct amount.
    • Protein is something that's essential to your weight loss. Include a 3-4 oz serving of protein at every meal or snack.[16]
    • Fruits and vegetables, although low in calorie, should also be measured. Measure out 1/2 cup of fruit, 1 cup of vegetables or 2 cups of leafy greens per serving.[17][18]
    • Also measure your grains. Each serving should be about 1/2 cup of cooked grains or about 2 oz.[19]
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    Get consistent with exercise. Regular and consistent exercise is important to weight loss. Make sure you have a regular exercise routine that you're following in addition to abiding by your weight loss diet.
    • Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is great for weight loss. It helps burn calories and helps rev up your metabolism during the day.[20]
    • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity every week. Walking, jogging, cycling, hiking and dancing all count towards this goal.[21]
    • Also include 1-2 days of strength training activities. Aim to workout for 20 minutes and work every major muscle group.
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    Monitor snacks and liquid calories. One common area many people slip up with is through snacks and drinking too many liquid calories. Monitor these constantly to make sure they don't affect weight loss in the future.
    • Snacks can be appropriate when you're losing weight if they're smart, well-timed and calorie controlled.[22]
    • Snacks are something that should only be eaten if you're truly hungry, need a pre workout boost or won't make it to your next meal without becoming overly hungry. Make sure they're 150 calories or less per snack.
    • Liquid calories from sweetened beverages or alcohol can add up quickly. In addition, they don't fill you up so you will continue to eat your normal sized portion on top of this. Stick to water and other sugar-free beverages only.


  • If you are having extreme difficulty managing your weight, talk to your doctor immediately.
  • Note that plateaus during a diet or period of weight loss are normal and to be expected.
  • Keep a journal to help you see where you may be making mistakes with your diet or exercise routine.
  • If you slip up, don't sweat it or try to overcompensate. Get back on track as quickly as possible.
  • Be patient and forgiving with yourself regarding your weight loss. It's a difficult process, but, with time and energy, you can do it!

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Categories: Losing Weight