14 Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight in a Caloric Deficit

Posted on May 10th, 2022 By in Diet and Weightloss Read Time: 25 mins.

Does your diet have you shaking your head? Don’t despair. There are several common (and some not-so-common) reasons why you aren’t losing weight, and today we’ll cover off on how to address them.

Look. Losing weight is HARD. There is no catch-all diet or strategy that works for everyone, 100% of the time.

That’s why inevitably there are some cases (and you may be one of them!) where a dieter might not lose weight right away, despite eating a caloric deficit.

Let’s explore some of the reasons why this can be, and how to adjust your weight loss strategy accordingly.

woman doing push-up workout on a yoga mat in an industrial loft setting
Protein powder is one of the most over-looked weight loss supplements

The first thing to remember if you’ve been unimpressed by the results of your weight loss journey is this:

Almost all of us who have tried to lose weight have experienced the frustration of waiting patiently for the results to start showing, to no avail.

So let’s keep in mind that…

Weight Loss Can be Hard.

Weight loss is much, much more complex than most people make it.

But listen.

When you put in the work to eat less and exercise more, you expect to see progress…

And that’s completely warranted.

When you don’t start seeing the results, it can be downright discouraging – especially if you’re eating to a caloric deficit.

Human beings need positive feedback / positive reinforcement to motivate further progress!

So it you are in that place of discouragement, just know that you are not alone, because you’ve chosen a very complex challenge.

Weight-loss goals are very difficult to achieve, but you will get the results that you deserve, and it will be totally worth it.

So keep learning, and keep pushing.

You got this.

Okay – Pep talk complete!

Let’s dive into some of the nuts and bolts of why you aren’t losing weight.

Common Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight

There are actually quite a few reasons you might not be losing weight – here are some of the most common ones:

  • You’re not actually eating in a calorie deficit 
  • Certain medications/medical conditions
  • Lack of proper recovery/sleep
  • Not working out enough
  • Not doing the right kind of workouts (hint: strength training)
  • Increased appetite
  • Issues with hormones (especially cortisol) 
  • Body-type challenges

These are the top 8 reasons why you may not be losing weight.

Not sure which of them you might be experiencing?

Let’s do a deep dive on each to figure out why your weight loss might have stalled (or failed to ignite in the first place!).

From there, we’ll look at ways to break through these weight loss barriers so that you can start to see real results. 

Here are some of the most common factors that sabotage weight loss.

1. You’re Eating Too Many Calories

The first thing to consider when your weight loss plateaus (or reverses) is whether or not you are actually maintaining a caloric deficit.

The most important factor in weight loss is eating in a calorie deficit — which is simply taking in fewer calories than you are burning through daily activity and exercise. 

If you aren’t losing weight, it might be a sign that you are still eating more calories than you expend.

It sounds simple, but don’t be discourage if this could be the case.

It can be extremely difficult to track the amount of calories and macronutrients that you eat throughout the day.

Calorie/food trackers like MyFitnessPal make it easier to quantify the amount of calories that you are eating.

NOTE: Our APOLLO Protein is listed on MyFitnessPal already since it is a popular weight loss protein.

More on tracking what you eat later.

Now.

While a caloric deficit is required in order to lose weight, It’s important to note that a caloric deficit does NOT mean you’re depriving yourself.

Instead, it’s about watching your portion sizes more closely and counting calories if necessary.

Any caloric deficit should yield weight loss, but the amount of the caloric deficit will determine how much weight you can lose in a month.

The greater the deficit, the greater the amount of weight loss.

But as a general rule of thumb, you will not want to exceed a deficit in excess of 50% of your previous diet.

So if you are eating 2,500 calories per day, eating 1,250 calories per day would likely be excessive, and maybe even dangerous.

Start with a ~20% deficit (so in the 2,500 calorie example, try eating 2,000), and adjust from there.

This will equate to 3500 calories per week — or one pound of fat.

This rate is slow enough to be sustainable but fast enough to quickly see and feel the results. 

If you’re feeling like your calorie deficit strategy is unsustainable, make sure to reach out to your doctor or dietician.

You’re Drinking Too Much Sugar

Soda, flavored coffee drinks, smoothies, milkshakes, energy drinks, alcohol, and sweetened teas are all addictively delicious.

Unfortunately, they’re also packed with empty calories and added sugar that might be derailing your weight loss plan. 

(In fact, I have a slight Boba Tea obsession at the moment that I really need to be careful of!)

Calories from liquids are less filling than solid food, and drinking high-sugar, high-calorie beverages may be throwing you off your calorie deficit.

If you want to get to a healthy weight, it’s important to limit your intake of these sugary drinks. 

If you really want something sweet that isn’t a sugar bomb, try mixing up a UNICO Apollo protein shake!

Our cookies ‘n cream Protein powder, for example, provides dessert-like flavor without the calories.

You Are Eating Too Frequently

Some people swear by eating fewer, smaller meals each day as a weight-loss strategy.

However, studies seem to indicate that meal frequency doesn’t have a huge effect on weight loss.

Remember – it’s more about the total amount of calories than the meal frequency.

If you find that eating small meals frequently throughout the day leaves you feeling hungry and unsatisfied, mix it up.

Eat a few larger meals and see if you feel better and if your weight loss gets back on track.

Dieting can often be a case of trial-and-error, so don’t be afraid to play with meal frequency to find out what works for you.

You Aren’t Eating Mindfully

If you tend to eat your meals in front of the TV or while listening to music, it’s safe to say you’re a bit distracted.

Nutrition, eating habits, and mindfulness — staying present in the moment and avoiding distractions — go hand in hand.

There is a growing body of research connecting mental and physical health.

Improving vagal tone (a determining factor in what puts us in a good mood) can have several physical health benefits.

Believe it or not, the mindset you bring to your meals can even have an impact!

Mindful eating is a technique that helps you slow down and savor your food as you eat.

Mindfulness makes eating an experience instead of a mindless habit — and it’s one of the keys to feeling satisfied after a meal.

Some tips to start eating more mindfully are:

  • Eat with minimal distractions.
  • Slow down and chew slowly.
  • When you feel full, take a break and drink some water.
  • Don’t eat more unless you feel hungry.

Another key to any successful weight loss program involves making sure you stay hydrated.

You Aren’t Drinking Enough Water

Water intake and your overall health go hand-in-hand.

Studies have shown that people who drank a 17-ounce glass of water 30 minutes before a meal lost as much as 44% percent more weight than those who skipped the H20.

So, if you’re in a weight-loss plateau, Try drinking a glass of water before every meal and monitor your daily water intake.

The importance of hydration can’t be under-estimated, whether it is in sports or a weight loss journey.

Try getting your hydration in check and see if that can help push you over the hump.

You might be surprised to find that the unlock for you is simply drinking more water.

You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients when it comes to weight loss, but the fact is that most people don’t know how to use protein powder for weight loss.

Eating a high-protein diet (25-35% of daily calories coming from protein) can lead to massive spikes in metabolism, as protein has a very high thermic effect on food (TEF).

Thanks to its high TEF, protein takes more energy to digest than carbs and fats.

Just by eating more protein, you’ll feel fuller for longer, with fewer calories. 

Keeping you full is just one of the ways that protein helps you lose weight.

But how do you know if you are eating enough protein for weight loss?

If you aren’t eating at least 20% of your daily calorie intake from protein, try changing your ratio.

Replacing some carbs and fats and replacing them with protein-packed foods will help you maintain a caloric deficit.

One solid way to boost protein intake is a daily protein shake or smoothie.

Protein shakes can easily fit into low-calorie diets, and they can help you build muscle mass.

Bored with protein shakes?

Try to mix things up with some creative protein powder recipes to keep things fresh.

You’re Not Keeping Track of What You’re Eating

If you are struggling to continue shedding weight, you may want to consider if you are really keeping track of what you are eating.

And we don’t just mean having a loose idea of what you’re eating on a given day, we mean tracking what you eat.

You have to be aware of what you are eating if you are trying to control your calorie intake.

A few days of writing down or photographing every single thing you eat all day will give you a very clear picture of what you are consuming and how much you are consuming.

Studies indicate that people who are obese tend to underreport their food intake, making their tracking less consistent and accurate.

Maybe you’ll notice that you’re enjoying a mid-day snack every single day, but forget to factor those tiny snacks into your calorie plan for the day!

Every little bit counts and the small things add up quickly – especially when it comes to calories.

But a word of caution; tracking has some negative side effects, like a propensity to make things harder on those with eating disorders.

Remember, this is only a tool and should only be used if it is healthy and works for you.

You do not have to track your calorie intake every day.

Just a few days will give you an idea of what you are eating, and you can make adjustments from there.

You Are Not Consistently Lifting Weights

If you are trying to lose weight and think that means you shouldn’t be lifting weight, think again.

You should be lifting weights when trying to lose weight to promote muscle retention while seeking fat loss.

Building lean muscle is actually the key to burning and losing fat.

Lifting weight and gaining muscle also helps boost your metabolism, which is always useful when trying to lose weight.

Remember – when we say we are trying to ‘lose weight’, what we really intend is that we are trying to lose fat.

Losing muscle may also help you lose weight, but it almost certainly will not give you the physical changes you want to see when trying to lose weight. 

Training hard while eating in a caloric deficit might sound like a recipe for losing muscle mass…

And that’s because it certainly can be, if you’re not careful.

Be sure to eat a meal containing protein within a few hours of your workout.

If you prefer to train fasted, an essential amino acid supplement can help mitigate catabolism (muscle loss) by supplying a stream of rapidly-absorbed aminos.

You Are Not Doing Cardiovascular Exercise

Don’t let our advice to lift weights turn you away from some good old-fashioned cardio.

Not only is cardiovascular exercise is a great way to boost your overall health (especially cardiovascular health), but it also helps you burn calories.

If you are not doing cardio and struggling to keep losing weight, try adding at least three 30 minutes sessions of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week and see what benefits you notice.

You may have also heard of the ‘fat-burning zone’ – which refers to how the body prefers to use fat as it’s primary fuel source at lower intensity levels.

For the best health and weight loss results, consider adding both weights and cardio into your fitness routine.

You Are Too Focused on Short-Term Dieting Instead of Long Term Changes

Everything in fitness, whether it is gaining muscle or losing the extra fat, is a slow, steady, and long-term process.

Making, and committing to long-term lifestyle changes yield more pronounced, sustainable results over short-term detoxes or fad diets. 

Tip: Instead of viewing your weight loss as a ‘diet’, try to view it as a series of lifestyle changes you are making to promote health and quality of life.

Rather than looking at weight loss as your only goal try to break things down into a series of small, measurable goals that can be tracked daily.

Some examples could be:

  • Eating a well-balanced healthy diet
  • Exercising daily (or as often as is appropriate for you)
  • Eating fewer processed sweets

Each of these smaller, measurable goals of their own that should be celebrated and enjoyed. 

Being able to ‘check off’ each of these smaller goals on your list will create positive momentum towards your goal.

It is finding the joy and pleasure in these goals that will ultimately propel you towards the weight loss you are looking for, and it will help you keep the weight off after you’ve reached your target weight.

Maybe You Are Losing Weight and Just Don’t Realize It

This might sound crazy, if the number on the scale stays the same, then you must not be losing weight, right?

Well, technically this is true; maybe you haven’t lost weight. But you may be losing fat. 

As we already mentioned above, when we say we want to lose weight, what we really mean is we want to lose fat.

But your body is made up of a lot of things that aren’t just fat, and those things, like muscle, water, and bone, weigh a lot. 

In fact, muscle actually does weight more than fat.

There are a lot of ways you may have lost fat without losing weight on the scale; maybe your body has extra water retention right now, or maybe you have gained some muscle while losing fat. 

Recommended Reading: How to Get Rid of Bloated Abs

Try measuring your body fat percentage by checking your waist circumference, or monitoring how your clothes fit or how you look in the mirror, in addition to measuring your weight.

These are all ways to measure your progress, and sometimes the scale doesn’t say it all when it comes to your progress.

Be sure to weight yourself at the same time every day to make sure you are getting as accurate a read as possible each day.

You Are Not Getting Enough High-Quality Sleep

If you are like the rest of us, busy schedules, a hectic world, and being pulled in multiple directions probably mean your sleep schedule is not ideal.

And it just might be that your sleep deprivation is keeping you from dropping more pounds. 

In fact, not getting enough sleep is one of the largest risk factors for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even more health issues. 

If the scale stops dropping, make sure you are getting six to eight hours of sleep every night.

Try to stow your phone away for 30 minutes before bedtime and try to create a relaxing sleep environment to promote deep sleep. 

Maintaining healthy and consistent ‘sleep hygiene’ can go a long way in improving sleep quality, which can have a profound impact on your weight loss journey.

You’ve Been in a Calorie Deficit for too Long

If you have been restricting calorie intake for longer than four months, the problem may not be anything you’re doing wrong, just that your body needs a break.

Losing weight puts a lot of stress on your body, and sometimes it just takes time.

Eating in a calorie deficit isn’t easy because your body needs to break down your body fat for energy, and sometimes your body gets tired of having to do this day in and day out.

If you have been eating in a calorie deficit for more than a few months, try increasing your calories to a maintenance level for a month or two to keep your weight stable for this break, and then decrease your calories again.

You will likely find the weight starts falling off as easily as when you first started your diet again after giving your body a short rest. 

You Are Setting Unrealistic Expectations for Yourself

Let’s face it, weight loss is a slow (sometimes agonizingly slow) process.

Losing one to two pounds of fat per week is an incredible starting place, particularly if you are obese, but is likely not sustainable forever.

Even losing one pound a month once you are relatively lean is fast and should be celebrated. 

And at the end of the day, not everyone can look like a fitness model or bodybuilder.

These are often people whose full-time job is fitness — they are paid to maintain the absolute best physical shape that is possible to achieve.

The rest of us just don’t have that luxury, we have families and jobs, friends, other goals and aspirations — and that is a good thing!

Make sure your goals are realistic and healthy.

There is a limit to how much weight you can lose in a month, so make sure you are being realistic with your expectations.

Shedding 10 or 12 pounds is a huge difference, and the lifestyle changes that come with it will make you feel amazing in the long term.

Losing weight can help manage issues such as diabetes and even PCOS.

It’s about you and your own journey, no one else’s, so don’t compare yourself to others and celebrate where you are. 

How to Kick-Start Your Weight-Loss Progress

Now that we have gone over a few of the hiccups and roadblocks that may be keeping you from dropping more weight, here are just a few quick tips to remember to help you stay on track with a healthy diet.

1. Focus on Eating Whole Foods 

Make sure most of your diet is coming from whole foods: fruits, veggies, whole grains, fresh meat and fish, beans, etc. They are delicious and good for you and tend to be nutrient-dense and lower in calories

2. Consider the Right Supplements

Hard-work and consistency will deliver 95% of the weight loss results you earn.

That being said, there are some supplements that can provide an extra boost.

The three most effective supplements for weight loss are:

  1. Fat Burners
  2. Protein Powders
  3. Probiotics

Weight loss supplements like fat burners can be an effective way to help your body burn more calories and mobilize stored body fat.

While fat burners get most of the spotlight, the most important supplement for weight loss may very well be protein powder.

The benefits of protein powder for weight loss are undeniable, as it helps build lean muscle and helps contribute to a caloric deficit.

You can find our protein powders here if you are looking for a delicious, healthy, and science-backed product for your protein shakes.

Another less common supplement that has shown tremendous promise for weight loss are probiotics.

Some of the probiotic strains are better for weight loss than others, so do plenty of research before buying.

3. Stay Active

Remember to get in your exercise.

A few sessions of cardio and a few sessions of resistance training or interval training per week are ideal.

So go for a bike ride or a walk, play with your kids (if you have them!), join a gym, or a local sports league, and keep moving.

Your body will thank you.

4. Don’t Lose Patience

Weight loss takes time.

The most important thing you can do for your health and wellness is not to lose patience.

The changes you make will have massive long-term benefits if you stick with them. 

It isn’t easy, but with support from your family, friends, and us here at UNICO, we believe that there is nothing you can’t achieve.

We have your back with all the supplements and encouragement you need to stay committed to your fitness journey.

You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. 

Sources:

Think before you eat: photographic food diaries as intervention tools to change dietary decision making and attitudes – Abstract | Europe PMC

Self-monitoring in weight loss: a systematic review of the literature | NIH

Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women | NIH

Undereating and underrecording of habitual food intake in obese men: selective underreporting of fat intake | NIH

Metabolic impacts of altering  meal frequency and timing – Does when we eat matter? | NIH

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