The Top 5 Reasons You Aren’t Losing Weight Faster

Not a day goes by that I am not asked this question by a friend, an acquaintance or a client (and I even sometimes ask myself this question in my own head!)

Why can’t I lose weight faster?

We see ads, infomercials and testimonials that claim to have the secret to losing 15-30 pounds quick and easy. Whether it’s Medi-fast, Nutrisystem and Marie Osmond, the Hollywood diet, or some silly cleanse, they all purport to “melt fat without deprivation or exercise”. It’s easy to get lulled in to their BS. But, it’s just that. BS. There is no such thing as quick and easy weight loss ( ie fat loss). There may be quick ways, but they ain’t easy. There may be easier ways, but they ain’t quick.

Quick ways to lose weight:

  • Get a life threatening disease. You’ll lose weight! My first experience with this occurred several years ago when a client suddenly lost 10 pounds over several weeks. She was thrilled. Until she found out she had lung cancer.
  • Lose a limb. Hey, at least you’ll weigh less!
  • Starve yourself. Of course, up to 50% of fast weight loss is water, and another large percentage is muscle tissue, as you cannibalize your own tissue when you are starving. Of course, your metabolism will plummet by several hundred calories a day as well, and like 90% of people who go on drastic weight loss regimens, you’ll gain all the weight back.  And more.
  • Eat 10 hamburgers a day for 2 months, gain a lot of weight, then stop doing that. You’ll lose  weight very fast. Many of the people we lament about losing weight faster than us have horrific nutrition to being with. Good for them for changing this pattern and losing weight! But that’s not the ideal, right?

Obviously, none of these are viable options, and while this is tongue in cheek, the reality is  that QUICK and HEALTHY don’t go hand in hand when it comes to body fat loss. I’m not going to go over the hundreds of studies demonstrating how physically, emotionally and mentally debilitating fast weight/body fat loss can be. Instead, let’s look at several factors you need to consider when you are endeavoring to lose excess body fat.

Here’s my top 5 reasons you aren’t losing body fat faster-

1-You drink too much alcohol. More than 1 drink/day for a woman and more than 2 drinks/day for man will negate all your good efforts. Yes, you can occasionally have alcohol, but if you are taking in 200-400 calories per day in liquid sugar, your body won’t release fat easily. This is my personal #1 issue, so I am well versed in how alcohol is wasted calories. However, a greater caution than a lack of weight loss is the organ damage and inflammation of excess alcohol.  Excess alcohol causes chronic pain, joint inflammation, depression, dependency, lowered metabolism and more. Please pay attention and explore whether this is an issue for you.

2- You don’t strength train.  Or ,you don’t strength train properly. Many women are guilty of this. They may do lots of cardio, but cardio does not change the baseline status of your metabolism like strength training does. Many women pick and choose a few non- energy expending exercises like biceps curls or adductor/abductor machines.  These exercises will never elevate your metabolism nor change your  body shape.  As we age, this becomes even more of an issue, where we lose muscle through an aging process called sarcopenia, and thus our metabolism lowers even more. Muscle drives our metabolism.  You need to work hard in the weight room, relative to your baseline strength. This will change things.

MRI of torso and thigh muscle tissue of average 25 yo women on the left, non-strength training 60 year old woman on the right

3- You really aren’t eating that great. What exactly do you eat every day? Do you know? Do you often eat without awareness or for reasons other than hunger? Are you an emotional eater? In order to plan your fat loss journey, you need to know your baseline eating patterns. But, too many people refuse to do food logs, which I truly believe are the only way to become 100% aware of your patterns. When I say refuse, I mean refuse. As if they are hiding something…. and they often are. If you are not doing a food log, then that just means you may not be serious yet about losing fat. And that’s OK.  When you’re ready, you’ll be ready. One technique I use for clients who hate to do logs, is to have them log only non- nutritive foods like soda, alcohol, chips, cookies, candies etc. You don’t need to write down the salads or nuts or veggies or lean meats, just the other stuff. It is very eye opening, and easier than logging a whole day of food. Do this for a week. If you are taking in 200+ calories/day in junk, omitting this junk will shift you towards fat loss.

4- You don’t have that much weight to lose.  The more weight you have to lose, the faster it comes off initially.  But even those who have a lot of weight to lose will find a significant slow down as they approach ideal weight. ( See comment above about weight loss and metabolic slow down). If you have 5 or 10 pounds of fat to lose, be prepared that it could take you several months to find success, so giving up after 2 weeks is short sighted. BTW, I’ve been trying to lose 5 pounds for 20 years. Crazy isn’t it? Yup. If you only have a few pounds of body fat to lose, and you are struggling and struggling, maybe it’s time to get centered and content, and stop the madness.  Eat for health. Enjoy your food. Avoid non-nutritive and processed foods and live your life and love yourself.

5- You’ve been fooled into thinking it should be easy. The people I know who lose body fat quickly and dramatically do so at a heavy expense…. hours in the gym….perfect (anal) nutrition….Hunger, fatigue, lack of energy and will to live. When you see a woman or man dramatically change their body fat, you must understand how hard- hard- hard they have worked. Is that what you want? If so, then go for it. But if that’s not for you, then cut yourself some slack. Change is best maintained when changes are slow. And permanent. Are you ready to make a permanent commitment? Think it over.

Ultimately, the goal is to lose excess body fat without losing muscle tissue, and do it in a way that allows you to maintain your successes while still living a normal life where you can occasionally have delicious treats. Don’t expect more than 2 pounds a week of true fat loss… and that is A LOT. Any more is not fat, but water or muscle. Track your progress with measurements or the scale, but remember that the scale will vary greatly depending on your digestion, hydration or inflammation.  Look for trends over time, and don’t get caught up in 1 weigh-in, whether it’s good or bad.

Shifting your perspective to one based in truth and reality, with a high dose of self-compassion and awareness, is necessary to do this properly. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Do what works for you, as an individual. And love yourself throughout the process…..because self-loathing never creates habits that lead to permanent change.