Why Am I Not Losing Weight? Here’s Every Possible Reason

Let me guess… you’re doing everything right, but you’re not losing weight?

This is something I hear on a daily basis. Someone will tell me they’re eating better. Or eating healthy. Or eating less. Or eating “right.” Or following some type of diet that’s designed for weight loss.

They may also tell me they’re working out. Maybe cardio. Or weight training. Or both.

And they tell me that despite doing these things, nothing is happening. It’s just not working for them. And that’s when they ask me: why am I not losing weight?

Well, if you’re wondering the same thing, keep reading… because I’m going to show you every single possible cause there is, and how to solve them.

The 3 Categories Of Not Losing Weight

As you’re about see, there are many different reasons for why a person will be in a scenario where they’re eating right and/or exercising but not actually losing any weight.

But the thing is, ALL of those reasons will fall into one of these three categories…

CATEGORY 1: Your Weight Is Being Counterbalanced

This is when a person is successfully losing body fat, but simultaneously gaining some other form of “weight” that counterbalances it and temporarily prevents any progress from showing up on the scale.

So, the person might lose X pounds of fat while gaining X pounds of something else (i.e. water, muscle, glycogen, poop, food, etc.), thus causing their weight to stay exactly the same or sometimes even go up (details here: 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain).

Which means the problem in these cases is that weight loss isn’t happening even though fat loss is. And that’s an important difference.

Causes Include:

CATEGORY 2: You’re Not Properly Tracking Progress

This is another category where the person is successfully losing body fat, only in this case, they don’t actually realize it.

How can that be? Because they’re either A) not accurately measuring their progress, B) not accurately interpreting their progress (or lack thereof), or C) a combination of both… and it’s preventing them from actually seeing that it’s happening.

So, fat loss is taking place like it should be… they’ve just incorrectly concluded that it isn’t.

Causes Include:

CATEGORY 3: You’re Not In A Consistent Caloric Deficit

Unlike the previous two categories, where fat was successfully being lost while a separate issue (gaining some other form of weight or improper tracking) prevented that fat loss progress from being known, this third category is the only one where weight loss isn’t happening because fat loss legitimately isn’t happening.

And that can only mean one thing: the sole cause and requirement of fat loss – a consistent caloric deficit – is NOT in place (whether the person realizes it or not).

What is a caloric deficit, you ask?

Well, there is a certain amount of calories that your body requires each day to maintain its current weight (aka your maintenance level). When you eat more than this amount (aka a caloric surplus), the excess is stored in the form of fat… which results in fat gain. But when you eat less than this amount (aka a caloric deficit), your body burns your stored fat for fuel instead… which results in fat loss. Full explanation here: Calories In vs Calories Out

So, if a person isn’t losing body fat, the only underlying reason is a lack of a consistent deficit. There is literally nothing else it can be.

Causes Include:

Let’s Find Out What Your Cause Is…

With me so far? Cool.

Because no matter who you are, what your diet or workout is, or what any other detail of your individual situation may be, I can promise you that the specific reason for why you’re not losing weight will always fall into one of these three categories.

The only question: what is the specific reason in your case?

Well, you’re going to want to sit back and get comfortable, because it’s time to take a look at every possible reason there is AND how to solve it.

Here… we… go…

1. You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Sodium Than Usual

(Category 1)

Let’s begin with Category 1 causes.

Did you eat more salt than usual? Maybe more salty processed food (junk food, fast food, chips, etc.) than you normally do? Or maybe some otherwise “good” food that just happened to be extra salty (this is especially common when eating out at a restaurant)? Or maybe you just added more salt to your meals than you normally do?

If so, there’s a damn good chance that you’ve gained some temporary water weight, as any meaningful increase in sodium intake will usually lead to a few pounds of temporary water retention, practically overnight.

The good news is that it will subside soon after your sodium intake returns to normal.

But the potential bad news is that there will be a short-term period of time where you might be successfully losing fat BUT NOT losing weight… all because the gain in “water weight” is counterbalancing the loss of “fat weight” on the scale, which will temporarily hide your progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by eating more sodium than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal salt intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

2. You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Carbs Than Usual

(Category 1)

Did you eat more carbs than you normally do? Maybe you’re coming off of a low carb diet? Maybe you’re using some kind of calorie cycling approach that involves eating more carbs on certain days than on others? Maybe you’re doing a refeed? Maybe you’re taking a diet break? Or, most commonly of all, maybe you just “messed up” a little on your diet and unintentionally ate more carbs than you were intending to?

Whatever the reason, you should know that the carbs we eat are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. And for every gram of glycogen being stored, about 3 grams of water are stored along with it.

This means that whenever your carb intake increases by any meaningful amount one day or over the course of many days, a temporary increase in your body weight will occur as a result of some temporary water retention.

This gain in body weight then has the potential to counterbalance any loss of body fat, thereby making your weight stay the same (or potentially even go up) even though progress is still being made.

Just like with sodium, however, this water weight will subside soon after your carb intake returns to normal.

This, by the way, is why people lose a bunch of weight fairly quickly when starting a low carb diet. They will then falsely believe they’re losing a bunch of fat (when it’s really just water/glycogen) and see it as clear proof that it’s carbs (and not calories) that are the key to weight loss.

These people are stupid.

Don’t be like them.

Details here: The Truth About The Low Carb Diet

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by eating more carbs than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal carb intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

3. You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Drinking Enough Water

(Category 1)

Your body will retain water when you consume insufficient amounts of it. This, of course, is for survival purposes.

On the other hand, drinking a sufficient amount of water on a daily basis will have the opposite effect and help to prevent and/or reduce water retention.

Why does this matter? Because if your water intake falls below what it should be, you’re going to start gaining some temporary water weight. And just like the water weight gain caused by sodium or carbs, it has the potential to temporarily hide your true fat loss progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by an insufficient water intake to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, the first obvious step would be to consume enough water each day.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

4. You’re Retaining Water Due To Stress

(Category 1)

Ever hear of the hormone cortisol? We often refer to it as the “stress hormone” because it increases in response to stress.

The reason I’m telling you this is because one of the negative side effects of elevated cortisol levels is water retention. And as you should certainly know by now, one of the problems with water retention is the potential for it to counterbalance the weight of fat being lost.

So, what kind of “stressful” stuff is capable of raising your cortisol levels?

First up, we have all of the usual forms of stress you’re probably already thinking of. Work, school, family, friends, husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, social life and whatever other normal day-to-day obviously stress-inducing problems people experience.

Then there’s a weight-loss-specific subcategory of this type of stress that involves things like freaking out over normal meaningless fluctuations in your body weight (you know, like the kind caused by temporary water retention), freaking out over “messing up,” freaking out about why you’re not losing weight, obsessing about your diet/workout, and whatever else people commonly and unnecessarily drive themselves nuts about in the context of weight loss.

Then there are physical forms of stress, and you’re about to see some examples of that coming up next on this list.

WHAT TO DO:

First and foremost, avoid stress as well as you can. This is easier said than done, I know. But finding ways to at least minimize whatever stress you have in your life and/or finding better ways of dealing with that stress is the only true solution.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

5. You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Sleeping Enough

(Category 1)

Insufficient sleep has a negative effect on damn near everything, including hormones. From lowering testosterone, to increasing ghrelin, to reducing leptin, to… you guessed it… increasing cortisol.

And with that increase in cortisol comes the potential for water retention. And with that, the potential for water weight to temporarily hide your fat loss progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Sleep 7-9 hours a night. I cover some recommendations for how to do that here: How To Fall Asleep Fast And Sleep Better Through The Night

6. You’re Retaining Water Due To Too Much Exercise

(Category 1)

Most people who are trying to lose weight will incorporate some form of exercise into their program. This is a good thing.

Whether it’s weight training for the purpose of building muscle, weight training for the purpose of maintaining muscle while losing fat, cardio for the purpose of burning calories, or whatever the hell else… it’s always a good thing.

Unless you’re doing excessive amounts of it.

Then it’s a bad thing.

Among the many things that makes too much exercise “bad” (e.g. exceeding your capacity to recover, not making progress, losing progress, injuries, etc.) is that it leads to elevated cortisol levels. Exercise is a physical form of stress, after all, and the more excessive it is in terms of how much you’re doing, how often you’re doing it, and/or how intense it is… the more stressful it will be.

And with that stress comes elevated cortisol levels, which leads to water retention, which leads to the potential for it to counterbalance the loss of body fat.

This is one of a few reasons (the others will be coming shortly) for how a person can be in a scenario where they’re doing TONS of exercise (usually cardio) but yet not losing any weight. Their cortisol levels are simply through the roof, and they’re retaining a shitload of water.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t do excessive amounts of exercise. For weight training, when weight loss is the goal, I recommend no more than 3-4 workouts per week. For cardio… I recommend doing the least amount necessary to end up in your required caloric deficit. Details here: How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight?

7. You’re Retaining Water Because You’ve Been In A Caloric Deficit For Too Long

(Category 1)

The actual act of losing fat (or, more accurately, the caloric deficit it requires) represents a large form of stress to the body. After all, a caloric deficit is an energy deficit, and fat loss itself is your body using its backup energy stores to keep you alive and functioning.

Not to mention, you’re body can’t tell the difference between you eating a little less because you’re trying to look better naked, or because you’re about to starve to death. So, it responds the same way to both.

Which is all to say that there is quite a bit of physical stress involved in the weight loss process, which is why cortisol goes up during this time.

And the longer this stressful, calorie-deficient state lasts (and the leaner and leaner you get in the process), the higher your cortisol levels go.

Why does this matter? Because the more time you spend in a deficit losing weight, the more water retention you will likely experience… which increases the likelihood of your fat loss progress being temporarily hidden at some point.

WHAT TO DO:

Instead of going months and months in a consistent caloric deficit, use refeeds and/or diet breaks to periodically pause your deficit and go back up to your maintenance level (or a small surplus) to help minimize the amount of water retention that occurs and get rid of whatever water weight you’re already holding (this is the infamous “whoosh effect” …aka a sudden loss of water weight that comes about by bringing your cortisol levels back down to normal after a period where they were elevated). The full details of how to properly use refeeds and diet breaks are covered in my Superior Fat Loss program.

8. You’re Retaining Water Because Your Deficit Is Too Large

(Category 1)

This goes back to what I just mentioned a second ago, which is that cortisol levels increase as a result of any prolonged deficit.

However, this increase (and the water retention that accompanies it) will be more significant the more excessive your deficit is… to the point where it can temporarily hide your fat loss progress on the scale. (Fun Fact: this is one of the handful of true causes behind the “starvation mode” myth. I’ll be fully covering it/destroying it a bit later. Stay tuned.)

And just in case it needs to be mentioned, this water retention is one of the MANY problems associated with excessively low calorie diets (additional details here: The 1200 Calorie Diet Plan) and/or excessively high amounts of exercise.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your deficit any larger than it truly needs to be. I recommend eating the largest amount of calories possible that still produces a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss. For most, this means creating a deficit of 10-25% below your maintenance level. Details here: How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

9. You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Supplements

(Category 1)

The most popular water-retention-causing supplement that comes to mind is creatine, as it can cause anywhere from 0-5 lbs of water weight gain during its initial month of usage.

This number may be higher if you do the unnecessary high dose loading phase, lower if you don’t, and there could potentially be none whatsoever if you’re a non-responder. (Details here: The Ultimate Guide To Taking Creatine)

Although, if you’re taking creatine, you typically want and/or don’t care that this water retention happens (water is retained in the muscle cells, potentially making those muscles look a tiny bit bigger/fuller/better). So, unlike everything else on this list, it’s not exactly unwanted water retention.

However, it is still something that has the potential to temporarily counterbalance the weight of fat being lost, which makes it something worth mentioning.

WHAT TO DO:

Research the supplements you’re taking, learn what their side effects may be, and be aware that some (especially creatine) may cause enough water retention to temporarily hide your fat loss progress.

10. You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Medical Conditions And/Or Medications

(Category 1)

Certain medical conditions and medications are capable of causing edema (the medical term for water retention) as a symptom or a side effect. I don’t really have much more to add here, as this is a topic that you’d have to discuss with your doctor to know anything for sure.

What I will say, though, is that any water retention taking place for this reason has the same potential to hide true fat loss progress as any other cause of water weight gain.

WHAT TO DO:

Discuss any potential medical issues/symptoms you may experiencing with your doctor, as well as any medications you may be taking or considering taking.

11. You’re Retaining Water Due To Your Monthly Period

(Category 1)

Guys, you can probably skip this one.

But ladies? There is no more potentially significant or longer lasting cause of water retention than your monthly menstrual cycle.

While the degree of water weight gain experienced can vary quite a bit from one woman to the next and even one period to the next, it’s not uncommon to see a gain as low as a couple of pounds to as high as 10lbs… strictly from water.

And numbers like that come with a HUGE likelihood for counterbalancing (or exceeding) the weight of fat being lost… which can temporarily hide your progress. And this fun scenario will then repeat itself every month, over and over again.

WHAT TO DO:

First, instead of being confused, surprised or discouraged when it happens, women should expect to see some water retention each month at around the same. In fact, I recommend tracking it so you have a good idea of what to expect and when to expect it.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks (for women, I’d maybe even give it 4-5 weeks for this very reason) rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

12. You’re Constipated And Not Pooping As Much As You Should Be

(Category 1)

Guess what? Water isn’t the only thing we can “retain.”

If your poop isn’t coming out of you like it ideally should be, that means it’s still in you. And since poop weighs something, you can expect your body weight to increase to some extent as a result of this. And that “weight” gain is capable of temporary counterbalancing your fat loss.

The good news is that when you fix whatever is causing this constipation and return to normal pooping, the weight gain it caused will magically vanish (via a slightly different kind of “whoosh”).

WHAT TO DO:

Fix your diet. The best place to start would be by consuming a sufficient amount of fiber each day (10-17 grams for every 1000 calories you eat is a good place to start) through eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, wheat, oats, and so on. Drinking a sufficient amount of water each day would be another good move, as would just generally eating less crap and more higher quality nutrient-dense foods. In addition, getting enough sleep and reducing stress will help, too.

13. You Ate A Larger Volume Of Food Than Usual

(Category 1)

When it comes to weight gain and weight loss, we only focus on the calories and macronutrients a food contains.

In terms of FAT gain and FAT loss, this is how it should be. But when it comes to the issue of temporary WEIGHT loss and WEIGHT gain, there’s one thing people tend to not realize: food itself weighs something.

Which means, if you eat more food today than you typically eat, you will likely weigh a little more tomorrow simply as a result of having additional food in your stomach waiting to be digested.

It doesn’t even have to be “bad” food or high calorie food. It can be anything, really… including vegetables. And you don’t even have to go over your intended calorie intake for it to happen.

All it takes is eating a “heavier” amount of food than you usually eat. That’s it. It’s just the weight of additional food in your body that hasn’t been digested yet. The more your food weighs, the more you’ll temporarily weigh after eating it (but no, it will not be a 1:1 ratio).

As the digestion process begins to take place, this “food weight” will begin to disappear.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary weight gain caused by eating a larger volume of food than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal food intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

14. You Drank More Water Than Usual

(Category 1)

So… take everything I just said about eating more food than usual leading to temporary weight gain and apply it to drinking more water than usual. The same kinda thing happens.

It’s just the (temporary) weight of additional water in your body that hasn’t been excreted yet.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary weight gain caused by drinking more water than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal fluid intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

15. You’re Gaining Muscle

(Category 1)

There are two important points I need to make here.

Point #1

The first is that if you are weight training properly for the purpose of building muscle (and eating sufficiently to support it), then the possibility exists for building muscle while losing fat.

And, since muscle weighs something, that means there is definitely some degree of potential for this gain in muscle to counterbalance the loss of body fat… thus temporarily hiding your fat loss progress.

Point #2

The second point I need to make is that this potential is smaller than most people think.

This is ironic, considering how often I see people say they haven’t been losing any weight for weeks (or months) at a time at which point someone will suggest “you’re probably just building muscle” and “muscle weighs more than fat” or something similar.

Yeah… it’s not quite that simple.

Why? Because muscle growth is slow as hell.

How slow? The average person can often lose an amount of body fat PER WEEK that is equal to (or in some cases, exceeds) the amount of muscle they can build PER MONTH. For example, the average intermediate man might be able to gain 1lb of muscle per month. The average intermediate woman might be able to gain half that. (Details here: How Much Muscle Can You Gain?)

AND, that’s under the best possible circumstances.

Meaning, the person’s primary goal is to build muscle as fast as possible, and they’re in a caloric surplus to make it happen. In this case, however, the person’s primary goal is to lose fat, and they’re in a caloric deficit to make it happen.

That makes this scenario the opposite of ideal for maximizing muscle growth, so much so that it can often prevent many intermediate and advanced trainees from gaining any truly significant amount of muscle at all during this time.

Which is to say that any muscle gains that ARE taking place in a deficit will be significantly slower and lesser than the already-painfully-slow rate that muscle gains would otherwise happen at.

But yet so many people – especially those who aren’t even training properly for muscle growth in the first place (hello ladies doing useless light weight, high rep “toning workouts”) – are quick to assume this is the reason for their lack of weight loss.

Sorry, but the reality is that if weeks and weeks (or months and months) are passing and you’re not losing any weight at all, and you think it’s solely due to building muscle at a rate that consistently equals and completely offsets your rate of fat loss… you’re probably wrong.

Now, I’m definitely not saying it’s impossible for muscle growth to ever temporarily balance out the weight of fat loss.

This scenario CAN and DOES happen, especially in certain ideal short-term situations (complete beginners, people regaining lost muscle, etc.) as well as when someone is purposely trying to do a “recomp” (aka very slowly losing fat and building muscle without much change to their overall body weight, usually involving some sort of cyclical deficit/surplus setup).

But for the typical person that’s in this “I’m doing everything right but not losing weight” scenario? And for a consecutive number of weeks at a time? It’s highly unlikely.

Chances are much greater that your rate of fat loss will end up exceeding your rate of muscle growth at some point during this time frame, thus causing SOME net loss of body weight to occur.

Having said all of that, gaining muscle is still worth mentioning in this article because it can certainly contribute to the total amount of “weight” a person might be gaining in conjunction with other forms of “weight.” And when that’s all combined together, it then has the potential to temporarily balance out the weight of fat being lost.

WHAT TO DO:

Eh, nothing. Gaining muscle is almost always something we WANT to happen, so it’s a welcome improvement rather than a problem that needs solving. You should still be aware that muscle growth can play some role in hiding (or simply lessening) a person’s true fat loss progress, especially when combined with other forms of more significant weight gain that may also be taking place (e.g. water retention, constipation, the weight of food, etc.).

Weighing yourself correctly (as previously described in this article), properly tracking your progress, and tracking more than just your body weight (more about that in a bit) will help, too.

16. You’re Pregnant

(Category 1)

Guys, there’s a really good chance you can skip this one.

But ladies? If there happens to be another human growing inside of you, there’s a strong possibility that it will counterbalance the weight of any fat loss taking place.

So, yeah. Feel free to take a pregnancy test if you think this could be the case.

WHAT TO DO:

Sorry… you’re kinda on your own with this one. Congrats, by the way.

17. You’re Comparing Your Day-To-Day Weight

(Category 2)

Welcome to Category 2, which is when a person IS losing fat, but they’re tracking their progress in a manner that prevents them from realizing it. Here’s the first example of this…

If you’re weighing yourself daily and interpreting what your weight is doing entirely by comparing one day to the next… you’re doing it wrong.

We just spent the first part of this article going over the many different causes of normal, temporary and (in most cases) completely meaningless body weight fluctuations that are regularly caused by anything from water retention to poop.

By focusing on how your weight changes from one day to the next, you’re letting these types of short-term fluctuations trick you into thinking you’re not losing fat (or are potentially gaining some) when, in reality, you may very well be losing it just fine.

This is a terrible way to track your progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Weigh yourself every day, but DO NOT compare the day-to-day changes. It’s largely, if not entirely, just meaningless short-term fluctuations that have nothing to do with any losses or gains of actual body fat. Instead, calculate your average weight for the week, and then ONLY compare weekly averages from one week to the next over a period of at least 3-4 weeks to minimize the impact of these types of temporary changes and better determine what your weight is legitimately doing.

18. You’re Tracking Your Weight For Less Than 3-4 Consecutive Weeks

(Category 2)

If it’s been a few days, or a week, or even 2-3 weeks where you haven’t been losing weight… it doesn’t mean you’re not losing fat.

The types of weight-counterbalancing issues we’ve already covered in this article are capable of lasting for more than a few days. Sometimes even for a week. In certain cases, they can potentially even last for a couple of weeks or more.

For this reason, if you conclude that you’re not losing fat based on the fact that you haven’t lost weight for a period of time shorter than 3-4 weeks… you might be wrong.

This is simply too short of a time frame to accurately gauge what your weight is truly doing.

WHAT TO DO:

Be patient! Always wait until you have at least 3-4 consecutive weeks of accurate weekly body weight averages to compare before concluding that you’re not losing any fat, or worrying that something is wrong, or rushing to make 100 changes to your diet or workout that you may not actually need to make.

19. You’re Weighing Yourself At Different Times Or Under Different Conditions

(Category 2)

I have a few questions for you. Are you the kind of person who…

  • Sometimes weighs themselves in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at night, or sometimes just randomly throughout the day?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before eating or drinking, and sometimes after eating or drinking?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before peeing or pooping, and sometimes after peeing or pooping?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before their workout, and then again after their workout?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves while naked, and sometimes while wearing clothes?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves on their own scale at home, and sometimes using the scale at the gym?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves in their bathroom, and sometimes in some other room or in some other spot (even just a different part of the same bathroom)?

If so – or if you do anything remotely similar – you are doing somewhere between a “poor job” and an “absolutely terrible job” of accurately tracking your fat loss progress. All you’re really tracking here are completely meaningless changes that couldn’t be more useless (or counterproductive) for determining if you’re actually losing body fat or not.

WHAT TO DO:

Consistency is key. Weigh yourself the same way every day. Do it first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, on the same scale, in the same spot, wearing the same amount of clothing, and do it after peeing (maybe after pooping too if you’re someone who consistently poops this soon after waking up)… and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks. Ignore day-to-day (or hour-to-hour/minute-to-minute) changes.

20. You’re Not Weighing Yourself Daily

(Category 2)

A lot of people weigh themselves once a week and compare it to what they weighed on the same day of the previous week. Others will do the same thing, but just once a month. And others will randomly pick a day here and there and compare to the previous random day they happened to weigh themselves.

While there are some situations when weighing yourself less frequently may be worth considering (details here: How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?), this sort of thing comes with significant accuracy issues.

For example, let’s say you weigh yourself once a week, on every Friday. What if next Thursday, you eat more sodium or carbs than you normally do? Or maybe you were constipated? Or something similar?

You’re going to end up weighing some degree more on Friday morning.

Now, if you’re weighing in daily and taking the weekly average, this won’t be much of an issue.

But if you’re weighing in just once a week and interpreting your progress based on what your weight is doing on that one specific dayyou’re going to think you didn’t lose any weight (or you maybe even gained some) despite the fact that you might have successfully lost fat that week.

WHAT TO DO:

Weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

21. You’re Only Tracking Your Body Weight

(Category 2)

Tracking what our body weight is doing is a good, fast, easy and convenient way of tracking what our body fat is doing.

But, if there’s one thing that should be pretty clear by this point in this article… it’s that tracking our body weight is far from perfect, because so many other non-fat forms of “weight” are capable of throwing things off.

This doesn’t mean we should abandon weighing ourselves on a scale as a means of tracking progress. It just means that we shouldn’t rely on it as the sole means of tracking progress.

WHAT TO DO:

In addition to weighing yourself properly, taking measurements every 1-2 weeks, taking progress pictures every month, and paying some attention to how your clothes fit would be helpful for improving fat loss tracking accuracy as much as realistically possible.

22. You Have Unrealistic Expectations

(Category 2)

We all want to lose weight fast, and the weight loss world is filled with claims and proof that it can supposedly happen.

  • We’ve all seen the fat burning pills and supplements that claim to help us “Lose 10 Pounds Of Fat In A Week… Without Exercise!”
  • We’ve all seen the magazines, articles and various forms of advertising that say stuff like “Learn How To Melt Away 20lbs Of Belly Fat Over Night!” or “Get The Sexy Six-Pack Abs Of Your Dreams In Just 3 Weeks!” or “The Secrets To Torching 30lbs Of Stubborn Body Fat In Just 7 Days!”
  • We’ve all seen the before and after pictures of people who claim to have lost VERY significant amounts of fat in VERY short periods of time… and they swear it’s all totally real and legit.
  • We’ve all seen the products and programs guaranteeing “FAST weight loss,” “QUICK weight loss” and “RAPID weight loss.”
  • We’ve all seen celebrities make impressive and surprisingly sudden changes to their bodies (often losing a ton of fat and gaining a ton of muscle) for their upcoming role in some movie.
  • We’ve all seen the “natural” bodybuilders and fitness competitors (male and female) who have gotten extremely lean impressively fast.
  • We’ve all seen that person somewhere (on the Internet, on social media, in a magazine, wherever) lose fat faster than most people do and claim it’s purely a result of their “special” workout or “special” diet or “special” method or “special” product, and you too can get those same amazing results as long as you do the same “special” thing they supposedly did.

This all seems great, except for one tiny thing: the vast majority is bullshit, and it creates an illusion of unrealistic results which leads to unrealistic expectations.

And one of the many problems with having unrealistic expectations is that is makes otherwise logical people think highly illogical things about their own progress.

For example, here’s a slightly exaggerated version of a conversation I’ve had many times and talked about before

Person: I’ve hit a plateau. I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.
Me: How long have things been stalled?
Person: About one month.
Me: So you haven’t lost any weight at all in a month?
Person: I lost maybe 3lbs this month if I’m lucky.
Me: So then you have lost weight?
Person: Well, if you want to get technical about it, then I guess so. But it’s only 3 pounds so it just doesn’t seem like anything.
Me: First, depending on how much fat you have to lose, 3lbs lost in a month can actually be considered great progress. Second, it shows that you ARE losing weight. And third, can you hear that sound? That’s me banging me head against my desk.

See what happened here? A person makes what would be considered for many people to be solid, realistic progress, and it registers to them as making no progress at all.

Why? Most often because they assumed they were going to lose 5lbs per day or 20lbs every week or get a six pack overnight or whatever other unrealistic garbage they’ve been brainwashed into believing.

And so you end up in a scenario like this, where a person actually sees they’ve lost weight but still comes away wondering why they’re not losing weight. Logical? Not at all. But that’s just one of the side effects of having unrealistic expectations.

WHAT TO DO:

Ignore all of this nonsense, and base your expectations in reality. For most people, that means expecting to lose somewhere between 0.5-2lbs per week. The lower end (0.5-1lb per week) tends to be most ideal for people who have less fat to lose. The higher end (2lbs per week, sometimes a little more) tends to be ideal for those who have a lot of fat to lose. The average person who falls somewhere in between tends to do best with something in the middle (1-2lbs per week).

23. You’re Not Doing What Needs To Be Done

(Category 3)

At this point, all of the reasons we’ve covered involve scenarios where a person IS successfully losing fat, but some other factor – A) gaining some other form of “weight” that is counterbalancing the fat being lost, or B) tracking progress in a manner that prevents it from being seen – is making them think they aren’t.

Now it’s time for Category 3… which is when the reason for a person’s lack of weight loss is a legitimate lack of fat loss.

And as I explained earlier, this could only mean one thing: they are not in a consistent caloric deficit.

So, what causes this scenario?

It all comes down to two forms of noncompliance that I prefer to call known and unknown

1. Known Noncompliance

This is when a person is eating more calories and/or burning fewer calories than they need to be for a consistent deficit to exist… and they know it.

They know they’re overeating. They know they’re missing workouts. They know they’re simply not doing what needs to be done.

Why does this happen? For any or all of the usual reasons. A lack of motivation. An over-reliance on motivation. A lack of consistency. A lack of self-control. General laziness. An inability to form the necessary habits. Using an unsustainable dietary approach that conflicts with personal preferences. And so on.

Whatever it is, the person knows they are failing to comply with the requirements of their diet and/or workout, and that’s preventing a deficit from consistently being present.

And that lack of deficit? That’s what’s preventing them from losing weight. Simple as that.

2. Unknown Noncompliance

This is when the same sort of thing happens (the person is eating more and/or burning less than they need to be for a deficit to exist), but, in this case… they don’t actually know it.

Rather, they THINK they’re “doing everything right” for fat to be lost, but in reality, they are unknowingly making a mistake somewhere that’s causing them to not actually be doing everything right after all.

How does this happen? Good question, and the answers to it are coming up next on this list.

WHAT TO DO:

It varies. For most forms of known noncompliance, using a more sustainable approach to diet/exercise, creating proper habits, and simply finding the discipline needed for you to do what needs to be done is what’s usually the solution. This is easier said than done, I know. But it’s a big part of what my Superior Fat Loss program was created to help you do. Feel free to check it out.

As for the many forms of unknown noncompliance… keep on reading.

24. You’re Doing Things That Don’t Actually Cause Fat Loss

(Category 3)

A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. Always has been, always will be. This is a scientifically proven fact.

However, some people either aren’t aware of this fact, or they’ve somehow come to believe that some other “thing” is what really causes fat loss.

The problem with this is that these people will then go on to do these other “things” – all while assuming they are the RIGHT things – and fail to lose fat.

They’ll then conclude “I’m doing everything right but I’m not losing weight.”

Except… they aren’t.

In reality, they are doing the wrong things, or things that don’t actually cause fat loss… and those things don’t work. That’s why they’re not losing weight.

They just don’t know it.

So, for example, instead of focusing on creating a caloric deficit, they may be focused on…

Now, sure, these are things that can potentially help a person indirectly get into a caloric deficit. But, in and of themselves, not a single thing on that list actually causes fat to be lost, because not a single thing on that list is guaranteed to make that deficit exist.

Why? Because regardless of the type of non-calorie-based rules and restrictions a person employs, it’s always going to be possible for that person to out-eat them. So while greatly restricting or completely eliminating this, this and that should hypothetically make it harder for someone to eat more calories than they should be, it certainly doesn’t make it impossible (e.g. removing all of the “bad” foods isn’t guaranteed to prevent a person from simply overeating “good” foods instead).

But many people don’t realize this.

And so they unknowingly end up doing things that can be classified as myth-based, or unnecessary, or insignificant, or just flat out bullshit… instead of focusing on total calories. And then they don’t lose weight. And then they’re confused by it, and rightfully so. After all, they think they’re doing the things that need to be done for fat to be lost. They think they’re doing everything right.

But they aren’t.

Instead, they’re doing a bunch of other things – some good, some bad, some unnecessary, some stupid – that don’t actually cause weight loss.

It’s the equivalent of someone saying “I got in my car, locked the doors, put on my seat belt, adjusted my mirrors, rolled down the window and turned on the radio… but I still didn’t arrive at my destination.”

Yeah, no shit.

You never actually drove anywhere. You just did a bunch of other things – some of which could potentially be beneficial – but none of which actually involve directly doing the primary thing you need to be doing.

So the next time you think “I’m eating healthy” or “I’m avoiding junk food” or “I’m cutting out carbs” (or whatever else) “but I’m not losing weight,” please realize that the thing you’re doing to lose weight in these cases is NOT what actually makes weight loss happen.

That’s always going to come down to calories in vs calories out.

WHAT TO DO:

The key to losing weight is being in a consistent caloric deficit. Above all else, THAT is the thing you need to make happen. Everything else is secondary in comparison. Full details here: What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight?

25. You’re Underestimating How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Now let’s say a person fully understands that a caloric deficit is the key, and they’ve adjusted their diet/workout to make sure that deficit exists.

And they know for sure it exists.

But yet… they’re still not losing weight. What’s the problem?

Simple. You know the deficit they know for sure exists? It doesn’t actually exist.

You're not in a caloric deficit.

Instead, the person is unknowingly making a mistake somewhere that is causing them to eat more calories than they think they are. This sort of thing is seen ALL THE TIME, including in a variety of studies (sources: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

How does it happen, you ask?

The first common way is by underestimating how much is being eaten.

Some people underestimate the quantity of food they consume (like thinking they ate 1 serving when they really ate 2 or more), while others underestimate the amount of calories it contained (like thinking a meal was 500 calories when it was really 1000). Some underestimate both. This is something nutritionists and diet professionals see over and over again to shocking degrees of significance. In fact, one study showed that people trying to lose weight underestimated their calorie intake by an average of 47%… which is huge.

And that alone can easily prevent a person from being in the deficit they swear they are in.

WHAT TO DO:

Double and triple check the accuracy of your calorie intake. Then check it again. And then again. If you’re not already doing so, use some type of diet tracking app (e.g. MyFitnessPal) to closely track everything you’re eating. Consider it a requirement. And then check the accuracy of your calorie intake again. And again. And hey, what’s that over there?!? It’s me telling you to check it again.

26. You’re Miscalculating How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Another common (and related) way that people end up eating more calories than they think they are is by making mistakes while tracking their diet.

More specifically, people often screw up during the serving-size-measuring process and take significantly more food than they think they’re taking.

It happens all the time, especially when using measuring spoons/measuring cups or just “eyeballing it” and taking your best guess.

This old (and slightly overdramatic) video from Leigh Peele shows how easily it can happen.

WHAT TO DO:

Get yourself a digital food scale and weigh out as much of your food/meals as you can to ensure that your serving sizes are exactly what you’re intending for them to be.

27. You’re Under-Reporting How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Then you have people who simply don’t count all of the calories they eat, usually because they think they didn’t need to in certain cases.

What kind of cases, you ask?

  1. Some people are under the impression that there are special “free foods” they can eat unlimited amounts of and not count. Maybe certain clean foods, or healthy foods, or superfoods, or negative calorie foods, or something similar. As if they contain magical calories. Spoiler: they don’t.
  2. Then there are those that eat “tiny” amounts of food here and there and assume it’s so insignificant that they don’t even need to bother counting it (aka “bites, licks and tastes“). In reality, these “I-didn’t-even-realize-it” calories can add up pretty quickly. This video from Sohee Lee shows a slightly exaggerated (but still laughably realistic) example of this…
  3. In addition, some people simply forget what (or how much) they ate and end up accidentally not counting it for that reason alone, while others flat-out lie about how much they’re truly eating because they’re too embarrassed to admit it (even to themselves).

Whichever the case may be, the end result is the same: a person ends up eating more calories than they think they are (or claim to be), and no deficit exists… which is why they’re not losing weight.

Overeating due to under-reporting, miscalculating or underestimating.
Overeating due to under-reporting, miscalculating or underestimating.
WHAT TO DO:

Count everything, including the seemingly insignificant things you assume you don’t need to count. Count it anyway.

28. You’re Overestimating How Many Calories You’re Burning

(Category 3)

In addition to underestimating how many calories we’re eating, another lovely thing us humans do is overestimate how many calories we’re burning.

Studies show this to be similarly significant, like this one, which saw subjects overestimate calories burned via exercise by an average of 51%… which is huge.

So what happens here is that a person will do some form of exercise – typically cardio – and assume they burned “tons of calories.” The problem is, no form of cardio truly burns anything resembling “tons of calories.” In fact, typical forms of cardio done at typical intensities may only burn 7-10 calories per minute for the average person.

But yet people will finish their 30-minute jog on the treadmill and think they burned 1000 calories.

Can you hear that? That’s me laughing.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, there’s often a “reward mentality” that kicks in, giving people the false mindset that they can now allow themselves to eat extra calories since they supposedly burned “so many” while exercising.

They then proceed to cancel out whatever smaller amount of calories they did burn (and then some), and then wonder why they’re not losing weight despite “working out all the time.”

WHAT TO DO:

In the specific context of burning calories for the purpose of losing fat, a form of exercise like cardio – while certainly a useful tool – is a highly overrated and inefficient means of creating a caloric deficit. It burns significantly fewer calories than most people think, hope or incorrectly assume it does. This is something that you need to take into account to ensure you’re being as accurate as possible when estimating how many calories you’re truly burning.

29. You ARE In A Caloric Deficit… Some Of The Time

(Category 3)

Here’s a scenario where a person will legitimately be eating/burning the right amount of calories for a deficit to exist… but only some of the time.

The rest of the time? They’ll be overeating to a degree that puts them in a caloric surplus large enough to cancel out whatever deficit they created, thereby putting them at maintenance (or sometimes even a net surplus) in the end.

And when you’re at maintenance instead of in a deficit… you don’t lose weight.

This kind of thing can happen all sorts of ways.

For example, from one day to the next (so a person might be in a 500 calorie deficit on Monday but then in a 500 calorie surplus on Tuesday… breaking even in the end). Or one week to the next (they might have a total weekly deficit of 3500 calories one week and a total weekly surplus of 3500 calories the next… breaking even in the end). Or countless other versions of this same thing, some of which you’ll see next on this list.

So, basically, the issue here is that the person is indeed in a caloric deficit, just not consistently enough or long enough for it to actually work.

WHAT TO DO:

Consistency is key. If you’re not in a caloric deficit consistently enough for it to work, it won’t. So, make sure you are.

30. You’re Overeating Because Your Calorie Intake Is Unnecessarily Low

(Category 3)

Now for a slightly more specific example of the previous reason, and one that I see happen all the time.

That is when a person knows they need to eat less in order to lose weight, but they attempt to eat A LOT LESS.

As in… unnecessarily less, or excessively less, or in some cases, dangerously less.

So instead of going with a commonly recommended moderate deficit (e.g. 10-25% below their maintenance level) and losing weight at a moderate pace, they decide to attempt a very low calorie diet (e.g. 500-1200 calories per day) or really just any larger-than-necessary deficit so they can lose weight as fast as possible.

This sort of thing comes with a ton of potential health problems (both mental and physical), but that’s a subject for another article.

The one problem I want to focus on here is why deficits this big don’t actually work. And no, it’s not because of “starvation mode.” Again, I’ll be covering/destroying that myth a little later.

Rather, it’s because diets that are unnecessarily low in calories are not sustainable… even in the short term. So what happens is that the person may legitimately eat the excessively low amount they’re intending to – some of the time – but then overeat/binge enough at other times to cancel out the excessive deficit they created, thereby putting them at maintenance (or sometimes even a surplus) in the end.

Here’s an example.

Let’s pretend we have a woman with a maintenance level of 2100 calories. If she created a typical moderate deficit, she’d eat somewhere between 1600-1700 calories per day. However, she decides to overly restrict herself and eat 1200 calories instead. Here’s what often happens next…

Bingeing due to a low calorie diet.
Bingeing due to an unnecessarily low calorie diet.

The person in this example IS successfully eating 1200 calories a day like they intended to/claim to be… but only 4 out of the 7 days.

On the other 3 days day, the extreme hunger that is caused by an unnecessarily low calorie diet like this is making them overeat/binge to a degree that wipes out any deficit created on the other days… thereby putting them at their maintenance level for the week and preventing weight loss from happening.

This – among other reasons already covered on this list (e.g. underestimating, miscalculating, under-reporting, etc.) – is one of the ways you get people saying they’re “eating 500-1200 calories a day but not losing weight.”

Even better, imagine that the binge days in this example went even higher in calories. That’s how you get people saying they’re “eating 500-1200 calories a day but somehow gaining weight.

There’s no “somehow” involved here. It’s just simple math and the fact that very low calorie diets are going to make you hungry as hell, and you’re eventually going to act on it.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your deficit any larger than it truly needs to be. I recommend eating the largest amount of calories possible that still produces a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss. For most, this means creating a deficit of 10-25% below your maintenance level. Details here: How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

31. You’re Overeating Because Your Diet Is Unnecessarily Restrictive

(Category 3)

Here’s a slightly different (but very closely related) version of the previous scenario. Only, in this case, it’s not the person’s calorie intake that is unnecessarily restrictive, it’s their diet itself and the manner in which they are creating their deficit.

Let me explain.

You see, if you’re creating your caloric deficit by using a diet that you hate… one that places a bunch of unnecessary rules and restrictions on you that don’t suit your personal needs and preferences… guess what’s going to happen? You’re not going to stick to that diet. At least, not long enough or consistently enough for it to work.

But yet that’s how most people approach their diet.

Instead of designing everything to be as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable for them as possible (#PECS), they force themselves to do a bunch of unnecessary things (or take the necessary things to an extreme) that only make weight loss harder for them.

The most common example of this is when a person uses a diet that requires them to greatly restrict or completely eliminate various foods, food groups or entire nutrients that A) they enjoy and would prefer to continue eating to some extent, and B) don’t actually need to be greatly restricted or completely eliminated for successful weight loss to occur.

You see this happen all the time with diets that are unnecessarily restrictive with…

  • Carbs.
  • Sugar.
  • Fat.
  • Grains.
  • Gluten.
  • Wheat.
  • Diary.
  • Meat.
  • Foods that cavemen didn’t eat (aka non-Paleo foods).
  • Foods that aren’t raw.
  • Foods that aren’t organic.
  • Foods that aren’t “clean.”
  • Foods that aren’t “good.”
  • And on and on and on.

You also see people using diets that are unnecessarily restrictive with things like when and how often a person can eat (e.g. intermittent fasting, eating every 3 hours, eating 5-6 meals per day, eating 2-3 meals per day, not eating after a certain time, always eating breakfast, always skipping breakfast, etc.) as well as what and how they can eat (e.g. specific combinations of foods/nutrients in certain meals, etc.).

Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Why is being unnecessarily restrictive with your diet such a big problem?

Because it eventually leads to breaking point. And when that breaking point is reached, a period of overeating (or massively bingeing) on whatever was being unnecessarily restricted takes place. And it’s usually to a degree that cancels out whatever deficit the person successfully managed to create the day(s) before, thus preventing any weight loss from happening and potentially even leading to weight gain (among other problems).

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your diet any more restrictive than it truly needs to be. Here are the basics for how to do that:

  1. First, create a moderate caloric deficit. 10-25% below your maintenance level is ideal for most. Full details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?
  2. Second, get a sufficient amount of protein. 0.8-1g of protein per pound of your current body weight is a good place to start (use your goal body weight for this calculation if you are very overweight).
  3. Third, fill in your remaining daily calories with whatever amounts of fat and carbs you happen to like best so that A) neither nutrient is ever unnecessarily restricted, and B) your diet is as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable for you as possible (#PECS). Additional details here: How To Calculate Your Macros
  4. Fourth, get the majority of those nutrients from higher quality, nutrient-dense food sources while still keeping the yummy fun stuff around as a small part of your overall diet.
  5. Fifth, put everything else (specific food choices, meal frequency, timing, scheduling, food combinations, etc.) together in whatever the hell way you like best so that, yet again, your diet is as #PECS for you as possible.

And if you need any help putting your ideal fat loss diet together, I walk you through all of it and show you exactly what to do in Superior Fat Loss.

32. You’re Overeating As A Reward For Doing Well

(Category 3)

In this scenario, a person will do really well with their diet and workout for some period of time (e.g. a week). They’ll eat what they were supposed to eat. They’ll eat the amounts the were supposed to eat. They’ll work out when they were supposed to work out. And they’ll have successfully created their intended caloric deficit.

But then, at some point, they’ll begin to think they should be rewarded for this consistency… and that reward should come in the form of overeating.

You know, something like: “I stuck to my diet all week, so I deserve to treat myself.”

Now I’m definitely not saying that people should never allow themselves to eat the things they consider “treats.” I’m actually ALL for allowing that… in the proper context.

But this isn’t the proper context.

This is something else.

  • This is going off the diet as a reward for sticking to the diet.
  • Or overeating as a reward for undereating.
  • Or, as is commonly seen in the eating disorder world, a form of restricting and bingeing.

Regardless of which of these classifications most accurately describe your specific situation, the end result is the same: a period of being in a deficit is followed by a period of being in a surplus… and they cancel each other out. Thus, no weight loss.

WHAT TO DO:

First, be aware that any form of overeating in what is usually an untracked/uncontrolled format is quite likely to result in the consumption of a lot more calories than you think. And if it happens often enough (such as weekly as a reward for the previous 5-7 days of sticking to your diet), it’s quite likely to wipe out whatever deficit you may be creating prior to it and prevent weight loss from happening. This scenario should be avoided. Speaking of which…

Second, design your diet in a way that is as enjoyable and sustainable for you as realistically possible, so that you don’t actually need to stray from your diet in order to feel rewarded for sticking to it.

33. You’re Overeating Because Of Cheat Meals And Cheat Days

(Category 3)

This is a slightly different version of the “overeating as a reward” scenario we just covered, only in this case, the overeating (and perhaps the “reward” itself) is occurring in the form of cheat meals and cheat days.

These are meals/days where people essentially allow themselves to eat/overeat the foods they have been craving in what is typically an untracked/uncontrolled format.

And just like before, if it’s happening often enough, it is quite likely (and surprisingly easy) for it to cancel out whatever deficit may have been created prior to it, yet again preventing weight loss from happening.

WHAT TO DO:

I don’t recommend using cheat meals or cheat days. This is partly because the idea of “cheating” on your diet creates a poor relationship with the diet and food in general. But it’s mostly because I’ve found that people do a MUCH better job of consistently sticking to their diet (and not hating it or feeling tortured by it) when they keep these so-called “cheat foods” around as a small part of an overall good diet rather than completely avoiding them until it drives them insane and gives them a reason to need to cheat.

The way I like to explain it is like this: the majority of your calorie and macronutrient intake should always come from higher quality, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods you enjoy, while the typical junkier foods should be kept to a sane yet still enjoyable and sustainable minimum. Specifically, a ratio like 90/10 or 80/20 (of “good/clean” foods to “bad/dirty” foods) tends to be an ideal balance for most people in terms of diet quality, overall health, and… you know… life not sucking. Full details here: The Problem With Cheat Meals And Cheat Days

34. You’re Overeating Because “It’s The Weekend” Or “Probably Not A Big Deal”

(Category 3)

Here’s a case where a person will stick to their diet all week and do a really good job of eating the amount of calories they’re supposed to be eating… until the weekend comes.

Suddenly, the diet adherence they had during the week magically disappears.

Even worse, some people in this scenario will think “ah, it’s the weekend” as if diets only matter on weekdays and they are totally free to eat whatever they want as long as it’s Saturday or Sunday.

Ehhh, not quite. What actually happens is that their weekend overeating cancels out the deficit they successfully created during the week, and they break even at maintenance in the end.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say some person has a maintenance level of 2500 calories, and they decide to eat 2000 calories per day to be in a deficit. Here’s what this scenario might look like…

Overeating on weekends.
Overeating on weekends.

Another similar example of this is when a person eats like they are supposed to a lot of the time, but also knowingly overeats in a single meal, or during a single day, or perhaps scattered throughout multiple meals/days and assumes “it’s probably not a big deal.”

As in, this couldn’t possibly make enough of a difference to interfere with their weight loss. Only… it often does.

WHAT TO DO:

Weight loss only happens when a net caloric deficit is present over a long enough period of time, and it’s surprisingly easy to cancel out periods of being in a deficit with periods of being in a surplus. Don’t let that happen.

35. There’s An Underlying/Untreated Health Issue Present

(Category 3)

In the VAST majority of cases where a person isn’t losing fat, it’s because they’re eating more calories than they think they are or claim to be… and no deficit exists.

However, much, much, much rarer, there are some cases where a person IS eating an amount of calories that should constitute being in a deficit for them… but there is an underlying/untreated health issue present (e.g. underactive thyroid) that is affecting their metabolic rate and causing their body to burn fewer calories than it be.

When this happens, it requires the person to have to eat much less (and/or burn much more via exercise) than they should truly have to in order for a deficit to exist and weight loss to happen.

Of course, the solution in this scenario ISN’T to continue eating less/burning more, but rather to see a doctor and get the underlying condition under control.

WHAT TO DO:

If you suspect this might be your problem, get things checked out by your doctor. It’s the only way to know for sure, and the only way to take care of it.

I will note, however, that in my experience (and in the experience of virtually every diet/fitness professional I know), out of the laughably large number of people (typically women) who are quick to assume this is indeed their problem and that it couldn’t possibly be anything else on this list… only a very tiny percentage have actually ended up being right. In the VAST majority of cases, they simply weren’t losing weight due to some other reason covered in this article (e.g. you’re eating more calories than you think you are).

But again, despite how rare it usually is, you should obviously not ignore the possibility. So, if you ever have any reason to suspect that there may be some underlying health/medical issue at play, you should always go to your doctor and get things checked out. It’s the only way to know for sure.

36. You’ve Reached A True Fat Loss Plateau

(Category 3)

Were you previously losing weight for a while, but then it stopped?

If so, you’ve reached a plateau.

The only question is, what type of plateau is it?

True Plateaus vs False Plateaus

In Superior Fat Loss, I go into detail about the two types of plateaus that a person can experience:

  1. True Plateaus
    This is… well… a true plateau. This is when fat loss progress stops for 3-4 consecutive weeks or longer as a result of the completely normal and often unavoidable physiological changes that are supposed to eventually cause fat loss to stop. In these cases, small adjustments will need to be made to get fat loss happening again like it should be.
  2. False Plateaus
    This is the opposite of that. This is when fat loss progress stops because of other (often self-made) reasons that do not fit the above description, or when fat loss doesn’t actually stop, but something else happens that makes us think it did.

Up until this point, everything we’ve covered in this article is an example of a false plateau.

Everything from a person’s weight being temporarily counterbalanced while fat continues to be lost (i.e. a weight loss plateau rather than a fat loss plateau), to improper progress tracking that prevents a person from seeing fat loss is happening, to known or unknown noncompliance and the MANY different ways a person can end up eating more calories than they think they are, claim to be, or are intending to… and no deficit exists.

But a true plateau? That’s something different.

The True Plateau

It’s still a case of a person not being in a caloric deficit, except this time, it’s not their fault.

Rather, they’re still eating the amount of calories that constituted being in a deficit for them all this time, only now, their metabolic rate has slowed down so much so that their deficit has become their new maintenance level.

And when that happens, fat loss stops.

What causes this, you ask?

Mostly a combination of two things:

  1. You Weigh Less
    Because you’ve successfully been losing weight, you now weigh less than you did when you started, and a smaller body burns fewer calories than a larger body. Simple as that. So, as you gradually lose weight, your body gradually burns fewer calories both at rest (i.e. your BMR decreases) and during all forms of exercise and non-exercise of activity (i.e. your Thermic Effect Of Activity decreases).
  2. The Adaptive Component
    Since your body only really cares about keeping you alive, and since it (as I mentioned earlier) can’t tell if you’re in a deficit because you’re trying to get leaner or because you’re going to starve to death, your body’s adaptive response is to do everything it can to stop you from losing weight. This includes, among other things, conserving energy by reducing how many calories it burns each day so you become less likely to continue being in a deficit and therefore less likely to starve to death. Also note that while this occurs during any prolonged deficit, it’s more significant the larger the deficit is (another reason to avoid unnecessarily low calorie diets) and the longer it lasts (another reason to use refeeds and diet breaks).

When you put these two factors together over a long enough period of time, what ends up happening is that the number on the “calories out” side of the “calories in vs calories out” equation (aka how much you’re burning) will slowly come closer to matching the number on the “calories in” side (aka how much you’re eating).

And when those numbers finally line up… the inevitable true plateau will occur.

Basically, the combination of the adaptive component and the fact that you’ve successfully lost fat (and now weigh less) has made it so that the calorie intake and calorie output that produced a successful fat-loss-causing deficit for you up until this point is no longer doing so. Instead, that calorie intake/output now represents your new maintenance level.

There’s nothing evil or mysterious about any of this. Nor is it anything to freak out about or be depressed by when it happens.

Weight loss plateaus.

You’re simply burning fewer calories than you previously were, and a deficit no longer exists.

WHAT TO DO:

Eat a little less, burn a little more or do some combination of the two so a deficit exists once again. It’s not rocket science.

But Wait… What About Starvation Mode And Not Eating Enough?

Okay, now that we’ve covered every single possible answer to the “why am I not losing weight” question, it’s time to cover one final thing.

And that is the topic of starvation mode and “not eating enough calories.”

Or, as it is more accurately known, one of the most common completely-bullshit reasons for why a person – almost always a woman – will assume they aren’t losing weight (instead of realizing and accepting that it’s one of the reasons we’ve already covered).

Let me explain…

The Concept

Starvation mode (sometimes referred to as “survival mode”) is the idea that not eating enough calories will cause fat loss to stop.

As in, if you eat too few calories, your metabolism breaks or completely shuts down or something equally hilarious, and, in an effort to keep you alive, your body will HOLD ON to all of your body fat and prevent you from losing any of it until… wait for it… you eat MORE calories.

In some cases, people claim this state of “not eating enough calories” is capable of not only STOPPING weight loss, but also CAUSING weight gain.

And so when a person is “doing everything right” and they KNOW FOR SURE they’re in a caloric deficit… but they’re still not losing weight… the only obvious conclusion they could possibly come to is that they are simply eating TOO LITTLE and have entered the mysterious state known as starvation mode.

This assumption will then be confirmed by their super smart friends on social media or whatever diet message board they happen to post on.

The Starvation Mode Flowchart Of Truth

Well, if you’ve ever made this same assumption, here’s a handy flowchart I’ve put together to help you determine if you are truly in starvation mode…

Starvation Mode Flowchart

The Bullshit

Listen closely, boys and girls.

Starvation mode doesn’t exist, because the laws of energy balance are ALWAYS valid.

Meaning, a caloric deficit – no matter how large it may be – will always result in some form of stored energy being burned for fuel. So as long as a deficit exists, something is always being “lost.” And, the majority of that “something” will be body fat.

To quote myself from a previous article (The Starvation Mode Myth)…

As long as you create a caloric deficit (meaning consume fewer calories than your body burns, or burn more calories than you consume… just different ways of saying the same thing), then you will lose weight every single time regardless of whether you’re creating a deficit that is small, moderate or large.

Even if your calorie intake is dangerously low (not recommended at all, just making a point), you will still lose weight.

There is no such thing as “I’m not losing any weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s horseshit. And there’s definitely no such thing as “I’m gaining weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s even bigger horseshit that I can only assume would require the presence of an even bigger horse.

And the idea that you skipped breakfast or waited longer than 3 hours between meals (or something equally meaningless) and have now instantly entered starvation mode as a result is too laughable to even warrant another second of discussion.

Create a consistent deficit and weight loss will happen. Calories in vs calories out always applies, no matter how low the “calories in” part is (or really, how low you mistakenly think it is).

Which means you’re NEVER failing to lose fat due to “not eating enough.” If this bunch of nonsense were true, then please explain to me how…

  • Anorexics reach deathly skinny levels by starving themselves.
  • Starving children in Africa reach deathly skinny levels due to not having enough food.
  • People in concentration camps reached deathly skinny levels from being starved.
  • Reality show contestants on shows like Survivor or Naked And Afraid lose a ton of weight from being unable to eat enough.
  • The participants of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment continuously lost fat by eating less and less until they reached dangerously low levels of body fat (about 5%) and essentially had no more fat left to lose.
  • Every single well designed calorie-controlled study shows fat loss happens every time a caloric deficit is present, regardless of the size of the deficit or the manner in which it was created.

What’s that?

You don’t have an explanation for any of this?

Don’t worry, I have it for you: starvation mode is bullshit.

Additional details here: The Starvation Mode Myth

Why Am I Not Losing Fat?

What About The Starvation Response?

What isn’t bullshit, though, is something better described as the “starvation response.”

This is real, as your body DOES indeed fight back against your attempt to lose weight (there’s an entire section in Superior Fat Loss where I break down ALL of the ways this happens). And yes, part of this “fighting back” involves adaptive thermogenesis (aka slowing down your metabolic rate).

However, this metabolic slowdown is NEVER significant enough to actually STOP fat loss. And it sure as shit isn’t significant enough to CAUSE fat gain.

Here’s a quote from Lyle McDonald on this subject…

Because in no study that I have ever seen or ever been aware of has the drop in metabolic rate (whether due to the drop in weight or adaptive component) EVER exceeded the actual deficit whether in men or women. Fine, yes, it may offset things, it may slow fat loss (i.e. if you set up a 30% caloric deficit and metabolic rate drops by 20%, your deficit is only 10% so fat loss is a lot slower than expected or predicted) but it has never been sufficient to either stop fat loss completely (or, even to address the even stupider claim being made about this, to cause actual fat gain).

But even when the drop in metabolic rate is massive, sufficient to drastically slow fat loss, even when it occurs it’s only when that person’s body has more or less reached the limits of leanness in the first place.

Got it? Good. And if anyone tells you otherwise, send them here.

Then Why Aren’t I Losing Weight?

So, if week after week is passing and you’re not losing any weight, your problem is never “starvation mode” or that you’re “not eating enough.”

That’s a big, embarrassingly stupid, blatantly obvious myth.

Rather, the REAL reason you’re not losing weight is…

  1. Because you’re eating too much and a consistent caloric deficit isn’t present… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. you’re eating more calories than you think you are).
  2. Because you’re mistaking a temporary lack of weight loss for a lack of fat loss… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. temporary water retention).
  3. Because you’re tracking your progress in a manner that prevents you from seeing that it’s happening… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. improperly weighing yourself).
  4. Any combination thereof.

But What About People Who Finally Start Losing Weight Again When They Start Eating MORE Calories?

If everything I just said about starvation mode is true (and it is), then how do I explain the scenario where people who are supposedly “in starvation mode” finally start to lose weight again after they start eating more calories?

Good question, and there are two very simple explanations…

1. You’re Not Actually Eating More

In this case, the “more calories” the person has begun eating eliminates the excessively low-calorie days they previously had, which prevents the massively large binges those low-calorie days were previously causing.

Meaning, the person actually ends up eating LESS total weekly calories now than they had been, despite thinking they’re “eating more calories.” And so, a consistent deficit finally exists. Thus… weight loss happens.

To put that another way, the only legitimate way that “not eating enough” can ever truly prevent fat loss from happening is when the period of “not eating enough” is followed by a period of overeating/bingeing to a degree that cancels out the excessive deficit that was initially created.

I actually showed an example of this earlier. Here it is again…

Bingeing due to a low calorie diet.
“Not eating enough” followed by eating too much.

“Eating more calories” prevents this scenario by eliminating the excessively low calorie days… which eliminates the excessive hunger they were causing… which eliminates the high calorie binges that were taking place because of that hunger… which was canceling out their deficit.

Now… the person is finally able to maintain a more moderate (and consistent) deficit.

Which is all to say that “eating more” has actually allowed the person to end up eating less that they had previously been.

2. You’re Losing Water Weight, Not Fat

A second common explanation is that if the person is legitimately eating more now after a period of eating excessively less, it would cause cortisol levels to drop. And remember what happens when cortisol levels drop?

Water retention subsides… thus causing instant “weight loss” strictly in the form of water weight, not body fat.

This scenario is actually more common than you might think.

Why? Because, as I mentioned earlier, an excessive caloric deficit (caused by an excessively low calorie intake and/or an excessive amount of exercise), or a prolonged caloric deficit without any form of diet break, or an excessive amount of physical or mental stress – all of which tend to be characteristics of people who find themselves in an “I must be in starvation mode!!” scenario – is going to raise cortisol levels through the roof and potentially lead to a shitload of water retention.

More than enough to hide true fat loss progress for weeks at a time.

And so when they finally start eating more (which basically serves as a diet break for them), cortisol drops, water retention subsides (whoooosh!), and weight loss (not fat loss) happens… finally revealing the fat loss progress that was previously being hidden by water retention.

Taaadaaa!

How do you avoid being in this scenario in the first place, you ask?

  1. For starters, calm the hell down. Stress is the underlying cause of this problem.
  2. If ANY aspect of your diet or workout can be described as “excessive,” fix that.
  3. If you haven’t taken a full diet break in a while (or more likely in these cases, ever), now is the time to take one. Again, the details of exactly how I recommend doing it are in Superior Fat Loss.

Got all that? Good.

“But I Swear I’m Doing Everything Right!”

Wanna know the worst part about writing an article like this? All 14,000+ words of it?

It’s that, while I know the majority of people who read it will figure out exactly why they’re not losing weight and exactly what they need to do to solve it, I also know that a small minority of people are going to skim through it and refuse to believe that anything in this article applies to them.

In fact, many of these people will react defensively to what they just read.

As if to say: “How dare you accuse me of eating more calories than I think I am! Or not tracking my progress correctly! Or mistaking water weight for body fat! I’m doing everything as perfectly and accurately as can be, 100% of the time, and I never make mistakes! Don’t ever question or doubt me like that again!”

Lolz.

Look, I’ve heard every version of this story you can possibly imagine.

You’re being patient and monitoring progress correctly. You’re counting calories and meticulously tracking your diet down to the very last gram. Your doing the right amount of cardio and weight training. You can GUARANTEE that you’re eating the amount you’re intending to eat, and burning the amount you’re intending to burn, and a caloric deficit is DEFINITELY present.

And you’re absolutely, positively, super-mega-ultra-sure of this.

So sure that you may even be willing to swear on the lives of your children to prove it (yup, I’ve seen it happen… more than once).

I hear ya.

But here’s the thing.

If you claim to be “doing everything right” yet aren’t losing fat… then guess what?

You’re doing something wrong.

Whether you ever come to realize it or choose to accept it, your lack of fat loss is the ultimate guaranteed proof that it’s true.

So, here are your choices.

Option 1

You can either continue to disagree with me, continue to ignore proven facts, continue to think you’re the one human on the planet who is magically defying the laws of thermodynamics, continue to refuse to believe that any of the problems covered in this article are relevant to you, continue to adamantly guarantee that you’re doing everything right, and continue to seek out some other sure-to-be bullshit-based reason for your inability to lose weight…

OR…

Option 2

You can let go of your preexisting biases and emotional attachments to misinformation, take your ego down a notch or two, accept that you’re wrong, and then, one-by-one, go back through all of the problems covered in this article until you find the one (or ones) that are affecting you.

Your call.

So, Why Aren’t You Losing Weight?

There are only three possibilities. You’re either:

  • Losing fat, but gaining some other form of weight that’s temporarily balancing it out.
  • Losing fat, but tracking your progress in a manner that prevents you from realizing it.
  • Not losing fat, because you’re not in a consistent caloric deficit.

That’s literally all it can be.

How To Determine Which One Is Your Problem

Simple.

  1. If you A) are NOT properly tracking your progress, B) are NOT properly interpreting that progress (or lack thereof), and/or C) DON’T have realistic expectations for what that progress should be… this could be your problem. Fix this first.
  2. If you ARE doing all of the above (A, B and C) properly, and you haven’t lost any weight for a period of time that is LESS than 4 consecutive weeks… your weight may be temporarily getting counterbalanced. Be patient and wait longer.
  3. If you ARE doing all of the above (A, B and C) properly, and you haven’t lost any weight for a period of time that is 4 consecutive weeks or longerthen you’re not in a caloric deficit.

The End.

Share577
Tweet
Pin27