Weight loss

Why Can’t I Lose Weight? 9 Possible Reasons

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Medically approved by Dr Earim Chaudry
Chief Medical Officer
iconLast updated 7th January 2022
In 30 seconds

Why can’t I lose weight?scribble-underline There are several reasons why you might not be seeing the results you want as you work towards your weight loss goals. Some are within your control, while others require outside help. For example, poor sleep quality, lack of portion control, or rushed eating can all stop you from shifting a few pounds. Meanwhile, more serious underlying medical conditions can also negatively impact weight loss.

Achieving a Healthy Weight

For many people, dieting can be an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. For others, it can be a frustrating experience that doesn’t always yield results.

Whichever camp you fall into, it’s important to know some of the reasons why losing weight may not always go as planned. This can help you get closer to your desired body weight – and your desired levels of health and fitness.

So, why can’t you lose weight? Here, we’re looking at some possible reasons.

Note: A low body weight does not always mean good health and wellbeing. Often, rather than focusing on weight, ensuring you eat a balanced diet and follow a healthy, active lifestyle can be enough.

9 Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight

If you have tried dieting in the past, you might know that it is far from the easiest thing in the world. Trying to lose weight can be tiring, frustrating, and not always successful.

That’s normal. But if you’re going to see results, it’s vital to understand what’s getting in the way of your weight loss plan. Here are some of the reasons why you can’t seem to lose weight.

1. Your portions are too large.

Firstly, overeating – or eating a high-calorie diet. Generally, we all eat far more than we should these days, with evidence showing portion sizes have grown gradually over recent decades.

Cutting the number of calories you’re eating will have an impact on your levels of body fat. It starts as a matter of eating habits. Once you have reduced your calorie intake, to begin with, it will get easier.

2. You are not sleeping well.

Poor sleep is an often overlooked cause of weight gain. People who suffer from sleep disruption or reduced hours of sleep are more likely to binge, eat fatty processed foods, and succumb to cravings.

Ultimately, sleep is a great regulator of energy and weight management – and it makes you more likely to enjoy exercise. We can’t forget that good sleep is an essential contributor to good mental health too.

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Relaxation techniques and sleep supplements – such as Manual’s Good Nights – have been proven to help.

3. You drink too much alcohol.

It’s not just excessive food that can cause weight gain. Alcoholic drinks like beer and wine are very energy-intensive, as they are often full of carbohydrates. But alcohol itself interrupts the way our bodies burn fat – because we are more occupied with breaking down alcohol instead.

Studies show that you are more likely to be at risk of obesity if you drink lots of alcohol. Meanwhile, you are more likely to lose more weight if your alcohol consumption is lower.

4. You are not exercising.

Second to diet, exercise is perhaps the most crucial factor in losing weight. If you are not doing any physical activity, you are severely limiting your prospects of weight loss.

Now, it doesn’t need to be intense resistance training or strength training. Gentle cardio is better than nothing. But some sort of exercise routine is critical. It will help you build muscle mass and improve your mood – and it’s likely to boost your self-image too.

Find out more: How to Lose Weight Without Exercise

5. You are stressed.

Stress is one of the most common reasons why you might be following an unhealthy diet. That’s because chronic stress causes your body to release a hormone known as cortisol, which likely causes an increased appetite, a tendency to eat quickly and poorly, and ultimately weight gain.

Some relaxation techniques – such as mindfulness and meditation – can help you slow down while eating and be more aware of feelings of fullness. This will help you eat fewer calories.

6. You do not have a balanced diet.

Enjoying a diet that contains large quantities of fatty foods and sugary drinks is a simple reason why you might not be able to lose weight. Sometimes we snack more than we would like to admit or treat ourselves after exercise. That’s okay and normal, but we need to be conscious and honest about our eating habits if we want to lose weight.

Drinking water rather than sugary beverages – and snacking on fruit and whole grains rather than high-calorie foods – can make a difference in your quest to lose weight.

7. You have a medical condition that is affecting your weight loss.

Sometimes your body weight can be beyond your control. Health conditions such as hypothyroidism, sleep apnoea, and depression – as well as ageing – can all affect your weight. That’s normal.

If you feel like this could be relevant to you, it is best to talk to your doctor or dietitian about possible solutions.

Read on: Underactive Thyroid Symptoms in Men

8. You have been dieting for too long.

The effectiveness of diets can decrease over time. And so, if you have been dieting for a long time, you may not be able to lose weight in the way that you had been before. That’s okay: you’ve probably just hit a plateau.

Importantly, it’s not always healthy to be on a weight loss diet forever. Instead, following a balanced diet and exercising frequently is much more beneficial than calorie counting in the long term and trying to lose weight continually.

9. Your expectations are unrealistic.

Ultimately, you may well be losing weight without even noticing – or you might have false expectations of exactly what you can achieve and how fast. Healthy weight loss takes time, and the best diets are those that let you make sustainable food choices in the long run.

Don’t beat yourself up about it if you do not see results fast enough. However much weight you are losing, you are doing great.

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Key Takeaways

Why can’t I lose weight? There could be many reasons. Before anything else, poor food choices, too much alcohol, and a lack of exercise could all be to blame. Yet other factors will play a significant role.

Surprisingly, the quality of your sleep makes a huge difference to your ability to manage your weight – as well as your levels of stress. But focusing on losing weight is not always the best route to a healthy lifestyle in the long run.


Why Is Losing Weight So Difficult?

Losing weight is difficult. That’s because your habits and lifestyle – as well as your metabolism and your body – all contribute. Optimising these to ensure happiness and wellbeing is not something you can do overnight.

Yet, there’s hope. With commitment, exercise, and a healthy diet, you can get to your desired weight. You’re doing great!

What Are Some Ways to Lose Weight?

There are lots of different ways out there to lose weight. But the most effective are those that are most famous:

  • Exercise: Frequent physical activity is one of the most important aspects of weight loss. Doctors recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week. That means a light sweat and breathlessness.
  • A balanced diet: Cutting down on processed foods and eating enough protein, whole foods, fibre, and fruit and veggies will make a difference.
  • Sleep: It affects everything from your mental health to your recovery after exercise – and the regulation of your body weight. Healthy sleep is crucial to losing weight.

The Guardian – Growing portion sizes a major factor in rising UK obesity, study finds –


The Conversation – Does a bad night’s sleep make you likely to overeat? –


Paolo M Suter (2005). Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for weight gain and obesity? –


Colleen A. Kase, Amani D. Piers, Katherine Schaumberg, Evan M. Forman, and Meghan L. Butryn (2017). The relationship of alcohol use to weight loss in the context of behavioral weight loss treatment –


Yvonne H. C. Yau and Marc N. Potenza (2014). Stress and Eating Behaviors –


NHS – Physical activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64 –

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

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