Losing weight can be – and most often is – a tough battle, both mentally and physically. There are many factors at play in a weight loss journey, which differ from person to person. Some of these factors could cause you to either lose weight much slower, or to struggle to lose any weight at all.
We have all have different metabolisms, which is the series of processes that breaks our food down into usable energy and smaller compounds. For some of us, this series of processes happens faster than for others.
This means that some people can eat more food and not necessarily gain weight, as their metabolism is faster. Others of us have slower metabolisms and thus find it more difficult to lose weight.
Here are the top 6 reasons that are not letting you lose weight.
Family Genetics – something beyond control
Our genetic make-up plays a role in our ability to lose or gain weight. This means that certain genes may be passed down which affect how fast you are able to lose weight. If both your parents are overweight, you are more likely to carry genes which increase your chances of being overweight.
This being said, if your parents both lead very inactive lifestyles and eat an unhealthy diet, their obesity may not necessarily be due to genetics. If, however, they lead relatively healthy lifestyles and are still overweight, this may be due to their genetics, which are ultimately passed down to you.
Genes play a role in where your body stores extra fat, as well as how much fat it stores. Some of us store more extra fat on our bodies purely due to our genetics. It is possible that you’ll have a harder time losing weight, as your body is naturally trying to store fat instead.
Age – but it can be countered
We are naturally more prone to weight gain as we get older and it is one of the reasons you are not losing weight. In saying this, it’s not as if we see older folk rolling around town and stick-thin kids playing in our neighbourhoods. Rather, we see a more noticeable shift from teenagers and young adults to middle-aged people.
Now, there are a combination of reasons for this. The first, which is most often overlooked, is that we generally exercise less as we get older. We no longer play in school or college sports teams, or are forced to partake in gym classes.
Our working hours usually become more concrete, with little physical activity during the day for the standard desk job. We spend a lot more time being sedentary – sitting down or staying still – than before, as well as over longer lengths of time.
Our bodies naturally lose muscle as we age, as the muscle cell production slows down during the aging process . The muscle loss is then substituted with fat stores, as fat needs less energy to function than muscle cells.
This also affects our metabolism and slows it down, meaning we take longer to break down the food we consume. This means our body needs less calories to function, but still we continue to give it more calories than it needs. Our body will store more of the broken-down food compounds as fat, meaning we gain weight.
Another age-related weight gain factor is our nutritional intake. Along with our busy work days often comes eating more unhealthily. We grab a quick non-nutritive snack on the go, or order in dinner after a busy day.
These diet changes which we make unknowingly to deal with our busy work schedules, contributes drastically to the amount of weight we gain or are just can’t seem to lose. We aren’t getting the nutrients we need to be healthy, as well as getting too much of the unhealthy stuff into our bodies.
In order to combat the weight gain factors related to aging, we can focus more on weight-bearing types of exercises to encourage muscle cell production and ultimately muscle growth. We can also increase our protein intake to contribute to muscle mass.
We can also focus on either decreasing the time we spend being sedentary, or increase the amount of exercise we do. Deciding to take the stairs over the elevator into the office or up to your meeting means you are being more active than just sitting or standing around all day.
Increasing the amount of exercise you do per day or per week is a great way to keep your muscles active and ensure that you are burning more calories. Organise to join a social sports club, or go on more walks and runs with your family.
Eating healthily contributes majorly to ensuring you aren’t keeping those kg’s on. Meal prepping or planning ensures that we aren’t caught in a hangry mood without any nutritive food.
Your gender-men have advantage
It is frequently heard that men are capable of losing weight faster than women. If we unpack this, we’ll notice that although this is true, it is usually only in the short-term .
The reason that men tend to lose weight faster than women (well, at least at first!), is due to men usually having more muscle tissue than women. Muscles need more energy than fat, hence the muscle tissue burns more calories – even when at rest!
Women usually have a slightly higher percentage of body fat than men. This, however, has to do with our physiology and is not considered to be unhealthy fat. Women’s fat stores are typically more spread over the whole body, rather than more concentrated around the middle area like men’s fat stores.
Weight loss would therefore be more evident in a man, as most of the fat stores around their middle would decrease, whereas a woman would lose small amounts of fat from more areas in their body.
When men and women both increase the amount of exercise they do, men usually lose weight faster as their muscles are burning more calories in the beginning. Their bodies are using more fat as energy than women’s bodies.
However, although women may be thinking that men have it so much easier, the increased weight loss is only in the beginning. So, although the weight loss may be more noticeable on men in the first few months, over the long-term the weight loss evens out to be the same.
The rate at which men lose weight decreases after the first month or two, while the rate at which women lose weight remains constant. This means that eventually, the weight lost over a 6 month period will be the same for men a women.
We should remind ourselves that even though it may not look we are losing weight compared to someone else, it may just be at a different rate and will ultimately be very similar in the end.
Diet – the biggest factor
The biggest reasons you are not losing weight is most likely the food you are eating. What we eat plays a bigger role on weight loss than exercise. Eating refined and processed foods gives you more calories but less nutrients – these are referred to as empty calories. If we consume highly processed foods, we have a lot more calories to burn to lose weight.
If we eat foods that are high in fat and sugar, our bodies store these calories as fat. If we do not increase our exercise, the fat stores are not used up and we end up gaining weight.
Eating healthy whole foods instead of fast food and other heavily processed foods will make sure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs, without all the extra empty calories. Controlling your portion size is also key.
If you are eating the correct whole foods but are eating huge portions of them, you are still getting a high calorie intake instead of decreasing it. Making sure that you are not overeating will help to control the amount of calories you are taking in.
Plan your meals ahead of time so as not to be caught in a hungry state without any nutritional snacks or meals available. Try not to go grocery shopping when you can feel that you are hungry, as you are much more likely to crack and buy unhealthy foods and snacks.
Alcohol can have an impact on your weight loss in a few ways. The amount of alcohol you consume, in addition to the type of alcohol you are consuming, plays a role in how much the alcohol would be affecting your weight loss plan.
Each person’s body is different, so some may gain weight from drinking alcohol, while others gain weight from their behaviour and what they are eating when they drink alcohol (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Alcohol-and-weight-gain).
Apart from most alcohol being high in calories, alcohol can also stop your body from burning fat. The best options for a lower calorie alcoholic beverage are a glass of red wine, or to have a single tot of your liquor of choice, but on the rocks or with sparkling water .
Although alcohol in moderation should not have an influence on weight loss, most often excessive consumption leads to poor dietary choices.
Stress – yes it makes you fat
When we are stressed, our bodies produce hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. Essentially, the production of these stress hormones causes your insulin levels to rise, your blood sugar levels to drop, and thus you feel like eating foods high in sugar and fat and if it happens consistently stress makes you fat .
Your body thinks that it needs sugar and fat right after a stressful event, as your body thinks it needs more energy. If you give in to these sugar and fat cravings, you create a vicious cycle of becoming stressed, your body releasing cortisol, you craving sugary and fatty foods, you eating these foods, gaining weight, and then craving more of these foods.
It can be especially hard to manage these cravings during times of stress, as we are generally sleeping less, exercising less, and eating less healthy food if we are stressed.
We should try to shift the idea of comfort food from foods high in fat, sugar and carbs to healthier foods. Even just more healthy comfort foods are better during times of stress, be it popcorn or a grilled cheese sandwich rather than bars of chocolate and fast food.
We also need to remember to prioritise exercise when we are stressed. Not only does it help by burning calories, but it also releases hormones which lift your mood and make you feel better. It can be hard to squeeze exercise in to an already-busy and stressful time, but the benefits are definitely worth it.
All in all, we need to remember that our bodies are all different. Something that could be useful for someone else to lose weight may not necessarily help you with your weight-loss journey.
Your family history and genetics, together with your age and sex, play a role in how you lose weight, which isn’t something that we can do much about. But there are other reasons why you are not losing weight and you can control some of these.
Rather, we need to be aware of this and focus on the aspects which we can change, such as better controlling our diets and our portion sizes. We can also work on drinking smaller amounts of alcohol, as well as only certain types of it.
Shifting from unhealthy comfort foods during stressful times is also a way to improve weight loss. Making sure we exercise to boost our moods during these stressful times is also essential.
Take a deep breath – weight loss isn’t one size fits all. You will find your groove!