Woman setting on a scale to weigh herself

Why Can't I Lose Weight? 12 Reasons Diet & Exercise Aren't Cutting It

Maybe you've been there before: You're diligent with your diet and eat salads every day for dinner for three months straight. You exercise like your life depends on it. Begrudgingly, you cut out alcohol, and you purposely avoid happy hour with your friends because the $3 sliders are just too tempting.

With all these changes, weight loss should be a breeze! At the end of it all, you step on the scale and discover that…your weight hasn't budged. Or worse, it's gone up. What gives?! Is your body working against you and preventing you from losing weight? How can you know for sure? And importantly, what can you do about it so that you can progress in your weight loss journey?

This article will answer these questions and more. Let's go!

Is your body preventing you from losing weight?

Yes, there's a chance that something is going on in your body that's stopping you from being able to lose weight. It's true that weight management and fat loss largely depend on "calories in versus calories out." However, there are other variables at play that might impact this.

For example, the human body's metabolism doesn't exactly love weight loss. There are various theories why—one of which being that our ancestors depended on their ability to store fat in order to survive during times of caloric deprivation (like during a famine, or, for our hunter-gatherer predecessors, during the times of the year when hunting wasn't possible). Today, if you're working hard to lose weight, your metabolism might be digging its heels in because fat loss tells the body that something is wrong.

Your hormones can also make it tricky to lose weight. For instance, your stomach produces ghrelin, which triggers feelings of hunger. When you lose weight, your body makes more ghrelin, which could inspire additional snacking. If you respond to these urges (understandably), it can lead to weight gain. Conversely, fat cells make a hormone called leptin, which tells you that you're full. If you lose weight, then your fat cells shrink, thus producing less leptin. So, you might not feel as full, and you might end up eating more.

Then, there's genetics! For instance, do obesity or other medical conditions run in your family? While only a few genes seem to have a major influence on body weight, science knows of more than 400 that can play a role in being overweight or obese.

So, you can see that even if you're in a calorie deficit, even if you're hitting up the gym every day after work, even if you've sacrificed all your favorite eats and treats, there are other reasons why you might not be losing weight. Losing body fat can be pretty complicated!

What should you get checked if you can’t lose weight?

There are a number of tests and panels that can determine why you're having such a hard time losing body fat. Namely, you want to check up on your sex hormones, thyroid functioning and hormones, stress hormones, insulin resistance, inflammation, and general health markers—like if you have a family history of obesity. Life Extension's Basic Weight Loss Panel blood test includes a complete metabolic panel with lipids, complete blood count, DHEA-S, free and total testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid stimulating hormone, free T3, insulin, and HbA1c.

What does all of this mean, exactly? Well, if you think that a hormonal imbalance might be stopping you from reaching your weight loss goals, this panel can help you pinpoint where the exact obstacle is.

If you want something more robust, the Comprehensive Weight Loss Panel can help to identify imbalances in your thyroid and reproductive and stress hormones (like cortisol), all of which can make it harder to maintain or lose weight. It screens your sex hormones (like progesterone and free and total testosterone), thyroid hormones (T3, T4, and TSH), insulin resistance markers (insulin, ferritin, and hemoglobin A1C), and inflammation and general health markers (including lipids, complete blood count, and vitamin D 25-hydroxy).

With these panels, you can remove a lot of the guesswork and get to the bottom of what might be causing your weight gain and why weight loss has been so challenging for you.

What do your test results tell you?

The tests will identify hormone imbalances, thyroid disorders, and other medical factors that may be why you're struggling to lose weight. But don't "DIY" it when it comes to reading the results. It's best to consult with a healthcare expert who can accurately interpret and communicate your test results. That's what your doctor is there for! Additionally, all Life Extension customers who purchase lab tests can speak with a Wellness Specialist at no extra cost. These professionals are trained in helping consumers understand their test results.

Genetic Tests for Weight Loss

Is your struggle to lose weight something that's been handed down from generation to generation, like a widow's peak or being double-jointed? A simple cheek swab by NutriGen™ will let you know if you have specific genetic variations that could impact your weight—and it will even offer specific macro breakdowns of carbs, fat and protein based on your genetic profile for optimal results. You'll get answers to everything from whether you're less likely to lose weight from exercise to how efficiently you metabolize carbohydrates.

12 ways to reset your body to be able to lose weight

To be crystal clear, your strategy for weight loss might not look like the next person's. The best method is a personalized one! That being said, here are some general guidelines to help reset your body and put you in a better position to start shedding fat.

  1. Set short-term goals:

    They're easier to stick to than long-term goals because they're less overwhelming. Plus, they give you the opportunity to celebrate your progress and "wins"—which is important to keep you motivated and boost your self-esteem! When your goals are too long-term, you're not setting yourself up for success quite as much.
  2. Set realistic goals:

    Bear in mind that if you're heavier than you'd like to be, the weight gain probably took months—if not years—to happen. This means that expecting overnight results isn't realistic, and you'll probably end up disappointed! Instead, look at your progress from month to month. This will give you enough time to really change your habits and see the impact.
  3. Approach weight loss holistically:

    It's not just about the calories you consume. Weight loss involves sleeping enough, eating nutrient-dense food, physical activity, and managing your stress levels. If you want to burn fat and lose weight, your approach has to be all-encompassing. As an added bonus, when you think about all aspects of weight loss, you enjoy benefits beyond looking slimmer—like improving your heart health and mobility.
  4. Focus on adding, not subtracting:

    When people want to lose weight, they typically think, "What foods should I stop eating?" Rather, think about what you need more of. For instance, are you not eating enough protein? Try to incorporate more of that! Oftentimes, when you get more of what you need, you naturally eat less of what you don't need as a byproduct.
  5. Don't obsess over calories:

    Yes, your total daily calorie consumption matters. However, by this point, you know that calories don't tell the full story. It's okay to monitor your calorie intake, but just bear in mind that it's only one piece of a very intricate puzzle.
  6. Avoid diet fads:

    Our society loves to entice us with pills, potions, and magic tricks that promise quick results. Take note: This is not real! For example, many "detox" and weight loss teas on the market are actually diuretics and laxatives in disguise. Waist trainers make you sweat, which gives the illusion that you're leaning out. However, with both of these things, you're only eliminating liquids from your body after you've already digested the food and calories that you've eaten. These methods are ineffective—you could hit a weight loss plateau or even gain weight. Furthermore, they can actually be dangerous for your health.
  1. Don't deprive yourself:

    Skipping meals or fasting for long periods of time (also called intermittent fasting — which can work under the right conditions) might lead to temporary weight loss (same with extremely low-calorie diets), but here's the problem: These habits are hard to sustain. Think about it. Let's say you love eating breakfast and always wake up starving. Sure, you could start skipping the meal to save yourself calories. But is this something you could do forever? Probably not—and once you go back to eating that meal, whatever weight you lost threatens to come right back. Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint.
  2. Incorporate strength training:

    Cardio offers all sorts of benefits, but so does strength training! Having more muscle mass on your body not only means you'll burn more calories at rest, but it gives you an added layer of protection. You don't have to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger in the gym. (And no, ladies, weight training won't make you "bulky.") Just be sure that when it comes to physical activity, you vary your workouts between cardio and some sort of resistance training. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can also be good for weight loss.
  3. Boost your metabolism:

    It'll be easier to lose weight if your metabolism is working in your favor. A metabolism booster that increases AMPK activity can tell your cells to stop storing fat and burn them as energy. This can be especially helpful if you're hanging onto unwanted belly fat, as it will help your body to make better use of the calories you consume.
  1. Mind your gut bacteria:

    The type of bacteria you have in your gut—more specifically, bacteroidetes—can influence your weight. Some experts call the gut the second brain. Getting that bacteria under control can be a game-changer.
  2. Make it work for you:

    Remember what we said earlier. What works for one person might not work for the next. You might find the most success with a high-protein, low-carb diet. Someone else might need way more carbs than you do. Find what works for you, and stick with that.
  3. Be patient:

    Easier said than done, we know! But we want to leave you with this: Weight loss is not linear. If you're weighing yourself, then you might wake up one morning lighter, and the next morning heavier. This doesn't mean you're not making progress toward a healthy weight. To lose weight, you need to make peace with fluctuations. They're totally normal.

With time, patience, and persistence, you can hit your weight loss goals, avoid yo-yo dieting, and look and feel better than ever before. Be kind to yourself, make weight loss fun, and for Pete's sake, enjoy a cookie every now and then!

About the Author: Megan Grant has a degree in communications from University of Michigan. She has been writing professionally for 15 years, with a focus on nutrition, fitness, and general health. A lifelong competitive athlete, she's fascinated by how the human body responds to food and movement.