- Dieting to lose weight and keep it off is notoriously difficult, though it is possible.
- Common reasons you may not be losing weight on a diet or healthy eating plan include not adjusting how much eat as the pounds come off and miscalculating how much you're actually eating.
- Not getting enough sleep, having an underlying health condition, or having a body that's healthier at a higher weight can explain a weight-loss lull too.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Diets are notoriously ineffective, typically leading to weight loss at first but weight gain in the long term.
They can also mangle your relationship to food, making daily life and relationships more challenging even after you've put the calorie counter away.
But losing weight through by changing how and what you eat is possible. Here are 10 reasons why your scale might not be budging when following a diet or a healthy eating plan.
The diet isn't adaptive to your changing body
If you've already lost some weight on the diet, you may have reached a so-called "plateau" due to metabolic adaption.
That means your smaller body may require a different number of calories than when you first started out on your new plan, Insider's Rachel Hosie previously reported.
"If you're medically overweight, you can lose 20 to 30 pounds in a few months by eating the right amount of calories, registered dietitian Fatimah Fakhoury told Insider. "That's not going to last forever."
But while often people need to eat fewer calories to continue to experience weight loss, that's not always the case, she said.
For example, some people find exercise is easier after they lose some weight so their calorie needs can stay the same and they'll still lose weight.
The diet doesn't have enough calories
Eating too little — say, 1,000 calories a day — can prevent you from losing weight, too.
"When you don't eat enough, your body is starving and it's not going to lose any extra weight" because it needs those energy stores to keep you alive, Fakhoury said.
Seriously restricting your intake can also make you too tired to keep up physical activity, not to mention makes you unhappy, Fakhoury added.
The plan encourages you to "save" all your calories for one late meal
Eating all of your calories at one big meal rather than throughout the day "really slows your metabolism down," hindering weight loss, Fakhoury said.
If that meal is late, it can be especially problematic because you're likely famished and eager to reach for processed choices rather than something more balanced.
Research shows that eating your largest meal in the morning, however, is associated with more weight loss — even if you don't eat any fewer calories across the day.
You're not getting enough sleep
Sleep is an overlooked factor that's essential for weight loss and maintenance.
One study found that, compared to sleeping eight hours at night, sleeping just four leads to eating 559 more calories the next day. Another showed that reducing sleep by three hours a night for 10 nights led to less fat loss and more lean body loss among dieters.
That's in part because of the way sleep deprivation activates hunger hormones, and also because being awake longer leaves more opportunities to eat, personal trainer Ben Carpenter previously told Insider's Rachel Hosie.
You have an underlying condition
Fakhoury often sees clients who are eating well, exercising, sleeping, but still heavier than what feels healthy for their bodies.
In some cases, she says, "it turns out they have an underlying cause," like pre-diabetes, which affects more than 1 in 3 Americans, according to the CDC.
Others may have a thyroid problem or hormonal changes, like from perimenopause, that affect their ability to lose weight.
You're using a program that is miscalculating your calorie needs
Calorie- and activity-tracking programs like MyFitnessPal aren't perfect, and neither are people.
"You're eating more than you think because you're not counting properly," Fakhoury said. That can foil your weight-loss goals.
For instance, maybe you're logging a cup of broccoli, but not the tablespoon of olive oil you cooked it in. Maybe your bowl of cereal is double the actual serving size.
Or, maybe you've told a calorie counter you're "moderately active," but the app's definition of moderate activity exceeds your own, prompting it to tell you to eat more than you need.
The diet isn't well-balanced
It's not just how much you eat, of course, it's what you eat.
A balanced diet with plenty of whole foods is going to support weight loss and maintenance in large part because it will keep you satisfied.
Protein is a particularly important component of a sustainable weight-loss diet, since eating 25 to 30% of your calories from it can boost your metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day, according to Healthline.
Protein also affects your appetite-regulating hormones, which can lead to fewer cravings and less snacking — weight-loss disruptors on their own.
The diet is difficult to follow consistently
If you're restricting your food (and drink) intake four days a week and then throwing caution to the wind the other three, the math balances out: you're not going to lose weight, and may even gain it.
That's why finding a pattern of eating that's sustainable for you — which allows for flexibility but doesn't spur binge-eating — is critical for a healthy body and mind, whether or not it includes weight loss.
The diet is at odds with mindful eating principles
Mindful eating is a principle that can help your body settle at a healthy weight, while supporting your relationship with food at the same time.
The keys are eating slowly and sans distraction, savoring each bite, and tuning into your natural hunger and satiety cues.
Intuitive eating is a similar method that may lead to weight loss, although that's not the point. It too emphasizes noticing your body's signals and has been shown to improve self-esteem, emotional well-being, and psychological resilience.
Your body is healthy the way it is
Dieting to to fit a societal belief of what "healthy" looks like (thin) can be exhausting, leading people to quit diets and regain the weight that was perfectly healthy on their bodies to begin with.
Remember, research shows weight and body mass index are poor indicators of health.
Your behaviors — like moving regularly in a way you enjoy, managing stress, and eating in a way that supports your body, mind, and relationships — matter more.
"The ultimate goal is to have food become one of many aspects of life that support your well-being, but it doesn't take on this outsized role where you're spending all your time worrying about food and nutrition,"registered dietitian Christy Harrison, host of the Food Psych podcast, previously told Insider.
Intuitive eating, she said, gives you time to think about other things that matter in your life."
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