Whether you need to change up your workout plan or you need to readjust your diet, there are a slew of factors that could be holding you back from hitting your weight loss goal. Perhaps most important of all, though, is that you need to choose a healthy and realistic goal. Once you identify that goal, it’s time to continue your progress.
We asked dietitians, nutritionists and fitness experts about the most common reasons people aren’t losing the last 10 pounds—their advice could be the key to hitting your goal weight.
Getting too little—or in some cases, too much sleep can be a major barrier to weight loss. “Sleep-deprived individuals tend to eat more for several reasons: it affects your appetite hormones so you eat more, being up longer exposes you to more time to eat, and sleep deprivation makes you too exhausted to work out,” said Jo Lichten, PhD, nutritionist, registered dietitian and author of REBOOT—how to power up your energy, focus, and productivity. “One study found that people ate 83 calories more for each half hour of sleep they missed. If you need an alarm to wake you, you're not getting enough sleep.”
Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for good reason, eating a nutritious morning meal is key to weight loss success. “Eat breakfast daily,” said Lichten. “Breakfast eaters tend to eat less [and] binge less during the rest of the day. Make it a filling, high protein breakfast, such as an egg omelet with a slice of whole grain toast and an orange or Greek yogurt with fruit and a sprinkle of granola.” A healthy breakfast also brings the added benefit of kick-starting your metabolism.
“Research shows that logging what you eat can help you lose weight. This might be even more important as you approach your ideal body weight,” said Lichten. “So don't forget to log in every sip, nibble, or taste that you have. Count everything!”
Getting to the gym regularly is a great habit if you’re hoping to lose weight or live a healthier life, but if your workout routine never changes, you won’t continue to see progress. Your body is efficient and adaptable, so if you’ve been focusing on running or cycling for the past few months, the routine that helped you lose weight might not be challenging enough anymore. If you’re not losing any more weight, it may be time to challenge your body in new ways—think high intensity workouts or a new class.
Everyone is stressed in one way or another and that stress could be sabotaging your weight loss goals. “You probably say things along the lines of ‘I have too much on my plate,’ ‘I am maxed out’ or ‘I can’t squeeze one more thing into my day.’ This is stress. And stress doesn’t distinguish itself,” said Marie Delcioppo, a New York Times featured raw foods chef, health coach, Pilates instructor and personal trainer. “When you’re constantly stressed, you’re producing more of the hormone cortisol — inflammation’s BFF and a weight loss saboteur (especially when it comes to pounds around your mid-section).” Luckily there are plenty of methods for beating stress and exercise is at the top of the list.
After weeks or months of steadily losing weight it seems your weight loss has come to a full stop or maybe you’re even starting to gain some weight back. According to Registered Dietitian and Founder of Single Ingredient Groceries Lisa Hugh, your frustration might be taking you off track. “As you get closer to your goal it gets harder and harder, [both] mentally and physically. Sometimes people start ‘cheating’ or ‘treating’ at this phase and end up getting really off track.” In reality, though, you’re likely closer to your goal than you think.
So you’re eating healthy and you’ve lost a good amount of weight but you can’t seem to lose the last few, what’s the deal? Hugh says sneaky sources may be to blame. “You’re eating pretty healthy but getting extra calories [from] salt, sugar, fat, and preservatives in your food. Switching to a cleaner way of eating might help.” It’s important to know what you’re eating, but also what exactly is in the food that you’re eating.
A night out at your favorite restaurant is a great treat every once in a while, but if you’re eating out several times a week, that could be the very reason you’re not losing weight. Even seemingly healthy menu items (like salads) can actually be seriously unhealthy depending on what ingredients make it in to the meal and also depending on how it’s prepared. It’s tough to know exactly what you’re eating at any given restaurant, so make an effort to prepare most of your food at home.
Even if you’re eating all the right things, you might be overdoing it in the drink department. It’s a safe bet that you know to avoid sugar-loaded drinks like soda, but you might be overlooking sugary juice and alcoholic drinks. These drinks aren’t beneficial to your health and they are adding sugar and calories, which could be hindering your weight loss efforts.
Just because you’re eating healthy doesn’t mean you can throw portion control out the window. “Consuming healthy foods that are high in calories and fat [could be] hindering you from reaching your weight loss goals,” said Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist Danielle Hamo. “These foods include nuts, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil [and others]. They are healthy but if you do not watch your portions you can easily rack up hundreds of calories that will keep you from losing weight.”
Even if your diet and exercise routines are right on track, if you’re not moving throughout the day, you’re missing out on crucial physical activity. Something as simple as taking a walk at lunch or taking the stairs to your office adds up over the course of the day. On top of the weight loss benefits, mounting research is pointing to a sedentary lifestyle as a major threat to long-term health.
“I always say that weight is lost in the kitchen, and toning happens in the gym. But if you’re not active at all, you’re not reaching your full calorie-burning potential,” said Registered Dietitian and writer Abby Langer. “Weight training will add muscle that can increase how many calories you burn at rest. And let’s face it—people who are active tend to be healthier, happier and less stressed.”
“When people lose weight, they reduce their body size, which means that they are burning fewer calories at their new weight. This means that in order to keep losing, they need to keep lowering their calorie level,” said Christen Cooper, a Registered Dietitian and doctoral candidate in nutrition and education at Columbia University. “Particularly for people who have been dieting for quite a while, this often means going to a calorie level that is very low and difficult to achieve. What the diet may need is a shake-up. Sometimes adding protein and taking away carbohydrate can help. Sometimes, believe it or not, adding some fat back to the diet (while taking away something else) can help.”
Staying hydrated is key to every aspect of our health and it’s also important for weight loss. Drinking enough water will keep your body running efficiently—helping with digestion, energy levels and muscle function. Additionally, people regularly mistake feelings of thirst for feelings of hunger, so drinking enough water will keep you from eating when you’re not actually hungry.
“Many of my clients come to me for weight management, but I rarely (if ever) weigh them—because I don't really believe in weight goals or ideal weight,” said Registered Dietitian and writer Abby Langer. Some people set unrealistic and unhealthy goals.
“Being a healthy weight for you should be a combination of a happy, healthy lifestyle, plus whole, delicious foods, plus eating behavior that is healthy and smart. All of those things figure into nutrition. Food is only one factor. By getting you off the scale and away from the numbers, you can better focus on establishing good habits. The healthy weight for you will likely follow.”