5 sneaky reasons why you’re not losing weight 

Weight Management

by Jasmine Kim, MD

Oct 20, 2022

“I feel like I don’t really eat much, but I’m not losing weight.” Sound familiar? If you’ve been feeling this way, let’s talk about some sneaky reasons why we sometimes don’t lose weight as expected.

Keep in mind that everybody—and every body—is different. There is a long list of potential reasons why people hit a weight loss plateau, but here are a few of the most common ones I see with my patients.

1. You have insulin resistance

It is possible that you have a condition called insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, the cells in your body stop responding to insulin, causing high levels of sugar in your blood (also called high blood sugar).

If your body builds up insulin resistance, that extra blood sugar will be stored as fat instead of as an energy source called glycogen. This makes it more challenging for us to lose weight despite good dietary habits.

The best way to fight insulin resistance is by exercising and generally living an active lifestyle. However, sometimes medications can help initially, so please consult your doctor for evaluation and treatment options.

2. You’re stressed

Stress can produce excess levels of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol shifts your metabolism to store fat. It also increases your appetite and can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. Trying to lose weight while constantly craving those “cheat day” foods is practically fighting a losing battle.

So, stress management and caring for your mental health are important in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. For simple ways to start taking better care of your mental health, read this.

3. You’re drinking artificially sweetened drinks

Are you drinking anything other than plain water? Sugar-free and “zero-calorie” drinks have artificial sweeteners, which significantly increase ghrelin levels. What’s ghrelin and why is that a problem? Ghrelin is a “hunger hormone” that stimulates your appetite, meaning it can cause increased food intake and fat storage.

You may ask, how about sparkling water that doesn’t have any artificial sweeteners? Unfortunately, the carbonation in the liquid also does the same thing—it increases ghrelin.

Plain water is the best thing to drink (in general and especially for weight loss). But some of us just can’t stand the taste of plain water, and I get it. Instead of using sugar-free flavoring drops, try infusing water with fresh fruits and herbs such as:

  • Blackberries, orange and mint leaves
  • Blueberries, lemon and rosemary
  • Fresh strawberries, lemon and basil

There are many more combinations you can find to make your water more interesting. Get creative and make it fun! 

4. You’re not snacking smart

Snacks in between meals can add up. While snacks are sometimes necessary and can be helpful in keeping you from getting too hungry between meals, try to snack smart.

Here are a few snacking tips:

  • Don’t snack blindly. Look up the nutrition information for your snacks, so you know what you’re eating.
  • Avoid products that contain artificial sweeteners.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. If you’re not a big fan of fruits and vegetables, you can pair them with something tasty like hummus or a handful of nuts.

5. Your exercise routine needs a change

If you feel that you are exercising regularly but not seeing results, you might not be doing the right kind of exercise. For example, doing too much cardio without any strengthening training will make it difficult for you to gain muscles, and muscles help increase metabolism.

Another potential reason to consider is that you’re doing the same workouts over and over. If you are always doing the same routines, your body gets used to it and will hit a plateau. We need to push our bodies out of their comfort zone and get a little uncomfortable.

How? Try adding in some high-intensity interval training to mix things up. Change up your routines, increase repetitions or the number of sets in your workout. These small changes can have big results.

If you need support figuring out what type of exercise plan is best for you, consider meeting with a personal trainer.

Next steps

About the Author

Jasmine Kim, MD, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Cedar Park.

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