If you find that you can’t lose weight no matter what, then you should know these 8 health reasons why that might be happening, and what you can do to fix it.

woman on scale

Weight Loss for Women

The truth is, you don’t have to be skinny to be healthy. In fact, a lot of research shows that having a little bit of extra weight especially later in life can be beneficial.

However, if you are overweight and that weight is negatively impacting your health, then it might be wise to lose a few pounds. I highly recommend you work with your own healthcare provider to figure out what would be a healthy weight for you. 

If you do in fact need to lose weight, then it can be as simple as cutting back on food indulgences and being a little more mindful about your choices. For some people, however, weight loss can present quite a challenge. But, it turns out, there are some real reasons why you can’t lose weight. The good news is that you can do things to help.

Cant Lose Weight

1. You’re Not Getting Enough Quality Sleep

Lack of good quality sleep can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Not getting enough sleep is actually quite common in the U.S. In fact, nearly 40% of American adults are not getting the recommended amount of sleep. The average sleep time for American adults is only 6.8 hours, down a full hour from 1942. 

So how exactly does lack of good quality sleep affect your weight loss efforts? If you’re not getting enough minutes of good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly. This has everything to do with our hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin. When you are getting less good quality sleep your body is more likely to produce more ghrelin, the hunger hormone that tells you it’s time to eat.

In contrast, when you don’t sleep well, your body produces less leptin, the hormone that tells you you’re full. More ghrelin and less leptin is a recipe for weight gain. If you are trying to lose weight but are having a hard time, getting enough good quality sleep should be your first priority (be sure to read my Healthy Sleep Hacks article).

The bottom line is that most adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep every night. To ensure that you are getting that amount, you might actually have to be in bed up to 10 hours, taking account the minutes it takes to fall asleep or time you might wake up in the middle of the night. If you can’t lose weight no matter what, take a hard look at your sleep habits and try making it a priority. 

woman sleeping

2. You’re Stressed

Chronic stress also has a negative impact on weight loss efforts. When we’re under stress, our bodies produce an adrenal response. Our adrenals pump out more cortisol signaling the liver and muscles to release glycogen stores. This type of stress response can lead to loss of muscle mass, increased fat storage, and impulses to overeat.

Higher cortisol levels also attack muscle mass slowing the metabolism down, due to the fact that higher muscle mass equates to a faster metabolism. Work to control stress by identifying your triggers and attempting to get them under control. As you better manage your stress, then your ability to lose weight should increase. 

How can you tell if you are stressed? There are a few ways. Do you feel tense or often find that your neck and shoulders are sore? Do you often feel rage, worry, or helplessness? If your stress is serious, you might want to seek counseling to help develop better coping techniques. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, and there is no shame in asking for help. 

woman meditating after yoga

3. Your Hormones Are Out of Balance

Hormonal imbalance is a huge reason for weight-loss resistance. Women are particularly vulnerable to changes in weight, especially during times of hormonal changes like perimenopause, menopause and post-menopause.

Thyroid hormones, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, insulin, cortisol, leptin and ghrelin are all responsible for weight gain or problems losing weight when they are not properly balanced.

If you suspect imbalanced hormones might be a problem for you, ask your doctor to test your hormone levels, including a full thyroid panel including TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies, and reverse T3 (learn more about ideal thyroid lab results).

Most conventional doctors will not agree right off the bat to testing a full thyroid panel, but it’s your job to insist on your right to the full panel AND to having the results. If your doctor refuses, it’s time to find a new doctor. Read more about medical gender bias and how it affects the health of women.

Undiagnosed and under-treated hypothyroidism is one of the major failings of modern medicine and women are the most affected. If you are woman feeling fatigued and that you can’t lose weight no matter what you do, then there is a very good chance that you need to take thyroid replacement hormone. 

You’ll also want to focus on eating a hormone balancing diet, not just for your thyroid, but for your other hormones as well. This includes a diet very low in refined sugar, high in fiber, and with moderate levels of good fats and quality protein. Avoid processed foods and refined oils, and eat as clean and organic as possible. See my recommendations for how to fill your plate and which foods you should be eating every day

See these other weight loss tips for women.

4. You Need to Adjust Your Macronutrients

It is suggested that we eat a macronutrient ratio of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Of course this may vary from person to person based on bioindividuality and your particular health status. Most people are eating too many refined carbohydrates and not enough protein or healthy fat. One study showed that higher protein intake after weight loss helps prevent weigh regain.

This doesn’t mean you should fear carbs, although some people do benefit from a low-carb diet. Eating carbohydrates from unprocessed sources like low sugar fruits, vegetables and limited starches is good for you, especially women. It’s the refined carbohydrates like sugar that you shouldn’t be consuming. If you feel like you are addicted to sugar, then you might want to try a sugar detox.  

Another common problem for women who are trying to lose weight is that they drastically cut back on fat. This can actually be detrimental to health since our bodies need good quality fat sources to operate optimally. Eating the right kinds of fat in proportion to the other macronutrients might actually help you lose weight. Healthy fat sources include: avocados, coconut, olive oil, naturally-occurring fat in lean grass-fed meat, and the fats in nuts and seeds.

Learn more about the different healthy diets and which one might be best for you.

chia pudding

5. You Need More Joy Into Your Life

Believe it or not, there’s a link between happiness and weight loss. How you handle stress and sadness in your life can make or break your weight loss efforts. Not having enough joy in your life can affect the way your body reacts to temptations, such as those pesky sugar cravings. Lack of joy can affect neurotransmitters that control mood, thinking, appetite and behavior, making you more likely to eat poorly, skip exercise and gain weight.

There are some simple ways to combat this – seek peace of mind in the form of mediation, write in a gratitude journal, hang out with a friend, go outside for a walk, or do something that makes you happy. Finding activities that you enjoy and having support from others will add joy to your life.

friends on vacation

6. You’re Eating Too Much Sugar

Sugar seems to have found its way into almost everything we eat. I am constantly surprised by how sugar hides in packaged foods. The best way to avoid added sugars is to cook at home and choose your own ingredients. 

Several studies have shown that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine. This makes it hard for most people to give it up. However, if weight loss is your goal, you’re going to need to consider nixing it from your diet (be sure to read my article on how to go sugar-free without going crazy). You might also want to consider joining my 30-Day Sugar Free Challenge

7. You’re Eating Processed Foods

Processed foods are everywhere and they can be hard to avoid for some. Processed foods can contain high levels of sodium, sugar, refined oils, and other questionable ingredients. Packaged and boxed foods are generally best to avoid. A recent study also showed that ultra-processed foods have been linked to cancer and other metabolic disorders.

Make a conscious effort to eat wholesome, clean foods such as how they are found in nature. I know a lot of offices have potluck lunches a few times per month. Bring a tray of vegetables or something else that’s unprocessed that you’ll want to eat. That way you’ll be more likely to avoid the unhealthy processed items others bring.

dog with donut toy

8. You’re Not Moving Enough

The amazing think about exercise is that you don’t actually have to work out hours a day to get benefits. Some say that you really only need between 1-2 miles of walking a day to stay healthy, plus some additional weight-bearing exercises and stretching to help with flexibility.

If everyone did this minimal amount of exercise, then the world would be a healthier place. It’s easy to think that you have to go hard or not do anything at all, but start with just a 10-minute walk and go up from there.

If you don’t do any exercise at all, it will be difficult to lose weight. Just a slight increase in your activity can make a big difference when it comes to weight loss. 

cat nap

Conclusions 

There are several reasons why you may have a hard time losing weight. Don’t beat yourself up, but do some research into why you aren’t meeting your goals. Then, try to make some changes one at a time and see if you get better results.

Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.

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