Nutrition Matters: Why Is It So Difficult To Lose Weight?


It can be downright frustrating: week after week of going to the gym and being mindful of what you eat but you can’t seem to lose weight. Sound familiar? It’s a complaint I hear often—and one that has the potential to have you throw in the towel. But before you do, I suggest taking a closer look at what might really be going on.

Weight loss seems like it should be simple: create a calorie deficit and lose the weight. But unfortunately that’s not always the case. Our bodies are both very complex and very adaptive. Your metabolic rate will decrease when creating a calorie deficit and as you lose weight. There are hormones released during times of stress or lack of sleep that can affect your appetite and the storage of body fat. Genetics may play a larger role than we think when it comes to weight loss and body composition. Who would have thought losing weight could get so complicated?

Aside from the physiological aspects of losing weight, there are other issues to consider if you find the scale not moving in the direction you want.


• Overestimating your workout and underestimating your calories. Don’t fall into the trap of perceived exertion during exercise or allow yourself to overeat because “I exercised today.” Don’t re-eat all those calories you burned from exercise.
• Exercising only. You have to exercise more than you think. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults need to exercise for 60 to 90 minutes each day for weight loss. An hour workout can burn 300 to 500 calories—but it is so easy to eat that back. Plan to exercise AND monitor your food intake.
• Not eating a healthy diet. Don’t just count calories—make your food choices count, too. Be sure you are eating at least two fruits and at least two-and-a-half cups of vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and fat, while also providing much needed fiber to help fill you up. Don’t skip meals and be sure you include lean protein at all meals.
• Consistency. This is important for both eating right and exercising but don’t let slip-ups get you off track. Take time to examine why they occurred to help you understand and control them. Resist the urge to skip the gym because the scale has stalled—plateaus are temporary.
• Not measuring more than your weight. You may not always see the scale move in the right direction, but there is other evidence of fitness and change, which can help keep you motivated. Take measurements of your waist, hips, arms and thighs. Inches lost—that’s nice, too.

The keys to managing your weight throughout your life are many: mindful, healthy eating, regular physical activity, good sleep habits, and managing stress. If you are following this path and still can’t lose weight, talk with your doctor to see if there is an underlying medical condition preventing you from losing weight. Otherwise, stay positive and focused and understand that these behaviors should be a lifestyle. And while weight loss may occur slowly, the best of habits will develop over time.

Have a nutrition question? Ask a nutrition expert. Lisa Wilby is a registered and licensed dietitian. E-mail your questions to
Answers will be published in future columns.


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