Why Am I Not Losing Weight? Here’s The Reason!

“Exercise is king, nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom.”

That’s what Jack Lalanne, “The Godfather of Fitness”, said about the balance between exercise and nutrition.

He was talking about the importance of understanding how both of these elements impact how people lose weight, build muscle, and why many of us struggle to do both.

Hold onto this though for right now because we’re coming back to it in a second, but I want to talk about this idea of weight loss resistance.

It’s something all of us experience and today, we’re going to talk about how to overcome it.

What is weight loss resistance?

Weight loss resistance is the inability to lose weight or to continue losing weight once weight loss has been achieved. Often, this can even lead to weight regain.

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing hard-earned effort thrown out the window. Gaining more weight than we started with is like a slap in the face—thanks, metabolism!

Speaking of metabolism, it’s important to know how it plays a role in weight loss resistance.

I’m not going to give you the full run down on metabolism in this piece, but you can read all about it right here. For the sake of our conversation, know this: our metabolism automatically adapts and responds to our behavior and the stress put on it. 

This is known as metabolic compensation.

What is metabolic compensation?

This is the metabolism’s way of protecting us during extended periods of caloric deficit and/or energy output. At some point, your body hits a threshold of insufficient calories or too much exercise and goes into protection mode to maintain the integrity of your overall health.

When metabolic compensation kicks in and the degree to which it impacts our weight depends on many personal factors like weight already lost, stress levels, and sleep.

During periods of energy restriction (eating less) and/or increased energy expenditure (moving more), the metabolism shifts in ways that prevent further weight loss.

Without getting too deep into the science of it all, we can summarize these shifts into the following metabolic and behavioral responses:

  • Decreased energy expenditure: this means your metabolic rate is lower now than it was before, allowing your body to do the same things, using less energy—aka burning fewer calories.  
  • Increased energy intake: your body has been running on empty for so long that you’ll be craving extra energy in the form of calories. This leads to excess consumption of calories—aka lots of food cravings. 

Essentially, your metabolism wants you to eat more and move less to prevent further weight loss. At the same time, the metabolism has become more efficient with how it uses energy, so we’re not even burning the same amount of energy as before.

Weight loss strategies that promote sustainable and slow weight loss rates are going to help reduce the impact of this effect to a point. Those extreme diet and exercise approaches typically backfire. 

What happens when you are taking things nice and slow, yet your metabolism reaches this threshold and you still have inches to lose?

Good question. 

Now is the perfect time to reintroduce our quote from the beginning of this post: 

“Exercise is king, nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom.” 

In order to protect your kingdom, you may need to go into a season of weight maintenance. Here’s what that looks like.

How to manage weight loss resistance…

  1. Take a break from dietary energy restriction.
    Periods of weight maintenance are crucial to continued weight loss and preventing weight regain. If you want to continue eating with a negative energy balance, then switch to moderate energy restriction. Just back it off a wee bit. Depending on your personal preferences and goals, you could alternate periods of eating more on days that you exercise and eating less on rest days.
  2. Track your calories.
    Given the changes in appetite, it’s helpful to track food intake during these times. Keep a food diary, and monitor changes in appetite throughout the day. These insights could help you adjust your nutrition and eating habits in ways that help to keep hunger and cravings in check.
     
  3. Increase protein intake.
    Increase protein to support lean muscle mass and to help offset some of the changes in appetite like increased hunger, decreased satiety, and satiation. Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, so let’s use that to our advantage when metabolic compensation starts to impact our hunger and fullness cues.
  4. Slower weight loss rates.
    Weight loss strategies that promote sustainable and slow weight loss rates are going to help reduce the impact of metabolic compensation. I’m talking 0.5-1lb max per week. Keep in mind that weight loss is not linear. Some weeks you will lose, some you will maintain, and some you will gain.
  5. Exercise regularly.
    During periods of energy restriction, exercise in ways that promote and preserve lean muscle mass. In other words, resistance training. How you exercise will depend on your personal fitness capacity and abilities, but for many people starting out, body weight is enough resistance.
     
  6. Decrease sedentary behavior. Your body craves movement so give it some! Track this movement and be intentional with your movement goals so that you can stay accountable and continue on the track to success. 

Please remember this…

If there is one thing I want you to walk away with it’s this: do not give up on your weight loss practices just because you experience weight loss resistance! Keep doing what works for you! 

Those practices are tried and true, you’re just experiencing a little bit of metabolic compensation. I’ve seen hundreds of clients experience this and revert back to their old ways and every time they ask me how to get back on track I tell them to stay faithful to the health practices that have worked well.

And if you start to experience some of the symptoms of weight loss resistance, try out one of the six practices above for a week and observe how it impacts your health—you’ll be surprised at the impact a small change can make. 

About The Author

Dr. Stefania Tiveron is an Ontario board-certified Naturopathic doctor and health coach. Her primary focus is on helping people improve their gut heath and supporting hormonal and metabolic imbalances.

Check out what she’s up to on Instagram!