Why Can't I Lose Weight?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on September 10, 2023
4 min read

You try hard, but that scale won't budge. It's only human nature to wonder if those pounds will ever come off. But don't raise the white flag and chuck your diet just yet. See if one of these sneaky things is secretly messing with your weight loss hopes.

It could be. When you take a pass on that first meal of the day, it can work against you. You're likely to get hungrier later, so you may overdo it at lunch.

Try to eat within an hour of waking up. A high-fiber, protein-packed breakfast can help you feel full, longer. Try cottage cheese with fruit, eggs with whole-wheat toast, or Greek yogurt with a banana.

A late-night meal can spell trouble for your weight loss plan. It may raise your body temperature, blood sugar, and insulin, which makes it harder for you to burn fat. Try to eat dinner at least 3 hours before you go to sleep.

Be careful about snacking after supper. You take in more calories than you realize when you nibble while you watch TV or use the computer. You may also be tempted to eat unhealthy foods like ice cream or potato chips.

It's possible. It can make you reach for high-calorie, high-fat foods. Your body also tends to store more fat when you're stressed out.

To reduce stress, try exercise or meditation.

It could make a difference in how you lose weight. A recent study suggests it's easier for men to drop pounds quickly. But women tend to have more success with long-term efforts.

Where you lose weight can also differ. Guys lose belly fat first, but that area can be tougher for the ladies.

Possibly. How fast you burn them is based on your metabolism -- chemical reactions that maintain your body.

If you have a slow metabolism, your genes may be to blame. Or you may not have enough lean muscle mass. People with lean, muscular bodies burn more calories than people with a higher percentage of body fat.

Other things that can affect how you burn calories:

Getting older. Your metabolism slows down about 2%-8% every decade. That may be from decreased muscle mass.

Eating too little. It sounds strange, but the truth is, if you skip meals or follow a very low-calorie diet, it can backfire by making you burn calories more slowly.

Want to ratchet up your metabolism? Lift weights to boost your lean muscle mass. And avoid diets that have extremely low-calorie counts.

When you don't get your ZZZs, it can make it harder to lose weight. Your metabolism may slow and you won't burn calories as fast as you'd like.

You may also have less energy when you don't get enough sleep. That makes it harder to exercise.

When you're tired, you're more likely to make poor diet choices, like choosing sweets over fruit. In a recent study, people who didn't get enough sleep ate about 300 more calories per day than those who got more rest.

Maybe. Some bodies are simply better at burning fat than others. It's something you inherit from your parents or grandparents.

You don't have any control over the genes that were passed to you, so you may need to work a little harder to burn calories and lose weight.

If it's underactive, you may have a condition called hypothyroidism. It can lead to weight gain from a buildup of salt and water in your body.

An overactive thyroid is called hyperthyroidism. Many people with it lose weight, but others pick up extra pounds because it can make you feel hungrier.

How your thyroid affects your metabolism, energy, and weight is complicated. Other hormones, proteins, and chemicals may also play a role. Check with your doctor if you think it's a problem.

Medical conditions make it tougher to slim down. Some things that could be causing your weight problems are:

  • Eating disorders like bulimia
  • Heart disease
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Sleep disorders like sleep apnea

Some medicines can also deal a blow to your efforts to drop some pounds. For instance, you might have trouble losing weight if you take drugs for:

  • Allergies
  • Birth control
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

If you have one of these conditions and weight is a problem for you, talk to your doctor. They may be able to change your medications.