What to do when you’re not losing weight

Weight loss is tricky. Sometimes you do what you’re supposed to do and the weight comes off. Sometimes you lose weight even though you’re mostly not doing what you should be doing. Sometimes you’re doing everything possible to lose weight and you aren’t losing an ounce. What’s up with that?

Weight loss is a lot like growing crops. You choose the very best seed that’s recommended for your region. That’s like picking a scientifically sound, evidence-based weight loss plan that’s a good fit with your life.

You do the things you need to guarantee your seeds will grow into healthy plants. That includes proper germination and planting, and ensuring they get adequately watered to get them off to the best possible start. That’s no different than getting yourself thoroughly acquainted with your food plan, and shopping for the food and perhaps equipment you will need to get you off to the best possible start.

You’ve done all you can and now it’s time to let nature takes its course. Sometimes you can make up for nature’s failings and sometimes you can’t. If it doesn’t rain you can water your crops. If it rains too much there isn’t anything you can do except hope your plants survive all the water and no sun.

With weight loss you can do all you need to do and let nature takes its course. Sometimes it’s a nice linear progression of weight loss. Sometimes it’s a down and up and down again trend. Sometimes it’s great jumps downward, little hops up, nothing happening at all for a while until the next leap downward again. Sometimes it’s completely inconsistent.

Regardless of how the weight’s coming off, sometimes it just stops. You are still doing your part but nature isn’t cooperating. It’s frustrating. You want to lose weight; you’re going through all the actions but no more weight is lost. What can you do when that happens?

First and most important is define “not losing weight.” It could be that in the first month or so you were averaging a weekly loss of 3 pounds. In the second month your weekly average may have slowed to 1 pound. If you’re an all or none thinker, that 1 pound average weekly weight loss is just the same to you as not losing at all.

For most people it’s normal for weekly average weight loss to slow down even though no changes have been made to weight loss behaviors. There’s a scientific and therefore logical reason why it happens. Before your body starts to burn fat for energy it has a shorter term energy storage option – glycogen.
livestrong.com explains glycogen and water weight loss well:
The Role of Glycogen

When you eat carbohydrate, only a certain amount can be used, or circulated in the bloodstream at any one time. What can’t be used immediately needs to be stored. The carbohydrate is broken down and converted to a substance called glycogen, ready to be stored in the liver or the muscle cells to be used at a later date. About 8 percent of the weight of your liver is glycogen and about 1 percent of your muscle mass.

Using glycogen for energy means you’re releasing the water it held and therefore losing weight from water rather than body fat. After the stores of glycogen have been used the body starts to burn its fat. It takes longer to lose weight when it’s body fat than when it’s glycogen.

The rate of weight loss slows even though you’re still consistently maintaining all of your weight loss behaviors. You’re losing weight and it only seems to have slowed down. You’re just not experiencing the loss of water weight, which isn’t true body weight. The source of the lost weight has changed from water to fat or in other words, real body weight rather than fluid.

Weight loss slows down but that’s not the same as not losing weight.

If you’re really not losing weight you haven’t lost 1/2 pound over the course of 4 weeks. If you’re not losing weight the first thing you want to do is take a good look at what you’re doing. You may think you’re still practicing your weight loss behaviors 100%, but thinking isn’t good enough. You need to be sure.

  1. Monitor every bite.
  2. Weigh and measure
  3. Precisely track your food in a food diary.
  4. Monitor your physical activity. Use a tracking device if you have one
  5. Drink more water
  6. Get plenty of rest

You might step on the scale after a week of doing these 7 steps and see you’re weighing anywhere from 1 to 3 pounds less. If that happens you may want to continue your monitoring food and activity closely.

If you see no results, you could do it again for another week to see if that gets the scale moving or you could try a jump start plan.

If you’re still not losing you may need to visit your doctor to be checked for underlying causes such as thyroid issues and to discuss your goal. Is it realistic? Do you really need to lose more weight?




Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.