Help! Why can't I lose weight?

"I've only lost 1lb this week... how can that be?"

"I work out everyday and still haven't lost anything!"

"I've cut right back on everything but nothing seems to work!"

Any of these feel familiar? Sometimes, it feels like no matter what we do, nothing seems to work. We're desperate to lose weight and we'll try anything and everything to do so... and that can be the precise problem. If you're struggling to spark weight loss or you were doing well and now you've stalled, here's 5 things you might want to consider...

1. Are you losing inches?

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it a million times more, you don't really want to lose weight. You want to lose fat. Stop using the sad step as your only indicator, particularly if you're training regularly. Instead, measure yourself - with a tape, by your clothes, with a body fat measurer - because if you're doing things right, you'll be retaining, and possibly even building, lean muscle mass whilst you drop fat and that doesn't show so well on the scale.

2. What are you eating?

There is no exercise regime which can outrun a bad diet. None. So, if you're not seeing progress in any way at all, take a look at your diet. This isn't just about what type of food you're eating, it's also about how many calories your consuming. We all now understand that fat is not bad for us, but this has led to foods such as avocado, cheese, oily fish, butter and coconut oil taking their five minutes of fame on the social media stage. These foods are good for you, and you should eat them, but if your goal is fat loss, they're high in calories and eating too much of them will impact this.

avocado pizza

Plus, I hate to mention it, but liquid calories also need to be considered. Fruit juice, fizzy pop and sugary teas and coffees all add up over the course of the day. If you're not paying close attention to how much you're consuming, it's easy to go overboard. And, I can't stop here without mentioning alcohol, unfortunately, this really can put the brakes on your weight loss; if you want to read more about why, click here.

3. Are you eating enough?

We've all been tempted at one point or another. Drop weight quickly with shakes, fasting, 500 calorie a day diets... At first you see great results, 5lbs gone in the first week, 3lb in the next, 2lbs for a couple of weeks longer and then... nothing. Eating super low calorie for too long will have the opposite effect of what you want to achieve. Your metabolism will slow as your body tries to cope with the famine that has clearly taken hold. At this point, your body wants to conserve all the energy it possibly can so you're no longer burning as many calories at rest and you're no longer able to train as hard. Worse still, any weight you are losing isn't just body fat, it's now muscle as your body has gone into a catabolic state. Lower muscle mass = lower calories burn. It's a lose - lose situation.

Never eat below your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns if you were to lie in bed all day!) and always factor your lifestyle and training needs into this. If you're not sure what your personal calorie requirements are, use this calculator to work out your BMR then the relevant calculation below to ascertain your daily calorie needs. If you're in a fat loss phase all you need to do next is decrease the suggested daily calorie intake by 10% - 20%.

Daily calories needed:

  • Little to no exercise = BMR x 1.2
  • Light exercise (1–3 days per week) = BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) = BMR x 1.55
  • Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week) = BMR x 1.725
  • Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) = BMR x 1.9
4. Are you overtraining?

This is really, super easy to do; I know, I've done it... several times! You've discovered that training makes you feel awesome, it gives you a buzz and it enables you to eat more than you might otherwise and feel satisfied on your fat loss journey. Then, all of a sudden, you start feeling tired, lacking in energy and all progress halts. Chances are, you've over done it. Your body requires rest in order to adapt, without it, all your good intentions will be in vain. Exercise is stressful to your body and too much stress, just like in any other part of your life, is damaging. Make sure you factor in at least 2 rest days a week and, if you're training more than once a day, perhaps even more. Also, after several weeks of training, factor in a deload week where you take things down a notch. You can continue exercising, just with less intensity - take the dog to the park, play footie with the kids, enjoy a walk in the countryside with the family - exercise with a little caution and you'll see faster and greater adaptations!

5. Are you getting enough sleep?

We recognise the importance of sleep for our children, we know it's the time that real growth and development happens as such, we make sure that our kids get the sleep they need to be as strong, healthy and happy as possible.

So why don't we do the same for ourselves? Granted, as adults we're not in such a rapid stage of development as children but if you're looking to adapt your body whether it's for fat loss, muscle gain or performance purposes, if you don't get enough quality sleep, you won't get the adaptations you're looking for.

The average adult requires between 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night; the exact number of hours you require is personal to each individual. So, tune in to your body. If you're feeling tired, hungry, lethargic and fat loss has stalled, try going to bed earlier. Additionally, to ensure your sleep is of a high quality, minimise the use of electronics before bed time, don't go to bed with the television on, and cut out as much light and external noise from your bedroom as is possible. Remember, stress is damaging to your body and a lack of quality sleep each night is stressful. If you want to create positive adaptations in your body, you need to get your sleep right.


There are of course, many other reasons that you may be struggling to achieve the body composition you're looking for and, if you've addressed all of the points above and are still struggling, it's worth getting in touch with a health professional just to make sure there aren't any underlying reasons.

And sometimes, we just need a little bit of help, motivation and guidance to support us on the journey. If that's the case, involve your friends, join a fitness group or employ the help of a personal trainer. If you'd like to find out more about training with me, contact me here or give me a shout over on my Facebook page.