Medically reviewed and approved by Nataniel Josue MD.
Losing weight by removing the fat deposits in your body is not an easy task. It is a time-consuming process, but you can achieve it. Often we find cases where people train a lot, go on all kinds of diets, and yet don’t manage to lose weight. So they get stuck and discouraged.
As a nutritionist, this is what I know:
A nutrition study by David Katz of Yale University concluded that the most effective way to lose weight is to include “real foods” in your diet. You must regularly eat whole grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean meats to start burning fat effectively.
Weight loss should be based on a balanced, natural diet, as well as increased caloric expenditure that causes the body to transform adipocytes or lipocytes (fat cells) into energy. To catalyze this transformation, one must lead an active life and regularly exercise.
If not, in some cases, muscle tissue is lost and this causes diminished performance and the starting of the catabolism process. Many times, the failure to achieve weight loss is because of an erroneous approach to training or diet.
We will analyze this and other possible causes so that you can pursue a much more effective strategy.
14 reasons why you’re not losing weight
A common goal on the minds of modern human beings is to lose weight, for many reasons. Christmas is coming, winter is ending, or summer is approaching. You have the pressure fit into that dress for your cousin’s wedding, or you have another major public event.
At those times, you probably tell yourself: “Starting Monday, I’m going to go on a diet. I’m going to go to a nutritionist, to the doctor, and I’m going to start the diet.” You also say to yourself, “I have to lose 5 pounds in one month and 10 pounds in 2 months.”
In the end, because of all the pressure, you have abandoned the diet, you have had rebound effects, and you feel discouraged. Below, I’m going to tell you the most common mistakes people make when trying to lose weight.
Slimming down at any cost
The first mistake I want to warn you against is dieting with only one shallow objective: to lose weight by any means. Motivations could be weight because summer is coming, or because you need to fit into a wedding dress in two months.
That is a big mistake, because if your only priority is to lose weight, you will do so maybe to the detriment of your overall health. You should get tested before you start a diet. Perhaps you have a cardiovascular problem, your cholesterol is very high, your uric acid is high, or you have a liver problem.
If you decide to go on that extreme diet that your friend saw on Google, you should never overlook your general health. You should take all the necessary precautions to diet healthily.
Dieting in this extreme way, in a matter of about six weeks, you will most likely regain the pounds you lost. Sooner or later, your body will make you fail; it will make you give up. It will make you unable to train because it is very tired, and you will run out of steam.
That’s why I recommend you to visit a professional whenever you want to go on any diet. This specialist will guide you, safeguarding your overall health in any slimming process.
Not having the right balance of macronutrients
When people try to lose weight, they only consider what they burn during the day according to their basal metabolism. That is usually based on your weight. Depending on weight and activity level, we all burn a certain amount of calories throughout the day.
This calorie-burning focus works well, but what matters more and what should concern you most is having the right balance of macronutrients.
You need enough carbohydrates, proteins, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in your diet. We must not only concern ourselves when making a diet with the caloric balance; there must be a strategy. We must also remember that the human body has a need for proteins and other nutrients.
If we consider this, the complete set of calories will therefore be a balanced percentage of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats throughout your day. We should base our diet on a constant balance of macronutrients and micronutrients suitable for your body’s composition, health, and other variables.
You may be interested in “How can I get a defined body? 10 essential tips.”
Not regularly exercising
Another mistake that many people make is to pursue weight loss or slimming with only the diet.
If you don’t exercise your body, your health will not improve much, and remember that your priority has to be to improve your overall health. In this weight loss journey, you are going to lose pounds. But you also have to:
- Improve your cardiovascular health
- Improve your circulation
- Lower glucose levels
- Lower cholesterol and uric acid levels
If you want to achieve all this, exercise is essential. Moderate aerobic exercise is vital. That will allow us to take our body into a high intensity state, which promotes autophagy. This autophagy can enable us to eliminate waste, kickstart detoxification processes in the body, and support cardiovascular health.
I also want you to know that, at the same time that you’re restricting calories and doing aerobic exercise, you must also build muscle mass. That can be weightlifting, Crossfit, or isolated weight lifting. It can even be a less-metabolic (yet functional) exercise that allows you to perform the muscle contractions needed to build muscle mass.
When you adopt a very restrictive diet and heavy aerobic exercises without training your muscles, you’ll lose muscle mass. Loss of muscle mass in the weight-loss process can cause issues, including:
- The immune system weakens
- General immunosuppression
- Loss of collagen
- Stretch marks may appear
Losing muscle mass can cause damage to the correct structure of the extracellular matrix.
The massive loss of weight without promoting the increase of muscular mass causes flaccidity, striation, cellulite, and alterations in blood circulation.
I advise you to do some weight training two or three days a week to maintain your muscle mass while slimming down. Also know that your basal metabolism depends primarily on your muscle mass. The more muscle mass you maintain, or even build, while you are losing weight, the more fat you will burn while at rest.
Overdoing it at the start
One of the big problems can be starting with too much enthusiasm. People can start out doing way too much exercise. What happens if you have a hypocaloric diet?
Well, to start, you might be energetic and motivated to start the diet and exercise without stopping. If you have even mostly removed the carbohydrates from your diet, you are on a ketogenic diet that raises the adrenaline dopamine, giving you energy.
You feel like you can do everything: train an hour in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and so on. That is quite dangerous and likely harmful when you are on a low-calorie diet.
If you are on a calorie-restricted diet and do a lot of exercising (whether aerobic or anaerobic), you can inflame your body and increase your cortisol level. Also, you might break down your muscle mass by generating this inflammation in your body.
I have told you that it is imperative to build muscle mass through exercise. Therefore, it is necessary to consume enough calories to compensate for the impact of muscle breakdown and inflammation that occurs after exercise.
Not drinking enough water
Another big mistake is not drinking enough water while you are losing all that weight. Much (60-65%) of your body composition is water.
We need water to transport the nutrients, red blood cells, and oxygen through our bodies. Additionally, we need intracellular and extracellular water for the stability of our cell membrances. All the biochemical reactions in our body depend on water, and our blood pressure also depends on getting enough water.
What happens when people start a diet? They usually will deflate and lose glycogen. Proper accumulation of glucose is our reserve at both the liver and muscle levels. For every molecule of glucose, there are four molecules of water.
Then, what happens in the body when you’re not properly hydrated and decide to do a little more exercise? You’ll become dehydrated due to the loss of glycogen and urine.
The body begins to dehydrate, losing its mineral salts. There is a tendency at this point for blood pressure to drop, fatigue to increase, and headaches to present. During dehydration, the mucous membranes do not work well: the esophageal mucosa, the gastric mucosa, and the intestinal mucosa can suffer.
When we start to eat, we can suddenly feel stomach pain and heartburn if we lack hydration.
To avoid headaches, lack of energy and intestinal problems, you should try to drink between 2 and 3 liters of water daily. Hydrate well, and also take some supplements with minerals.
Avoid all types of carbohydrates
Another widespread mistake is to go on a low-carb diet too stringently. Low-carb diets yield so many results that you may never want to put in more carbs.
This is very common, and it generates many physical and emotional side effects that can lead to eating disorders. Some people develop carbohydrate phobia.
Such diets are not sustainable over time, including the ketogenic diet, the Dukan diet, etc. Low carb diets are very beneficial, but I usually only recommend them for the first days or weeks in any weight loss journey.
These diets are suitable initially, because you need that emotional boost. gotta lose that glycogen that I just told you to remove.
In the first week, you need that excitement and encouragement that comes when you see on the scale that you have lost 5 pounds. That pushes you to do more training and continue with the diet.
So many fall into the typical mistake of thinking that the carb was the sole culprit, and you don’t want to put it back into your diet.
If you are an athletic person, you must manage when you introduce your carbohydrates. You also need your glycogen.
Finally, if you have little muscle mass and want to recover that possible loss of muscle mass—especially post-training—you will need to load some carbohydrates sporadically.
Overuse of fat burning supplements
Another common mistake is taking excess supplements to eliminate fluids, speed up the metabolism, and raise the heart rate.
This is very typical in people who were not taking care of themselves prior to starting their diet. You can’t just go to the herbalist, the pharmacy, the supplement store, or ask your friend what to take to lose weight faster.
We have to use sustainable methods over time, not products that hook you on flashy ads.
When you start with supplements instead of dieting, you think that what matters most is to take it the pills. Caffeine capsules, guarana capsules, carnitine capsules, and a detoxifier to help go to the bathroom, plus a laxative. This is very problematic, and can have painful side effects.
There are people hooked on diuretics, and if they slack on the diet, they turn to a supplement like Orlistat that prevents fat absorption. They also take a diuretic to eliminate liquids.
That is perhaps one of the most severe problems that can harm our health. Abuse of these drugs and diuretics can caused severe kidney issues. Also, Orlistat is an inhibitor of fat absorption and can have side effects like:
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
- The release or promotion of steroid hormones
So, try to base your weight loss process on food, sport, and rest. If you want to, resort to substitute foods such as energy bars or protein shakes, but only sporadically.
Replacing meals with bars or shakes should not be the standard dynamic in your exercise and diet routine. That is not going to be sustainable, because the nutrients need to come primarily in the context of vitamins and minerals that nature gives us.
Real foods have a complex of polyphenol vitamins and enzymes that favor their absorption and bioavailability. No matter how much we try to recreate a food artificially, it will never be the same as natural food. Natural foods have all the perfect and ideal characteristics to facilitate digestion, hydrolysis, absorption, and bioavailability in all the cells of our body.
Being too radical
Many of us have tended to be too radical when we have gone on a new diet. Anyone who starts on a project with a lot of enthusiasm and passion tends to be extreme at the beginning.
There’s good in this, because we need that energy so that we succeed in the first week and don’t abandon the diet. Also, we will avoid the necessary carbohydrates in the first week adding to that extra motivation.
If we want our diet and our health to be optimal, we cannot be radical. We can’t isolate ourselves socially nor start with all the methods at once.
You can’t start intermittent fasting, ketosis, aerobics in the morning, and weights in the afternoon all simultaneously. Don’t avoid meeting anyone on the weekends, just so you don’t break the diet. Don’t skip out on the movies or throw away everything in your pantry to avoid the temptation.
Be balanced. You have to allow yourself one or two days a week with family, a playful act, a social outing. That will enable you to reconcile with food, and not fall into obsessions. This realistic way of eating is the only way to sustain your diet, and that will be healthier in the long term.
Don’t consider that muscle weighs more than fat
We must be clear that body weight data is not the most important thing. Nor is it decisive, and it is much less reliable regarding whether we are eliminating fat.
It is common to find cases where, when starting an exercise program, it is nearly impossible to lose weight and increase it!
That is the ideal situation; these are your first adaptations to an exercise plan. When going from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, the muscles will be metabolically more active.
Then, when the muscle is filled with glycogen, it is toned and we notice improvement in volume and muscle tone. Muscle tissue is denser than fat. It weighs more, so it is not unusual that we begin to gain weight as we gain muscle.
In the long-term scope, you will lose weight due to the progressive loss of reserve fat. My advice is not to look so much at the scale, but rather notice how your belt and clothes fit.
Above all, if you have a long-term perspective, short-term changes are no guarantee of success or failure. In addition to losing weight, you will achieve a defined body.
Not having realistic expectations
The last mistake—and perhaps the most common of all—is to have unrealistic expectations. For example, people who did not take care of themselves adopt a diet and they want everything to happen very fast.
You want to lose weight very quickly and, if you don’t see results, you get discouraged, take the diet sheet and throw it away. That is very typical, and usually that attitude leads to failure.
By having unrealistic expectations, you will not accept that there can be a week, in the example of women, during which you’re carrying extra fluids due to the effects of pre-menstruation. Or, a nutritionist or trainer will give you more carbohydrates. Even if you know you will gain weight and tell yourself it will be ok, you see a bigger number on the scale and feel worried.
It also might be that when you’re lifting weights, even though you’re lowering your body fat percentage, you don’t lose or even gain weight. You must realize that the most important thing is your body composition, not just shedding pounds.
It is essential that you have realistic expectations, and that you try to understand how the weight loss process works when you start your diet. You must talk to a professional who will guide you through the diet, and show you that there must be coherence in your weight loss process.
At first, you will lose weight very quickly. That first week, you will be excited to lose 2 or 3 pounds by cutting the carbohydrates, but that is essentially fluid weight. From then on, there has to be commitment. You have to accept that you will see periods of stagnation—there are going to be months where you don’t lose what you expect.
- If you are hooked on dopamine rushes, which gives you the feeling of always being on the scale, you will weigh yourself every day in the morning. It will seem that your emotional state depends on what your weight is.
- What if—because you are on the scale every day—you happen to skip the diet a little over the weekend, or deliberately raised some carbohydrates for exercise? You see that the scale increases 1 pound, you will freak out and maybe abandon the diet.
- If you abandon the diet, you will likely return to the same pre-diet lifestyle. Your obsessive process, which will have provided you with benefits in the past months, is just not sustainable.
In this way, you will be in that eternal rise and fall which so many people experience throughout their lives with dieting. Losing weight must be a balanced process in which we are losing fat, reducing inflammation in the body, and maintaining or building muscle mass.
This way, the intestinal function, the hormonal function, the immune system, the nervous system and our emotional state are in harmony.
Too much aerobic exercise
In principle, cardiovascular exercise burns the most calories, and so the more aerobics, the greater the fat loss is.
That is true, up to a point. However, there is a situation in which our body encounters a problem of extreme demand. That activates a defense mechanism that protects the body’s fat reserves.
In these cases, the muscle mass begins to catabolize, the metabolic rate drops, and our performance worsens. We may enter a spiral of failure; the more we train, the fewer results we obtain.
With a maximum weekly routine between 4 and 6 hours of cardiovascular work, we have enough to achieve fat loss.
If you want to improve, do not increase your aerobics. It is better to include a strength program.
It is known that results come from combining strength with cardiovascular work. The advantages are evident:
- We will achieve a greater emptying of the glycogen deposits, thus accessing the fat reserves much sooner.
- We will avoid muscle tissue loss and our sports performance will be stronger, supporting better and longer cardiovascular training.
- Finally, we will have a significant post-exercise caloric consumption due to the higher metabolic demand of an active muscular mass. You will burn more calories, even at rest.
Include a strength training plan 2 or 3 days per week before cardiovascular training. You will notice the difference.
Traditionally, it has been understood that low intensities are ideal for burning fat.
That is true for beginners in poor physical condition. That is because this is the only intensity that beginners can withstand.
The truth is that there is no “fat-burning margin.” You have to think about fat like oil in a frying pan. The higher the temperature, the more oil will be burned.
In our body, raising the temperature to burn fat means increasing the intensity of workouts.
If we increase the margin of intensity using rhythm changes, we can reach greater consumption of oxygen, and even enter phases where we use the anaerobic pathways.
If we always settle for continuous methods at low intensity, the body will adapt and stop showing improvements.
Alternating with variable methods will provide us with different stimuli, and the ability to continue seeing new progress.
This will lead us to improve the cardiorespiratory system and, consequently, see a greater capacity to oxidize fat as an energy supply.
Do not increase your training time. Rather, increase intensity with occasional changes in rhythm.
The interval training where high and low-intensity phases alternate continuously is a good option.
Other options are slopes, multi jumps, obstacle and military training.
Overly analytical training
If you already do strength training and want to lose weight, forget about the classic analytical, muscle group-isolated training.
This method is valid for strength and mass goal, but it is not ideal to combine it with cardiovascular training and expect any muscle definition.
You can adapt your conventional and classic routine of one or two muscle groups per session for a more functional workout.
For this, you should perform general exercises in which you activate large muscle chains.
Do not focus on training muscles, but instead on movements.
Select exercises that involve both the upper and lower body at the same time.
For example, stride with shoulder presses and floor presses, and change sitting exercises into standing exercises.
In this way, you will achieve greater muscle involvement. Also, use workout tools like a fitness ball.
This way, you will get more neuromuscular activity and more active participation of muscle fibers.
Change out the machines for free weights; it is preferable to use dumbbells and barbells.
Taking saunas and diuretics
Saunas and vegetable products with high diuretic power eliminate liquids and decrease body weight.
That does not mean that we lose fat, though. These merely eliminate a large amount of water that we will recover only a few hours later.
It is just a deceptive, momentary change. We give you more information in this article that debunks all the myths about the sauna.
Many people even do cardio sessions with plastic or neoprene garments (it’s ridiculous!!!) that don’t circulate air to cause excessive sweating.
These tactics only lead to excessive dehydration, which reduces performance and can also lead to serious health problems.
It is good to sweat, but always naturally.
Never use types of non-breathable clothing. If you use saunas, do so on a day of soft and relaxed training, not one where you train intensely.