You’ve been doing everything right. Moving lots, drinking water until it’s coming out of your pores, eating healthy foods and staying within your calorie range, you’re sleeping well and managing your stress levels. Your sugar and sodium intake is low, and you were losing weight for the first few weeks and now it’s stopped.
Day after day you are getting on the scale and it’s not moving. It might even be moving UPWARD a little bit.
And because you know you are doing everything right and the scale isn’t moving you get frustrated. You get angry, and you’re already hungry, so now you are hangry. And nobody wants that.
This is where things get tough. You feel like you are spinning your wheels and you want to give in. It’s not working anyway, may as well eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
You start telling yourself things like you aren’t meant to lose weight, it’s never going to happen so why bother?
Because you are dead wrong.
Listen to this week’s podcast to learn more, or keep on reading!
Why the scale isn’t moving even though you are doing everything right
First things first. I mentioned it in the podcast, and briefly above but the first things to address when you are having issues losing weight are metabolism, thyroid and hormone levels. There are lots of people out there who are going to find it darn near impossible to lose weight without some medical intervention due to hormone and thyroid problems.
But for the majority of people, the number one reason it’s hard for them to lose weight is because of low metabolism. Which is something we use to think couldn’t be changed (think back to the 80’s and 90’s when people would say – oh….I just have a slow metabolism. They may have, but because they fed a slow metabolism…), but that is absolutely not true. Your metabolism is highly flexible and if you feed it, it will grow (just like a plant – ha!).
Ruling out all of those problems, assuming the situation I mentioned above – you are doing everything right and your weight loss has stalled, the reason might just be – you are impatient.
Few people ever stop to think about what happens to fat when you “lose” it. We think if we burn more calories than we consume I’ll lose weight. The end. And that’s not wrong, the problem is, you don’t automatically lose weight the second you burn more than you eat.
I like to compare it to writing a written exam. You can study for the exam, know all the course material, write the exam and get every question right, but you aren’t going to get your mark back immediately. You know you have done well but you still need to pass your exam in, and then you need to wait until your teacher marks it before you get the result.
In a funny way, your body works the same way. You can do everything right, but once you do that, you have to pass it over to your body to do its job before your weight is going to change on the scale. At first, that doesn’t take long because typically those first few pounds you lose are water weight. But once that is gone it’s when the real work begins
There are a number of chemical reactions that have to occur in order for that fat to be used and “burnt off”, and they don’t always happen immediately. And then there is the added trickery that is our body and it’s self-preservation mode.
When you start using up stored fat, your body thinks, “Oh, well I am going to put water in the cells I’m removing fat from to act as a place card, so when more fat comes in for me to store I’ve got somewhere to put it.” It can do this for days, or even a week before it realizes you aren’t consuming excess fat so it doesn’t have anything to put back in those fat cells. Then one day it says, “forget it!” and releases all the water that was acting as a place card, so the fat cells shrink, you pee, sweat or breath out that water and you “lose” a few pounds overnight.
But in reality, you lost that weight in small amounts over probably a week, it’s just that your body was holding off dropping the weight until it was sure you weren’t going to give it more fat to store right away.
That is why it’s so important to keep your head down and keep plugging away for at least a week or two more when your weight loss stalls. You could very likely still be losing fat, it’s just not reflecting on the scale — yet. Sadly, most people give up just before that drop on the scale happens and never see it.
Now assuming you’ve waited out a few weeks and are still doing “all the right things” and your scale STILL isn’t moving, if we’ve ruled out thyroid and hormonal issues as an underlying cause, chances are you are dealing with a metabolic issue. I talk more about that both in the podcast above and in the video below. In a nutshell, there comes a point where you have to recognize it’s time to take a break from dieting or dedicated fat loss so that you can build your metabolism back up. Remember, it’s super flexible, so it doesn’t take much more than a month or so for it to clue into the fact you are eating a lot less and adapt to getting less total calories each day. Because remember – your body is primarily focused on keeping you alive. So it doesn’t want you to shed too much fat at once because it might need that fat later when you stop eating entirely!
That doesn’t mean you go off the rails and eat 15 pizzas or something, you still need to stay on top of your nutrition but you slowly move from a caloric deficit to finding that sweet spot where you are eating lots but staying weight stable. This is where your metabolism gets built back up, and often many hormone imbalances get sorted out, and you feel pretty darn great. Then after a few months, you can move back into a deficit if you want, to continue on your weight loss journey.
The problem most people have is they never truly build things back up so they are trying to take money from an empty bank account.
Again, there are other issues that can cause weight loss to stall, but not waiting it out long enough, and not building your metabolism back up in between periods of weight loss as the two most common that I see.
I hope this was helpful, and I hope the next time you are trying to lose weight and it stalls for a week or so, that you stick with it long enough to find out if you were on the cusp of a nice drop, or if it is truly time to reverse out and start building your metabolism back up.
Oh – and get your butt to sleep. That’s another big piece of the puzzle!