Move over, baseball—weight loss might just be America’s true pastime. According to a 2020 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2015 and 2018, 17.1% of U.S. adults were on a diet at any given time, with the vast majority of those individuals dieting as a means of achieving weight loss. However, for most people, those weight loss efforts don’t last long—a 2020 meta-analysis published in the BMJ found that among 21,942 individuals on diets, while many had “modest weight loss” at the six-month mark, their weight loss had largely stalled or stopped after 12 months.
That said, it’s more than just willpower keeping you from achieving the results you want. Read on to discover why you can’t lose weight even though you’re dieting, according to experts. And if you’re eager to slim down for good, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Even if your current diet helped you lose weight for a while, your body may eventually burn fewer calories due to restriction over time.
“When we consume less than normal, our body recognizes it is receiving less energy. It responds to this by ‘adapting’ and burning less energy at rest,” explains Kylie Ivanir, RD of Within Nutrition. “People find they need to keep restricting more and more in order to lose any weight.” Her recommendation? Increasing muscle mass to boost your basal metabolic rate, which may help kickstart further weight loss.
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If you’ve recently added exercise to your routine, you may find that you actually have a harder time losing weight.
“People often give themselves permission to overindulge after exercising, overestimating the calories they burned while working out,” explains Ivanir. “While consuming a proper post-exercise meal is important for recovery, this overconsumption often takes people out of the calorie deficit needed to lose weight.” And if you want to fuel up for your exercise routine, check out the 14 Best Foods for Better Workout Results, According to Experts.
Just because your diet permits you to eat a certain type of food doesn’t mean you can eat as much of that food as you want without gaining weight. Ivanir says that this is especially common among people on low-carb or ketogenic diets, who end up eating too many high-calorie foods.
“A popular snack of choice among those focusing on reducing their carbohydrate consumption is nuts. While nuts and nut butters are extremely nutritious, they are rich in calories, which can prevent people from being in a calorie deficit,” says Ivanir.
If you’ve cut certain fiber-rich carbohydrates out of your diet as a means of losing weight, you could be doing yourself a disservice in the long run.
“If you aren’t eating enough fiber, chances are you are either getting insane cravings between meals or you’re having to eat more calories to stay full,” says Megan Byrd, RD, of The Oregon Dietitian.
Having a black and white mentality when it comes to weight loss may be the reason you’re having a difficult time shedding pounds, even if dieting used to come easily to you in the past.
“The restrict-binge cycle is that all-or-nothing approach to eating where you avoid ‘bad’ foods for the majority of the time until you feel completely out-of-control around them and eat until you feel uncomfortable,” says Emma Townsin, RD, a British registered dietitian, certified intuitive eating counselor, and founder of Food Life Freedom.
“We can’t willpower our way out of a binge-restrict cycle, as it is the restriction leading to this eating,” she explains. Want to enjoy your favorite foods while still losing weight? Check out the 50 Healthiest Snacks to Eat for Weight Loss.