Losing weight isn’t always as easy as it seems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while approximately 17 percent of U.S. adults are dieting on any given day, 42.4 percent of American adults are still classified as obese. However, the reasons you’re not succeeding on a diet aren’t always as obvious as indulging in too many cheat meals or skipping the gym. Read on to discover why experts say your diet may be failing you. And if you’re ready to slim down once and for all, check out these 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Even if your diet looks nutritionally balanced, if you’re still consuming too many calories of healthy food, you can still see your weight loss progress plateau—or you may even see the numbers on the scale rise.
“Whether you’re eating 100 calories of vegetables or 100 calories of candy, in terms of weight, you’re still eating 100 calories,” says Christen Cupples Cooper, Ed.D., RD, founding director and chair of nutrition and dietetics at Pace University.
However, that doesn’t mean all foods are created equal when it comes to your health. “In terms of nutrition, the vegetable, with its vitamins, minerals, and fiber far outweigh the candy, which is basically just sugar and chemicals,” says Cooper.
And for some foods that aren’t what they seem, check out these 20 “Healthy” Foods Ruining Your Weight Loss Goals.
If you’re eating the same low-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods over and over in hopes of shedding a few pounds, you could be doing yourself a disservice.
“Eating too little protein to keep the body in good health can grind weight loss to a halt,” says Cooper. “Adding in protein and shaking up the diet a bit—adding in some unfamiliar foods that contain different types of nutrients—can sometimes help jumpstart weight loss.”
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If you’re trying, but failing, to lose weight on your diet, adding fiber-rich foods to your meal plan may be the key to breaking that plateau.
“When trying to lose weight it’s essential to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and grain foods at all meals because these are not only nutrient-dense, full of essential vitamins and minerals, but also because they help you feel full—and therefore less likely to snack on high-calorie sweets—between and after meals thanks to their fiber and water content,” says Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, RD, a Hispanic Food Communications and Grain Foods Foundation Scientific Advisory Board Member.
In fact, a 2019 study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that dietary fiber intake was significantly associated with both weight loss and continued adherence to a low-calorie diet among overweight and obese adult study subjects.
If you want to make your diet more nutritious and more filling in one fell swoop, check out these 20 Easy Ways to Add Fiber to Your Diet.
An imbalance in your gut bacteria could have serious repercussions when it comes to your weight loss success.
“The microbiome plays a role in weight loss. If someone has a lot of bad bacteria [in their gut], protein and fat digestion may be affected,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, NLC, of Thyroid Nutrition Educators.
“Microbial imbalances can also affect hormones that increase hunger,” she adds, citing a 2020 study published in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, which found that bacterial changes that alter peptides in the gut can increase hunger. And if you want to alter your microbiome for the better, check out the 20 Best Foods for Gut Health.
While getting to your weight loss goal may be a great feeling, if you stop paying attention to your food intake and exercise habits as soon as you’ve shed the weight, you’re going to see those pounds return.
“Instead of thinking of your diet as a short-term fix, think of it as changing your life permanently, and for the better,” says Mir Ali, MD, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
Ali explains that not seeing a change in eating habits as a permanent one will inevitably make the pounds creep back on.
“You gain all that weight back and often more,” says Ali. “The only way to succeed is to stop that cycle.”
Ready to make this the year you ditch those extra pounds for good? Check out our 200 Best Weight Loss Tips.