Why You Diet and Exercise For Months But Make Little or no Progress

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The frustration of losing weight–exercising and dieting–doing everything right yet no improvement in sight can be incredibly disheartening.

If you’ve been hitting the gym religiously, watching what you eat like a hawk, and still finding those extra pounds sticking around each time you step on the scale, or maybe you’re just stuck at a certain size after shedding some pounds the first few months, but it looks like all you’re doing is in vain, and your motivation is wearing off, you’re not alone.


But before you throw in the towel, there might be possible reasons why your weight loss journey is not going as planned. There might be things you’re doing wrong or things you are not doing. Either way, if you’re wondering why the scale isn’t budging, and want to overcome the great challenge—maybe—just maybe… finally achieve your desired results, keep reading, the answers might surprise you.

01

Stress Makes Your Weight Loss Goals Harder to Achieve

If you’re struggling to understand why you’re so stressed about your diet and exercise and wondering why you’re not losing weight even after following everything correctly for a long time, the culprit could likely be the excessive stress you’re placing on your body and mind as you strive to reach your goals.

You’re probably too stressed to achieve your weight loss or body transformation goals, whether it’s shedding fat or building muscle. When we’re stressed, the brain release cortisol, the stress hormone, which delay or prolong progress. Just because stress doesn’t prevent you from achieving other tasks doesn’t mean it won’t significantly complicate your weight loss journey.

When you’re on a diet, stress can result not only from constantly monitoring calorie intake but also from the anxiety about whether your efforts will yield visible results. This additional stress can make it harder to stay on track and may lead to cravings for comfort foods, possibly resulting in binge-eating. Even if you’re not undereating, which can, in turn, lead to more binge-eating. The constant focus on your diet can stress you out and disrupt your balance.

That’s why building a sustainable, healthier lifestyle routine often proves more effective than other types of diets. Similarly, reducing the intensity of your exercise coupled with active rest days is essential, as excessive exercise also puts stress on the body.

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02

Eating Processed Food

We often turn to processed foods for the sake of convenience. They promise quick fixes for our hunger pangs and busy schedules, but what they offer in convenience, they might steal in the form of weight gain.

Processed foods have permeated our diets, and it’s not just the notorious “junk foods” that are to blame. Even items marketed as “health foods” can be culprits, bearing the burden of excessive processing. Healthline sounds the alarm on these types of foods where what we perceive as healthy may not necessarily align with our weight loss aspirations.

The National Institutes of Health back this concern, pointing out the lurking culprits within ultra-processed foods: hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavor enhancers, and emulsifiers. These ingredients play a role, secretly pushing you to consume more calories than you might if your focus were on whole, unaltered foods.

Another layer to this is the undesirable impact of a processed food-heavy diet on your gut microbiota. The diversity of bacteria in your intestinal ecosystem wields influence over your metabolism. Eating foods that are close to their natural state can also help you feel full. So adding more probiotics, prebiotics (the fiber found in fruits and vegetables), and synbiotics – these dietary foods can shield your body from the mechanisms that encourage unwanted weight gain.

03

Prolonged Sitting

One of the overlooked culprits of weight loss resistance lingers right at your desks. Yes, even if you diligently commit to twice-daily exercise routines, spending prolonged hours in a seated position without getting up for a stretch can also stall your weight loss.

According to Beaumont Hospital analysis, the key to this weight loss lies in the behavior of a lesser-known enzyme called lipase. This vital enzyme is responsible for the breakdown and utilization of fat in the body. However, when you remain seated for extended durations, your body produces less lipase. Consequently, your body ends up storing fat instead of using it, and this unused fat manifests itself as extra fat on your body.

04

Not Tracking Hidden Calories

Alcohol, for one, not only derails your fat-burning machinery but also tends to sabotage your willpower. Before you know it, a seemingly innocent cocktail has silently ushered in a few hundred extra calories.

A casual evening out might see you sipping a drink or two, oblivious to the caloric landmines they represent. And yet, these covert calories can stealthily wreck your weight loss efforts, disrupting your body’s fat-burning mechanism and sapping your willpower. It’s not just the alcohol itself, it’s the unhealthy food choices that often accompany it, thanks to its appetite-inducing effects.

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But, hidden calories aren’t exclusive to alcohol. There are moments when you’re engrossed in other activities—watching TV, working, or chatting away while eating. Studies have pointed out that this form of distracted dining can nudge your body mass index in the wrong direction.

In case you’re wondering how to track your calories, It’s easy these days to count your calories or macronutrients using apps. But this could make you somewhat obsessive about every calorie, which could awaken eating disorders. A more balanced approach, as suggested by Healthline, involves focusing on monitoring specific nutrients like fiber or protein.

05

You Might Not be Eating Enough Food

It is not ideal to start a diet by severely cutting calories even when you’re motivated to. If you add exercise, you might not be eating enough to sustain your daily activities. 

Severe calorie restriction can lead to a slowed metabolism. When the body perceives a significant reduction in food intake, it responds by conserving energy, making it more difficult to burn calories. Additionally, as weight decreases, levels of the hunger-regulating hormone leptin drop. Leptin is stored in your fat cells and tells you when you’re full, according to Cleveland Clinic. When you begin to lose fat, your body has less leptin and begins to believe you’re going to starve. 

Causing increased feelings of hunger. This can create a cycle of extreme dieting and overeating, hindering sustainable weight loss. In essence, not eating enough food can hinder weight loss by causing metabolic slowdown and increasing appetite.

06

Using Exercise As a Ticket to Unhealthy Treats

For many on a weight loss journey, exercise serves as both a faithful ally and an unwitting saboteur. About 90% of successful weight loss maintainers dedicate an hour a day to exercise, this underscores its importance. However, using exercise as a ticket to indulge in unhealthy treats might be derailing your progress.

While exercise undoubtedly plays a role, it’s just one part of the equation, contributing 30% to the weight loss formula, with the remaining 70% firmly in the hands of your dietary choices, as revealed by NBC News. Exercise, while crucial, should not become a bargaining chip for unhealthy treats.

In addition, Medical News Today points out that your daily calorie intake depends on various factors, including your basal metabolic rate, hinges on your sex, height, weight, and age. Adding a little exercise into your routine should indeed be part of the plan, but it’s equally crucial to consider your overall activity level throughout the day.

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07

You’re too Strict With Your Diet

Committing to a weight loss routine is a commendable pursuit, but there’s a fine line between motivation and being excessively rigid with yourself. Pushing too hard, setting unrealistic restrictions, or eliminating whole food groups might appear to be a strategic move, but it often leads to a dead end. The truth is, an ultra-strict diet plan can set you up for disappointment and unnecessary stress, potentially wrecking your goals. Plus, having a very strict diet plan can lead to some negative repercussions like – headaches, feeling too hungry becoming the norm, fatigue, anxiety, and even depression.

You may find yourself plagued by guilt, affecting your self-esteem. Excessive restrictions can lead to rule-breaking, risk stressing yourself out and overindulge, particularly when it comes to satisfying your sweet tooth, instead of allowing yourself a small treat.

Experts, as reported by Sharp, offer an alternative approach – tailor your nutrition plan to balance with your lifestyle and health objectives. The key lies in finding a sustainable balance that works for you.

In the scheme of things, your diet should enhance your life, not hinder it. Avoiding social gatherings or feeling compelled to skip dinner with friends should not be the price you pay for your dietary choices, as noted by Sharp

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