why - obstacles to weight loss
17 Obstacles to Weight Loss and How to Overcome Them
by Akeena St. Martin
Sep 21, 2022

There are various reasons why you may decide to lose weight, from prevention of conditions such as diabetes, to improving your health status, to getting approved for surgery.  If you go it alone (without any professional advice) you may find weight loss difficult or come to a stall.

So, what’s the deal?  What could be going on when you’re not losing weight?  This blog post will go over obstacles to weight loss.

1. You’re Not Being Realistic

Your expectations about weight loss may not be realistic.  The amount of weight you want to lose and the amount of time you want to lose it may not be appropriate.   

There are many products, programs, and services out there that promise you’ll lose as many as 10 – 50 pounds per week.  This is not recommended and may set you up for regaining the weight later.  

Recommended weight loss is 1 – 2 pounds per week.  If you have conditions that are associated with being overweight, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes, a weight loss of about 10% your current weight has been shown to improve things such as your blood pressure or blood sugar.   

When you’re not losing weight, it is also possible that you’ve reached a weight that your body wants to be at.  In this case, focus on the nutrition content of foods that you eat instead.  Focus on the quality of the food instead of the quantity.  Consume at least five servings per day of a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Choose whole grain products over refined grain products.  Incorporate more plant based sources of protein.

2. Your Age May Be an Obstacle to Weight Loss

It’s no secret that as we age, certain processes begin to slow down.  Our metabolism slows down.  We don’t need as many calories as we did when we were younger.  Therefore, it becomes more difficult to lose weight.  Fun fact:  not being in the “normal weight” range is actually better for you when you’re older.

Place your focus on quality not quantity. Aim for eating from each food group everyday. Incorporate 180 minutes of physical activity per week.

3. Your Portions Are Larger Than You Think

Portion sizes have become larger over the years.  Remember when McDonald’s had Super Size for 39 cents?  Getting more food for your dollar has become a trend.  However, it contributes to overeating. 

The basis of weight loss is calories in and calories out.  To lose weight, you should burn more calories than you eat.  When you gain weight, you are eating more calories than you burn. 

When you have large servings, or more than one serving, you also have to take into account the nutritional value.  For example, a snack may have 150 calories per serving.  If you eat 3 servings, then that brings your snack up to 450 calories.

Not to say that you can’t have more than one serving – if your body wants a little more, then it’s okay.  Just be mindful of what you’re eating and the additional calories you may be taking in.

4. You’re Depending on Exercise (And Lots of It) To Lose Weight

Many people think that exercising is the key to weight loss.  Exercise, or physical activity alone does not lead to weight loss.  Physical activity is definitely important when it comes to weight loss and maintenance – as long as it is done with a healthy diet.  As a matter of fact, physical activity does not burn enough calories for weight loss.  

The purpose of physical activity is to build muscle and to work things that you may not be able to work otherwise, such as your heart and lungs, and to keep the blood pumping.  Building muscle helps to burn calories more efficiently but is not solely responsible for weight loss.

You may need to decrease the amount of exercise you are doing in a week.  The recommendation is 180 minutes per week of moderate exercise.

5. You May Be Eating Too Many High Calorie Foods

You’re watching your portions.  However, the foods that you are eating are higher in calories than in nutrients.  

The foods that we eat, no matter how healthy they are advertised to be, may have ingredients that are less healthy, such as saturated fat or added sugar.  This is especially true with convenience foods, where ingredients are added to preserve the product or increase the flavor of the product.

Also consider the nutritional value of foods you eat inside the home and how they are prepared.  Carbohydrates and proteins are both 4 calories per gram while fats are 9 calories per gram.  So if you’re eating a lot of high fat foods, then it may explain the lack of weight loss.

Improving your overall diet by making it more nutrient dense (more nutrition with not as much calories) while eating enough protein will help you to stay satisfied longer and decrease cravings.

6. You Have a History of Being on Fad Diets

Fad diets are very restrictive.  They restrict certain foods and food groups in an effort to lose weight quickly.  However, as a result, you may not be eating enough calories and can become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals.  (Yes, it is possible to eat so little that you stall your weight loss.)  

When you’re not eating enough, restrict food groups, restrict nutrients, your body will hold on to those things just a little bit more once they are in the system again.  Your body will try to protect itself when it sees that foods and nutrients are being restricted, and will even slow down your metabolism to try to protect itself.  This is in part why people tend to gain the weight back (and then some) when they stop following a restrictive fad diet.

The solution here is to break the diet cycle.  Learn to be gentle on yourself.  It is not your fault that the diet did not provide lasting results.  Nourish your body without restricting it of vital nutrients while being mindful and present when you are eating.  A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that specializes in Intuitive Eating can assist with breaking the diet cycle.

7. You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat (fat has 9 calories per gram).  They are considered empty calories because they have next to no nutritional value.  If you drink alcohol regularly, then you may want to decrease your alcohol intake.  Consider a mocktail in place of an alcoholic drink.

8. You’re Not Eating Enough Protein

Protein is important when it comes to weight loss.  Not eating enough may be serving as an obstacle to weight loss.

As you lose weight, your body may lose protein.  Protein is important for building muscle.  Muscle helps to burn calories more efficiently.

Eating protein also helps you to stay full longer, which may also help with having less cravings.

Aim for 5 – 7 servings of protein per day.  Some ways you can include more protein into your diet are by:

  • Drinking a protein shake
  • Adding plant-based protein to a smoothie
  • Adding protein to your salads
  • Eating whole grains

9. You’re Deficient in Certain Vitamins/Minerals

There are certain vitamins and minerals that are important for utilizing energy.  These include:

  • B vitamins:  helps turn carbohydrates, proteins, and fat into energy
  • Iron:  carries oxygen to various parts of the body so that they can make energy
  • Magnesium:  helps insulin regulate blood sugar

It is best to speak with your primary care provider to determine if you may be low in any nutrients.  You may be advised to take a multivitamin.  A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you to develop a more balanced diet to address any deficiencies.

10. You Have a Medical Condition That Make Weight Loss Difficult

There are certain medical conditions that make weight loss more difficult than it is for the average person.  Many of them involve hormone imbalances.  These include:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Type 2 DM
  • Hypothyroidism

11. You’re Taking Medications That Make Weight Loss Difficult

There are various medications that can make you gain weight.  They include:

  • Diabetes medications
  • Steroids
  • Antidepressants
  • Beta blockers
  • Migraine medication

If you have any concerns about the medications you are taking, then discuss the concerns with your primary care provider.

12. You Don’t Exercise or Have Time to Exercise

Exercise, or physical activity, is an important part of making healthier lifestyle changes.  However, many people find that they don’t have the time to exercise. Time doesn’t have to be an obstacle to weight loss.

While the recommendation is to engage in at least 30 minutes per day of physical activity, this does not have to be done all at one time.  Breaking it up into 10 to 15 minute increments makes it easier to fit into your day.  

You don’t have to go to the gym in order for movement to count as exercise.  If you are at work, take a walk on your break.  Or, if you’re at home, take a walk after a meal.  

13. You Turn To Food When Feeling Emotional

Emotional eating can lead you to overeat.  When you eat in response to emotions you are feeling, you are eating for reasons other than hunger.  These emotions can be anything from boredom to thoughts, feelings, and stress.

Stop for a moment and ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you’re reacting to stress.  When you find yourself emotionally eating, first recognize that it’s happening.  Acknowledge what it is that’s triggering you to eat.  After you acknowledge the reason for emotional eating, have a way to address the behavior.

14. You Eat Out

Staying on track with your health goals can be difficult when you eat outside of your home.  It is difficult to limit the less healthy ingredients.  The food often is high in calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  Portions are often large.

Research the restaurant you will be eating at to see what options they have.  Consider having something to eat before you go out.  This will help to ensure that you’re not starving by the time you get to the restaurant, keeping your level of hunger in the green zone.  For portions that are large, split the meal in half and ask for a doggy bag.  If you’ll be eating at a friend’s or family member’s house, consider having a conversation with them about your weight loss journey.

15. You Don’t Have Time to Cook

If you live a very busy life, you may not have the time to cook.  You may be dependent on convenience foods or fast foods.  By making your meals, you have more control over the ingredients and the portion sizes.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to take up a lot of time and you don’t have to be a chef.

By meal prepping, you’ll have your meals and snacks made ahead of time.  This will take the guesswork out of what to eat while controlling your portions.  You’ll have your foods ready for when you first experience your hunger cues, preventing you from overeating when you are very hungry.  

Start small – you don’t have to prep all of your meals for the week.  Begin with preparing a snack or preparing the ingredients for a meal ahead of time.  When preparing your snacks, choose a grain and a protein.  Choose at least 3 food groups for your meal.

16. You Don’t Like to Feel Hungry

Spoiler alert:  No one likes to feel hungry.  

You may be feeling hungry because you’re not eating enough to sustain yourself.  This is a consequence of following a fad diet – they usually restrict nutrients and/or whole food groups and advise you to eat very little.  This leaves you feeling like you don’t have the willpower to keep up with the diet when it’s really your body saying that it needs food and nutrition.

The best thing to do when you are hungry is to eat.

When you feel hungry, determine how hungry you are by ranking your level of hunger on a scale of 1 – 10 using the scale below.  Being at a hunger level of 1 or 2 will lead to overeating later because your main focus is to feed your body by any means necessary.  


Whether you are just eating or have finished eating, aim for a hunger level in the green zone (between 4 and 6).  Going beyond the green zone (between 7 and 10) may result in overeating.  Eating regularly and not waiting until you’re starving will help to curb overeating and help you to be mindful of when you’re satisfied.

17. You’re Just Not Motivated

There’s nothing wrong if you feel like you’re losing motivation, especially if you’re caught in the diet cycle.  

When you feel like you’re losing motivation, go back to your reasons for wanting to lose weight.  Ask yourself why you decided to go on your weight loss journey.  Make a list of the pros and cons for losing weight and the pros and cons for not losing weight.  

Once you have determined your, “why,” think of the behaviors you would like to change and set goals aimed at changing them.  For more help, download my free guide.

Closing Thoughts

There are various reasons as to why you may not be losing weight, many of them nutrition related.  If you are interested in weight loss, then it is best that you consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist instead of going the route of restrictive dieting.  If you have any conditions or are taking any medications that may be affecting your ability to lose weight, then speak with your primary care provider about your options.


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