Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
26 Jan

17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight

Effective, healthy weight loss isn’t only due to the simplistic calories in, calories out paradigm. Nor is it solely reliant on diet and exercise. It’s everything – it’s all the various signals our body receives from the environment that affect how our genes express themselves and thrive. How we approach the subject matters, too. Our mood, our methods, our temperament. Our conscious decisions and our willpower. It’s setting good habits and expunging bad ones. Most of all, it comes down to keeping our genes happy by providing an environment that approximates evolutionary precedent.

1. You think you’re eating healthy, but aren’t.

Does your diet consist of a massive amount of “products”? Low-carb or not, you want to eat real food. Flagons of diet soda, plates of pure fiber in the shape of noodles, and loaves of 1g net carb “bread” do not a Primal eating plan make. You’re just feeding an addiction and consuming empty calories – sound familiar? Disregard the labels and look inside for what you know to be true: this crap isn’t food, and you shouldn’t be eating it. It’s about way more than just low-carb.

2. You’re under too much stress.

The stress response system is subconscious; it responds to stimuli and nothing else. Emotional stress, physical stress, financial stress, relationship stress – I hesitate to even make these distinctions, because the body does not differentiate between sources of stress. They all cause the body to produce cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that catabolizes muscle, worsens insulin resistance, and promotes the storage of fat. For 200,000 years, stress meant a life or death situation. It was intense and infrequent, and the cortisol release was arresting and extreme enough to improve the chances of survival. Today, our body responds to a stack of paperwork the same way. Traffic jams are like rival war bands. A nagging boss is like a rampaging mastodon, only on a daily basis. Take a step back from your life and take stock of your stress levels – they may be holding you back.

3. You need to watch your carb intake.

Carbs are key, as always, especially when you’ve got weight to lose. Veer closer to the bottom of the curve, taking care to avoid all processed food (hidden sugars). You might also try skipping fruit.

4. You’re adding muscle.

I always tell people not to get hung up on the scales so much. Those things are useful – don’t get me wrong – but they never tell the whole story, like whether or not you’re adding lean mass. The PB will spur fat loss, but it also promotes muscle gain and better bone density. If you’re feeling good but failing to see any improvements register on the scale’s measurements, it’s most likely extra muscle and stronger bone from resistance training. You wouldn’t know that just from the bathroom scale. If you absolutely need objective records of your progress, get a body fat percentage test (although these might not even tell the whole story) or try measuring your waist.

5. You’re not active enough.

Are you Moving Frequently at a Slow Pace for three to five hours every week? Remember: the near-daily low-level (between 55-75% max heart rate) movement should be the bedrock of your fitness regimen. It’s easy to do (because every bit of movement counts) and it doesn’t dip into your glycogen reserves (making it a pure fat burner, not a sugar burner). If you’re on the low end of the spectrum, crank it up toward five weekly hours and beyond.

6. You’re lapsing into Chronic Cardio.

Of course, you can go too far with the low-level movement – you can begin to lapse into Chronic Cardio. When you stay above 75% of your maximum heart rate for extended periods of time, you’re burning glycogen. Your body in turn craves even more sugar to replenish the lost stores, so you polish off a heap of carbs, preferably simple and fast-acting. You can continue down this route if you wish – I did, for a couple decades – but you’ll gain weight, lose muscle, release more cortisol, and compromise any progress you might have made.

7. You still haven’t tried IF.

Results vary, but if you’ve seemingly tried everything else, intermittent fasting can be a great tool to break through a weight loss plateau. Make sure you’ve fully transitioned onto a Primal eating plan and start small. Skip breakfast and eat a late lunch. If that feels okay, skip breakfast and lunch the next time. Just take it slow and pay attention to your hunger. Eventually, try exercising in a fasted state to maximize the metabolic advantage. If all goes well, your hunger won’t necessarily disappear, but it’ll change. A successful IF tames hunger, makes it less insistent and demanding.

8. You’re eating too much.

Low-carb isn’t magic. It reins in wild hunger and tames insulin, but calories do still matter – especially once you approach your ideal weight. In fact, those last few pounds often don’t respond to the same stuff that worked so well to get you to this point. Eating nut butter by the spoonful and hunks of cheese without regard for caloric content may have gotten you this far, but you’ve got to tighten things up if things aren’t working. And that’s the real test, isn’t it? There is a metabolic advantage to eating according to the PB, but if the weight isn’t coming off, something’s up – and calories may need to come down.

9. You haven’t overcome bad habits or developed good ones.

Be brutally honest with yourself. Do you engage in bad habits? If so, identify them. Make tentative, loose plans to disengage from their clutches, and tell people close to you. Make it public, so you can’t back out without losing face. You’ve also got to develop good ones. Follow roughly similar guidelines as when kicking a bad habit – identification, planning, publication – and you’ll be on your way.

10. You haven’t purged and Primalized your pantry.

Out of sight, out of mind; out of reach, out of mouth. Keep the crappy junk food out of your pantry, if not out of your house altogether. Go down the list and toss the stuff that doesn’t apply. As for the rest of your kitchen, check out the fridge interiors and grocery lists of some other Primal folks for inspiration, and visit Thrive Market for Primal approved replacements.

11. You’ve reached a healthy homeostasis.

It may be that your body has reached its “ideal” weight – its effective, genetic set point. Reaching this level is generally painless and effortless, but it won’t necessarily correspond to your desired level of leanness. Women, especially, tend to achieve healthy homeostasis at higher body fat levels. Breaking through plateaus can be hard enough, but plateaus ordained by the body itself can be nearly impossible. It’s probably going to take some serious tinkering with carbs, calories, activity levels, sleep, and stress. If everything else is on point and accounted for, you may be looking at healthy homeostasis. Then, the question becomes: do you want to mess with a good thing?

12. You’re low on willpower.

Willpower is like a muscle. It must be used or it will atrophy. You’ve also got to provide fuel for your will – little victories to start out. Go for a walk if you can’t muster the will for the gym. Take note that willpower, or lack thereof, might actually be an indicator of your body’s needs. If you truly can’t muster up the will for the gym, it may be that your body needs to recover. When that’s the case, overtraining is a bigger danger than lack of will.

13. You’re full of excuses.

If you find yourself having mini self-contained internal arguments throughout the day (and you lose), or (even worse) lying to yourself about what you’re eating and doing, you’re probably also full of excuses. Read this, maybe twice, then follow up with this.

14. You haven’t actually gone Primal!

We get a good number of new readers on a regular basis, and not all of them take instantly to the Primal concepts. And yet they come back. They read the archives, the comments. Something draws them near, while at the same time keeping them at arm’s length. Why is that? What’s stopping them? If that describes you, what are you waiting for? Take the plunge. Go Primal for 30 days and see how you like it. I assure you; the many enthusiastic community members are here because it works.

15. You’re not getting enough sleep.

Chronic levels of sleep deprivation cause the release of cortisol, our old fat-storing friend. The biggest spike in (fat-burning, anabolic) growth hormone plasma levels occurs in deep sleep. And a recent sleep study showed that truncated sleep patterns are linked to weight gain. Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.

16. You haven’t given it enough time.

The Primal Blueprint is a fat loss hack, undoubtedly, but it isn’t always a shortcut. Some people get instant results from dropping carbs, grains, sugar, and vegetable oils, while others have to take a month to get acclimated and only then does the weight begin to slide off. Either way, though, this is a lifestyle. You’re in it for the long run. Approach it with the right mindset and you won’t get discouraged.

17. You’re eating too much dairy.

Some people just react poorly to dairy. We see this time and time again listed in the forums; dairy just seems to cause major stalls in fat loss for a good number of folks. There are a couple speculative reasons for this. One, folks coming from a strict paleo background may not be acclimated to the more relaxed Primal stance on dairy. Reintroducing any food into the diet after a period of restriction can have unintended consequences on body composition. Two, dairy is insulinogenic, which is why it’s a popular post-workout refueling tool for athletes. Does a non-strength training PBer need to drink a few glasses of milk every day? Probably (definitely) not.

Bonus Reason: Sprinting is not part of your fitness routine.

I’ve found that many assume that they’re getting everything they need from their workouts from plenty of low level aerobic activity and a couple of strength training sessions each week. Sprinting is often overlooked, but it’s one of the Primal Blueprint Laws for a reason. Nothing shreds you up faster than sprinting. I’d ease into sprints if you’ve never done them or are extremely out of shape or overweight. That is, I recommend you have some measure of fitness aptitude before you jump into a routine. But once you’re ready do 6-8 all out sprints (with short breaks between) once a week to break a weight loss plateau when all other attempts have failed.

Am I missing any other reasons? If you’ve successfully surmounted a stall in your fat loss, what was the ultimate explanation? Let everyone know in the comment board!

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  1. You left out emotional binging! i do it a lot when I’m stressed and depressed. Sometimes when i’m not satisfied with my workout i deviate and run to a cupcake shop and devour a 500 calorie cupcake with icing and raspberry jam inside! Feels so good when i’m eating it but later i feel darn awful!

    Michelle wrote on October 6th, 2011
  2. i am not eatting junk food. i jog a hour each night, do a little yoga. i dont drink soda. i dont eat junk food. i eat fruits and vegetables. but not losing weight. :( can someone tell me why

    jamie wrote on October 11th, 2011
    • Um, jogging may be chronic cardio especially at an hour a day.

      Chauca wrote on October 20th, 2011
  3. Mark,

    I have reviewed the list you provided and feel that I am really in compliance with your suggestions. I eat real food only, I do daily 18 hour IF, I consume no grains/starches/legumes/tubers/sugars/etc, I have stopped chronic cardio and I sprint but I still cannot seem to stabalize/lose weight. I have gained 8 pounds in a month after YEARS of weight training so I cannot believe that the 8 pounds was all lean body mass. The belt and mirror tests appear to be holding up but I just can’t phathom that at 5’8 I should be almost 200 lbs, especially knowing that during my 2 daily meals I consume no more than 2000 calories. My Bod Pod analysis indicated that I needed at least 1700+ based on my BMR and I am active EVERYDAY burning up at least another 1000 calories in activity alone. If my numbers are a little off, I think that I should at least be maintaining. I have stopped my obsession with the scale only weighing once every couple of weeks but the weight is slowly creeping up. How much can one reasonably expect to gain in a month.

    Your thoughts

    Brent wrote on October 28th, 2011
  4. nice article about weight lossing.

    nasreenwaris wrote on October 30th, 2011
  5. Hi, well i have a question, I weigh 220lb and im 5’4″ aprox. I have tried loosing weight but it just dont weem to work. Most of me is muscle, and now I have high blood pressure, and it is so far today 155 over 113. I am seriously worried. I am very active, I swim, walk everywhere. I used to be a runner, and i still never went under 210lb. I eat healthy. Lots of fruits and vegitables. And lots of things that have lots of fiber. I dk what else to do.

    Jasmine wrote on November 21st, 2011
  6. Number 7 is NOT a healthy choice. You will lose weight, but you will gain it back by overeating at the next meal you eat. You should not ignore your hunger, or exercise while fasting. This will result in a lowering of weight, but your metabolic rate will slow down and enter starvation mode before too long. The best way to lose weight: eat the proper amounts of healthy foods and get lots of exercise. At least this is what I`ve learned from personal experience and from my university education.

    HK Student wrote on December 25th, 2011
    • University education is WRONG! lol

      Tina wrote on December 29th, 2011
  7. Hi, I desperately need some help. I am 36 and mother of four children. I lost all my weight from all the pregnancies after my last child several years ago doing the slim fast thing. The weight literally “fell off.” Now that I have gained some knowledge and realized that wasn’t the healthiest thing to do I am trying to do something different this time. Over the past several years I have gained nearly all my weight back. I have went through a fast trying to detoxify and give my body a boost. I am literally not eating very much at all. (less than probably 300 calories per day). After almost 3 weeks of this I have only lost “6” pounds. I mean really?? I don’t plan to do the fasting thing for long because I know after prolonged amounts of time that’s really not healthy but I just thought I would have lost more weight by now. I am getting so discouraged. To go through such drastic measures and still not lose hardly anything is so depressing! Please give me any suggestions.

    Leah wrote on January 19th, 2012
    • I think your problem is too few calories. You are eating fewer calories than people in concentration camps were given by the Nazi’s. There is a book by Julia Ross that addresses the havoc mostly women wreak upon themselves through extremely low-calorie dieting. The book is called “The Diet Cure.”

      I have a wonderful doctor who said I must follow a Paleo diet because of food allergies and for weight loss. I was perfect in my eating for two weeks and only lost two pounds. He looked at my online food journal pages and said my 1,000-1,200 calorie intake was waaaay too low. He asked what my energy levels were like, and they were very low. He told me to increase my calorie level to 1,700 – which was adding two snacks to my day.

      My energy levels are much higher, I averaging 4-5 lbs. a week in weight loss, and I feel great. I also limit my carbs to 50-75 grams/day, and cycle my carbs. One day low, the next day higher.

      I also avoid all dairy, eat no grains, no caffeine, no yeasts, and the only fruits I eat right now are berries usually blended to make a smoothie.

      Low-calorie dieting can also mess with your hormonal balance – making it more difficult to lose. Until I was on the right dose of natural thyroid, started hormone replacement therapy, and dealt with my adrenal fatigue doing the things tha Mark recommended in his post, there was no way that my body was going to release that excess weight.

      Your body may need some adjustment and healing time from all of the stress that dieting has done to it. Eating Paleo is a great way to do that! Just make sure you are not doing it more damage by starving and abusing it through too few calories.

      Janelle wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  8. i think for most people, or most teenagers (2 be exact) it’s the fact that they aren’t getting enough sleep. If school started at at least 9:00 am, i bet any1 that child obesity would drop

    nadine175 wrote on January 23rd, 2012
  9. Re: sprinting. My left leg is paralyzed from the knee down, so sprinting is out. What exercise would you recommend in its place?

    Tale wrote on January 24th, 2012
  10. Love your information. I have recently read the leangains approack, eat stop eat and many you’ve mentioned. These two being the most informative. Love your information. I have recently read the leangains approack, eat stop eat and many you’ve mentioned. These two being the most informative. I spent my life from 20 to 42 at 5-10 from a size 2 to a size 6. Lean and a sports enthusiast. At 45 I’m 30 lbs heavier and hating my body. Still fit, very active. Body has changed. But so has my life style. I have tried “diets” pills and calorie counting in the last three years – eatingnhealthy, little and often. Spent months eating 1100 calaries a day. With no pissitive results. Recently I just went back to eating anything I felt like then looked in the mirror and said -time to stop eating fatty! i then went on a 24 hour fast and felt better. After I ate a light meal I then fasted 18 hours and ate again. Continued that for a week and then actually looked at what I was doing………I have spent the majority of my life fasting 15 hours a day, eating literally whatever I wanted and weight was NEVER a thought. I simply didn’t like to eat before about 1pm. I ride jumping horses competatively and really never took the time for breakfast with my morning routine. My body was use to what now is called intermittant fasting. I have now done allot of research on a lifestyle choice I had voluntarily used unknowingly for 20 years. BTW the weight has dropped off and I have a renewed sence if energy and I feel absolutely fantastic. The only thing I do differently monthyvutamin B12 shots. I don’t like the pills and this is simple for me. Its taken me a 3 year struggle to realize what works for my own body. I dont feel hungry, maybe thirsty is the correct response at times. I still have my coffee with cream in the morning and drink hot water and a lemon slice through the day or as a warm drink. Your 17 Reasons for not loosing weight make sense and I liked the read!

    Lisa Lancaster wrote on January 29th, 2012
  11. I have kids and it’s hard to throw out the things that they eat when I’m the one struggling with weight. What do you suppose I do about that?

    Sondra wrote on February 8th, 2012
  12. What do you do if your job means you break the chronic cardio category? I work on my feet for 8 hours straight in a very busy cafe. I have a second job which is also physical. I also working out in the 75-85% range at the gym for 30 minutes a day in addition to my job but I can’t seem to lose weight!

    Mame du Bois wrote on February 20th, 2012
  13. I’m having so much trouble with weight loss, I know I know .. No scales right? I have an obsession. It wont budge … And the days it does I’m so ecstatic! The days it goes up, is well .. rather horrifying.
    I’m 19 and 134 pounds Mostly fat. OF course the scale yesterday said 130. I’ve come down a lot from (when I was 14) 170 pounds or so. That wasn’t a healthy loss though. I’ve been on and off primal for a while. I’ve officially stuck to it over a month.
    My diet consists of meats, Veggies, nuts, and water usually. I spice it up sometimes with special flowers. But I haven’t acceded 60 carbs at all. And they’re all healthy carbs. Granted I cannot afford grass fed meat all the time, I try my best. I sprint every other day or so, my lungs can only handle small bouts of sprinting a week. I do dancing, and lift weights.

    I was 118 10 or so months ago, I felt healthy and I felt good.
    I want to get back to that good feeling. I don’t even necessarily need to be 118 again, just have a better body composition. And feel good, but alas its February, Summer is almost here. I haven’t worn a bathing suit since I was 12… these things don’t happen overnight. This I know. But … What am I doing wrong….

    KattKovacs wrote on February 21st, 2012
  14. I stumbled upon this,looking for a reason I have stalled. Once upon a time, I was very fit and limber. ROck climbing, kayaking, biking across states. I got fat and out of shape,and stressed out by a family member. Eating real food makes sense to me, and lower carb or non-white carbs seems to help. I plan to increase the realness of my food and add more slower exercise to get off my stall. I have been easing back to healthier habits over the past 5 weeks. I feel better, even though I have lost maybe a pound, if that.

    Liam wrote on March 21st, 2012
  15. I stumbled upon this site, while looking for ways out of my stall. Once I was very fit, rock climbing, kayaking, biking across the state. I did carry some excess fat but now I am truly fat. However, for the past 5 weeks I have been easing into healthier habits like eating real food and body weight workouts. I have only lost a pound if that, and can’t tell if my clothes are looser. I used to workout to have fun. Eating real food gives me more energy and life.

    Liam wrote on March 21st, 2012
  16. You’re right on the money. I agree totally with you on this.

    Rayca wrote on April 10th, 2012
  17. I have been on treatment for very low thyroid and severe adrenal fatigue now for two years. I also have severe food allergies and Hoshimotos. I switched to Paleo, only eat meat I prepare myself, veggies, a few nuts, and coconut. It has been months now, I have lost a little weight, mostly water weight, but seem stuck, and am honestly sooo frustrated. I used to be a size 8, lifted 5-6 days a week, ran 2-3 days. With my adrenal fatigue I am absolutely not supposed to elevate my heart rate too high, so am limited to walks/hiking, and I do some weights with 5, 10, 25lbs. I have always been strong, but can’t seem to push thru this, or lose any weight. I take a wide array of supplements. I have a pet sitting service, and house clean for a few of my clients. I take longer to do the cleanings than I used to, and have to stop and take breaks during 5-6 hour cleanings now, and am very tired when done.
    Economics have left me incapable of returning to my doctor for followup help. I am hoping you might have some suggestions for me as I am at a loss at this point. BTW, I am a 62 year old female… Thank you! for any help/suggestions

    Tiana Phillips wrote on April 25th, 2012
  18. not eating fruit is stupid and idiotic advice

    john g wrote on May 26th, 2012
  19. Or suffering from vitamin D deficiency.

    Carla wrote on June 1st, 2012
  20. I just started, but am feeling SO hungry. I don’t know the exact number, but am quite certain I am consuming WAY MORE calories than I used to, simply because of the amount of protein and fat I’m taking in.

    I recently lost around 45 lbs and thought I’d switch to Primal to see how this would shake things up, but I’m really worried I’m going to gain all the weight back now.

    Sabine wrote on June 11th, 2012
  21. Nice info, in most instances, you should pick dieting solution program that contains the appropriate portions of body fat, carbs as well as protein. It is worth noting that individuals have different physiques and as such, you should consider getting software that recognizes to it that this is met. It should show you what suits your system and what you should avoid.

    Adam wrote on June 13th, 2012
  22. I dropped 13 pounds in 20 days and then plateaued, so this is a great article. I increased my weight training greatly, so it’s likely that some of it is muscle gain and some bone density gain. I dropped all processed sugar, oils, grains, etc. We cook everything from scratch so I know what I’m getting. However, I think my one failing is the dried fruit. It’s made a great snack but might be giving me too much sugar; so, now, I’m thinking about dehydrating kale.

    Cory wrote on June 14th, 2012
  23. I lost around 15 pounds with absolutely no exercise (only calorie counting, making it like 1200 calories a day). My weight loss stopped eventually, because I guess it got used to the low calorie intake. So I increased my calorie intake to around 1800 calories a day, for about a month (did not gain anything). I went back to 1200 calories a day, but I still did not lose a pound! I got so frustrated and then I began to jog. I started jogging around two weeks ago, and I still have not lost a pound! I am so frustrated with the scale, but I am feeling better about myself. I am happy I finally began to do something that is active, and I am accomplishing something I’ve always wanted to be able to do.

    I am still waiting for the numbers to go down, but as long as I keep jogging, I will be happy.

    I might try the sprinting suggestion sometime. My friend told me (before I jogged) that I was very good at sprinting short distances. Maybe I’m even better now that I am a little bit more active.

    I will beat this plateau if it kills me (okay, not literally but…lol)!!

    Amber wrote on June 20th, 2012
  24. no one should ever skip breakfast, its a essencial part of the day. dont eating for 3 hours does make you hold on to fat and slows down your metabolism.

    Jessica Spencer wrote on August 9th, 2012
  25. To lose weight you should always get your diet under control. It takes about 1 hour to burn 600 calories but only take few minutes to eat that many calories if you are eating wrong.

    Dave wrote on August 12th, 2012
  26. I started a new healthy eating regime on Jan. 09th, 2012. Up until June, I lost 65 pounds by eating 1,200 calories a day and walking 30 minutes every other day. Keep in mind, I was at 365 pounds when I started. In July I was sidelined by plantar faciatis and I started stationary bike for 30-40 minutes, 20 repetitions with 15 pound dumbbells and 10 laps of swimming daily. I feel great but my weight loss plateau

    Luigui wrote on August 13th, 2012

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