Expert Q&A

Diet problems: Can't lose weight on a diet

I am dieting all the time. Why can't I lose weight?

There could be several reasons why you aren’t losing weight.

Are you counting everything your eat?

A potential cause is that you’re “cheating.” Remember the pretzels you had last night? What about that cookie at work? Oftentimes, dieters remember all the food they’ve denied themselves but not the times they cheated. Having just a little of something or thinking a little bit couldn’t hurt can add a couple hundred calories per day to your daily intake. These few calories might just be enough to stop you from losing weight. If you do it frequently, all you will remember at the end of the week is how hard you worked at eating less—but you won’t remember the diet busting snacks. As a result, you will feel like you dieted all week and didn’t get any results. Consistency is very important when dieting.

Re-examine the foods you are eating - eating the wrong foods will stop weight loss

Another reason you’re not losing weight is that you could be misunderstanding what to eat. Many people think if they eat only salads, they will surely lose weight. But then they use a lot of dressing and add croutons, cheese, meat and other high calorie ingredients to their salad, creating a salad with more calories than a hamburger!

No futher weight loss: "fat free" and "sugar free" DO NOT EQUAL "calorie free"

Eating “fat-free” and “sugar-free” foods can also confound a diet. Keep in mind that these designations do not mean “calorie-free.” Calories will increase your weight, regardless of whether they are fat-calories or sugar-calories. Fatty foods are more calorie dense, meaning for the same measure fat has 2 1/4 times as many calories. Nonetheless, many fat-free dressings have only slightly fewer calories—compare a fat-free dressing with approximately 100 calories per tablespoon to regular dressing with 150 calories. The same applies to fat-free ice cream, cookies and so on. You can lose weight with regular food, just eat less.

Lack of weight loss due to constant dieting and growing older 

If you have been dieting on and off for years, your body is very efficient at absorbing calories because it thinks you are in a famine. Combine that complication with getting older, and losing weight really becomes challenging. For each decade we grow older, we need 10% fewer calories to maintain our weight. Thus, if we are inconsistent in our eating habits over 10 or 20 years, losing weight may become more difficult—but not impossible.

Weight loss can be achieved through a healthy diet and regular exercise

Make a choice to eat only the correct amount of food/calories every day, and exercise four or five times a week, and you can be sure that the weight will eventually come off—and stay off.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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