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Why You Can’t Lose Weight and What to Do About It

Have you tried to lose weight, only to end up feeling frustrated and defeated?

Maybe you have lost a few pounds in the past – or even a significant amount of weight – only to gain it back, and then some.

Humans are good at a lot of things, but weight loss isn’t one of them.

Just how bad ARE we at dropping those extra pounds?

Health experts estimate that nearly two-thirds of Americans are obese. Experts believe that rate will increase to 50% by the year 2030.

And weight struggles aren’t just a problem in the US – worldwide, obesity has doubled since 1980.

Our children are not immune: the number of overweight or obese children has jumped significantly in recent years.

Obesity and its related conditions have been estimated to cost $147 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

But the only things that are shrinking are our bank accounts: Americans spend an estimated $2.5 billion on weight loss programs annually.

We keep going on diets, and not only do we fail to lose weight, we often end up weighing MORE after we give up on the diet du jour…and we fall for the claims the next fad diet promises.

What about those big-name diet programs?

Last year, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine reviewed 4,200 weight loss studies and found that only two programs are supported by gold-standard data showing that participants, on average, lost more weight after one year in these programs than people who were either dieting on their own, read health information, or received other forms of education and counseling sessions.

They also found that results in those two programs were generally “modest,” with participants losing on average between 3 and 5 percent more than people who lost weight via other methods.

People who followed very low-calorie meal replacement programs lost more weight initially, but the one long-term study that met the researchers’ criteria did not show any long-term benefits.

Programs based on the Atkins diet model – high protein, moderate fat, low carbohydrate – helped people lose more weight at six months and 12 months than counseling alone. The authors said that kind of approach “appears promising.”

Why do we keep failing, despite expending so much time, effort, and money?

I was a manager and counselor for a major commercial weight loss company for several years.

Day after day, I met with people who were frustrated, depressed, sick, tired, annoyed, and defeated. Many of them had struggled with their weight for decades. Some began battling obesity in childhood or their teen years. Most of them had weight-related illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and cardiovascular disorders.

They turned to that particular weight loss program (which requires the consumption of low-calorie packaged diet “food”) desperate for help.

But severe calorie restriction is soul-crushing for most people. It is nearly impossible to stick with, and it leaves you feeling deprived, fatigued, and hopeless. You find yourself focused on what you “can’t” have. The forbidden becomes more irresistible than it ever was.

Unfortunately, for most of our clients, the program we offered ended up being one more addition to a long list of failed weight loss attempts.

Sometimes, repeated failure leads to the complete loss of hope.

Chronic dieters start to believe that they are the problem; that they just don’t have enough willpower to stick with a diet plan long enough to see results.

But the truth is that diets fail US.

They don’t work most of the time – especially long-term.

If you are reading this, chances are, you are one of the frustrated.

How many times have you started a new diet, only to ditch it and go back to your former eating habits within a few weeks?

Have you tried every new diet plan in existence?

If you have made attempts to lose weight and have not achieved success, or if you have gained back weight you have lost in the past, please do not blame yourself.

The reasons dieting is so difficult and most of us fail are complex, but I’ll sum them up for you: your brain works against you. So does your environment. There is food everywhere – we are constantly surrounded by it, and the most convenient and readily available options are usually not of the healthful variety.

The first step to solving a problem is to understand it.

Despite all of the abysmal statistics I shared above, there ARE ways to lose weight (I prefer to say lose fat, because scale weight doesn’t tell us much, but that is covered in-depth here) and keep it off.

But before you can defeat an opponent, you have to understand what you are up against.

So, first let’s look at some of the reasons that most weight loss plans fail:

  • Caloric intake is too low
  • Calorie counting is a flawed method of tracking intake
  • People usually underestimate how much they eat and overestimate how much they exercise
  • Lifestyle changes are not included in most plans – people revert back to old poor habits once they lose some weight
  • The focus is on the scale and not body composition changes
  • They are impractical – expect you to eat strange foods, packaged diet foods that taste like cardboard and sawdust, and restrict too many foods

We already talked about the high failure rates of commercial diet programs.

What about losing weight on your own?

That can be very challenging too, especially if you lack knowledge about what to eat, how to exercise, and (perhaps most important) the behavior changes you’ll need to make to succeed.

Here’s a list of some of the things people do that make unassisted weight loss attempts fail:

  • Relying on the scale to track progress
  • Eat too little or eat too much
  • Exercise too little or exercise too much (you can’t outrun a bad diet!)
  • Engage in self-loathing and a deprivation mindset
  • Don’t have a support system
  • Have people who sabotage them (intentionally or not)
  • Self-sabotage (usually this is subconscious)
  • Set unrealistic goals
  • Underestimate their ability
  • Search for quick fixes
  • Become obsessed with the scale
  • Become obsessed with every little bite of food
  • Fail to account for calories in beverages
  • Eat too much sugar
  • Eat too many processed “diet” foods
  • Don’t drink enough water
  • Take diet pills
  • Fail to change their behavior

I could go on and on, but I think I made my point.

As you can see, there’s a lot involved in successful weight loss.

If you aren’t armed with knowledge, how on Earth can you succeed?

That’s where weight loss coaches come in.

I just happen to be one of them, and I’d love to help you.

To learn about my customized one-on-one online weight loss coaching programs, click here.

To learn about my 12 Week Transformation online group coaching program, click here.

To order The Secrets of Weight Loss guide for $5.99 (PDF), click here.

About the author

Lisa Egan

Lisa Egan has been passionate about nutrition and fitness for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences with a minor in Nutrition. Lisa has managed two medically supervised weight control centers, worked as a personal trainer and wellness educator, and is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified Nutrition Coach. She is the owner of Lisa Egan Nutrition Coaching and the website All About Habits. Lisa enjoys helping people improve their health and is dedicated to keeping up with the latest research in nutrition science and behavior change psychology. You can contact Lisa via email at lmegan02@gmail.com.