Why Can’t I Lose Weight: Diet, Health and Weight Loss
Why can’t I lose weight? According to Obesity Reviews, “42% of adults from general populations and 44% of adults from ethnic‐minority populations reported trying to lose weight, and 23% of adults from general populations reported trying to maintain weight annually.”
Obesity contributes to a wide range of medical issues, according to the American Journal of Public Health. The study ultimately signed up and followed more than 200,000 participants over 40 years. To gauge just how serious the obesity epidemic has grown, when the study was launched in 1989, about 25% of women were overweight. Today that number has climbed to at least 66%.
There are so many questions about obesity, and answers from reliable sources can be challenging to find. Here we present research that shows just what causes obesity and how you can fight the battle head on to win the war.
Let’s take a closer look at what obesity actually is and how it affects the body – ultimately revealing why you may not be losing weight.
How Big is the Obesity Epidemic and What’s Causing the Problems?
What is Obesity?
The basic definition of obesity is “having too much body fat,” according to MedlinePlus.gov. Obesity is different than overweight in that overweight deals more with how much you weigh versus the amount of fat you’re currently carrying. This is a significant differentiation, as all obese persons are overweight, but not all overweight persons are obese.
Though the fight against overweight has been waged for much longer, the fight against obesity is often considered more serious. The “excessive or abnormal accumulation of fat or adipose tissue in the body…may impair health” in a way that causes irreversible damage, according to Obesity – StatPearls.
As stated above, obesity is 100% preventable in many cases; however, there are medical conditions that contribute to weight gain and, ultimately, to the prevalence of obesity.
One massive problem with obesity is the fact that the impact on overall health and wellness, both physical and psychological, is underestimated. Not to mention the effect of weight on social interactions and acceptance, according to the Ghana Medical Journal,
With that in mind, let’s touch on the causes of obesity and how to combat the barriers you’re facing against weight loss.
Obesity Terms and Meanings
There are some terms you may come across when learning about obesity. For instance:
Overweight = Body mass index (BMI) of between 25 and 30.
- Obese = BMI of 30 or above
- Obese Class 1 = BMI of 30 to 34.9
- Obese Class 2 = BMI 35 to 39.9
- Obese Class 3 = BMI of 40+
When you want to fight obesity, you can get the help you need. Remember – it’s not your fault. The support system you need is available from the Noom app. There is a human coach that plays a part in your success, and the personalized plan caters to your wants, likes, and needs.
Causes of Obesity
Researchers consider the “big two” causes of obesity to be marketing practices that make calorie-rich foods look appealing and an overall “reduction in physical activity.”
Marketing practices aren’t limited to food commercials and radio spots. The availability and prices for fast food and convenience foods have increased dramatically over the past few decades. There are more quick eats today than ever before, and nutrition isn’t at the top of the list when selling food for profit.
As for physical activity, our world has grown into a tech age where sit-down jobs are more plentiful, and in demand, than ever before. Many people spend eight hours or longer each day behind a computer screen, sitting at a desk, or in meetings of some sort. Even if you’re active at your job, physical activity and exercise need to be independent of the time you spend working. Walking around at work, no matter the number of steps you take isn’t the same as increasing your heart rate enough to boost metabolism and promote weight loss.
So, a quick list of the top causes of obesity include:
Sidewalks and Built Environment
High-Fructose Corn Syrup
Vending Machines” (Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition)
Research from the CDC also addresses the possible causes of obesity. This time around, the focus is on two main factors – “behavior and genetics.” When you consider behavior, some of the possible causes of obesity include:
- Dietary Patterns
- Physical Activity
- Medication Use
Specific Causes of Overweight and Obesity
Now that we’ve touched on the generic causes of obesity let’s look at why you can’t lose weight in ways you’ve likely never considered.
Your Obese Brain Won’t Let You Lose Weight
That’s right, your brain could be keeping you from losing weight. Your brain loves the feeling of immediate rewards, and food provides those rewards. Instant gratification is not necessarily a choice, per se, as the brain can literally convince you to eat food, so “good mood” chemicals are released. (Appetite)
Touching again on the brain, when the cognitive reward system is out of whack, the feeling of needing food for happiness, so to speak, doesn’t disappear when you lose weight. As a matter of fact, research in the journal Brain Sciences shows that even after weight loss, the brain still reacts as it would in an obese person with food being viewed as a reward evoking good feelings.
You’re Struggling With Yourself Over Food
This feeling of need, in regards to food, can make it extremely difficult to fend off the drive to eat. Research shows two common barriers to weight loss are:
“Struggling with self and struggling with implementing the diet.” People strive for support and guidance, but when that’s not available, losing weight becomes difficult, or near impossible, according to BMC Women’s Health.
You’ve Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is fantastic for overall health, but it can make it challenging to maintain weight. People tend to turn to food for gratification when nicotine isn’t available. The impact is strong enough that researchers have tried to find the “why” behind the connection to help counteract the effect, according to Obesity (Silver Spring).
The answer, according to Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is a series of changes. According to the research, “optimizing the health benefits of smoking cessation requires greater understanding of the behavioral and biological relationships between smoking and dietary habits in order to prevent weight gain after quitting smoking.”
Healthy Food Choices Aren’t Available to Many – Even Children
Another confounding factor in obesity is the sheer lack of healthy foods. According to Public Health Nutrition, food environments, typically in lower-income areas, don’t give people access to healthy food options, or healthy options are drastically more expensive. The research showed, “greater exposure to supermarkets and fast food outlets were associated with better diet.”
You Don’t Know Portion Sizing or Food Nutrition
Believe it or not, yet another contributor to the growth of obesity is portion sizing. Understanding food nutrition and how that nutrition plays out in serving sizes is not something that’s taught in schools or life, for that matter. Fast foods and large portion sizes abound, which makes it hard to learn how to eat and how much to eat, says the British Journal of Nutrition.
You can track your portion sizes with Noom. The app works with a food database of more than 3 million foods, and nutritionists manage the database, so only the correct, current information is added. Download a free trial offer today.
You Can’t Bridge the Gap Between What You Know and What You Do
Along the same lines, sometimes people know how to lose weight, how to eat right, and the “right” choices to make, but bridging the gap between what you know and what you’re doing can be difficult. Just because someone says to make this change or that change doesn’t mean making changes and sticking with them is really as easy as it sounds, according to the Annual Review of Public Health.
You’re Eating Too Many Processed Foods
Now, touching on the topic of food and food availability, we have to speak about processed foods. Years ago, foods were purchased whole and cooked, but as life has turned into a time crunch, processed foods that are easy to heat up or eat on the go have grown in popularity to the point that they’re causing serious health ramifications. Eating processed foods has been linked to an increased risk of certain health conditions like obesity, says Current Obesity Reports.
A second bit of research from 2019, this time in the journal Cellular Metabolism, also touches on the impact of ultra-processed foods on weight gain. According to the research, “limiting consumption of ultra-processed foods may be an effective strategy for obesity prevention and treatment.”
The National Institutes of Health, out of the United States, even addressed the impact of processed foods on weight gain in 2019. Based on research, people who eat ultra-processed foods are likely to consume upwards of 500 more calories a day than people who choose healthier food options. If you’re eating just enough calories to maintain weight and you pick up an extra 500 calories, that’s the same as gaining one extra pound a week.
Your Healthcare Provider Isn’t Offering the Right Support or Education
Probably one of the more difficult barriers to weight loss is the miseducation for patients by healthcare providers. Either the education provided is lacking or incomplete, or no education or guidance is provided at all. Simply telling a patient they need to work on weight, for health reasons in many cases, is not the same as providing the professional guidance needed for success, according to Obesity (Silver Spring).
Your Health and Your Weight
Not all contributing factors to obesity are based on food and lifestyle choices. Some illnesses work against the metabolism, and other body functions, causing weight gain. Let’s take a look at underlying medical conditions associated with weight gain and obesity.
A factor in obesity that can’t be dismissed is age. As we age, our metabolism slows down, and we tend to take on a few extra pounds at the midsection. From an obesity perspective, being overweight or obese can cause excess leptin levels, which may cause leptin resistance. Leptin is responsible for suppressing the intake of energy and promoting energy expenditure, according to Frontiers in Endocrinology.
Another factor to consider in terms of aging and weight is the fact that being obese causes health issues that can speed up aging, thus causing more health problems, says Age.
It is estimated that the average woman will live beyond 80 years, so picking up a good diet is crucial to living the longest, healthiest life possible, as per the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.
Other health issues to consider are steroid use, stress, mood, and fatigue – all contribute to overweight, and obesity.
How to Combat Barriers to Weight Loss With a Healthy Diet
If any of these factors are familiar, you may want to know the best means of fighting obesity, which is growing more difficult by the year. Fortunately, there are some general changes you can make to maximize natural metabolism and suppress hunger, so you see benefits without having to undertake drastic lifestyle changes that simply don’t last.
Eat More Vegetables
If processed foods are a large part of your diet, there’s a good chance you’re not getting the nutritionally-dense vegetables you need to feel full and lose weight. Research in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that when you eat more vegetables, you lose more weight compared to people who don’t pick up on these amazing foods.
Research in Scientific Reports explains the connection best – “Healthy food choices are happy food choices.”
Choose a More Mediterranean Path
You don’t have to fly to France and spend a month eating at local coffee shops and fine-dining restaurants to see the benefits of a Mediterranean diet. When you choose to take in healthy fats, whole foods and lots of vegetables, as is the case with the Med diet, you are priming yourself for weight loss and weight maintenance – not to mention the health benefits, according to Nutrition.
Skip Processed Foods
We’re touching again on the impact of processed food because there’s never too much to be said about such a substantial factor in obesity. Foods that are processed often contain unneeded calories in the form of sugar and fat. Cholesterol and sodium levels are higher than in unprocessed foods, and, generally speaking, the foods just don’t provide what the body needs other than useless calories, as per DMSO: Targets & Therapy.
Based on the research mentioned above, when common processed foods like “margarine, vegetable oils, butter, cream, processed meat, and sugary drinks” are removed from the diet, weight loss results.
Learn About Food Portion Sizes
The National Institutes of Health can help in this regard. Based on the government website, portion sizes are as follows:
- Vegetables (2-3 cups)
- Fruits (1.5-2 cups)
- Grains (5-8 ounces)
- Dairy (3 cups)
- Protein foods (5-6.5 ounces)
- Oils (5-7 teaspoons)
Now, don’t take these measurements as being ALL you have to eat to reach recommended daily goals for overall health. These are measurements for just one serving. Though dietary profiles are different for each person, you should attempt to consume daily:
- 5-7 servings of vegetables
- 3-5 servings of grains
- 3 servings of dairy
- 2 servings of meat
- Small amounts of fats
- Sugar-based foods and drinks no more than 1-2 times a week
Drink More Water, Less Diet Beverages
No list of ways to combat obesity would be complete without speaking on the power of water. Sure, every weight-loss expert talks about the importance of drinking water – you must drink eight 8-ounce glasses a day, right? But what about when you drink non-caloric, diet beverages?
Research shows, according to the International Journal of Obesity, that replacing diet beverages with water actually improves weight loss. Overall, after 12 months of dieting and weight maintenance, the people who switched out diet beverages for water showed a reduction in body mass index (BMI) (a measurement of fatness). BMI dropped more than it did in the control group who continued drinking diet beverages.
Then there’s the fact that drinking more water just works to promote weight loss, without any other contributing factors. Frontiers in Nutrition shared research in 2016 that shows “increased water intake is associated with loss of body weight.” Not only does the water work to decrease the number of calories you take in, but it also works on a hormonal level to promote regulation of body fluid.
The impact of water on weight loss is so profound that even when diet and exercise are taken out of the equation, there remains a clinically-significant effect on weight loss. Research published in Obesity (Silver Spring) claims, “drinking water may promote weight loss in overweight, dieting women.”
Final Take on Why You Can’t Lose Weight
There are many reasons why you can’t lose weight. Whether your diet is too focused on processed foods or you’re not drinking enough water, sometimes our lifestyle choices play a role. However, sometimes there are factors beyond our control, like health conditions that make it difficult, and sometimes near impossible, to lose weight without help.
Seeking help losing weight doesn’t have to be hard. Weight-loss apps like Noom work to help you make small lifestyle changes, dedicating just 10 minutes a day to those changes. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like much, but partner that with increasing water intake and skipping processed foods, and the results are clear. You can lose weight with a little bit of support, guidance, and a few simple lifestyle changes. Don’t miss out on your free trial offer now!
Summer Banks has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with professionals in the weight loss industry and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University.