10 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight When You’ve Tried Everything (and What to Do About It)


Nagina Abdullah


August 26, 2022


As an online weight loss coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of women to help them lose weight. Many have sought my help because, no matter what they do, they can’t shed the pounds. These women are often worried that, despite all their efforts, there is something wrong with their biology or psyche that’s preventing them from losing weight, and they’re sick of wasting time and money trying.

There are several reasons why losing weight can seem impossible, some related to biology and psychology, but mostly because we don’t have the right approach to weight loss. The following is a list I have compiled of the top 10 reasons women struggle to lose weight, and what you can do to overcome them.

1. You’re not eating enough food

Why is not eating enough food bad for weight loss?

You have probably heard this one before: you need to eat to lose weight. It may feel counter-intuitive. Maybe you’ve heard about trends like intermittent fasting that make food restriction seem like the easiest – or only – way to lose weight.

But when you severely restrict your caloric intake, your body goes into survival mode and refuses to burn fat because it thinks you’re starving. You fight hunger pains and urges to eat all day but end up with no changes on the scale. You suffer for nothing.

Starving yourself also causes uncontrollable sugar cravings. Women who come to me for help describe successfully denying themselves food throughout the day, but then night hits and the urge to eat chocolate, candy or sugary cereals hits them. And because they are famished, they don’t just have a taste – they binge.

How to make sure you’re eating enough food to lose weight

Throughout the day, you want to make sure you’re eating meals that contain a healthy portion of protein, the right kind of carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. You can also snack on a small apple with peanut butter or carrots, grape tomatoes, and/or cucumbers with hummus as metabolism-boosting treats that fight cravings and help you lose weight. 

2. You’re not eating enough carbohydrates

Why is eating too few carbohydrates bad for losing weight?

This tip probably sounds weird, but it’s true: not eating enough carbohydrates can stagnate your weight loss.

When you initially cut out carbohydrates, you will see some weight loss, about 10 pounds. But then your metabolism will stall because again, it thinks your body is starving. It’s like a stalled-out car: you need to press the accelerator and give it some gas to help the engine turnover. If you want to lose 20 pounds or more, you need to make sure you’re taking in enough carbohydrates to kick-start your metabolism.

Make sure you’re eating the right types of carbohydrates

Though carbohydrates are necessary for pumping up your metabolism, they need to be carbohydrates from healthy sources. These include:

Make sure to work these healthy carbs into your diet to ensure continuous and sustainable weight loss.

3. You’re not eating enough protein

Why is not eating enough protein bad for weight loss?

Protein helps you feel full, that’s why you need to make sure you’re eating enough of it when you’re trying to lose weight. Many women are often prevented from consuming enough daily protein because when they think of protein, they think of steaks, pork chops, chicken breasts, and scrambled eggs. Those are certainly forms of protein, but they can be hard to consume unless you’re sitting down for your meal – and many professional women live on-the-go lifestyles.

How to make sure you’re eating enough protein

To make sure you’re eating enough protein throughout the day, look to other forms of protein that pair easily with quick breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, like:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheese sticks
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Sprinkles of hemp seeds over salads, vegetables or in lentils
  • Protein Powder 
  • Tuna packets to go 
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Tofu 
  •  Soups that are made with beans
  •  Casseroles and pastas (made with zucchini noodles, Shirataki noodles, or are lentil-based) that are made with beans

4. Not eating a variety of foods that excite your palate

Why does your meal plan need to have variety for weight loss?

A diet consisting of a wide range of foods is critical to weight loss because it prevents food boredom.

A healthy diet that results in weight loss typically consists of lots of vegetables and whole grains. As healthy as these foods are, they are kind of bland. The palate needs to be tantalized. If it is given the same foods day in and day out, it will get bored and eventually crave the salty and sweet junk food you’re trying to avoid.

How to ensure variety in your diet

One of the best ways to excite your palate is to incorporate more spices into your meals. Simple actions like adding turmeric to your smoothie or sprinkling cayenne pepper on your carrots can keep your taste buds interested in the healthy meals you’re eating.

In addition to making your meals more interesting, spices can boost the metabolism. The top metabolism-boosting spices are:

  • Cayenne pepper
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin

Check out some of my spice-forward recipes to work into your weight loss plan.

5. You have insulin resistance

What is insulin resistance, and how does it impact weight loss?

This cause for being unable to lose weight is rare among my clients, but it does happen, so I wanted to mention it.

Insulin is created by the pancreas when a person eats to help regulate blood sugar levels. However, sometimes a body doesn’t respond to insulin, which makes it difficult for the body to take sugar from the blood.  This then causes the pancreas to produce even more insulin, which can lead to elevated weight gain or an inability to lose weight.

The only way to know if you are insulin-resistant is to get bloodwork done by a doctor.

What to do if you find out you are resistant to insulin

If you find out you’re resistant to insulin but still want to lose weight, you need to find out the cause. Insulin resistance can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Excess body fat
  • Processed carbohydrates
  • Saturated fats
  • Certain medications
  • Genetics

Speak to your doctor about what the cause could be. If the reason is weight or food related, then a change in diet should help your body heal from its insulin resistance. However, you may have to take medication for a period of time to jumpstart a change. 

6. Your hormones are unbalanced.

How does a hormone imbalance affect weight loss?

Women are affected by hormones in ways men don’t have to deal with. Estrogen, progesterone, hormones produced by your thyroid, cortisol, and insulin all impact your ability to lose weight. If there is an imbalance, it can drastically affect your ability to lose weight.

A hormone imbalance is another condition that should be diagnosed by your doctor.

What to do if you have a hormone imbalance that’s preventing you from losing weight

If your doctor diagnoses you with imbalanced hormones, follow their regimen for getting things balanced. Your doctor may prescribe medication, they may refer you to a nutritionist, or they may do both. A proper diet is one of the best ways to balance your hormones, but always take the advice of your doctor when treating any hormone-related diagnosis.

7. You’re depending too much on exercise.

Why is exercise not a dependable way to lose weight?

It is very, very hard to burn calories by exercising. Many studies have shown that what you eat matters more than exercise if you’re trying to lose weight. As Everyday Health puts it, you have to jog for 19 minutes to burn 150 calories.  A Cheetos mini bag contains 160 calories – you will have to jog for 20 minutes or more just to burn off that mini bag of Cheetos. The amount of time you must put into exercising to see meaningful weight loss is astronomical.

How to not depend too much on exercise

Exercise is great, and everyone should make time to do 30 minutes of cardio whenever possible. That said, exercise needs to be accompanied by a balanced diet that contains whole foods that boost your metabolism. If you’re in it to lose weight, make sure you begin with the right diet, then incorporate exercise into your regimen.

8. You use food as a reward

What do I mean by using “food as a reward”?

It is very, very common to “reward” ourselves with food. This behavior usually starts in childhood, when we were praised for good behavior with ice cream cones and candy bars. Then it follows us into adulthood, where we celebrate good days with drinks after work, indulge in fast food after tough days at work, and scarf down a bowl of sugary cereal after a hard workout at the gym because, why not – we deserve it.

But the problem is, these “rewards” tend to happen on a near daily basis. It is totally fine to occasionally eat chocolate and drink wine, but when you’re eating a chocolate bar every day after lunch and having three or four glasses of wine every day after work, it’s no longer a reward – it’s a way of life that we fooled ourselves into thinking was just a reward.

What to do to change your mindset around food as a reward

One of the best ways to stop viewing certain foods as “rewards” is to start viewing all foods as a means of nourishment. Instead of wolfing down meals, you should eat mindfully and slowly, savoring your meal and acknowledging that it is designed to give you energy and make you powerful. When we recognize that what we put in our body is the fuel that helps us be our best at work and at home, we’re more inclined to nourish ourselves with healthy, whole foods.

9. You’re not getting enough sleep.

How does sleep impact weight loss?

Sleep has long been proven to have an impact on weight loss. When you don’t have enough sleep, your body can’t run efficiently, preventing it from burning fat. Additionally, lack of sleep will increase your sugar cravings, and it’s almost impossible to not give into them when you are desperate for a pick-me-up.

What to do if you need more sleep

There is a myriad of reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, but the most common theme I see among my professional women clients is a lack of time to take care of all the responsibilities at home. They stay up late to do household chores or work on projects for the PTA. Or, it’s the only time many have to themselves, and watching Netflix or browsing the internet can go into the late night hours and directly impact their quality and length of sleep.

My advice is, if you have the means, outsource what you can when it comes to household chores. As for volunteer work, don’t step up to volunteer for something if it’s going to impact your sleep. Your health should be priority #1, and no PTA fundraiser should supersede it. Set a bedtime of 8-9 hours before you need to wake up, so you will have the time to drift off to sleep and get a metabolism-boosting night’s rest. 

10. You are not in a mindset to lose weight

How does mindset affect weight loss?

Mindset is important to weight loss. You must envision yourself slimmer and believe that you can achieve your goal weight if you want a shot at shedding the pounds.

A lack of a weight loss mindset is one of the top issues I see affecting clients. For various reasons, they don’t think they can lose weight. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t grow up with role models who ate healthy and had a positive body image. Or they think that their genetics precludes them from being skinny. Or they don’t think they have the time and willpower. Or they’ve been overweight their entire life and getting down to their goal weight seems impossible because it always has been impossible.

Whatever the reason, not having the weight loss mindset is going to severely inhibit your weight loss journey. You must believe you can shed those pounds. That’s why the weight loss mindset is something I teach in all my weight loss programs.

How to develop a weight loss mindset

To develop a weight loss mindset, you must envision your life as someone 20, 40, 60 pounds lighter.

  • What would that feel like?
  • What would you do?

Would you put on a bathing suit and go to the beach for the first time in 20 years?

Would you let yourself be photographed and tagged on social media?

Would you invest in new clothes and initiate a date night with your husband?

After you get over that initial hurdle of imagining yourself thinner, it’s easier to start implementing lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss. And when you start losing inches and pounds, it further solidifies your mindset. It’s important to stay connected with people who are in the same weight loss boat as you and to make sure you’re accountable to someone on your weight loss journey, but once you make that first imaginative leap, you’re on your way to a weight loss mindset.

If you are interested in developing a weight loss mindset and shedding 20, 40, or 60 pounds (or more!), check out my Personal Weight Loss Coaching (8-week program) or my Accountability Weight Loss Coaching (12-month program).  

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Nagina Sethi Abdullah, BA, MBA

Nagina Abdullah is a health coach for middle-aged women and professionals. She coaches women to boost their metabolism naturally, shed pounds and keep them off. Her work with weight loss clients led to the creation of Masala Body, an online weight loss platform that provides an easy and accessible system that helps women sustainably lose weight. She has helped over 1200 women successfully lose from 10-80 lbs and create a sustainable lifestyle change. Nagina earned her degree in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

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