Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Weight gain and weight loss resistance are very common symptoms among people with chronic health disorders. Contrary to popular belief, an inability to lose weight or keep it off is not a sign of a character flaw but instead flaws in your metabolic, immune, or neurological health.  

In our culture, fat shaming, unfortunately, finds acceptance, especially in alternative health circles and when directed toward women. However, it’s important to recognize that individuals who are overweight or obese may actually follow some of the healthiest diets and lifestyle practices you’ll come across. Their commitment to maintaining their weight necessitates mindful eating choices, as straying from a balanced routine could lead to rapid weight gain. 

Instead of beating yourself up if you can’t lose the weight or experiencing unexplained weight gain, it’s worth considering if any of the following underlying causes could be influencing your situation. Here are nine potential reasons why weight loss may be challenging, and none of them have anything to do with laziness or lack of discipline: 

Nine potential reasons why weight loss may be challenging

1) You are a veteran lifelong dieter. The multi-billion-dollar diet industry coupled with unrealistic cultural body image standards have turned low-calorie dieting into a way of life. That works great in your youth, but as you age your metabolism fatigues from constant famines.  

The human body responds to famines by progressively lowering metabolism and increasing fat storage hormones. As a result, each low-calorie diet can make you a little bit fatter than the last one once you resume normal caloric intake. This explains why diets have such low long-term success.  

This phenomenon was most poignantly illustrated in a study of participants from the The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after participating in the show, researchers found they were burning 800 fewer calories per day and the majority of them returned to their pre-show weight and had to under eat by 400–800 calories a day just to not gain weight. 

2) Your hunger hormones are out of whack. Conversely, if you routinely eat ample sugar and desserts and processed carbohydrates (breads, pastas, white rice, etc.), you likely have leptin resistance and skewed hunger hormone function that causes constant food cravings and hunger. Minimizing or eliminating processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly helps improve leptin sensitivity so your hunger cues and fat burning returns to normal. 

3) Your thyroid isn’t working well. One of the most common causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance is hypothyroidism, or low thyroid activity. And the most common cause of this is Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland. This is why many people do not lose weight even after they start taking thyroid medication. It’s essential to address the underlying causes of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to improve your health and lose weight. 

4) You are chronically inflamed. Chronic inflammation skews hormone function, metabolism, and gut health in a way that can promote fat storage and prevent fat burning. 

Many people enjoy easy weight loss by following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Nutrient-dense foods void of inflammatory triggers also manage pain, gut problems, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other health issues. 

5) You’ve had a brain injury or have compromised brain function 

Many sufferers of concussions and brain injuries find they suddenly gain weight after their injury and are not able to lose it. Brain injuries cause inflammation in the brain, which can not only impact brain function, but also disrupt metabolic, hormone, and immune in a way that promotes weight gain and inhibits fat burning. Brain injury victims also often struggle with fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms interfering with appropriate fat burning and storage. 

6) You have mold illness. Mold illness is increasingly being identified as an underlying cause of many health disorders and symptoms, including weight gain and weight loss resistance. Almost a quarter of the US population is susceptible to mold illness. Toxicity from mycotoxins, the byproducts of molds, can seriously impact metabolic, immune, and neurological health leading to unexplained weight gain and weight loss resistance. This refers not just to the dreaded black mold but also the more commonly found strains of mold caused by leaks and water damage in buildings.  

7) You were born with an obese gut microbiome. Research into the gut microbiome, our trillions of gut bacteria, show they impact virtually every aspect of our health, including whether we are more likely to be thin or heavy.  

Studies on both mice and humans have shown that obese subjects inoculated with the gut bacteria of thin subjects went on to quickly and easily lose weight.  

Factors that impact your gut microbiome “signature” in a way that promotes obesity include being delivered via C-section, being formula fed versus breastfed, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood. 

8) You are a victim of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault or have PTSD. After more than two decades of trying to understand why most obese people regained the weight they lost, an obesity researcher made an accidental discovery — the majority of his study subjects had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted right before the time their weight gain began. This can drive complex PTSD and the genesis of food addiction to cope.  

Likewise, researchers have found a correlation between food addiction and PTSD in women. 

9) You have a brain-based disorder that promotes food addiction and an eating disorder. For many people with weight issues, food becomes the source of torturous addictive behaviors that can then morph into eating disorders. It is increasingly being found that addictions and eating disorders are linked to brain-based disorders such as ADHD. The skewed neurological function triggers the obsessive thought patterns that lay the foundation for addictive eating and eating disorders.  

Look for the underlying cause of weight gain and weight loss resistance to develop self-compassion