This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

The Reasons You Can’t Lose Weight

We take a look at the factors that halt progress and what changes you can make.

Ah, weight loss. It's one of those elusive motivational wagons which is so hard to stay on. Some of us might only wish to lose a few kilos, while others may have a most substantial amount to lose for health reasons. Whatever the desire, losing weight is hard.

Moreover, there are so many factors that contribute to weight gain, or why you might not be able to shift those kgs. It's more than diet or exercise alone -- it's about a whole lifestyle approach that also involves stress and sleep.

First up, let's look at food.

Common mistakes with diet

"Often I see people going too hard too early with regards to their diet so it is unsustainable," dietician Susie Burrell told HuffPost Australia.

Burrell offers a tailored program, Shape Me, to help her clients lose weight with a customised plan.

"I also see people being way too strict then getting too hungry and binging. People also think it's okay to eat well during the week and they are then binging on weekends. Cutting all carbs then craving them and binging is another big one," Burrell said.

It's fine if one or two meals a week look like this but you can't binge all weekend and expect to lose weight. Sorry.
It's fine if one or two meals a week look like this but you can't binge all weekend and expect to lose weight. Sorry.

Instead, Burrell suggest taking a slow but steady approach. Any rapid weight loss will very likely result in it being put back on, sometimes with extra.

"I advise people to have a couple of light days at the start of their journey, eating things like salads and soups to shift fluid weight, then from there to control their calorie intake each day.

"Other tips which really help is to eat most of the days food during the first half of the day then keep dinner small and light. Also, get your steps right up -- Aim for 10,000-12,000 a day. Lastly, factor in a meal or two off each week," Burrell said.

Common mistakes with exercise

While it's now well known that exercise only has a very small effect on weight loss, it can still help and has countless other health benefits. Though doing the wrong thing when it comes to working out can make you feel like you're going nowhere, fast.

"The main mistake people make would be not including any resistance training in their workouts," Ben Lucas, personal trainer and founder of Flow Athletic told HuffPost Australia.

"Studies show that resistance training can help to burn fat for up to 38 hours post workout. This is because larger muscles require more energy and therefore burn more fat. It is also important for bone density which becomes especially important as you age."

Cardio is great but it's best to add strength training to your routine, too.
Cardio is great but it's best to add strength training to your routine, too.

The next mistake Lucas witnesses is people starting out at full steam and then burning out and giving up a couple weeks in.

"A lot of people when they are starting out go too hard or train too often so they end up getting tired, lethargic and then they stop enjoying it. Start slow, don't burn out, it's not good for your motivation or your health," Lucas said.

He also noticed those that don't have a clear objective, goal or plan tend to fall off the wagon.

"When you are new to training, often you are not in the mindset of having fun straight away. This means that you need another reason to keep you motivated until the penny drops and training starts to become fun for you.

"Having a goal in place gives you something to work towards, such as a half marathon or learning how to do 10 pull ups, and having a plan stops you from walking aimlessly around the gym until you just give up," Lucas said.

The best training for weight loss

Lucas suggests adding the abovementioned resistance training into your existing exercise routine. If you don't have one, it's a good place to start.

"I would include full body resistance training twice a week for 30 minutes week to increase metabolism."

"Also try for two 30 minutes HIIT cardio sessions a week and one 45-60 minute LISS cardio session, which is low intensity, to burn calories. This is a good mix of training that won't burn you out, but will give you all of the variety that you need to get results," Lucas said.

Why sleep is so important

You might be training like a machine and eating right but if you're not getting enough sleep your results will definitely slow. It's been proven that being tired makes you reach for more high-calorie foods.

Make sure you're doing enough of this.
Make sure you're doing enough of this.

"If you are tired you are more likely to skip the gym, make poorer food choices and of course feel sluggish which is not great for your metabolism and weight loss," Lucas said.

Try to keep your stress levels down

Stress is one helluva thing. Being stressed, even if you can't feel it, can have a negative effect on your waistline as well as other aspects of your health.

"If you are highly stressed from work, you have a lack of sleep or you're overtraining it can increase your cortisol. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands as a response to stress. While it is normal to have cortisol in your body now and then, elevated cortisol disrupts the body's blood glucose control by stimulating glucose secretion," Lucas said.

"This limits the release of insulin which is the hormone responsible for removing excess glucose from the bloodstream and that results in high blood sugar levels. This results in poor glucose control which makes losing weight very difficult as the excess glucose can often be stored as fat."

Don't discount incidental movement

Lastly, try to get your movement up by adding in more incidental exercise.

"Do you have the option of taking the lift or the stairs? Can you walk to the further bus stop? Can you get up every hour to walk to the water cooler. Try to get as much incidental exercise in as possible throughout the day. I would aim to get up and stretch every hour if possible," Lucas said.

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