Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Losing weight is hard. There is no doubt about it. The vast majority of those who attempt to lose weight fail, and of those that do succeed, most of them will gain the weight lost back. We are naturally programmed to seek out food, and as far as we know, our genetics play a huge factor in our weight. Losing weight, especially large amounts, is a battle against our nature–and a battle against our genetics. Therefore, no surprise it’s quite a challenge.

However, in another dimension, losing weight actually has an incredibly refreshing quality: Certain medical conditions notwithstanding, if you burn more calories than you ingest, you will lose weight. Unlike almost every other challenge on earth, with weight loss, you know exactly what you need to do, and if you do it, your chance of success is 100%.

I can think of almost no challenge, goal, or aspiration that, if you put in the work, as hard as it may be, you will succeed.

Want that dream job? You can be the very best at what you do but there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.

Want to play in the NBA? You can practice 10 hours a day, under the tutelage of the best coaches in the world, from an early age, and still your odds of making the NBA are slim to none.

Want to bench press 500lbs? You can put in all the work in the world, and maybe even “go to the dark side” and still likely never achieve that goal.

But weight loss, weight loss, that’s a goal, if you put in the work, and you put in the effort, you not only might achieve your goals, you are guaranteed to achieve them.

They say if you work hard you will succeed–well, the truth is, that statement pretty much only holds true when it comes to weight loss!

Barriers to Successful Weight loss

You know, I know, we all know that the key to losing weight is to burn more calories than we take in. If you do that, you will lose weight, and if you aren’t losing weight, it means you are not burning more calories than you take in, which means you need to eat less and/or exercise more.

Once again–there is no secret.

I’ll repeat–there is no secret.

Losing weight involves being uncomfortable, it involves not eating what you want, it involves doing exercise and activities you don’t necessarily want to do, it involves being low energy from time to time, it involves sacrificing some of your social life. Basically, it sucks.

But, it works.

It is the refusal to accept the “suckiness” of weight loss, the constant seeking out of a “secret” or a “shortcut” or a better diet plan, or better method, or some internet hack, or special exercise that will somehow make weight loss less sucky ends up, usually, making weight loss ineffective.

While thinking positively is a huge boon in most endeavors in life, “Wishful thinking” is the worst enemy of someone trying to lose weight. Among the most disastrous “wishful thoughts” I have encountered:

  • You can lose weight without being hungry — Maybe it’s possible for some people with some genetics, or with extreme amounts of exercise, but for the vast majority of people that simply isn’t reality. If you wan’t to lose weight, you have to be hungry. Often.

  • Calories don’t matter — As we learn more and more about nutrition we are discovering that not all calories are created equally–but, that does not mean calories do not matter. In most situations, not counting calories, either precisely or at least approximately, is the easiest way to fail. Whereas counting calories, and reducing your intake until you start losing weight is a guaranteed way to succeed.

  • I need to eat more otherwise my metabolism will slow — I promise you, if you aren’t losing weight, it’s not because you are eating too little. It is true that the body goes into “starvation mode” on extremely low calorie diets, but we’re talking anorexic level starvation–you will notice significant weight loss at caloric deficits much higher than the ones that can really cause issues. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely the slowing of your metabolism will offset the lower caloric intake–i.e. metabolism at 1800 calories a day is not going to be 500 calories higher than your metabolism at 1300 calories a day.

    Most of the time, this metabolism argument is used as an excuse to eat food when feeling hungry.

  • This person lost weight by only doing … — Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but guys, weight loss is an extremely easy thing to measure. If you aren’t losing weight, then whatever you are doing is not working, and you need to do more. What other people supposedly did or didn’t to lose weight does not matter, and isn’t going to change whether or not it works for you.

  • I’ll make it up tomorrow — This is an easy way to fall behind and never recover. If you’re near your goal, or don’t have much to lose and know you have the discipline to actually follow through, a cheat day here or there is totally fine. However, for the majority of those who have failed to lose weight, to be successful means letting up as little as possible. If it you could just “make it up tomorrow” on a regular basis, weight loss wouldn’t be hard, it would be easy.

Weight loss is an extremely challenging endeavor. But if you keep your eye on the prize, and know that if you put in the work you will succeed. Don’t let wishful thinking distract you from your goal and “Why can’t I lose weight?” will become “Why didn’t I lose weight years ago?”.

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