Its (Sort of) Your Fault You’re Not Losing Weight (But Not Really): 5 Unexpected Things Keeping the Pounds On

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Here’s a scenario for ya’:

You wake up in the morning, head to the bathroom to pee and while you’re there, make a double take at the scale. Maybe today will be different. You’re scared to even know, but like the pull of gravity, you get drawn in. Let me just check, you tell yourself.  You nervously hop on the scale, and hold your breath in anticipation until the pin falls exactly where it was a week, 2 weeks or even 2 months ago. What gives! you tell yourself.

You’re exercising more, eating less, and despite your good intentions, your body just doesn’t want to change. You’re at your wits ends trying to figure out what is going on and not to mention, frustrated.  You’ve been told that nutrition is 90% of weight loss so you’ve been eating better (or so you think).  And you’ve been told that exercise has to be progressive so you’ve even hired a trainer twice a week. Yet still, nothing has changed.

You’re so upset that you’d rather crawl back into bed and throw the covers over your head than get ready for work.  What a great way to start your day.  You beat yourself up and vow to get to the gym 6 days instead of 5, and do an extra 10 minutes of cardio on top of the 45 minutes you’re already doing 3 times a week.  You’ll skip breakfast, and only eat salads.  Yes, that will do it you say.  Convinced you’ve got it figured out, you half-heartedly go about your day.

I see this and hear similar stories nearly every day from friends, clients, and my blog readers.  No matter how much you’re trying, your body just doesn’t want to change.

Now, before you get even more frustrated and start taking spin class to get even more cardio, please understand that weight loss is much more complicated than what you might imagine.  It’s not always about calories in vs. calories out, protein, fats and carbs, or how much cardio you’re doing.  There are so many other factors that govern how your body utilizes energy and thus how you gain and lose weight.

As a nutrition and lifestyle coach, one of the pillars of my coaching philosophy is to help my clients understand that other lifestyle factors have a lot to do with how your body looks and feels.  So when it comes to weight loss, I have to put the food debate aside and to spend time investigating the “unexpected” factors that could be a roadblock.

I want you to start thinking outside of the proverbial box, and start looking at other factors.  Take a step aside and give the following, some thought:

5 Unexpected Things Keeping The Weight On

1. Working a 2nd or 3rd shift job.

You might be wondering how the hell does this affect weight loss.  And the answer is pretty simple: sleep.  Like the rise and fall of night and day, our body also follows a similar rhythm and is seen in the ebb and flow of our hormonal patterns.

Naturally, our body’s cortisol levels (our fight or flight hormone which is responsible for getting our ass out of bed in the morning) naturally declines as the day goes on.  However, for those who are working overnight, the body has to continue produce more cortisol just to stay awake.

Excess cortisol triggers your body into breaking down muscle and storing fat.

Growth hormone, a very powerful hormone that repairs your body, is at it’s highest levels at night during sleep, when cortisol should be low. This means that if we’re not sleeping (specifically between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.) our body cannot adequately repair itself from daily damage.

Consistently elevated cortisol levels + inadequate growth hormone = less muscle and more fat.

Not only can working a 3rd shift job prevent you from losing weight, it’s also been linked to a lower quality of life, digestive issues and even an increased risk in breast cancer. Yikes.

Couple this with caffeine consumption and sugary snacks to keep you up, and you’ve got a hormonal cocktail for disaster.  If you do work a night shift you have hope.  1) Take care of yourself in every other way you can possibly imagine to counter balance the effects of the disruption in your circadian rhythm or 2) Find a new job.

2. Worn out and beat up adrenal glands.

Photo courtesy

Cortisol, which I talked about above, is released from the adrenal glands, 2 little triangle looking glands that sit one on top of each kidney.  These guys are little, but don’t let their size fool you.  They are responsible for releasing some pretty powerful hormones like epinephrin, norepinephrine, DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and of course, cortisol.

Our fast-paced go get-em lifestyle filled with deadlines, traffic jams and screaming children keeps our adrenal glands under constant pressure.  Overtime, if we ask too much of these little guys they’ll begin to slow down and produce less adrenaline hormones.  Without these fast acting adrenal glands, our body just does not respond to everyday stimulus and exercise as effectively.

As a result, this can lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue and one of the biggest signs and symptoms is weight gain, or a lack of weight loss.  Some other signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:

  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Fatigue not relieved by sleep
  • Salty food cravings
  • Overall lack of energy
  • An increased effort to do minor tasks
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Decreased ability to handle stress
  • Increased recovery time from illness
  • Light headed upon standing up
  • Increased PMS
  • Fuzzy memory and lack of concentration

For a more detailed look and approach to treating adrenal fatigue (there is hope!), check out the book, Adrenal Fatigue written by Dr. James Wilson.

3. Birth control and other prescription drugs.

I rarely use the term *hate* but when it comes to birth control pills, I have no problem saying “I hate ’em”.

I’ve experienced first-hand just how much they can fuck with your body, your mind and your emotions as I had such a crappy reaction to them.  My mood swings were more chaotic than a Six Flags amusement park, my hair started to fall out, and I hated sex while I was on them.  Which is ironic because birth control is suppose to give you more freedom sexually, but when you don’t feel like doing it, it doesn’t really matter.

Most birth control pills work by preventing your body from ovulating.  And in an otherwise healthy female body, there’s only one other time in our life that we’d stop ovulating…and that’s during pregnancy.  Which means, that when you’re on birth control your body pretty much thinks it’s pregnant.  And really, do you think that a pregnant body wants to lose weight? Hell no.  A pregnant body wants to conserve energy and thus will hold onto weight.

When reading this, I’m not saying that you’re going to drop those last 5 lbs., or that you should stop your birth control.  No. I’m just providing you with my opinion and experience with the stuff both personally and with clients.  If you are questioning birth control, or if you are considering going off, please, please, please talk to your doctor first.  I am not a doctor.  I hope you realize that.

4. Food intolerances and other digestive issues.

Hippocrates is known for saying that all disease starts in the gut.  And I’d like to add that by saying a lean body starts in the gut.

When you eat foods that do not react well with your body, like eating gluten when you’re gluten intolerant or gluten sensitive, your body can react by creating an immune response.  And one of the physical manifestations of an immune response is inflammation.  This can come out as being gassy, bloated or constipated.  When your body is inflamed, it holds onto weight, and gives you an overall apperance of looking “puffy” specifically around your mid-section.

Since cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory, having a food intolerance, which can create inflammation, causes more cortisol to be released.  More cortisol = more weight gain.

By fixing your digestion first, (which is something I heavily focus in my coaching program) you minimize the stress on the body and in turn, can help your body lose weight.  Here are some common food sensitivities for you to look into if you suspect you have a food sensitivity:

  • Gluten
  • Grains (including rice and corn)
  • Dairy
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Soy
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish

5. Unresolved emotional stress, internal conflicts, and a lack of spiritual harmony.

We are beautiful creatures, and our internal ecosystem was setup to work in harmony.  This ecosystem is not only made up of all our physical parts (like our muscles, bones, organs, hormones and chemical) but also includes our mental, emotional and spiritual aspects.  If any of these factors is “thrown off” for whatever reason, it affects the whole being.

Since we live in a culture where “seeing is believing”, it can be very difficult to grasp how our unresolved emotions can be preventing us from losing weight.  But in much the same way that our body holds onto weight when we are inflamed, our body can also hold onto weight when we are holding onto deep emotional issues.

When we hold onto unresolved feelings, and are struggling with internal conflicts, it becomes a stress on the body.  I know you know what I’m talking about.  How many times have you been stressed out trying to figure out what to wear on a Saturday night?  Now, that’s a pretty acute stressor, but magnify it with an internal conflict like, should I leave my job? or should I leave my relationship? and now you’re dealing with some pretty powerful internal stress.

Not only can unresolved emotional issues and conflicts cause internal stress, but they can also lead to other destructive habits like self-sabotage, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and abusive relationships.  Over time these internal stressors can have physical affects on the body and potentially prevent you from losing weight.  All food for thought.

Now, there could be a myriad of reasons as to why you’re not losing weight.  But here are 5 that you may not have given attention to.  So instead of forcing yourself to workout more, or depriving yourself of food, take a look at other factors that could be holding you back.  And if you need help in the meantime, you can always email me for a free consultation at

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which one of the 5 do you think is impacting you the most? Let me know in the comment section below so that I can help you sort through it.


One Response

  1. Mmm, definitely #1 and #5. I end up staying up past midnight trying to keep myself awake to work, but end up getting unmotivated and just binge-eating and hating myself until 2 AM, then going to bed and being angry when I don’t get up until 11AM.

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