Sometimes you can be eating perfectly and exercising consistently and the weight just won’t budge. I want to talk about some unexpected reasons you can’t lose weight.
I have had my own issues with gaining weight and being unable to lose it, no matter what I did. Diet and exercise is extremely important, but they are only 2 parts to the bigger picture.
I have experienced most of these issues. And I honestly always thought I was so healthy. I ate healthy, exercised, did everything right.
As most people do, I’ve never even suspected that any (let alone most) of these things could happen to me. I didn’t think they were common and I thought that only people who didn’t take care of themselves would be affected by these things. But I was wrong.
Most of them are very common, and a lot of people don’t know they have them. They’re all difficult to diagnose and most of the time, you need help from other experts such as functional medicine practitioners and naturopaths, not just doctors.
But one thing they all have in common is that they cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
If this is you, please please please do some research into each of these things to see if you perhaps fit into any of these categories.
You can’t put a price on your health so it is worth getting checked out by a professional if you even have a slight feeling that you could be suffering from any of them. And be open to the possibility that something else might be going on inside your body that is causing issues with your weight, rather than thinking it couldn’t happen to me (like I did!).
Here are 6 unexpected reasons why you can’t lose weight. But please keep in mind that I haven’t listed every possible reason, and I always recommended seeing a medical professional! xx
1. Poor Gut Health
Having poor gut health affects you in so many ways. If you are struggling with gut health, it is almost certain that you will have issues with weight gain and depression. Your gut has been described by many professionals as your second brain.
How do you know if you have gut health issues? Oh, you’ll know. Diarrhoea, constipation, or any type of irregular bowel movement, excess gas, bloating, etc. Along with this you’ll likely have skin issues (i.e. acne, psoriosis, eczema), weight gain, and issues with your mood / depression.
How do you fix it? It’s really hard to diagnose gut health issues at the doctor. They can run some tests but they are limited. The best test is a GI Map stool test which you can get from a naturopath. It will tell you every single little thing that is happening in your gut.
What are possible gut health issues? Leaky gut syndrome, dysbiosis (both of which I had and you can read more about my gut health story here), H. pylori or other infections, candida, SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth), low enzymes, fat malabsorption, poor bile flow, low stomach acid, just to name a few.
Some of the more serious ones which your doctor will be able to diagnose are Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and celiac disease.
Please do not accept Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as a diagnosis from your doctor. This is not a diagnosis. This is something they categorise you as when they don’t know what the issue is. Usually the issue is something I have mentioned above, that a naturopath will be able to diagnose with a stool sample.
2. Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
I have struggled with hypothyroidism myself in the past, and I have realised it is extremely common nad often misdiagnosed.
Hypothyroidism has had a huge effect on my weight. There are lots of potential symptoms, but it can be confusing because these symptoms can also be related to other things too. The worst symptoms for me were weight gain (especially around the midsection) and a puffy face. If you are struggling with weight gain and losing weight, hypothyroidism could be a very likely cause.
How do you know if you have it? Well, there’s the weight gain, puffy face, low energy / tired all the time, dry skin, itchy ears and depression. These are just things I experienced, so I would recommend doing a google search to find some more information. But you don’t need to have all of these symptoms – you could just be experiencing difficulty losing weight.
How do you diagnose hypothyroidism? This one is also tough because doctors will only do one type of blood test (to test for TSH), but this doesn’t provide much information about how your thyroid is actually functioning.
I have provided a lot more information about diagnosis and my own story in this blog post so have a read if you think this could be an issue for you.
But you’ll need to ensure you get a full thyroid panel done, including TSH, T3, free T3, T4, free T4, Reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies. My hypothyroidism was caused by chronic high cortisol levels (from stress). But was treatable. Usually thyroid issues are a symptom of another underlying health issue.
3. Adrenal Fatigue – High / Low Cortisol Levels
Adrenal fatigue is caused by high stress, and stress can be mental, emotional and physical. When people think of stress, they mostly think of being stressed at work. This is one type of stress, and there are lots of other things that add stress to your body, for example – lack of sleep, gut health issues, chronic illness, physical or emotional trauma, high sugar diets, being constantly busy all the time, overtraining, under eating, etc.
This affects your cortisol levels. Your body will prioritize cortisol over every other hormone in your body, so as a result, your other hormones will suffer.
How do you diagnose adrenal fatigue? This is another tough one because it is not recognised as a medical condition by doctors so you will need to see a naturopath or adrenal fatigue specialist. They will most likely test your cortisol and melatonin levels via a saliva test.
4. Hormone Imbalance
A hormone imbalance can be caused by the contraceptive pill (this was what happened to me – read about it here), menopause, pollutants, stress, digestive diseases, adrenal fatigue, poor diet, etc.
Hormone imbalances can play a big factor in weight gain and your body’s inability to lose weight. Hormones are in control of a LOT of what goes on in your body.
How do you know if you have a hormone imbalance? I would recommend seeing both a doctor and naturopath. They will do different types of tests, with blood and saliva. These test will provide good insight into what’s happening in your body.
You can google symptoms and this can be helpful, but again, lots of the symptoms are similar to other health conditions so just because you have some of these symptoms, doesn’t mean you necessarily have a hormone imbalance. It’s better to go and get checked out.
Your thyroid, adrenal glands and sex hormones are all part of your endocrine system (i.e. all hormones). If you have issues with one of these, it is very likely that you have issues with all of them as they are all linked. You can read about estrogen dominance here.
5. Damaged Metabolism / Starvation Diets
I put this one in here because I receive a lot of emails and messages from women who are having a lot of trouble losing weight. And it’s often hard to determine the cause, until I ask about their diet (or past diet).
Eating anything less than 1200 calories (for a woman) is considered a very low calorie diet and will 100% damage your metabolism. In fact, any type of restrictive eating or dieting will cause some type of metabolic damage, even if it’s just as a slight deficit. This is one of the reasons why people experience plateaus.
But anyway back on topic, being on a very low calorie diet for any period of time WILL affect your body’s ability to lose weight in the future. The longer you were / are on this type of diet, the longer it will take to recover.
There are some simple things you can do to recover from a damaged metabolism which you can read about here. However, if you have been eating a very low calorie diet for more than 6-12 months, or if you have stopped getting your period, I would seek professional advice from a dietician or nutritionist.
6. Nutrient Deficiencies
This one kinda ties in with all the other issues. A lot of the issues I have mentioned are caused or made worse by certain nutrient deficiencies.
If you feel like you are healthy and have none of the above issues, it could be worth having a blood test and general check up to see if you are deficient in anything. Sometimes something as simple as fixing these deficiencies can help! :)
Please be aware that this has been written from my own experience and research. It is not intended to replace any information that you have received from a doctor or medical professional. Please seek professional advice if you have any health issues.
Please feel free to ask me any questions and check out our Instagram for more educational and health-related content! xx
I have diastasis recti so I can walk but some of the resistance trainings are things I can’t do yet. Do you have anything for people with my condition after lots of kids?
Hi lovely! I would recommend replacing all the difficult ab exercises (like crunches) with any other ab exercise in the program that you’re able to do. I would also seek professional guidance from your physiotherapist to speed up the recovery process. :)
Hi Rachael! I am tempted to try your program but I have a question. I am mesomorph type, have hashimoto autoimmun disorder (I have to take medication every day).
Luckily I can keep my weight in the last few years, no significant change. I don’t really want to lose weight from my upper body, because I am quite slim there. The only area what I want to focus on are my thighs. I found them a bit bulky. They are muscular but I would like them to slim down. Is it possible with your program to achieve my goal? Or should I lose weight overall from my body to get the result? I am not an expert and have no idea where I should start. Other programs that I tried didn’t help me. I am 166cm and 53kg, vegan.
Many thanks :)
Thanks for reaching out! :)
The 3 Steps To Lean Legs Program was made to not only lose fat but also slim down bulky muscle and achieve a more lean and toned look so it will help you with your concern but please note that spot-reducing isn’t really possible so for you to slim down your legs, you’ll need to lose weight overall.
I hope that helps. If you have more questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was pretty sure I had a broken metabolism so I fixed it using your method. I found myself able to eat more calories again. After that, I reduced my calories by a few hundred and made sure I got enough nutrients and took care of my digestive health. I’m still unable to lose weight but I don’t gain weight either. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I don’t know what to do. Please help me!
Thank you xx
Hey lovely <3
I suggest that you take Rachael's totally free 2 minutes Body Type Quiz which will make it easier for you to understand your body. :) You can send me an email with your results to email@example.com and I’ll provide you some reading material that will help. :)
You can also calculate your recommended calorie intake to be sure that you are eating properly. xx
Thank you for all your wonderful expertise and passion for helping women! I am just wondering… all of the before/after stories seem to show women who are already thin or pretty thin, or maybe they already have thinner legs but need to get rid of a belly. I have very thick legs, a belly, and major saddlebags. I don’t have a history of working out not have I been athletic. I’m just a beginner who has not taken care of myself all my life and now I’m finally trying to do something about it. It seems easy to go from skinny to skinnier, but what about from seriously thick to skinny? I don’t see those stories on your website. Do you think your program will still work for me? Or is there a modified version for thicker heavier women? I get so discouraged when I don’t see results quickly and I want to get started on the right foot. Thanks so much for your help!
Thanks a lot for your amazing support!
Yes, our program will still work for you because it’s been tailored for overall weight loss. And it’s also suitable for beginners! :)
Everyone gets results at different rates, so I would recommend to keep going and stay persistent. If you have a lot of weight to lose, transforming your body will take some time and it’s best to do it in the healthiest way possible and in a way that will feel good and not too stressful for you.
The Lean Legs Program has been designed to include the perfect type of resistance training and cardio to give you a lean and toned look, without making you bulky.
It’s an 8 week workout and nutrition plan that will help you slim down your legs, but will also help you slim and tone your upper body and core too (the workouts are full body).
It also includes a full meal plan, a separate recipe ebook and demonstration videos. You can find out more about it here:
Lean Legs Program
Hi, i just found your site and i love it.
I have always been fit and slim but after i started having painful periods i went on the combined pill and it seemed to also gain sole weight. I am not sure if i want to get off it as the whole idea was to have a period every couple of months (when it fits me to stay in bed for 3 days)
I wonder if this is the cause for my tummy fat and what i can do
Hi lovely, I would definitely have a chat to your doctor about this. There might be a different pill you could try that won’t affect your weight. If not, see a naturopath as they might be able to help you keep your hormones balanced (well as balanced as they can be on the pill) xx
Thanks for all this info. I’ve only just recently discovered your site. I’ve just had a thyroid test done here in the U.K., which came back “normal”…but wasn’t sure if I should pursue on what end of “normal” so as to see that it is actually on the lower end?
Also, I live up a very steep hill so can’t avoid the walking as I don’t drive here and most definitely have muscular legs. Argh. Don’t know how to get around that! Would extra stretching be beneficial? Any other exercise suggestions? Thanks for all the articles you provide!
Hi Stacey, did you have all of the thyroid blood test that I mentioned in this thyroid blog post, or just TSH? I would definitely do further investigation! And if it’s just 1 hill, that should be OK! As long as you’re not doing constant hill walking :) xx
What is your opinion of Michael Mosley’s Blood Sugar Diet where you only eat 800 calories per day for 8 weeks.
Hi Cath, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it. But I definitely would not recommend eating so little for such a long period of time! xx
Hi Rachael, I just discovered your blog and YouTube and have already seen results from just a week of daily walking. LOVE how results meet your claims for those with specific intentions. I have a request whenever you have the time – burning off back fat and toning the region. I feel like I’m the only one with this unanswered issue while meanwhile there is a plethora of ab/glute info abound. I store a lot of fat in my upper back but don’t want to broaden and thicken it with just resistance exercises. My thinking is a similar approach to getting skinny legs…. except there isn’t really an low intensity steady state cardio machine equivalent for the back. Would be grateful for any tips!! Such a hard body part to femininely lean down! :(
Hi Jen, oh that is so great to hear! Good for you :D Definitely keep up with the walking. There isn’t really any specific exercise that can get rid of fat from the upper back area – fat loss here will come from overall fat loss. So I would suggest a combination of low and high intensity cardio, plus some resistance training (can be lighter or HIIT) to help you shed fat quicker. Please have a look at this blog post on how to lose fat from stubborn areas as it will give you some more specific advice. I don’t talk about upper back specifically, but it would be similar to arms and hips. Good luck! xx