Four Answers to the Question–Why Can’t I Lose Body Fat?

A woman trying to put in tight jeans in front of a mirror

Are you trying to lose weight and struggling to see results? We have all hit a plateau in our fitness goals at some point, and there are a few things you can do to help overcome it. But first, a few things you should know if you often find yourself stepping on the scale and asking, “Why can’t I lose body fat?”: 

1. Weight and body fat are not the same. While the number on the scale may not be changing much, as you build muscle and burn fat, the overall makeup of your body is shifting. Since muscle is heavier than fat, you may not see those results on the scale. To accurately track your goals, you should calculate your body fat percentage and measure changes over time. Your body fat percentage is a much more accurate tool to help track your progress.

2. Weight is not a measure of your fitness level. There are people of all different shapes and sizes who are healthy and fit. If you want to track your athletic ability, find and complete a fitness test and work on improving your results. How many push ups can you do? How fast can you run a mile or kilometer? Those are the measures of fitness that really matter.

If you have decided that body fat loss is in the mix of goals you need to pursue to improve your overall health and wellness, here are a few weight loss tips that will help you.

1. Are You Getting Enough Quality Sleep?

Sleep is one piece of the fat-loss puzzle that most people underestimate, and it is one of the most critical. When you sleep, your body produces hormones that help your body repair, recover, and burn body fat.

Lack of sleep can really throw off your overall hormone function, blood sugar levels, energy level and ability to make healthy food choices. Have you ever been tired and just craved food? It’s one of the very common side effects of not getting enough sleep. 

The solution:

Go to bed at the same time every night. 10 p.m. is the ideal time to get into bed, since around this time your body starts to secrete hormones that prime your body for a good night’s sleep (use this sleep cycle calculator to find out the optimal time for you). If you struggle to disconnect at the end of the day, set an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime to remind you to turn off all technology, make a cup of tea and just relax. Some days we can’t always get eight hours of sleep, but do your best. You can treat yourself to an alarm-free wake up on the weekends, but don’t overdo it! Try to stick to the same schedule as much as possible.

2. You are not aware of how much you are really eating

Weight loss, in its simplest form, is achieved by burning more calories than you consume. If you eat too much, your body can’t burn enough calories to lose body fat. However, if you eat too little, your body will switch into survival mode and hang on to unwanted fat for dear life. Neither situation is going to help you meet your fat loss goals. The simplest way to make sure you’re getting enough calories is to simply track them—even for just a few weeks—to get used to the correct calorie balance. 

The solution:

Use a food tracking app that allows you to log your daily food intake. It will give you a clear picture of the quantity and quality of calories you are consuming. After a few weeks of tracking, you may uncover some clues as to why you may not be making the progress you are after.

3. You are not active enough

You may be working out five days a week for one hour per day, but what about the other 23 hours in your day? Of course, at least 8 hours should be spent sleeping. But the activity that you’re doing, or not doing, for the remainder of your day, may be hindering your fat loss. Most people, even those who work out consistently, tend to have a sedentary lifestyle due to office jobs. Remember, NEAT matters. NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”. In layman’s terms, it essentially means the energy you burn through everyday movements and activity such as cleaning the house, going for a walk, fidgeting, getting up for a glass of water, etc. If you are struggling to get the weight off, you may need to re-assess how much activity you are really doing.

The solution:

Track your activity during the day with a smartwatch or step counter. There are many inexpensive options out there, and you don’t need anything particularly fancy. Try to make sure you are getting between 6,000 – 8,000 steps on a normal day NOT counting your workouts. You may find that it is surprisingly difficult, and start making different choices about how you commute to and from work, what you do on your lunch break, etc.

4. You are not consistent

When it comes to losing weight, consistency is truly the key to success. Many people adhere to their nutrition and training plans 150% for a couple of weeks, then they fall off the wagon. They might “start again on Monday” for another few days, but then it’s someone’s birthday on the weekend and off the wagon they go again. This is not a sustainable approach to weight loss. Someone who is 150% compliant only 40% of the time will struggle to see any progress compared to someone who is 80% compliant 100% of the time. You may have a day here or there where they you are not perfect (don’t we all?!), but it’s important to keep going regardless of small hiccups in order to achieve weight loss over the long term.

The solution:

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Do your best each day, get your workouts in, and start small. Get in two workouts a week without overcommitting and slowly add in workouts as you have time. Focus on your nutrition and make good choices 80% of the time. Be a bit flexible with yourself when there are for fun foods to try and outings to enjoy, but don’t overdo it. 

Track your progress and do your best to stick to your plan. And if you don’t, it’s okay! Weight loss and fitness is an ongoing journey, and you can always recalibrate when you need to. 

Do any of these reasons help you answer the question, “Why can’t I lose body fat?” Where are you are lagging behind? Where you are excelling? Use our poll below and tell us which of these weight loss tips you want to work on!


adidas Runtastic Team Are you looking to lose some weight, get more active, or improve your sleep? The adidas Runtastic Team gives you useful tips and inspiration to reach your personal goals. View all posts by adidas Runtastic Team