Why Can’t I Lose Weight No Matter What I Do? Here Are 8 Reasons

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Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

why cant i lose weight no matter what i do

Many people feel pressured to lose weight and get fit. It’s not just a body image thing, since it’s frequently our doctors and loved ones applying the pressure. Most medical professionals will tell you that slimming down is healthier and improves the odds of living a long life. 

You may want to take their advice but have found it difficult to lose weight. A change of diet, even an extreme change, doesn’t always help and can be risky in other ways. Some people find exercise doesn’t help much either. Unfortunately, there are many biological and behavioral factors that can make losing weight very difficult.

However, many of those barriers can be overcome. Understanding the challenges you may face in losing weight can be the first step in achieving your goals.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight No Matter What I Do?

It’s never really easy to lose weight. We’re fighting a lot of factors, from fast food culture to our own evolutionary drives. While we often assume that people who struggle to lose weight just aren’t trying hard enough, it’s almost always more complicated than that. The biggest barriers to losing weight are often biological factors outside our direct control or habits that we’ve learned without realizing.

Those barriers can often be overcome with the help of a doctor and some self-awareness. Sometimes they can make losing weight extremely difficult in a variety of ways. As a result, losing weight is more complicated than just exercise and diet for many people. 

The barriers that people face in losing weight can broadly be divided into biological factors and behavioral factors.

8 Reasons Make You Can’t Lose Weight

Biological Factors

In broad strokes, the only way to naturally lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. In practice, biological factors can have a major impact on the efficiency of that process. Some people do actually need to work harder to burn the same amount of fat. 

Biological factors can also put some limits on how much weight you lose and how you lost it. You can only lose or gain so much and still be healthy. Also, illness or a chronic condition can mean that weight is very difficult, perhaps practically impossible, to lose. In those situations, medication and healthcare can often help.


Your genetics are one of the biggest factors that can affect your ability to lose weight. The effect of genetics seems to vary depending on the person. Most people know someone who is always hungry but never gains weight. 

Though we don’t often think of it, there are people who are at the other end of the spectrum. They have such a strong genetic predisposition to gaining and retaining weight that they require a doctor’s guidance to lose weight. They may even require bariatric surgery or other extraordinary measures. 

Genes can also have an impact on a lot of other factors such as metabolism, hormone imbalances, and chronic illness.

Hormone Imbalances

Many processes in our body are controlled by compounds called hormones. They act as messengers, signaling when to start and stop doing things. They control your metabolism, which is how fast your body burns energy. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of some specific hormones. It’s often linked to difficulty losing weight. Another condition linked to hormone imbalances and weight gain is a polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Changes in hormones also can impact weight gain and loss. For example, many guys slim down during puberty. Weight gain is also linked to pregnancy and menopause.

Illnesses and Treatments

A range of illnesses can cause weight gain, from common diabetes to rarer lipedema. Additionally, it can be difficult for people who are ill to get up and exercise. 

Unfortunately, some treatments for illnesses are also linked to weight gain. Corticosteroids increase appetite and are used for asthma, arthritis, and other conditions. The same is true for many medications. 


It is unfair but true. Males will usually store less fat and have a faster metabolism. Statistically, women are more likely to be overweight and obese. Women also experience some more dramatic hormonal changes and are vulnerable to certain conditions, such as PCOS.

Behavioral Factors

It’s important to assess the habits that people have formed around food that lead them to make unhealthy choices. Most of us have a reasonably clear idea of how to eat healthily and exercise. Despite that, weight gain has increased steadily for years, across all types of people. 

While there is debate over which is absolutely the best diet, it’s generally understood that we need more vegetables and fewer hamburgers. On the other hand, we often choose to get the hamburger anyway.  The habits of eating and exercise people develop often play a large part in weight loss, regardless of how much willpower they have.


A good diet isn’t just about calories in and calories out. It’s important to get the right sort of nutrients, in the right mix, to stay healthy. 

Additionally, not all calories are equal. While a popsicle and an apple may have similar amounts of sugar, an apple is also packed with fiber, nutrients, and all sorts of things the popsicle lacks. 

For most people, eating a largely plant-based diet is the healthiest option.


Working out does more than just burn calories. It can also boost energy and improve mood, both of which can help motivate you to stick to a weight loss plan. Exercise also provides a range of other benefits

Most people don’t move around much during the day, so a special effort may have to be made to get physically active. Moderate exercise is usually considered enough, something like an easy walk or bike ride.


Losing weight can often mean needing to make larger changes in your life. Diet and exercise are where most of the focus gets put, but other aspects can also be important. Making sure to eat breakfast every day can help you stop snacking. Eating on a schedule, even if it means making extra time, can also help. 

Poor sleep habits are associated with more snacking, as well as having other downsides. One unhealthy habit many people have is comfort eating, eating to feel better when stressed or unhappy. A special meal to celebrate or the occasional treat is great, but eating junk food can only make problems worse.

Family and Culture

There are a lot of cultural factors that come into play when talking about food and behavior. Your family may have a scheduled pizza night every week. Tasty, but it may be a bad habit that’s difficult to kick later in life. There may be many subtler habits that also affect your diet.

Food culture comes into play in some other, less obvious ways, as well. For example, the body mass index (BMI) which is used to determine obesity is calibrated for caucasian body types. It therefore might not accurately reflect other ethnicities.

Additionally, the larger food culture may be making it difficult to lose weight as well. The USDA identified around 6,500 food deserts in the United States. Food deserts are areas where people have limited access to healthy and affordable food. The Western dietary pattern, sort of our cultural menu, is associated with overweight and obesity as well.

Can You Be Healthy And Overweight?

Unfortunately, there’s no yes or no answer to this question. That is at least partly because there isn’t a single statistic, a single lab result, that can determine good health. It’s a moving target that varies depending on the circumstances. You may be jogging a mile, watching TV on the sofa, or giving a presentation at work. There’s a version of healthy for all of those, each of which is different.

In the past, the case has been made that some people may be overweight, but metabolically healthy. That is, they had a higher BMI, but didn’t have insulin resistance or other markers for ill health. Recent studies seem to indicate that the extra weight can have a negative impact, leading to shorter lives and an increased chance of illness. 

While extra weight does have a negative impact on your health, it is only one measure of good health. Instead, focusing on healthy habits and lifestyle choices can lead to weight loss, as well as having many other benefits.

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Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Sean Newton has nearly ten years of experience as a health and fitness writer, focusing on diet and its effects on your health. He also is an avid athlete and martial artist, specializing in bodyweight exercises and movement training. Together with an evidence-based approach to good health, his goal is to lay out the facts for readers, so they can make informed choices.

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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