It’s one of the most frustrating moments for any dieter: after a week of hard work, you step on the scale only to find the number hasn’t budged at all. Sometimes, the reason is obvious (think office birthday parties or missed workouts). But often, you can’t figure out why you haven’t lost weight. Here are five possible reasons.
1. Your weight naturally fluctuates
It’s normal for your weight to go up and down by a couple of pounds throughout the day. This happens to everyone, not just dieters. When you’re judging the success of your diet, it’s best to look at the trend of results over time—don’t give up just because there’s a “blip” one week where you maintain or even gain weight. To avoid fluctuations from external factors, make sure you always weigh yourself at the same time of day, and wear the same clothes each time. Ideally, weigh yourself in the morning, before eating or getting dressed.
2. You’re retaining water
If your period is due, or if you’ve eaten a salty evening meal, you may put on a pound or two. This is due to water retention—your body is storing more water than usual, and this liquid is making you seem heavier. The best way to avoid water retention is to avoid salty foods and have the recommended amount of non-alcoholic fluids every day.
3. You’ve hit a plateau
Sometimes when you’re trying to drop a few pounds, your weight might not budge for several weeks in a row. This is known as a “weight-loss plateau” and while it doesn’t mean your weight loss strategies aren’t working overall, it can be bad for morale. So what to do? First, don’t give up—it’s a plateau, not a failure, so relax and don’t take it too seriously. Second, try making some changes in your routine: update your meal schedule, for example (like adding a healthy afternoon snack so you’re not starving when you get home from work), or start a new exercise class or routine.
4. You forgot those little extras
It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve been dieting for a while. If you’ve slipped back into bad habits like plastering butter on your toast, nibbling while you’re cooking or having dessert every night, you may be taking in enough extra calories to prevent yourself from losing weight. One thing that might work is to keep a food diary for a few days to become more aware of your food intake. Research has shown that dieters who record what they eat are much more likely to succeed.
5. You weighed yourself on Monday
Did you step on the scales first thing Monday morning? If you normally weigh in on a Friday or Saturday, weighing yourself after the weekend can be a nasty shock. Many of us eat more on the weekend than during the week—researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that dieters lost weight on weekdays but not on Saturday and Sunday.
Planning ahead for regular, healthy meals at the weekend helps, as does paying attention to portion sizes (especially when eating out).