Not Losing Weight Despite Eating Healthier

By December 13, 2012

I am 35 yrs old and weigh 278 pounds. 3 weeks ago I started eating healthy by having fruits, vegetables and protein for my meals. I have also started to exercise 5 times a week. This is my problem: I have not lost any weight. I gained 1 pound the 1st week, lost 3 the 2nd and gained 2.5 back this week. What is going on? Usually when I start a diet (this time it is a lifestyle change) I lose at least 8 pounds the 1st week. I am feeling betrayed by my body. I am to the place in my life that I am ready to changed and have a determination I have never had and it is play this game. Any insight? – Beckie

Dear Beckie,

I want to commend you for your determination and efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. This is a process that takes considerable time and patience, so your current frustrations are understandable.

First, let’s address expectations of weight loss based on your past experience. Diets—especially when they are low in carbohydrate content—are designed so people quickly lose weight in the beginning. In reality, however, most of the change is due to water loss (kind of a trick!), which doesn’t count in the long run because the weight rapidly returns once off the diet. On the other hand, with implementation of a healthy lifestyle, weight loss occurs at a slower rate of one to two pounds a week (but is more likely to stay off).

There are a couple of possible reasons why it might seem like you aren’t making any progress. I don’t know the nature of your exercise routine, but if you are building muscle, that could be masking the loss of fat in terms of poundage. Muscle weighs more than fat, and you may actually be getting leaner—replacing fluffier fat with denser muscle tissue—but it’s not yet showing up in the scale. One indication of this is looser-fitting clothing.

Another important consideration is that most women naturally pick up a few pounds of water weight as they approach menstruation. The extra water is released by the start of the next cycle and is nothing to fret about. It’s how we’re designed! Read “Heaviness and Weight Gain – Explained” for more information.

I would say it’s too early to question if there is a metabolic issue with your body. Give it another month and if you still see no progress, then I would recommend that you see your physician to explore possible causes, such as a thyroid problem. You could also benefit from an assessment from a registered dietitian to review your eating patterns and determine if you have some hidden sources of excessive calories—such as beverages that don’t register as filling—or if you are actually consuming too few calories, which can result in a slower metabolism. You can ask your doctor to make a referral, or see “Finding a Nutritionist” for further guidance.

Keep pressing on and hold fast to the determination within you. You are on the right track for taking care of your body and breaking free from the dieting mindset.


Ann Capper, RD, CD