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Can't Seem to Lose Weight? Here's What You Need to Know

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedNovember 28, 2023

Many young people, including 12% females and 8% males, turn to extreme weight control measures, highlighting the prevalence of body image issues.

The struggle continues into adulthood, where only about 20% of those carrying extra weight can keep off 10% or more weight for a year or longer. It's a harsh reality that highlights the difficulties in pursuing better health.

In this article, we will explore why some individuals can’t seem to lose weight. We understand it's no simple feat, and we're here to share insights and tips on achieving and maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Genetic factors play a significant role in weight loss, influencing metabolism, fat storage, appetite, and muscle composition. Family background with obesity or metabolic conditions may indicate a genetic predisposition.
  • Aging brings about changes like slower metabolism, muscle loss, and hormonal shifts, making weight management more challenging. Men and women also have metabolic and fat storage differences affecting weight loss.
  • Relying on fad diets, skipping meals, not drinking enough water, overemphasizing exercise without dietary changes, lack of portion control, and insufficient sleep can hinder weight loss.
  • Effective weight loss involves a balanced approach, including realistic goal setting, a balanced diet, limited processed foods, and attention to lifestyle factors like sleep.
  • When facing challenges in weight management, especially with underlying medical conditions, seeking professional advice from healthcare professionals is crucial for personalized guidance and support.
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
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A personalized GLP-1 medication program (eg. Wegovy, Ozempic), delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
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  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door

What Are The Factors Affecting Weight Loss?

Several factors influence weight loss and can vary from person to person. Some of these factors may make it difficult to lose or maintain weight loss.

Let’s look at some of the most important factors influencing weight loss:

1. Genetic Factors

A study has shown that genetic factors can predict weight loss and that the heritability of obesityranges from 30% to 70%.

Genetic factors can influence weight loss in several ways:

  • Metabolism: Your inherent genetic basal metabolic rate (BMR) can influence the number of calories your body naturally expends while at rest.
  • Fat storage: Genetics can determine where your body stores fat.
  • Appetite and hunger: Genetic variations can impact your response to hunger and fullness cues.
  • Fat sensitivity: Some people are genetically more sensitive to fat taste.
  • Muscle composition: Genetic factors influence muscle fiber composition, affecting calorie burning.

In addition, having a family background marked by obesity or metabolic conditions may suggest a genetic inclination towards weight problems, affecting an individual's vulnerability.

2. Age and Gender

Research shows that men typically have lower body fat and higher muscle mass than women of the same age and weight. This translates to a higher calorie-burning capacity in men.

As individuals age, muscle loss is common, resulting in a higher proportion of body weight coming from fat, which, in turn, can slow down the rate at which calories are burned.

Here are some various ways that explain how age and gender can both influence the process of weight loss:


As we age, our bodies undergo various changes that can make it more challenging to maintain a healthy weight. One of these changes is a slowing metabolism, which makes it harder to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.

Additionally, we lose muscle mass as we age, which can further slow our metabolism since muscle burns more calories than fat. Hormonal changes, especially during menopause in women, can also contribute to increased abdominal fat storage.

Finally, older individuals often engage in less physical activity, which can exacerbate weight challenges.


The human body is a complex machine, and gender plays a crucial role in how it functions. Men and women have distinct metabolic differences affecting their health and well-being.

For instance, men usually have a higher metabolic rate than women due to their larger muscle mass. Additionally, men and women store body fat differently, which can impact their weight loss efforts.

Hormonal factors, such as estrogen and testosterone, influence weight regulation, contributing to further differences between male and female physiology.

3. Medical Conditions

Some conditions can make it harder for individuals to lose and manage their body weight effectively.

Some common medical conditions that can impact weight management include:

  • Hypothyroidism: A thyroid gland not functioning at its best can result in a slower metabolism, leading to weight gain or impede weight loss efforts.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): PCOS can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to weight gain, especially around the abdomen. It can also affect insulin sensitivity, making managing blood sugar and body weight more challenging.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: Inadequately managed diabetes can result in weight gain or hinder weight loss efforts. In type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance often promotes fat storage.
  • Depression and Anxiety: Mental health conditions can lead to changes in appetite and eating habits. Some people may lose weight because they eat less, while others could gain weight due to emotional eating.

👍 Recommendation

Depression is a mental health disorder that can significantly impact a person's mood, thoughts, and behavior. It can lead to sadness, hopelessness, and disinterest in once-enjoyable activities.

Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for individuals struggling with depression. Seeking professional help can help you manage your symptoms and lead a more fulfilling life.

  • Medications: Certain medications, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants, can lead to weight gain as a side effect.
  • Sleep Apnea: Poor sleep quality due to sleep apnea can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite, potentially leading to weight gain.
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders: Health conditions like IBS, IBD, and celiac disease can impact your body's nutrient absorption. Nutrients and digesting food may lead to weight loss or difficulty gaining weight.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: Kidney disease can cause fluid retention and changes in appetite, which can impact body weight.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Breathing difficulties associated with COPD can lead to increased energy expenditure and muscle loss, potentially affecting body weight.
  • Neurological Disorders: Conditions like Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis can impact mobility and energy expenditure, affecting weight management.

🩺 A Doctor’s Note

It's essential to recognize that these medical conditions can vary in severity and affect individuals differently. If you suspect that a medical condition is impacting your ability to manage your weight, consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial.

Why Do People Have Difficulty Losing Weight?

Many people make mistakes while trying to lose weight, which can slow their progress and hinder them from achieving their health goals. Awareness of these mistakes can help you overcome them and stay focused on achieving your weight loss objectives.

To learn more, here are some common reasons why people can’t seem to lose weight:

1. Relying Too Much on Fad Diets

Many people are tempted by fad diets promising quick and dramatic weight loss. However, such diets are usually unsustainable and can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

According to research by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, fad diets are ineffective for long-term weight loss.

While some diets may lead to rapid weight loss in the short term, restricting certain food groups or severely limiting calorie intake can be harmful in the long run, causing nutritional deficiencies that can have serious health consequences.

Finding an approach that suits your needs and goals is important, as what works for one person may not work for another.

2. Skipping Meals

Skipping meals, particularly breakfast, is not recommended as it can result in overeating later in the day.

Research suggests that skipping breakfast is a causal factor in obesity, and delaying lunch after 3 pm can hamper weight loss efforts. Therefore, it is essential to have a balanced and timely meal schedule to maintain a healthy weight.

3. Not Drinking Enough Water

One of the most common mistakes people make regarding their health is not drinking enough water. Water plays a crucial role in several essential functions of our body, including metabolism.

Research shows that drinking water can boost metabolism, aiding weight loss. Drinking just 500 ml of water can increase metabolic rate by 30%.

So, it's important to ensure you drink enough water daily to keep your body functioning properly and help maintain a healthy weight.

4. Overemphasizing Exercise Without Dietary Changes

It is essential to understand that exercise alone may not be enough to achieve desired weight loss without accompanying dietary changes. While physical activity is vital for overall health, research has shown that dietary modifications primarily influence weight loss.

A systematic review highlights that exercise alone may be ineffective in achieving significant weight loss.

Therefore, combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is crucial for better results. To achieve optimal weight loss and maintain overall health, it is crucial to focus on making appropriate dietary choices in addition to regular exercise.

5. Lack of Portion Control

It is a common tendency among many individuals to consume large portions of food. However, even if the food is healthy, excessive calorie intake can lead to weight gain and related health issues.

According to a study, managing portion sizes has proven effective in maintaining a healthy weight. By monitoring the quantity of food we consume, we can ensure that we eat only what our body requires, which can help us stay within a healthy weight range over time.

6. Lack of Sleep

It's common for people to neglect getting enough sleep, which can negatively impact hormones, disrupting metabolism.

A study on older adults found that those who slept for less than 5 hours were 40% more likely to develop obesity than those who slept for 7-8 hours. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure that you get enough sleep to maintain a healthy weight.

How To Lose Weight Effectively?

Weight loss involves healthy eating habits, regular physical activity, and sustainable lifestyle changes. A reasonable initial weight loss goal is to reduce body weight by 5-10% over 6 months to see health benefits.

Here's a guide on effectively losing weight:

1. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals for weight loss is essential for a healthy and sustainable weight loss journey. Weekly, losing 1-2 pounds (0.45-0.9 kg) has been recognized as a safe and maintainable weight-loss pace.

Studies have shown that people who lose weight gradually are more likely to keep it off in the long term. Additionally, setting achievable and practical goals can help boost motivation and prevent disappointment, leading to a successful weight loss journey.

2. Balanced Diet

Research has shown that incorporating foods from all groups - including vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and healthy fats - can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

A balanced diet can also improve energy levels and mental clarity and promote a healthy weight.

💡Did You Know?

Not all fats are bad for you; sources such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil can provide the necessary healthy fats your body needs. Incorporating healthy fats into your diet can benefit your overall health and aid in weight loss when consumed in moderation.

3. Limit Processed Foods

Processed foods are often high in calories, unhealthy fats, sugar, and salt. A study showed that people who ate more processed foods had a 58% higher risk of heart disease and premature death.

In addition, sugary snacks and beverages often contain a lot of added sugars, which can contribute to weight gain and other health problems.

Reducing your intake of these foods and choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods instead can help improve your overall health and well-being.


Some individuals can’t seem to lose weight due to various factors, such as genetic predispositions, lifestyle choices, and misunderstandings about effective weight loss methods.

Despite making significant changes to their diet and exercise regimen, some may still struggle to lose weight, while others may experience challenges maintaining long-term weight loss outcomes.

To successfully achieve sustainable weight loss, it is crucial to understand the root causes of weight gain and adopt evidence-based strategies that can help.

FAQs On Losing Weight

Why can't I lose weight after having a baby?

Various factors, including hormonal changes, lifestyle adjustments, and genetics, can influence post-pregnancy weight retention. It's essential to remember that every individual's body reacts differently, so weight loss after childbirth may vary. Consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized advice on postpartum weight management.

I can't lose weight no matter what I do (female). What should I do?

Hormonal fluctuations in females, such as those related to the menstrual cycle or conditions like PCOS, can impact weight loss efforts. If you're struggling to lose weight, mainly due to hormonal factors, it's advisable to consult a healthcare provider who specializes in women's health to explore suitable strategies.

No matter how much I exercise and diet, I can't lose weight. What's going on?

Sometimes, if you can't seem to lose weight despite exercising and dieting, it may be due to overexercising and extreme dieting, hindering weight loss progress. It's crucial to maintain a balanced approach to nutrition and exercise.

I have PCOS and can't lose weight. What should I do?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can make weight loss challenging due to hormonal imbalances. Managing PCOS often involves lifestyle changes, medication, and dietary modifications. Consult with a healthcare provider specializing in PCOS to create a tailored plan for weight management. They can provide specific guidance based on your circumstances if you can't seem to lose weight.

I can't lose weight no matter what I do. Why is that?

There are numerous reasons why you can’t seem to lose weight. This is because of metabolic rate, medical conditions, diet quality, and exercise routines. Consider consulting a healthcare provider to rule out underlying health issues and work with a registered dietitian or a fitness expert for tailored guidance on nutrition and exercise.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program (eg. Wegovy, Ozempic), delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door