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There are few things more frustrating than weight loss resistance. How is it possible that you’re counting calories, eating healthy foods, and exercising, but the scale still won’t budge? 

It could be that you’re eating more or exercising less intensely than you think. But if you know you’ve been sticking to your weight loss plan, you could be dealing with weight loss resistance. Here are seven reasons your body could be holding on to weight. 

  1. You’re Not Eating Enough

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Conventional wisdom says that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. However, that’s not always true. If you eat too little, your body can go into starvation mode.

When your body goes into starvation mode, it decreases your metabolic rate, burning fewer calories. This can make it much harder to lose body weight. If you do this for a sustained period, your body will start breaking down your lean muscle mass, which will also decrease your metabolic rate. 

If you’re cutting calories, be careful not to cut them too low. Nutritionists recommend that women eat at least 1,200 calories a day and men eat at least 1,500 calories a day. You also don’t want to cut calories drastically right away, since that is likely to reduce your metabolic rate and cause strong food cravings. Try starting by cutting 300 to 500 calories per day.

  1. You’re Exercising Too Much

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Exercise is good for your body, but it’s possible to go overboard. When you work out too much, your body can experience increased stress, which will spike your cortisol levels. This hormone causes your body to hold onto weight, leading to weight loss resistance.

So, how much exercise is too much exercise? The limit is different for everyone. You want to feel energetic and focused after you exercise, not overtired. If you feel wiped after your workouts, consider switching to restorative exercise for a while to reduce the stress you’re putting on your body. 

  1. Your Gut is Unbalanced 

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Studies show that having low microbial diversity in your gut is linked to weight gain and obesity. To increase the diversity in your gut, try taking probiotics or eating more foods that contain good bacteria. Examples include yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like sauerkraut. 

  1. You’re Stressed 

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Stress is terrible for your overall health. It’s also terrible for weight loss. 

When you’re stressed, your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone makes your body more likely to store fat, especially belly fat. 

All kinds of stress can make it harder to lose weight, including stress about not losing weight. Sometimes, people think that they need to be hard on themselves to meet their diet goals. However, if you’re constantly beating yourself up, you’re probably increasing your stress levels, which is counterproductive. 

If you’re being hard on yourself in an attempt to lose weight, try shifting your mindset to a more positive one and see if that impacts your results. 

  1. You Could Have Insulin Resistance 

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Some people have insulin resistance, which causes weight gain and prediabetes, and eventually leads to type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin and glucose begins to build up in the blood. High blood glucose levels then cause the pancreas to create more insulin, creating high blood sugar and insulin levels. Over time, high insulin levels can cause not only diabetes, but also high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low sex drive, and low HDL. 

Fat loss is one of the best remedies for insulin resistance, but losing weight can be particularly hard for people with this issue. Doctors suggest that people with insulin resistance exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week and make dietary changes. The current research suggests that people with insulin resistance benefit from a diet with low carbohydrate intake and high vegetable and protein intake.

  1. You’re Gaining Muscle 

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If you’ve been dieting and exercising, you may be increasing your muscle mass while also reducing your body fat percentage. Because muscle weighs more than fat, gaining muscle mass can make the number on your scale go up–even if you’re also losing fat. 

So, if you’ve been doing strength training exercises and you know you haven’t been overeating, don’t worry much about the number on your scale going up. Stick to your healthy food routine for a couple of months and pay attention to other progress markers, like how your clothes fit or how you feel. 

  1. You Could Have an Underlying Medical Issue 

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Many medical issues can cause weight loss resistance or weight gain. Nutrient deficiencies, thyroid imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can all lead to weight gain. Food sensitivities can also lead to increased fat storage because they can put your body under stress, as can many chronic health issues. Weight gain can also be a side effect of certain medications. 

If you think your weight gain may be related to an underlying medical issue or a medication, speak to a healthcare provider. Your doctor can assess your unique situation and help you uncover the cause of your weight loss resistance so you can finally overcome your plateau.