Why can't I lose weight? 5 reasons your diet isn't working

Losing weight isn’t easy and dieters often fail multiple times before getting it right.

The reasons are multifaceted. Many assume that exercise will solve the weight-loss dilemma — it won’t — or that fat will make you fat. Wrong again.

Here are five reasons your diet may be doomed:

1. Counting calories, but not eating real food

Calories from refined carbohydrates and sugar cause you to eat more, without feeling satisfied. Calories from healthy fats, fiber rich sources, and protein, however are metabolized differently and more likely to lead to effective weight loss. Author Michael Pollen defined “food” as “something that comes from nature, was fed from nature, and will eventually rot.”

Are you starting your day with empty carbs? Try oatmeal with fruits and nuts for a healthy breakfast.Vladislav Nosick / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

2. Starting the day with carbohydrates

Cereal, toast with jam, or a big glass of OJ are breakfast staples, but studies show that starting the day with protein, instead of sugary carbohydrates leads to reduced hunger and cravings later in the day. Aim for at least 15 grams of high quality protein in the morning, such as plain yogurt with mixed nuts and hempseed, a plant based protein shake, scrambled eggs, or nut butter on sprouted bread.

Casey Barber

Cook time: 10 minutes

Prep time: 5 minutes

Servings: 1

If you're trying to get your eating habits on track, you know that breakfast is the meal that sets the pace for your entire day. You want something that will fill you up for hours—but that doesn't take hours to make. These easy egg, spinach and avocado breakfast tacos are the perfect solution.

They’re high in protein and fiber to keep you full until lunchtime, are loaded with heart-healthy fats and nutrients to keep you feeling great and the whole meal is only 300 calories. What could be better? How about the fact that you can be eating this breakfast of champions in 15 minutes. Seriously, you could make this in your sleep!


    • 2 6-inch corn tortillas
    • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil or olive oil, divided
    • About 1/2 cup (1 large handful) frozen spinach leaves
    • 1 large egg, beaten
    • 1 pinch salt
    • 1 pinch black pepper
    • 1/2 avocado, diced
    • Sriracha sauce or hot sauce (optional)
    • Sliced scallions (optional)


Toast the corn tortillas: If you own a gas range, place a tortilla directly over a gas burner turned to medium heat. Watch carefully and flip after 1-2 minutes when the tortilla begins to char in spots. Repeat with the second tortilla. Alternatively, wrap the tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Heat a small, well-seasoned cast iron skillet or heavy nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 teaspoon coconut oil or olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.

Add the spinach and cook just until thawed, breaking up any larger frozen chunks with a spatula.

Casey Barber

Add the remaining coconut or olive oil, then pour in the beaten egg. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Let the eggs cook without stirring for 30-45 seconds, then stir gently to bring the uncooked egg in contact with the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1 minute more, just until the eggs are cooked but still moist. Remove from the heat and let sit for 20 seconds so any pieces of egg stuck to the pan will steam off.

Casey Barber

Divide the eggs between the two corn tortillas. Top each tortilla with diced avocado, Sriracha or hot sauce, and scallions, if desired. Serve immediately.

3. Not getting enough sleep

Sleep is glorious, and the benefits of getting enough of it are numerous. Studies show clear associations between a lack of sleep with overeating, weight gain, and obesity. If you’re struggling with your weight loss efforts, getting at least 8 hours a sleep a night may make all the difference.

RELATED: 11 ways to get to sleep faster

4. Eating when not hungry

We often eat because we are bored, stressed, tired, thirsty, or simply because our favorite show is on. Instead, we should view food as fuel, not entertainment. I advise my patients to put themselves on a hunger scale with 1 being starving and 10 being stuffed. Only at a 3 or a 4 should they eat, and they should stop at 5 or 6. Listening to your hunger isn’t always easy, but master it and your chances of weight loss go up.

RELATED: Try the diet that will make your cravings go away

5.Hanging with the wrong crowd

One study found that individuals that had successfully lost weight were frequently met with challenges with friends, family and co-workers who undermined weight-loss efforts. In response, they would regain the weight.

A recent study found that Americans might be less likely to attempt weight loss due to simply giving up after many attempts or increasing “fat acceptance” in the United States. A recent study found that people had a hard time sticking to a diet when eating out or simply eating with friends.

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, R.D., is the manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, and the author of "Skinny Liver." Follow her on Twitter@KristinKirkpat. For more diet and fitness advice, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter.