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Calorie Deficit But Not Losing Weight For 13 Reasons

Many times, I hear people say that they’re in a calorie deficit but not losing weight. Cutting down daily calorie intake will naturally shed some weight.

But despite being in a 500 or even 1000 calorie deficit, why aren’t you losing weight? Are you doing any mistakes in your calorie deficit? Or, do you’ve another health issue that is hindering your weight loss?

Let’s dive deep to see why you’re having weight gain despite calorie deficit.

Table of Content

Is Calorie Deficit Important To Lose Weight?

Calorie deficit refers to consuming fewer calories than you burn. When you follow a calorie deficit that’ll cut the amount of your regular calorie intake and ensure more calorie-burning through regular exercise.

A calorie deficit is an effective way to shed extra weight. You’ve gained much weight by taking more calories than you need, and those calories are stored in your body as fat.

calorie deficit but not losing weight

A calorie deficit is the first thing you need to do to allow your body to use these fats as energy which will result in successful weight loss.

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How Much Calorie Deficit Should I Maintain To Lose Weight?

Naturally, the goal of weight loss isn’t the same for everyone. You can take the very small initiative to allow your body to adapt to the calorie deficit and increase the calorie deficit as you go. It’ll ensure you a safe and sustainable weight loss.

If you go extreme and cut your calorie intake at a time, that can cause rapid weight loss at first and create different health issues.

To lose weight safely, you can reduce a 500 to 1,000 calorie deficit per day. This results in slow but sustainable weight loss. Instead of cutting down 1000 calorie deficit daily, if you notice you’re not losing weight, then there may be some wrong with you.

Calorie Deficit but not losing weight: What can be the reasons?

There are some common reasons why you might be in a calorie deficit but not losing weight:

Chronic Stress

You may be wondering that stress is supposed to cause you to lose weight. Then how can it help in gaining extra pounds? Let’s see-

  • Studies say that when we’re stressed, our brain craves eating sugary or fatty foods.
  • When you’re highly stressed, your body produces a higher level of cortisol than normal. Cortisol affects the use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your body.
  • If the higher cortisol level continues for long, your body won’t turn the foods into energy, rather into fat.
  • High levels of cortisol can be the effect of pituitary or adrenal tumors, which aids in rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest.

In most cases, people get more stressed out thinking why am I not losing weight even though I’m in a calorie deficit and working out. Stay with me if you want the solution.

Insufficient Exercise And Physical Activity

If you’re in a calorie deficit but not doing exercise, you’ll possibly get no benefit from it. High-intensity cardio workouts work great for weight loss. Besides, walking, running, swimming, cycling, aerobics are also great for losing extra weight.

You may be surprised to know that spontaneous and unintentional physical activities (known as Non-exercise activity thermogenesis or, NEAT) are also responsible for burning calories in our bodies.

Weight Loss Plateau

When you start a calorie deficit, you may discover that your weight is lowering very quickly. But, this doesn’t last long. And after a few days, you can discover that the weight loss has slowed down or stopped at all. This is known to be a weight loss plateau.

Women in the postpartum stage face this issue than anyone else. However, you can solve the issue about why am I not losing weight when I exercise and diet. Let me tell you how a little later.

The weight loss which you felt was the loss of water weight. Our body loses water weight before starting fat loss. Also, when the number of calories you burn and the calories you eat get equal, you face a weight loss plateau.

Too Much Salty Foods

Taking lots of salt retains more water in your body which you may be seeing on your weighing scale.

High salt foods are said to be the source of higher sodium. If you’ve already stopped eating these foods, don’t be so relaxed. The bread you’re grabbing as a healthy breakfast can be high in sodium.

calorie deficit but not losing weight

Slow Metabolism

Weight loss has a direct connection with your metabolism. You might wonder why your friend eats a bunch of food at lunch and dinner, doesn’t care about working out, but is still slimmer than you.

Having a fast metabolism refers to burning more calories at a quicker rate and producing energy while working out or resting. Having slow metabolism means the calories you’re consuming take time to burn even during exercise. Therefore, you may not eat much, but what you eat helps to gain weight. It’s nothing but your busted metabolism.

Insufficient Sleep

If you can’t remember the last time when you went to bed timely and had a sound sleep, your calorie deficit strategy may go in vain.

Studies say that if persons on a weight loss diet have a sleeping problem, they’re less likely to lose weight. Even people who don’t follow a calorie deficit but have adequate sleep on time lose some weight. Less sleep triggers the release of cortisol which results in stored fat in your body.

Moreover, your overly tired brain’s Striatum or pleasure center searches for something that will give comfort. As a result, you grab cheesy, fatty, or high-carb foods and eat two times more after a week of crash diet.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome In Women

Weight gaining is one of the most common side effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome get it very difficult to shed their extra pounds.

Insulin (a hormone) transports glucose (energy) to the body cells. In this syndrome, your body cells resist insulin signals. But, your pancreas continues to produce more insulin which makes an imbalance with the other hormones including leptin(appetite decreases) and ghrelin(appetite increase).

Therefore, you don’t lose weight in a calorie deficit. Rather excessive insulin accumulates fat in your body.


Weight gain is a common problem among women after their menopause. It’s nothing to wonder if you’re in a calorie deficit but not losing weight during or after your menopause.

Despite being in a calorie deficit and doing regular workouts, if you notice you aren’t losing weight, try both moderate and high-intensity exercise to burn off the extra pounds.

Not Tracking Calories Accurately

Being on a proper calorie deficit ensures losing weight. Therefore, it is possible that your calorie deficit calculator is not working properly.

I’ve noticed that people on the diet sometimes make mistakes in calculating calorie intake. When you’re in a calorie deficit, you’ve to count every food.

Eating Less Protein

You may have heard the term ‘Thermic effect of food’. It refers to the number of calories your body needs to digest food. People who want to lose weight are advised to take more protein than carbohydrates and fat.

Protein has high TEF, which means, your body will have to burn more calories digesting protein. If you take 100 calories of protein, 20-30 calories will be used in digesting that protein.

Maintaining ‘Clean Diet’ Or Keto

You aren’t losing weight despite being in a calorie deficit may be because you’re following a clean or Keto diet. While the Clean diet is nutrient-dense, it doesn’t assimilate fully with the weight loss goal.

When you’re on a clean diet, you’re eating fresh vegetables, fruits, fewer carbs but more high-fat-based foods. Therefore, you’re thinking you’re eating less than before. But, since fat-based foods are high in calories, your weight is plateaued or you’re even gaining weight.

Doing Too Much Workout

Now, let’s talk about another common situation about weight loss during a calorie deficit. This time you’re exercising and in a calorie deficit but not losing weight.

Possibly, you may be doing much Cardio. For successful weight loss, I’ll always recommend Cardio. But, don’t stick to too much cardio.

Doing too much Cardio workout creates a catabolic state in your body where the body breaks down its muscle and fat.

Eating Too Little

Calorie deficit doesn’t mean starving yourself. When you eat too little for a longer period, your body goes into a ‘ starvation mode ’.

It is your body’s reaction to long-term calorie deficit where your metabolic rate slows down and your muscle mass reduces. As a result, you burn fewer calories at rest and your weight loss process slows down or plateaus.

What Should You Do To Lose Weight In A Calorie Deficit?

Yes, the list of the reasons for calorie deficit but not losing weight is pretty long. But don’t feel down. There are ways to reverse the process and lose weight while you are low in calorie intake. I have rounded up the most effective five.

Get Enough Sleep

When you don’t have adequate sleep for 3-4 days, you’ll naturally feel tired and stressed. For successful weight loss, you need to be stress-free.

If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, try to maintain a fixed sleep routine and stop taking caffeine in the evening. And what is more important, don’t use any electronic device an hour before bed.

calorie deficit but not losing weight

Stick to a Healthy Diet

Calorie deficit aims at a healthy diet with fewer calories. A healthy diet helps you to lose weight keeping your physical and mental health well. It’ll also help to kick out the stress.

  • Don’t take extra sugar and fat.
  • Stick to lean proteins. Eat more complex carbs (sweet potatoes, oats, whole grains, etc.) and healthy fats.
  • Antioxidants help to reduce stress. Eat more vitamin C, magnesium, and Omega-3 fatty acid.
  • Don’t grab fast foods, cheesy foods, white bread, sodas whenever you feel like eating.
  • Increase your water intake.
  • Eat less salt.

Do A Cardio Workout And Increase Your Physical Activities

Don’t think dieting is all in the weight loss process. Don’t do excess workouts either. Go for a moderate Cardio workout to get the best result from your calorie deficit.

If you are still wondering why am I not losing weight in a calorie deficit and working out, the answer is you haven’t started the right gym routine.

If you don’t have time for doing cardio workouts or aerobics, increase your physical activity. Typing your assignments, using the stairs in your office, shopping mall, walking while talking on the phone, fidgeting, roaming around your home-all these small odd tasks will help you to shed a significant amount of weight.

Change Your Lifestyle If You’re Around Your Menopause

If you’re a woman, stick to a healthier lifestyle during your menopause and post-menopause. Start aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, bicycling, and running beside your regular workout. Resistance or strength training is also an effective exercise. Try to cope up with the sleep issues(if you’ve any).

Consult With Your Doctor

Don’t try a calorie deficit without consulting a professional. If you’re not losing weight despite being in a calorie deficit, take the advice of your doctor and get yourself checked to know if you’ve any other health problems.


Losing weight from calorie deficit requires a healthy lifestyle which includes healthy eating habits, physical wellness, stress-free mental health, sufficient sleep, and proper physical activities.

Lack of any of these factors will not let you shed your extra weight. So, if you’re in a calorie deficit but not losing weight, carefully examine your whole lifestyle to know where the problem lies.

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