9 Possible Reasons Why You Can’t Lose Weight

Young tired plus size woman. Girl training in a park. Woman with fithess tracker.

For some people, weight loss is pretty straightforward: They just need to cut out sodas and sweets and hit the gym regularly, and everything goes as planned. For others, especially those with a chronic health disorder, weight loss remains elusive despite doing everything right.

Weight gain and weight loss resistance are very common symptoms among people with chronic health disorders. Contrary to popular belief, an inability to lose weight or keep it off is not a sign of a character flaw. The flaws more likely exist in your metabolic, immune, or neurological health.

Fat shaming is culturally accepted, particularly in the alternative health spaces and against women. The truth is, overweight and obese people may have some of the healthiest diets and lifestyle practices. They have to — should they dare to eat "normally," they would quickly balloon out of control.

Instead of beating yourself up if you can't lose the weight or because you have mysteriously gained it too easily, consider if any of the following underlying causes may apply to you.

Nine possible reasons why you can’t lose weight — none of which are due to being lazy or undisciplined

1. You are a lifelong dieter.

The multi-billion-dollar diet industry, coupled with unrealistic cultural body image standards, have turned low-calorie dieting into a way of life. That works great in your youth, but as you age, your metabolism fatigues from constant famines.


The human body responds to famines by progressively lowering metabolism and increasing fat storage hormones. As a result, each low-calorie diet can make you a little bit fatter than the last one once you resume normal caloric intake. This explains why diets have such low rates of long-term success.


This phenomenon was most poignantly illustrated in a study of participants from The Biggest Loser reality TV show. Six years after appearing on the show, researchers found that the participants were burning 800 fewer calories per day, with the majority of them returning to their pre-show weight. Sadly, they ended up having to undereat by 400–800 calories a day just to keep from gaining even more weight.

2. Your hunger hormones are out of whack.

Conversely, if you routinely eat sugar, desserts, and processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and white rice, you likely have leptin resistance and skewed hunger hormone function, resulting in constant food cravings and hunger. Minimizing or eliminating processed carbohydrates and exercising regularly helps improve leptin sensitivity, so your hunger cues and fat burning returns to normal.


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3. Your thyroid isn’t working well.

One of the most common causes of weight gain and weight loss resistance is hypothyroidism or low thyroid activity. The most common cause of this is Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disease that attacks and damages the thyroid gland. This is why many people do not lose weight even after they start taking thyroid medication. It's essential to address the underlying causes of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism to improve your health and lose weight.

4. You are chronically inflamed.

Chronic inflammation skews hormone function, metabolism, and gut health in a way that can promote fat storage and prevent fat burning.


Many people enjoy easy weight loss by following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle. Nutrient-dense foods void of inflammatory triggers also manage pain, gut problems, autoimmune diseases, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and other health issues.

5. You’ve had a brain injury or have compromised brain function.

Many sufferers of concussions and brain injuries find they suddenly gain weight after their injury and cannot lose it. Brain injuries cause inflammation in the brain, disrupting your metabolic, hormonal, and immune systems in ways that promote weight gain and inhibit fat burning. Brain injury victims also often struggle with fatigue, exercise intolerance, depression, and other symptoms that interfere with appropriate fat burning and storage.

6. You have mold illness.

Mold illness is increasingly being identified as an underlying cause of many health disorders and symptoms, including weight gain and weight loss resistance. Almost a quarter of the US population is susceptible to mold illness. Toxicity from mycotoxins, the byproducts of molds, can seriously impact metabolic, immune, and neurological health, leading to unexplained weight gain and weight loss resistance. This refers not only to the dreaded black mold, but also the more commonly found strains caused by leaks and water damage in buildings.

7. You were born with an obese gut microbiome.

Research into the gut microbiome, our trillions of gut bacteria, show they impact virtually every aspect of our health, including whether we are more likely to be thin or heavy.


Studies on both mice and humans have shown that obese subjects inoculated with the gut bacteria of thin subjects went on to quickly and easily lose weight.


Factors that impact your gut microbiome "signature" in a way that promotes obesity include C-section delivery, being formula fed, and frequent antibiotic use in childhood.

8. You are a victim of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault or have PTSD.

After more than two decades of trying to understand why most obese people regained the weight they lost, an obesity researcher made an accidental discovery — the majority of his study subjects had been sexually abused as children or sexually assaulted right before the time their weight gain began. These circumstances can drive complex PTSD and the genesis of food addiction as a coping mechanism.


Likewise, researchers have found a correlation between food addiction and PTSD in women.

9. You have a brain-based disorder that promotes food addiction and an eating disorder.

For many people with weight issues, food becomes the source of torturous addictive behaviors that can then morph into eating disorders. We continue to discover links between addictions and eating disorders with brain-based disorders such as ADHD. Skewed neurological function triggers the obsessive thought patterns that lay the foundation for addictive eating and eating disorders.

Look for the underlying cause of weight gain and weight loss resistance to develop self-compassion

I hope this article helps you understand some of the factors that play into a chronic struggle with weight gain and weight loss resistance. Our society begs us to indulge in sugary foods and drinks through incessant advertising, while a multi-billion-dollar diet industry and impossible pop culture body ideals value human worth based on thinness.

The result is millions of people, the majority of them women, internalize society's fat-shaming and develop shame and self-loathing around food and their bodies when the real sickness is in the society - not the individual.

The body is a miraculous machine that operates in continuous service to us. You can learn to live and eat in a way that honors good health and function regardless of your size. Ask my office how we can help you.

Dr. Todd Bunning
Roseville Chiropractor and Functional Medicine
1891 E. Roseville Pkwy, Suite 190
Roseville, Ca 95661
Tel: (916) 782-3141

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You have already taken the first step by acknowledging something needs to change. Now it's time to change it.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.


Dr. Todd W. Bunning, DC, PC

Dr. Todd W. Bunning’s chiropractic and functional medicine services reach far beyond the local Roseville area, with webcam consultations available for patients in any location. With 17 years of Private Practice experience, Dr. Todd continues to focus on the individual: science-based methods to address whole-body health factors.

Dr. Todd’s education didn’t stop when he graduated from Life West Chiropractic College in 2003. Today, he’s continuing to receive training and is chipping away on numerous post-graduate degree programs. This unique blend of clinical health investigation and Lifestyle Medicine application helps people of all ages find the underlying factors that result in chronic disease.

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