1. You're not keeping track of what you eat. Self awareness is extremely important if you are trying to lose weight. Many people actually don't have a clue how much they're really eating or they forget what they had the day before, sometimes even the last meal! Studies suggest repeatably that keeping track of your food intake helps with weight loss. People who use food diaries, or take pictures of their meals, consistently lose more weight than people who don't.
2. You're not eating whole foods. If you are eating too much food out of a bag, a box, a package, fast food, take out, etc, chances are the food has been heavily processed. Eating food that is wholesome and unprocessed (such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, leafy greens) can improve your health, reduce inflammation and help regulate your appetite. These foods tend to be much more filling and nutritious than their processed counterparts. Food quality is just as important as quantity.
3. You are not exercising right (or at all) Exercise is critical for both, physical and mental health, but when we set the goal to only exercise to burn calories, we set ourselves up for failure. Calories on exercise equipment is often overestimated, and when we think we burn more calories than what we actually did, we reward ourselves with food. It is also important to consider the type of exercise we do. Cardio workouts (power walking, treadmill, elliptical, recumbent bike, etc) help improve over all heart health and reduce the harmful "visceral" fat that builds up around organs. But strength training is just as important if we want to burn fat and hold on to our precious muscle mass. When you go on a strict diet and don't work out, you put your body at risk of burning muscle mass along with that body fat.
4. You are binge eating (even on healthy food) Binge eating is a common side effect of dieting. It involves rapidly eating large amounts of food, much more than out bodies need. Some people may binge on junk food, while others binge on relatively healthy food. Some people wonder why they can's lose weight when they are eating healthy snacks such as nuts, seeds, peanut butter, dark chocolate, cheese, etc. All of these foods have a lot of calories, though they are rich in protein and healthy fats, they still lead to weight gain if we go over our serving sizes.
5. You're "cheating" too often. For people who are able to control themselves, having cheat meals or days every now and then may be fine. For others, especially those who are prone to food addiction, having cheat meals is likely to do more harm than good. If you're cheating often, either with "small cheats" here and there or entire days where you eat nothing but junk food, it can easily ruin your progress. If you just can't seem to control yourself around unhealthy foods no matter what you try, completely removing the junk foods from your environment could be a good idea.
6. You are not sleeping well, or not getting enough sleep. Sleep is amazingly important for overall health, and studies show that a lack of sleep correlates with weight gain and obesity. Lack of sleep can also make you feel hungrier, tired and less motivated to exercise and eat healthy. Sleep is one of the pillars of health. If you're doing everything right but still not getting proper sleep, you won't see the results you might expect. If you think you have a sleeping disorder, consult with your doctor.
7. You are addicted to Junk food. According to a 2014 study, about 19.9% of people satisfy the criteria for food addiction. People who have this problem use junk food in a similar way as drug addicts use drugs. Food addiction is not about a lack of willpower or anything like that, it is caused by the intense dopamine signal "hijacking" the biochemistry of the brain. If you are experiencing junk food addiction, eating less or changing your diet can seem downright impossible. If you have repeatedly failed at overcoming this problem on your own, then perhaps it is time to seek help. Start by talking to your health care providers, they may have a referral list or other resources to offer.
8. You are stressed all of the time. Being stressed all the time keeps the body in a constant state of "fight or flight" with elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Having chronically elevated cortisol levels can increase your hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods. If you want to cut back on stress, try meditation and deep breathing exercises. Cut back on distractions like online news, social media and read more books instead. Try spending time with family or friends, or a hobby you enjoy.
9. You have a medical condition getting in your way. There are some medical conditions that can drive weight gain or make it much harder to lose weight. The most common ones are PCOS, hypothyroidism, diabetes and sleep apnea. Certain medications can also make weigh loss harder or even cause weight gain. If you think this applies to you, it is important to speak with your doctor about what options can work best for you.
10. You're drinking too much of your calories. Sugary beverages are the most fattening items in the food supply. This also applies to "healthier" beverages like vitamin water, fruit and vegetable juices, and other teas and energy drinks. Our brains don't compensate for the calories in them by making us eat less of other foods, so we can actually double our calories by consuming them. Alcohol is another problem. If you like alcohol and are trying to lose weight, keep in mind that they provide empty calories (which means zero nutrition), these calories store as fat. Moderate drinking seems to be fine, but even a few glasses of beer and wine can lead to weight gain. Drinking water on the other hand, can have great results and enhance weight loss.
Instead of approaching this from a dieting mindset, make it your primary goal to become a happier, healthier and fitter person. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it, and let weight loss follow as a natural side effect.