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Why You're Not Losing Weight Despite Your Healthy Diet

You've swapped sugary cereal for overnight oats, traded in your daily cookie for fruit and eat so much kale that it's practically your BFF.

But no matter how healthy you're eating, you can't seem to lose weight—and you feel stuck. It's only natural to feel stymied when you're trying to do everything right and still not seeing results. The sneaky truth: The difference between a static scale and one that tips in your favor is likely hiding among the seemingly inconsequential—or so-called "healthy—choices you're making every day. We're here to help. Read our special report to learn about common diet defeaters and how to overcome them for good:


You Eat the Recommended 2,000 Calories a Day

Fork knife empty plate

If you look at a food label, you'll see the daily value of each nutrient compared to a 2,000-calorie diet. But not everyone should consume 2,000 calories a day—this is just a rounded and somewhat arbitrary—number selected by the FDA based on food consumption surveys conducted in the 1990s. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your weight, sex, age, height, activity level and goal body weight. Eat too few calories and you could derail your weight loss wins, eat too many calories and you'll run into the same issue. To find out how many calories you actually need to eat each day to lose weight, check out the Body Weight Planner, a new, extremely detailed government-developed calculator.


You Overeat Healthy Foods

avocado no pit

When it comes to weight loss, portion size is just as important as eating smart. Just because something is healthy doesn't give you free reign to overfill your plate with the stuff. In fact, many nutritious foods—like avocados, oatmeal, quinoa, dark chocolate, nuts and nut butters—can lead to weight gain when eaten in the wrong amounts. Next time you're whipping up a meal, take note of these portion control cues: A helping of nut butter or shredded cheese should be no larger than a ping-pong ball; a true serving of rice and pasta is about the size of your fist; and lean meats should be about the size of a deck of cards. Eat any more than the recommended serving size and you risk packing on the pounds.


You Think About Working Out a Lot


There's no denying that working out is an important weight loss factor, but oddly enough, thinking about your upcoming sweat sessions too often can make it more difficult to lose weight. Research indicates that when dumbbells and treadmills are on the brain, people consume more calories—likely because they assume they'll burn it when they workout. For the average gym rat, this is hardly ever the case. Avoid excessive munching, and fuel your weight loss efforts with a pre-workout snack tailored to your fitness routine instead.


You Don't Sleep Enough


Eating smart and working out is certainly a step in the right direction, but skimping on sleep can undo all of your valiant efforts. In fact, shorter amounts of sleep are associated with higher BMI levels and larger waistlines. When you don't get enough shut-eye, levels of your body's primary stress hormone cortisol increase, causing fat storage. In fact, a recent study of 500 participants found that losing a mere 30 minutes of shut-eye increases obesity risk by 17 percent! Sleep deprivation also interferes with workout recovery, making it challenging to give it your all every time you hit the gym, which can slash your potential calorie burn. To stay on track toward your goal, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.


You Order the Healthiest Sounding Menu Item


Strange but true: When you think of your meal as a light choice, it can cause your brain to pump out more ghrelin (the hormone that boosts appetite and slows metabolism), according to a Yale University study. To keep your ghrelin levels balanced, stick with restaurant foods that only sound indulgent. For example, if you're at Chick-fil-A, go for the breaded and fried Chicken Sandwich over the Cobb Salad. The sandwich sounds like the more indulgent alternative, but in reality, eating it over the greens keeps 300 calories and 36 grams of fat off your plate. For more no-sacrifice swaps, check in with Eat This, Not That! before heading out to eat.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh