Jan 22, 2024 • 9 min read

Not Losing Weight While Intermittent Fasting? Possible Reasons Why

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Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a trendy weight loss tool in the last few years. If you are new to IF, it involves selecting specific patterns that cycle between periods of fasting and eating. 

Intermittent fasting is believed to benefit weight loss by effectively reducing total caloric intake and boosting fat loss. It’s become widely popular because the types and quantities of food you choose are not restricted. The only restrictions are the times you can eat.

If you’ve tried intermittent fasting but aren’t losing weight, possible reasons why include overeating during your eating window and poor food choices. To help, you can try eating fewer calories, work on balancing your meals, or create a smaller or larger eating window. 

This guide goes over why you may not be losing weight with intermittent fasting, how to help, expected weight loss results, and more.

Reasons you may not be losing weight while intermittent fasting

If you’re trying to lose weight, it can feel agonizing waiting to see results. While we all wish we could snap our fingers and the weight would fall off, a healthy rate of weight loss is about one to two pounds per week. 

If you’ve started intermittent fasting or have been doing it for a while and aren’t seeing any budge in the scale, it’s time to evaluate your routine to see what might be holding you back.

Below are some common intermittent fasting mistakes that could be hindering your weight loss efforts:

1) You’re not in a calorie deficit

Intermittent fasting is believed to help with weight loss by creating a calorie deficit simply out of an adjustment in your eating schedule.

This can allow for a natural reduction in calories without restriction. However, this is only true if you have found a good fasting schedule that works with your challenge areas.

For example, if you’ve decided to start intermittent fasting and create a schedule around when you normally eat, your intake is not likely to be impacted to benefit weight loss.

How to solve it: Consider your eating schedule before intermittent fasting and what your areas of challenge were. If you struggle with evening snacking, creating an intermittent fasting schedule that starts your evening fast immediately following dinner can help to quell the snacking and cut down on calories.

2) You aren’t aware of your intake 

To create a calorie deficit for weight loss while doing intermittent fasting, you need to be mindful about what you put in your body. While this doesn’t mean you have to track every single thing you eat, you might consider doing some tracking in the beginning to target your problem areas or start meal prepping for weight loss so you know how much you’re eating.

How to solve it: Using an app like MyFitnessPal or LoseIt can help you be more mindful about your intake so you can see where you may be consuming forgotten calories from beverages or a bite of food here and there. Even though intermittent fasting doesn’t limit your intake during eating periods, consuming the same amount of food you would if you weren’t doing intermittent fasting is not going to lead to successful weight loss. Tracking can help hold you accountable and keep you aware of your intake during this time.

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3) Your fasting window is too short

A short fasting window can make it difficult to obtain a calorie deficit, especially if you aren’t keeping track of your intake and are relying on fasting alone to result in weight loss. 

How to solve it: If you are still eating the same amount you were before intermittent fasting, you may want to lengthen your fasting time, particularly during those hours when you might typically find yourself eating but don’t need to be (such as late at night). 

4) You haven’t been doing it long enough

Weight loss takes time. While it can be frustrating waiting for the scale to drop, healthy weight loss is slow and steady. Also, a healthy weight loss doesn’t always look like a straight line down. You will likely notice fluctuations up and down each day if you closely monitor the scale.

To know if intermittent fasting is working for you, take a step back and look at the big picture. If you’ve only been doing IF for a week or two and haven’t noticed any weight loss, you haven’t given it enough time.

How to solve it: Stay consistent with your IF routine for at least one to two months. If you haven’t seen any weight loss progress during that time, you can scratch that off the list of possibilities. 

5) You haven’t been consistent

As with any diet plan, consistency is key. If you have been loosely following intermittent fasting, it may not give you the same effects. You can’t skip weekends or take breaks and expect results. 

How to solve it: For intermittent fasting to work, you need to stick with the same schedule every day (or every week for 5:2 IFers). If you feel like your IF routine is inconsistent because it has been challenging to stick with, consider changing your fasting windows to something that feels more reasonable. 

6) You’re not moving

Diet and exercise go hand in hand. If you don’t feel like intermittent fasting is giving you adequate results with your weight but you haven’t dedicated any time for exercise, that’s a good place to start.

Exercise can help create a calorie deficit as well as encourage a better functioning metabolism for further fat loss benefits. Some research even supports exercising during your IF fasting window for increased fat burning

How to solve it: Start moving, even if it’s just incorporating a small walk into your routine a few days a week. You can always work your way up, but make sure whatever you add in is sustainable. For more intense exercise, such as high-intensity cardio or strength training, consider timing your exercise right after your fasting window starts or right before it ends. This allows you to have some food in your system to help fuel your exercise and recovery, so your performance and progress are not negatively affected.

7) You’re eating whatever you want during your fasting window

While intermittent fasting can be tempting for many because of its lack of dietary restrictions, that doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all. You may not need to track calories, count macros, or say goodbye to carbohydrates, but you still need to be mindful of your food choices to see results.

How to solve it: Be mindful of your food choices and portion sizes. Practice moderation by incorporating all foods you enjoy but more of what you know is better for your goals. This can help avoid feelings of deprivation while also helping you get where you want to be. For example, if you normally binge eat candy between meals, instead of cutting out all candy, plan to have one to two small pieces with your snack, a protein source, and a fiber source, such as a few hard-boiled eggs and a handful of fruit.

8) You’re missing out on protein

Protein is one of the most filling macronutrients. If you aren’t prioritizing it during your meals, you are more likely to find yourself overeating.

How to solve it: While everyone’s protein needs differ, a good rule of thumb for most people is to aim for at least 30 grams of protein per meal. Your best sources of protein are going to be meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products but there is also protein in some plant products, such as soy. Try to incorporate at least one of these in each meal as well as snacks to boost satiety and reduce snacking and large portions.

9) You aren’t focusing on your lifestyle 

There are other lifestyle factors aside from diet and exercise that must be considered when trying to lose weight, such as sleep and stress. Both can create hormonal imbalances and increase the incidence of snacking behaviors which can halt weight loss efforts. 

How to solve it: Prioritize adequate rest with a goal of getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night. You can also practice stress management techniques to help you cope with daily stressors such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and guided imagery. 

Expected weight loss results from intermittent fasting

A healthy rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week. While it may seem like a low number, rapid weight loss is associated with many potential health implications including a lack of sustainability.

While intermittent fasting has been associated with weight loss, it should be noted that most studies on intermittent fasting did not find weight loss to be the main benefit, and large drops in weight were not reported. 

For example, according to a systematic review of 40 different studies, intermittent fasting dieters typically saw a weight loss of 7 to 11 pounds over 2.5 months, which is an average of 0.7 to 1.1 pounds per week. While this is a healthy weight loss, you may not get to your goal weight by doing intermittent fasting alone.

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Common intermittent fasting schedules for weight loss

As mentioned previously, there is more than one way to practice intermittent fasting.  While there are numerous different IF schedules out there, time-restricted eating and OMAD (one meal a day) are some of the most widely practiced methods.

Time-restricted eating involves a set daily schedule of fasting and eating, such as the 16:8 (16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window). Below are some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of these different methods.

  • 16:8. The 16:8 fasting schedule is one of the best time-restricted eating methods for those looking to lose weight. It is the least restrictive but still allows for the benefits of fasting with much-needed flexibility. 
  • 18:6. The 18:6 IF schedule is more restrictive than 16:8 due to a shorter eating period. This can be helpful for those who continue to struggle with overeating during a longer fasting window. However, if you struggle to meet your calorie needs during this shorter window, it could cause damage to your metabolic health which can hinder weight loss sustainability.
  • 20:4. The most restrictive IF schedule is 20:4. This method does not work well for most when it comes to healthy and sustainable weight loss because it can be too difficult to meet your calorie needs in such a short eating window. This can result in nutrient deficiencies and metabolic adaptations. Eating large amounts during a short time can also wreak havoc on your digestion.
  • OMAD. Like the 20:4 method, one meal a day (OMAD) is not a good IF schedule for those looking to lose weight. The risk of nutrient deficiencies and weight regain is significantly increased in this type of fasting. Some studies even connect this type of eating to increased cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and studies regarding benefits in humans are lacking.

Why you should consider working with a dietitian to lose weight

It can be difficult to sift through all the diet and nutrition information that is out there. Intermittent fasting can be particularly confusing as you must decide both when and what to eat. 

Getting personal and professional advice from a nutritionist or dietitian is almost always worth it as it can help bring clarity to your nutrition needs and the best weight loss strategy for you. If you are not seeing results from your efforts with intermittent fasting, a dietitian can help you evaluate your routine and make necessary changes.

If you’re interested in getting professional help, we can help you find a Registered Dietitian who accepts your insurance and preferred visit type.

Dietitians and nutritionists help people lose weight in the following ways:

  • Craft a healthy meal plan that fits your personal needs & preferences. weight loss dietitian will get to know your specific nutrition needs and personal preferences to build a plan that fits your lifestyle. Having a flexible, personalized meal plan will make your journey much more enjoyable and help you keep the weight off for good.
  • Help you learn to read food labels & make smart choices. Knowledge about food labels can make you a smarter and more efficient grocery shopper. 
  • Provide guidance for dining out. Your dietitian can teach you how to navigate a restaurant menu and find a balance between healthy options and treating yourself. 
  • Go over mindful eating strategies. Mindful eating will help you be aware of your hunger and fullness, eliminate distractions, and enjoy the healthy foods that you choose. 
  • Make sure you lose weight at a healthy rate for long-term weight loss. Your dietitian will guide you in a healthy eating pattern that promotes gradual, long-term weight loss. 
  • Help you understand how to fuel your body properly for workouts. Learn what to eat before and after workouts to feel your best, build lean body mass, and support your weight loss routine. 
  • Provide accountability & motivation. A nutrition professional can provide you with the positive support you need to stay on track with your weight loss goals.
  • Help you break through plateaus & make adjustments as needed. A nutrition expert can assess where you are and what the best next step is to break your plateau. 
  • Help with health issues. Your dietitian will guide you in choosing the best foods and portions to manage your condition and prevent symptoms.  

When you request an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians here at Zaya Care, we’ll check your insurance so you know exactly how much you’ll have to pay, if anything at all.

It’s worth noting that 90% of Zaya Care patients pay $0 for nutrition care with an RD as we are in-network with many major carriers.

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Meghan is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from San Jose, California. She received her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University in 2015. Following an unexpected cross-country trip that landed her in Florida, she completed her didactic training through AdventHealth Orlando. Meghan has extensive experience in multiple aspects of dietetics including critical care, motivational interviewing, writing, and research. She is passionate about health and wellness and has dedicated her free time to breaking down complicated nutrition topics and disseminating them to the public through the arena of writing.