2 October 2019Fatigue & Weight Loss - Here's how being tired is preventing you from losing weight

Are you feeling tired all of the time while trying to lose weight? Here are some tips to help you troubleshoot why this might be happening.

Are you getting enough sleep?

We often forget this basic need - good quality sleep and sleeping enough hours. If you do not sleep well and this seems to be a chronic (long-term) problem, please talk with your healthcare provider about what might be wrong.

Are you eating to boost energy?

If you feel tired and still need to be productive, try exercise instead of junk food to help boost your energy level. If you do just enough without overdoing it (e.g. walking), you might find it energizes you much more effectively than fatty and sugary carb snacks (candy, chips, pop).

Long gaps between meals?

If you tend to go more than 4-5 hours between meals, then consider including a snack as a stop-gap. Your body needs fuel. A weight loss plan that includes lower-calorie meals plus long time gaps between meals could set you up for low energy.

Are you eating enough?

Personalize your calorie target. We are all different - some adults can tolerate intakes of 1000-1200 calories per day without any issues, whereas others need to eat more to avoid feeling tired, irritable, or light-headed. If you track your intake, include notes about how you are feeling so that you can see patterns between food intake, timing, exercise, and overall energy level. If the calories deficit is so great that you can't meet it without excessive hunger, then lower your weekly rate of weight loss to a slower rate.

Get enough protein. Aim for at least 60 grams of protein per day. If you eat 3 main meals per day, then aim for 20 grams of protein per meal. Include protein at snacks as well if you find that you are hungry between meals. This is especially helpful if you are reducing your calories intake for weight loss.

Don't overly restrict carbs. If you are frequently feeling lightheaded, then check to see if you are undercutting your carbs too much. While it is useful to cut calories from junk carbs, do include healthy carb choices to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. Some of us are more sensitive than others to low carb eating. Either high or low blood glucose can make you feel tired.

Exercise level okay?

Excessive fatigue can result from too little or too much exercise.

If you are getting up earlier to squeeze in exercise, go to bed earlier to avoid losing sleep hours.

If you suspect you are overdoing exercise, scale back a bit to see if it helps with your energy level. You might be doing too much in one or more areas: frequency, intensity, or duration.

If you work long hours in a sitting position, get up every hour and move. Find an excuse to walk somewhere.

A particularly bad combination is poor sleep and sedentary activity. That pretty much sets you up for overeating foods to stay awake.

How's your stress level?

Long term, chronic stress can diminish energy and positive mood. Ideally, identify what is causing the stress and work to resolve or avoid it.

Many of us use comfort eating to handle stress. How will you handle stress now that you are trying to lose weight? Have a back-up plan. If you love to chew, then chew crunchy non-starchy veggies, sugar-free gum, ice, or something else that has minimal calories.

You could also try closing your eyes, and taking slow deep breaths. Take about 5 seconds to inhale and 5 seconds to exhale and do at least 3-5 full breaths.

Exercise can also help reduce stress - do it daily at especially stressful time periods. Or to "defuse", take a walk at lunch and after work.

Chronic fatigue is a sign that something is not quite right. Please share what is happening with your healthcare provider if you can't solve the problem on your own.

Originally published: 1 July 2014
Updated: October 2, 2019

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RDN, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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