So you are trying to lose weight. It’s been weeks, maybe even months and you think you’re doing the right things but you just aren’t losing weight. Of course, there could be a dozen reasons why you aren’t losing weight but here are five common reasons you could be stalling out. The first one could seem pretty unlikely but I’ve seen it happen for a multitude of reasons.
#1- You're under-eating and your metabolism has adapted to meet the demand (or lack of) so now you are stuck. Your dieting history is intense both in duration and calorie restriction. That could mean trying multiple different diets, jumping from one to the other without going into a maintenance period or a consistent calorie deficit of more than 6 months. Your calories have gotten so low or carbs have been minimized to the point of metabolic adaptation. Because you've been trying to diet for a really long time and you've consistently cut calories to get there. Your body starts to metabolically adapt and sees this as another stressor. Contributing factors could be over training, under recovering, and lack of quality and quantity of sleep.
The Fix- You need to find your maintenance calories and stay at this calorie amount for several weeks or possibly even months. Ideally you slowly work your way up to maintenance calories by getting your protein to 1g/lb of body weight, then bring your fat up to at least .35/lb of body weight, hopefully you weren’t too far away from these numbers. Then the last thing to add back in is your carbs, go in 15-30g increments (depending on your weight, height, and activity level) every 2-3 days until you start to gain a little weight, your sleep improves, your workouts improve, etc...
#2- You're under-eating a certain macro nutrient. Your macronutrient profile is not optimal for what you're trying to achieve in life. Maybe it’s low carb or keto, maybe it’s low fat and high carb or hopefully it’s not low quality protein and poor overall quality (standard american diet). Here is what each of those scenarios looks like in your body. If you're restricting carbs too much your body will start to conserve energy and your performance can suffer. If you're under-eating fats your endocrine system and all your hormones can be affected causing a cascade of problems from thyroid function to sexual dysfunction. Under eating protein is probably the most common scenario and not only causes you to struggle to maintain muscle and repair tissues, it also causes increased hunger and the tendency to overeat carbs. Protein is so critical for not only weight loss but optimal function of your body that it’s the first macronutrient to make sure you are getting it in high quality and in adequate amounts.
The Fix: Become aware of what you are eating either by weighing and measuring it or by using containers to give you approximations of how much you are eating of each macronutrient. Then see what makes you feel the best and progresses you towards your goals. If you are trying to lose weight, try a high protein, moderate fat, lower carb diet to keep you satisfied and keep your body functioning at its best. If you are trying to improve your performance in the gym, try a higher carb approach with moderate protein and fat. The key is to know what you are doing wrong and start trying different things to correct it.
#3- Inconsistency with your nutrition plan. You switch from one fad to another before your body is able to gain the benefits of that plan or you do well all week and then you wreck everything on the weekend. If you are trying to lose weight and you are in a calorie deficit of 300 calories a day all week, that 1500 cal deficit can be erased in one or two moderately high calorie days.
The Fix: Be consistent with one approach for at least a month (ideally longer) so you can measure your progress in at least three different ways and have at least 1 months worth of data. If you are monitoring your weight on the scale, you took photos, and circumferential measurements then you can compare them and see if you are making progress towards your goals, But you have to give it enough time and be consistently following the plan so you can objectively measure your progress.
#4- Under-reporting or not aware of how much you're actually eating. You're snacking more often than you think and not counting calories in sauces, drinks, and/or when you are prepping foods/meals. 25 -50 calories here and there adds up and can erase a significant calorie deficit over the week.
The Fix: Be meticulous with your tracking and when you eat. Structure provides freedom in this situation because if you are strict with what you eat, the results will come. Calculate your nutrition and plan your feeding schedule, it will train your body to do what you want it to...lose weight, perform, gain muscle, etc.. Don’t want to track everything? There are “free” foods out there and they are all veggies. If you are going to snack, eat all the cucumbers and broccoli you want, nobody has ever gotten fat eating large amounts of veggies but they have eating calorie dense foods in unknown amounts.
#5- You are eating the right amount of calories but you are hungry all the time.
The foods you are eating are very calorie dense but don’t contain a lot of fiber and micronutrients so they're not filling you up. It feels like you're eating less calories than you really are because there is no volume in your foods and you are not getting satisfied by high quality protein and fats. This essentially means your food quality is poor and you are getting a lot of empty calories.
The Fix: Focus on higher quality foods and track your fiber. Grass fed and grass finished meats and dairy products as well as plenty of organic veggies. Make the majority of your carbs come from high fiber veggies that require a lot of chewing. Spinach, kale , broccoli, cauliflower, celery, carrots, etc...If it’s a veggie that grows above the ground then put it on your plate. Foods that have good prebiotic fiber like artichokes, potatoes, and asparagus help keep you full and digest all your other foods to get more nutrients out of them.
To summarize the 5 biggest mistakes I see when people aren’t losing weight and what they should do about it. First, become aware of what you're eating somehow. Weigh and measure or use containers or eat the same thing as much as possible to know how much you are getting of all the macronutrients and calories. If you don’t know, then you are just guessing. Second, be consistent for at least several weeks if not months before you make changes. If you jump from program to program or change things every other week, you may never know if you’re doing the right thing. Third, get plenty of rest and use stress reduction techniques to help balance out your hormones. This is a very overlooked part of optimizing your body and can frustrate people for months when they think they are doing the right thing. Lastly, don’t just rely on the scale. You need 2-3 objective measurements that you track relentlessly to provide feedback and direction on what to do with your nutrition. Use multiple forms of feedback to measure your progress like standardized photos, circumferential measurements at 5 or more points, Bio-impedance testing and subjective reports of how your clothes are fitting, mood, digestion, satiety, and libido, this affects all your daily choices. What gets measured can be manipulated so you can work towards your goals.
I know this sounds daunting and difficult to do on your own, that’s why I am here to help. Sign up for a free discovery call so I can see how I can help or at least give you strategies to keep moving forward on your journey.
Feel Good, Live Great