“I’m eating healthy but I’m still not seeing my weight go down!”
If I had a dollar for every time one of my new clients said this to me, let’s just say I’d be feeling myself like Post Malone does right here.
Upon further investigation, I have started to notice a few trends that may explain the lack of fat loss success. My goal with this blog is to give you the five most common reasons as to why you are not seeing the fat loss results that you want and to give you some strategies to help you get back on track.
1. You are not in a calorie deficit
A common misconception that most people think is that eating “clean” and exercising a ton will automatically lead to fat loss success. While eating a minimally processed diet rich in lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs can be beneficial, it’s by no means the main solution to your fat loss woes. The number one priority of a fat loss diet should always be to create a proper calorie deficit. The most successful fat loss diets out there all share one common thing, they create a calorie deficit in one form or another. Here you will find tips on how to calculate a proper calorie deficit.
2. Misreporting intake
So let’s say that you have already calculated your calorie deficit and now you are logging everything you eat on Myfitnesspal. To your dismay, your weight is still not trending downwards. This brings up my next point. Calorie tracking, while useful to increase awareness, can be incredibly inaccurate for a number of reasons.
First off, people tend to underestimate their calorie intake. For example, if you’ve ever typed in chicken breast into Myfitnesspal you’ll quickly pull up what seems like an eternity of options all with different calorie amounts. Most people pick the option that has the least calories so this makes it challenging to get a true depiction of how many calories you just ate. Your total at the end of the day may say 1500 calories but in reality you could be eating 2500 calories!
It’s even worse when it comes to calculating how many calories are in the foods you order at a restaurant. A study done at Tufts University in 2011 sampling 269 different foods from a variety of restaurants found that 19% of the foods tested had 100 calories or more than what was stated on the menu (1). The funny thing was they found most of the inaccuracies in the foods that were listed as the healthier options. A strategy to help with this issue is to add 15-20% more calories to menu items that have calorie counts next to it. For instance, if a menu item says it is 500 calories, I would recommend listing it as 575-600 calories. That will allow you some buffer room to help you stay on track with your calorie goals.
Secondly, most people don’t truly understand what an actual portion size should be for most foods. For instance, the first time I saw what the proper portion size for a bagel was, I thought it was actually a mini bagel. This is something that is way too common in our society. We are used to massive portions being the norm so we naturally assume that’s what a portion should look like.
Lastly, most people have a tendency of overestimating how many calories they burn during exercise. To make matters worse, some people try to eat the calories back that they burned during exercise . Trying to estimate how many calories you burn during exercise has been shown to be pretty inaccurate. While the elliptical may say you just burned 500 calories, in reality you may have only burned about 200-300 calories. So trying to eat back the 500 calories the elliptical says you burned by downing a pizza is a pretty good way to halt your fat loss progress.
3. Water retention
Not many people know this, but dieting is a form of stress on the body. The longer you diet, the more stress you are putting on your body. When your body is under stress for prolonged periods of time, it increases the hormone cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol leads to water retention. Water retention can mask fat loss even though it is happening. This can be incredibly frustrating and lead to feelings of discouragement. Luckily there are a few things you can do to help with this. Find activities to limit stress such as meditation, walking, or getting a massage. Another strategy is to take a brief break from dieting (about 1-2 weeks). This should help get rid of the water retention and give you a more accurate picture of your fat loss.
4. You are undergoing body re-composition
If you are doing all the right things and your weight is still not trending downwards, you are most likely undergoing body recomposition. This means you are losing fat while gaining muscle mass. That’s actually a good thing. This is why using the scale as your only way to measure progress only gives you a small piece of the total picture of your results. I typically recommend utilizing other measurement tools along with the scale to get a better picture. These include body measurements using our 3-D scanner, increased strength levels in the gym, and noticing if there is a difference in how your clothes fit.
5. Patience is a virtue
Here is a very common conversation I have with my fat loss clients,
Client: “So I’ve been dieting but I’m not losing any weight, what do you recommend I do.”
Me: “How long have you been dieting?”
Client: “Like a week.”
Me: “Wait, only a week?”
Client: “Yeah! A WHOLE WEEK!!!!”
This is probably the biggest reason why people end up giving up on fat loss. They are simply not patient enough. Remember, you didn’t get out of shape overnight so you definitely won’t get back in shape overnight either.
When you first start your fat loss diet, you are at the peak of motivation since you are most likely seeing some results. Unfortunately, these initial results can lead to the false illusion of what the fat loss process is actually going to be like. Once progress inevitably starts to slow down (your body is pretty resistant to losing weight), you enter this period that has been coined as “The Suck” also known as a plateau. “The Suck” is when you are doing everything right but there is no progress in your fat loss goals. This is typically the point in time when most people give up.
Here’s my simple advice;
Instead of giving up, embrace the concept process over results. Stay focused on doing the right things. Be consistent with sustainable, healthy habits and I promise the fat loss will come.