Most people have been there, and believe it or not I have too. Weight loss slows down, or it doesn’t happen at all so we panic and do the same two things over and over. We exercise more, we eat less, but we aren’t really sure why we are doing what we are doing and how to ever really get out of the cycle when things aren’t going our way. So we continue on relentlessly, frustrated and desperate for answers.
Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction
For those that haven’t seen this quote before, it was originally and famously quoted by John F. Kennedy. He doesn’t have anything to do with losing weight and certainly wasn’t the diet “guru” of his day but the application of this quote is what I am interested in most. You can exercise as much as you want, or eat as little as possible but without a clear sense of direction, and a plan of action then it is ultimately pretty hard to actually make any progress. What happens when progress stops altogether? Without knowing what you have actually been doing up until that point it only harder and more confusing.
Right, so lets get to the point (well, 5 points).
You aren’t eating enough.
Wait, doesn’t that contradict the whole point of losing weight? I’m supposed to eat less not more, right?
You would correct in thinking that, and in most cases you are right but there is also such a thing as not enough. Yes, a calorie deficit is essential to losing “weight” but too much of a deficit? You risk running into a whole host of other problems that are generally just seen by most people dieting out there are “part of the process”. It goes without saying that when dieting you may be hungry at times, maybe even a little tired, but there is a point of diminishing returns and it’s important to understand where that line is.
While trying not to get too technical I will give a quick example of what that means.
If a person is eating 1200 kcal a day and burning on average 2400 kcal a day, and that is without considering the energy being used as a result of training (if applicable) the body will be getting 1200 kcal a day from its own stores. At extreme deficits like this your body will try to slow metabolic processes down to preserve fat. “Survival mode” is the term you will have most likely heard before. Your body will reduce it’s own energy output and use less calories to produce the same amount of energy needed for every day bodily functions.
This is the energy your body burns every day while at complete rest, and as your body requires a certain amount of energy to function it will try to slow everything else down to compensate for this.
You feel tired, lethargic and lazy.
You may have enjoyed your Sunday walk to the supermarket. Now? You drive.
Morning cardio? Maybe tomorrow.
So you eat less, but because you are so tired you do less which means your total daily energy expenditure goes down even further than it was before.
You aren’t training enough, or hard enough.
You may be only exercising twice a week, so a relatively easily solution for you to elicit more weight loss would simply be to increase this to three times a week. The increased energy output over the week with little to no dietary changes could be the difference between the scales going down a couple of pounds, or not at all.
For those of you that are already in the gym 4, 5, 6 times a week or more and still aren’t losing weight then I ask you, are you training hard enough? Are you pushing yourself further each session, using slightly more weight, getting those extra few reps? Be honest with yourself and ask yourself if you are really doing everything that you can be doing in the gym and making the most of your time.
This doesn’t mean adding extra sets and reps at every opportunity, it just means getting the most out of every set and making them work for you.
You are eating too much.
The most obvious one of them all but sometimes you are just eating too much, it may only be by 100–200 calories but this can still nudge you into a positive energy balance and stop you losing weight. Drastic measures may not be needed to bring your weight down it may be as simple as removing a small amount of calories to get weight loss to resume again.
Here are some examples of what consitutes 100–200 calories:
2 digestive biscuits = 146 calories
1 can of full sugar coke = 150 calories
1 packet of Walkers cheese and onion crisps = 131 calories
Nature Valley granola bar = 190 calories
So again you can see how quickly things can add up throughout the day without realising especially when schedules are busy, there are children to look after, and life sometimes takes over.
Now you know what 100–200 calories looks like, why not consider these questions.
How many sugars do you have in your tea/coffee? Can you reduce them or use sweetener?
Do you eat for the sake of eating and not because you are hungry? That packet of crisps could be the reasons you are getting frustrated every time you step on the scale.
Can you replace a favourite or frequent item for a low sugar alternative? Diet coke for example.
These are very quick and easy diet fixes that anyone can do.
You don’t have enough muscle.
This one sounds a little confusing, but this is one that often gets overlooked by many people.
If you are someone who is looking to “tone up” and/or get lean then increasing your lean muscle mass is something that you may want to consider (yes this goes for you girls too!).
So what are the benefits to more muscle?
- You will look better, and leaner with the same amount of body fat.
- More muscle means more glycogen can be stored, which in turn means less chance for any extra carbs you consume to be stored as fat.
- You will be stronger, and who doesn’t want to be stronger?
You actually don’t know how much you are eating.
How many of you can recall exactly what you have eaten in the past 24 hours? Maybe you can, but are you aware of your overall daily calorie intake and how that relates to your goals?
If not, then start now. Tracking food can be a useful tool in some circumstances, and for those just starting out I would suggest trying this for a few days to get an accurate representation and average of your daily intake. Whether its an app or keeping a food diary, log everything you eat over the next couple of days and then look back over it. What have you found?
Are you eating less than you thought or more?
But I don’t want to be tracking calories every day and reading labels, I just want something that is easier to manage
For the people that would prefer a slightly less technical approach to food, what is the answer?
Yes exactly that, mindfullness. Start becoming aware of the food you are consuming and be mindful of how much you eat and when you eat it. Are there any external triggers which lead you to snacking or indulging in food when you otherwise wouldn’t? By simply being aware of the food you are consuming, the more likely you are to start making slightly better choices and making the small changes necessary towards the body that you desire.
Try it for a day and see what a difference it makes. Whereas before you may have not noticed yourself sitting there and snacking on a whole packet of digestives for example, what do you do now you are actively involved in the process of what you are consuming?