Have you struggled losing weight?
Feeling like you’re doing absotutely everything right still to no avail?
You’re not alone.
Many people are in “weight loss plans” that do not yield any results.
I even have clients who need to do a bit of troubleshooting, BOTH on their end and on my end to kickstart or breakthrough a plateau.
It’s almost guaranteed that at some point in your weight loss phase, even if you WERE seeing results, that you’re going to hit a weight loss plateau and these potential strategies would need to be put into use!
If you’ve followed me for a while, usually in these situations where you’re not seeing results, in MANY cases the answer is likely that you were never eating enough to begin with...and either just eating more or going through a reverse diet is a must. Today that’s not ALWAYS the case! A lot of times, you may not be ready for dieting and putting yourself into a deficit...and in many clients that START out with me that is often the case. However, that’s only ONE of the potential reasons you’re not seeing results. In reality, there’s a whole lot more.
This blog will hopefully help you troubleshoot your weight loss plan to figure out (1) what you might be doing wrong (if anything) and (2) what your next steps should be.
TOP REASONS YOU’RE NOT SEEING RESULTS
You’re not tracking everything that goes into your body. This is one of THE most common reasons. I hate this reason because it sounds very much like “you’re doing it wrong” and in reality there could be a whole lot more going on. BUT under-reporting caloric intake is so very common.
Why? Because every single thing that goes into your body counts and often times can be forgotten in a food log.
Those bites of chips or crackers or even veggies as you cook dinner
The creamer, milk, or sugar you put into your coffee
Liquids like Gatorade, milk, alcohol, even seltzers
Oils that you cook with
Butter and dressings you top your foods like rice, salads, etc.
The 3-4 tbsp of peanut butter you actually are using (not the 1tbsp you’re logging)
Eyeballing, grazing, and guestimating isn’t exact. IF you haven’t taken the time FIRST to gain the awareness of how much your “eyeballing” measurements realistically are, then it’s time to go back to the basics and gain the awareness first. I don’t believe everything should be so meticulously tracked that you’re miserable, so eyeball the lower calorie foods like vegetables, use standard measurements for easy to measure foods like rice or quinoa and oils (use measuring spoons to dish out your foods, problem solved!!), and weigh using a digital scale the harder to eyeball foods like protein, avocado, etc.
You may be skeptical here. I understand.
I was having a discussion with someone, like you struggling to lose weight. I’ve known this person for a few years and based off of his schedule, eating patterns, and energy at the gym, I assumed (as he was) that he just wasn’t eating enough. We sat down and went through a day of eating logging it into MyFitnessPal. We logged 1700 calories. We dove deeper. I asked about coffee and he said he puts in creamer. Then I asked about hydration and he has Gatorade and an occasional beer. Then I asked about cooking oils....and before we knew it, that 1700 calories became 2700 calories on average per day. Talk about eye opening!
Not sure? Just go through a day getting as specific and exact and note the differences. It’s an easy thing to check off the list! IF this is the culprit, start cutting down on some of those secret things. Use cooking spray over oils. Measure oils and dressings. Drink black coffee or measure out the creamer/milk you’re using. Be careful of the peanut butter 😉
Calorie Deficit Mistakes
The next potential avenue to look at is whether you’re actually in a deficit or in TOO much of one.
I recently hopped on a strategy call with a woman who wasn’t seeing weight loss and was miserable. She had reverse dieted herself up to 2400 calories and saw beautiful results in her overall energy, sleep, happiness, relationship with food, etc. She then started working with a company that slashed her intake to 1400 calories...which is a 40% deficit. To put things in perspective, I usually start most clients out at a 10% deficit and they see great results. At most, I’ll put someone in a 25% deficit for ONLY 1-2 weeks and then give a full 1-2 weeks back at maintenance (MATADOR approach).
Why is too much of a deficit a problem? Doesn’t it ensure you’re in a deficit? Not necessarily.
Creating too large of a deficit doesn’t just “enhance” one’s weight loss phase. More isn’t always better.
Too large of a deficit may create too much of a stress or cortisol response. It could create too much restriction and lead to significantly higher cravings so it’s unsustainable to follow long term. Too much of a deficit (without intermittent breaks) may lead to a quicker metabolic adaptation and subsequent drop in caloric expenditure. It could worsen sleep and energy, making adherence pretty tough.
The goal with any “diet” should be to create as SMALL of a deficit and change as possible to elicit a response. We want to find the most minimal effective dose. To put it in perspective, think of chemotherapy to rid the body of cancer. We know chemotherapy kills cancerous cells. Great! So we should just give the body as much chemotherapy as possible and just nuke the cancer cells, right? Not at all. Too much chemotherapy will not only kill cancer cells but also the healthy cells needed to survive. Too much may be unsustainable for any sort of quality of life. So oncologists and researchers aim to find the minimal effective dose that they can give to kill all of the cancer...but keep their patient alive. Same goes for your diet.
It’s also important to start small with your deficit to leave room for plateaus. The solution to breaking through a plateau is to create more of a deficit. If your maintenance is 2500 calories and instead of slashing your intake to 1400 calories, you instead drop 10% to 2250 calories. You now have A TON more room to create further deficits. At 1400 calories, you just have to keep going down...and that’s where we run into problems.
On the flip side, you DO need to be in a deficit...and everyone is different. Some bodies don’t respond well to small cuts like 10% deficits and instead need something with a bit more sustenance like 20-25%. Be aware of your weekends. A 10% deficit M-F with a 30% surplus over the weekends takes your NET week probably out of the deficit.
Check how much of a deficit you’re in. Generally, 10-15% deficit is a great place to start. Create that and wait 2-3 weeks. If you don’t see 0.5-2lbs lost, create another 5%. It’s important to note that the more aggressive you make that deficit the more refeeds and diet breaks you’ll need to implement.
You need to be exercising and moving regularly. That doesn’t mean running yourself into the ground.
Every day should have SOME movement. You should strive for 4-5 days of regular 45-60 minutes of exercise, with the majority preferably coming from resistance training and lifting. Start small with cardio...1-2 days at most unless you’re training for an endurance-based sport or race. Maybe add some finishers to your lifting pieces or include circuits to get the heart rate up but you’re not doing straight cardio. You want to save the cardio for these plateaus.
Still, though, exercise only accounts for 5% of your daily caloric expenditure.
What matters just as much if not more is the activity OUTSIDE of your exercise window! Your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) accounts for 15% of your daily expenditure. Exercise is ONE hour out of 24 total hours in a day. Activities like walking, talking, fidgeting, etc. all play a role. The more you diet, the more these activities slow down, so it’s important to keep up. This is why we recommend 8-10k steps in a day!! Not only does walking increase your calorie expenditure, it’s massively beneficial to motivation, mindset, and improving stress. It doesn’t have the same stress response or adaptation as running or HIIT, so if you live in a high stress environment, walking is your friend.
Aim to walk 5 minutes a day. Park further away in the parking lots. If you’re working from home, take 3-5 breaks per day and move. Add stretching and yoga. THEN get actual exercise because we need both 😊
If you’re not sleeping well, hitting huge energy crashes throughout the day, suffering from poor gut health, experiencing awful hunger or cravings (or none of them), etc. then this likely explains why you’re not seeing results.
You need to be tracking biofeedback during your diet phase to ensure you’re staying healthy. The second your biofeedback starts to worsen, it’s time to assess whether you need a refeed or diet break...or you need to come out of it all together and cruise at maintenance for a bit.
If you chase HEALTH, aesthetics will follow. IF you chase AESTHETICS (at the sake of your health), you’ll forever fail.
You’ve got to have your body in check FIRST. Take the time to make sure you’re sleeping through the night, feeling energized, not perpetually injured, hungry at regular and consistent times, and not experiencing uncontrollable cravings.
This may mean you have to take a break from your diet phase and spend some time at maintenance...which is uncomfortable...but trust me. It’s needed.
Dieting Too Soon
You were not ready to lose weight to begin with. This is often the case with new dieters because they’re ready to get started and seeing weight loss immediately...but they’re eating 1400 calories, likely have a broken relationship with food, doing too much cardio, suffering from poor hunger and cravings, and broken sleep.
You don’t want to rush the diet phase. Go back to biofeedback. This stuff is important. Dieting too soon is unhealthy long term for your body.
Hire a coach and go through a reverse diet. THEN spend a month at maintenance. HEAL your body. Again, it’s needed. Trust me.
Are you actually failing?
The last one is my favorite one...because it’s common. I don’t know how many times I get someone on the phone, in my DMs or via email say they’re not seeing results when in fact...they are. I had a client convinced she wasn’t seeing results when in reality she had lost 15lbs, had more freedom around food, and was crushing her workouts.
Another client had no change on the scale. He took progress photos and saw that all the body fat he lost, he now had muscle! That didn’t change the number on the scale but his body composition sure did change.
Take progress pictures or measurements. Track your biofeedback. Record PRs at the gym. Enjoy sleeping through the night.
THERE’S SO MUCH ROOM FOR SUCCESS...if you open your eyes to it.
The number on the scale doesn’t matter if you’re happy and crushing life. Just because you’re losing 0.5lb/week doesn’t mean you’re failing. That’s actually a really great rate of weight loss.
If you lost a pound every week for a year, that’s 52lbs. For two years, that’s 104lbs. There comes a time where having the scale as your only marker for progress isn’t going to work anymore.
Don’t let the media get in your head with false hopes and expectations on your weight loss journey. It’s YOUR journey. It’s going to be slow and tedious. In fact, the SLOWER the better because it’s likely going to last longer and be more sustainable.
These are just SIX ways to re-evaluate your weight loss period. Try one and wait (probably at least a month). Then try another if what you tried didn’t work.