It’s Monday morning at 6am, you spring out of bed excited to hop on the scale and do your first weigh-in after week one of the latest weight loss plan. When you stepped on the scale last week, it said 220 pounds, and that was it, you knew something had to change. You went out that day and got a gym membership and have exercised every day since then.
You run to the bathroom, hop on the scale and….220.5?!?!? You’re floored, dejected, and most of all confused. You think to yourself, how could this happen? You worked hard; you seemingly did everything right, and nothing! You’re frustrated, demotivated, and instead of putting your gym clothes on and driving to the gym to start week two of your program, you go back to bed thinking you just weren’t meant to lose weight.
Does this frustrating chain of events sound familiar? For many, It surely does. Weight loss, although the most common fitness goal is also the most frustrating, it doesn’t need to be though. Let’s explore the three most common reasons you’re not losing weight, and a little bit about how to fix them.
1) You’re Eating Too Much
At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, I can assure you this is the number one reason most people aren’t losing weight. In order to lose weight you have to expend more calories than what you’re consuming. In order to do that you have to actually KNOW what you’re consuming. To do that, you have to food log, there’s no way around it.
When you start an exercise program, your body will actually increase your drive to eat. The body likes stability and consistency, so while you may want weight loss, you’re body doesn’t necessarily like being thrown out of its stable state. As a result, your drive to eat INCREASES when you start exercising, so although you may expend an additional 350 calories every day from exercise, if you’re not aware of your intake, you’ll probably consume an additional 350 calories of food. Low and behold the deficit you tried to create is negated and you’re not losing weight.
There is only one solution to this, food log daily (through any number of free apps or websites) and reduce your normal intake by 300-500 calories, that coupled with the extra 350 calories burned from exercise will mean the loss of more than a pound and a half per week.
2) You’ve “Damaged” Your Metabolism
“Damaged” metabolism isn’t necessarily a clinically accurate term, but for purposes of this article we’ll use it. Yo-yo dieting (going on and off several diets), being in extreme OR sustained calorie deficits (like eating less than 1000 calories per day), and weight cycling (losing and gaining back weight, even small amounts), can all lead to a “damaged” metabolism. This damage is essentially the down regulation of metabolic processes that we clinically refer to as Adaptive Thermogenesis (AT).
AT is a complex concept and explaining it fully is well beyond the scope of this article. However, if you’re food logging, eating a low amount of calories (< 1400/day for a women or < 1800 for man) and NOT losing weight there’s chance you could be dealing with a damaged metabolism. There are protocols in place to deal with this metabolic state (for example calorie progressions supervised by qualified professionals), but make no mistake, having a “DAMAGED” metabolism can make losing weight difficult. If you think you fit the profile of someone who may have a damaged metabolism you should seek professional guidance on addressing the issue.
3) You have Unrealistic Expectations
Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight and because of that, weight loss certainly won’t. In our story at the beginning of this article we see the lack of patience typically exhibited by most people entering into a weight loss program. In the first week of exercise, loss of fat tissue can effectively be counteracted by increase in lean mass (like swelling in the muscles due to the new “trauma” of exercise).
Regardless of the source, unrealistic expectations stop a process like this dead in its tracks, causing people to lose motivation and stop their program. Despite what you might see on television or in magazine ads, weight loss takes time. Maximum rates of healthy and maintainable weight loss are about two pounds per week. Much more lost than that is generally muscle (not fat) tissue, and two pounds per week is really a maximum rate of reduction, many people will lose closer to 1-1.5lbs per week. The moral of the story is: be patient! Take your time and celebrate small incremental success. Most people are 20-30 weeks away from their weight loss goal (if not more). Give yourself permission to take the time you need. You’re worth it.
Take Home Message
Don’t be that person in our example from the beginning of this article. Food log, address your “damaged” metabolism, and have realistic expectations. If you can do these three things I guarantee you weight loss success.