I’m doing everything right… why am I not losing weight?!
Bare with me on this, I have a short(ish) story for you that will hopefully make a lot of sense.
Here’s a classic scenario I see that often stops people losing weight.
You know that to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie defecit – i.e. burning off more calories than you are consuming.
So you try to eat low calorie during the week. Maybe you count calories using an app like my fitness pal (I recommend doing this at least for a few weeks to learn what’s in the food you eat), or maybe you just consciously eat less. Either way, lets say you end up eating 1500 calories each day during the week.
Keeping things very simple, let’s assume your body is burning an average of 2000 calories per day. These calories are the total amount your body burns from literally everything that you do – walking around, digesting food, breathing, exercising – everything. Some days may be more (when you exercise or move around a lot) and some days may be less (when you sit down for most of the day) but overall your average is 2000 calories per day.
Sticking to 1500 calories per day Monday to Friday, you will have created a 2500 calorie defecit by the weekend.
This is great – you’ve done well and are on track to lose a pound that is largely made up of fat (particularly if you’ve done weights training and eaten enough protein).
You feel like you’ve done well and deserve to relax a bit at the weekend. You’re going out for dinner and want to enjoy it (as you should) and have a few drinks with friends.
You eat normally at breakfast (poached egg on toast), then meet a friend for lunch. There’s not a lot of choice, so you go for a cheese and ham toastie. It comes dripping with cheese and contains 600 calories. You don’t realise it has this much, so you order a latte too. That gives you another 250 calories. Still unaware of this, you grab a slice of cake while you continue chatting. Add another 400 calories. Lunch has now come to a total of 1250 calories.
Aware lunch wasn’t great, but not aware of the calories, you don’t eat anything else until your meal out with friends for dinner.
Starving by the time you arrive at the restaurant, you order a starter of soup with bread. It seems healthy, but it’s been made with full fat cream and comes in at 400 calories with the bread, even avoiding the knob of butter they gave you too.
Main course…steak and chips look nice. You’ve been good all week, and you love steak. It comes fried in a generous helping of butter, along with some very tasty thick cut double fried chips. Add 1000 calories.
And then there’s pudding…a small slice of lemon cheesecake sounds delicious and quite light (you think hopefully). It is quite light, but still adds another 500 calories to your meal.
Finally, among friends, you share a couple of bottles of wine, and this adds another 600 calories.
You’ve now consumed 2500 calories in a single meal, plus 1250 calories at lunch, and a 300 calorie breakfast, bringing your total for the day to 3950 calories.
In one day, you’ve eaten 1950 calories more than your body needs, and gone a considerable way towards cancelling out the 2500 calorie defecit you’ve spent the last 5 days creating.
Even if you went back to hitting calories perfectly on Sunday, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see weight loss this week.
And this is why people often get stuck. It only takes a few ‘bad choices’ to cancel out a lot of good choices.
I definitely don’t want you to think you can’t enjoy a bit of cake and a meal out here and there – you absolutely CAN do this and still lose weight. In fact I encourage my clients to do this, because constant restriction will never lead to long term success – you need to have what you really fancy every now and then. But you do need to be aware of your choices and how easily calories can rack up.
When you go out it’s particularly hard to know how much you’re eating as you don’t know the amounts of various ingredients. Some dishes can appear very healthy, but if they have a few of tablespoons of butter or oil added, it dramatically increases the calorific cost of that meal.
You might not have all these things in one day – it might be over a few days, or even a week.
You might have different things that are equally high in calories. Cheese and chocolate are two big ones, or a few handfuls of nuts mindlessly snacked on because they were there. Whether you track calories or not, it’s easy to let the odd ‘snack’, lunch, dinner, slice of cake, latte and few glasses of wine slip into your weekly intake.
If you’re not losing weight as you feel you should be, take a closer look at your diet and see if this might apply to you. There might be better choices you can still make, or you might need to compromise at dinner – if you really want wine, have steak with salad rather than chips, or skip the starter and dessert. If lunch goes wrong and you end up eating more calories than you planned, you may need to reign it in at dinner. If you have some cake in the morning while out with a friend, make sure lunch and dinner are good choices so that the cake fits in ok. Small choices can add up to big differences over time.
If you want to be able to enjoy a few food splurges more than you currently are able to, your other option is to increase your exercise. Weights training is most effective, but interval training is also a great option, and simply walking more will help a lot.
It ultimately boils down to the balance between calories in and calories out.
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not losing weight – become a detective and find what’s holding you back.
And remember that once you’ve lost the weight, you may actually be able to INCREASE the amount you eat over time. Training with weights, eating healthy natural foods most of the time, getting enough protein, and walking regularly will mean your muscles become stronger and more active and your body gets better at using the calories you take in.
Hope this helps!
MORE FROM ME: