You’ve been doing everything right. Eating less, moving more, working out, and that scale still won’t budge. It’s all too common, and frustrating as hell. Why bother going through all that work if it’s not leading to any changes? Give this a read before you throw in the proverbial (also literal) towel and see if you’re making any of the mistakes listed below.
1: You’re eating more than you think you are. It’s really easy to take in far more calories than you think you are if you’re not incredibly familiar with serving sizes. A measured tablespoon of peanut butter has approximately 95 calories. A big ole spoonful of the peanuty goodness can have 3-4 times that amount. I think one of the biggest culprits can actually be salad dressings. I’ve yet to meet someone who actually measures out the amount of dressing that they put on.* Without being careful on this end, that healthy 500 calorie grilled chicken salad turns into an 800 calorie meal laden with fat and sometimes sugar depending on the dressing. It is very easy to consume far more calories than you’re accounting for if you don’t pay attention to these serving sizes. If you need a handy guide for measuring on the go, check out this Precision Nutrition infographic. Otherwise, weigh and measure. The results will be worth the pain in the ass.
2: You’re not eating enough. This is actually more common than you think. It’s generally more likely to happen with people who are only trying to lose 5-10 pounds, but it can also be the culprit for people who have a lot of weight to lose. The formula for weight loss is pretty simple. Calories consumed < Calories burned. The problem with this is that calories burned is not always as simple as we would like. Hormones, activity, resting metabolic rate and a thousand other hard to quantify factors can all change how calories are burned. Long boring explanation made short, if you don’t fuel the metabolism with enough food to keep it burning brightly, the flame goes out, metabolism slows down, and instead of burning calories, the body starts reserving everything. This is the most common cause of people rebounding on diets. Once your metabolism slows its harder and harder to lose weight and keep it off. I like to have people start conservatively with calorie reductions. If you can lose weight while keeping calories relatively high, you’ll be less likely to lose muscle and can keep your metabolism higher as you diet down.
3: You’re not getting enough nutrients: This one kind of goes along with the previous point. A lot of people will slash calories without taking into account the actual nutrient content of the food they’re eating. If your idea of diet food is a buffet of Smart Choice frozen meals, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re hitting your calories goals. You should be eating a wide selection of plenty of vegetables, and even then I still recommend a quality multivitamin, a powdered greens or superfoods supplement, and an Omega-3 supplement to fill any nutritional gaps. The micronutrients are used in so many different bodily functions, a lot of which are related to metabolism. If your nutrient intake is low, your metabolism is slow. This should go without saying, but DRINK YOUR WATER! If you are dehydrated, your workouts are subpar, you are probably feeling hungry when you’re actually thirsty, and your body has a difficult time breaking down and burning fat. Don’t argue here. Just drink your water.
4: You’re not sleeping enough. A single night of bad sleep can reduce your metabolic rate by 5-20%. That may not seem like much, but the effects quickly add up. Let’s look at numbers real quick. If your body is burning 2000 calories a day, and you’re in a 500 calorie deficit, you would expect to be losing a pound a week. Now, if you’re chronically sleep deprived, your metabolic rate could be dropped by 20%, which puts you down to a maintenance level of 1600 calories. This could take you five times longer to lose that same pound. Not only will it take much longer to see the results you want, you’re more likely to be cranky, and no one wants to deal with you if you’re a jerk. Just saying. Make sure you are getting a bare MINIMUM of six hours a night, and preferably between 7-9 depending on your individual needs.
5: You’re too stressed. I cannot stress this point enough. Even if your nutrition is on par, you’re getting adequate sleep, and you’re working out consistently, progress will be damn near impossible if you cannot get your stress under control. The body reacts to physical and mental or emotional stress in very similar manners. As cortisol gets released in the body from any of these stress scenarios, muscle gets broken down and fat accumulates, especially in the belly. Figure out your stress sources and do your absolute best to crush them, so you can go back to crushing your fitness goals.
6: You haven’t given it enough time. Consistency is key whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or just get stronger. If you’ve only been sticking to your diet and exercise plan for a couple weeks and you haven’t seen results, it’s time to work something else: patience. It didn’t take you a couple weeks to get into your current condition, it won’t take a couple weeks to get out of it. If you do manage to get super fast results, you’re less likely to actually make them stick since you haven’t established the habits that are going to make your changes permanent. It may take 3-4 weeks for your body to even adjust to the changes you’re making and start losing the weight. If you’re not seeing any changes after a month, it’s time to make an adjustment in one of the key areas previously mentioned.
Don’t get too down on yourself if you’ve been working hard and not seeing results. Acknowledge that there are probably holes in your strategy that need to be addressed, address them, and start getting the results you’ve been working for.
*Obviously these people exist. I’m actually one of them. OCD is nothing to laugh at.
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