Have you ever stated a new diet, felt like you were working really hard, then hopped on the scale… and nothing. You’re around the same weight.
This can be really discouraging, so let’s dive into what could be the culprit:
- You weren’t in a true caloric deficit: Macro calculators are imperfect. They don’t take into context past dieting history (shout out to yo-yo dieters), your NEAT levels (daily steps, fighting, talking etc), medical conditions, and the like. If you have an extensive dieting history, your calories will be lower than expected to achieve weight loss. If you have hypothyroidism, your calories will be lower than expected for weight loss. The bottom line being, if you’re not losing weight, you’re not in a true caloric deficit. No one is exempt from this.
- You’re not consistent with calories or workouts: On track Monday-Friday, then get easy breezy Saturday- Sunday? This can truly kill all of your results. It’s extremely easy to undo your deficit over 5 days in 2 days. Think of your calories as a weekly average, rather than a daily one. Workout 6x one week, then 1x the next week? These fluctuations in workout habits can be enough to take you out of a deficit. Get realistic about how likely you are to stick to your workout program. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a daily steps goal, rather than a rigorous 5x a week workout schedule.
- Fibre, carbs, water, and sleep are inconsistent: All of these are major factors in water weight fluctuations. It’s possible that the scale isn’t on your side because of water changes- not body fat. Get the measuring tape out and take weekly measurements in addition to you body weight. If your weight is staying the same, but your measurements are decreasing, you ARE losing body fat! Don’t panic, and stay the course.
- You underestimated the power of NEAT: Non exercise activity thermogenesis. This includes things like how much you walk, right down to how much you talk. These factors might seem minuscule, but over the course of a week these influences can really add up. Did you know that your NEAT levels decrease as soon as you start dieting? Our bodies are quite intelligent, and can detect the energy balance changes. It’s trying to preserve weight, because it thinks you’re in a food poor environment. This kind of intelligence keeps you alive during famines. A way to account for this artificially is to keep track of your daily steps. NEAT will still go down in other ways, but this is one method of keeping your NEAT (mostly) consistent, so you don’t have to lower calories too quickly to see continued progress.
- Inflammation: This one is fickle. You may be losing body fat, but the scale might not reflect it if there’s substantial inflammation going on. This is the same reason why someone’s body weight might increase the day after a tough leg workout. Inflammation brings water, increasing the scale. The same thing happens to those with gut issues (bloating!). If you’re celiac, and eating gluten frequently, you might not see the progress you’d like. The inflammatory response will draw water to your abdominal region, making you appear bigger than you actually are. Take inventory of what foods don’t agree with you, and avoid them when possible.
- Time: Are you upset your weight is the same after a week? Girl, same. I wish progress would be immediate, but that isn’t the reality. Weight loss takes time. I don’t adjust my client’s calories unless they’ve plateaued for 2 weeks or more. Get realistic about your goals, and the time it’ll take. Dramatic, quick results don’t last.
- You’re flexible dieting too hard. While a caloric deficit is all that matters for weight loss, quality of food still matters. I like to follow an 80/ 20 rule of whole foods to ‘fun’ foods with my clients. This prevents micronutrient deficiencies long term.
- Tracking errors: Are you weighing/measuring your food? Are you double checking food labels vs My Fitness Pal to make sure they line up? Are you sneaking foods in without accounting for them? Are you tracking the oils you cooked your food in? Are you eating out often? Tracking errors can easily take you out of a deficit.
- Your diet pays no regard to calories: Eating ‘super healthy,’ but not losing weight? This is likely the issue. Calories still matter. A handful of nuts, while nutritious, can easily run you 500 calories alone. If you’re eating well, but not losing weight, you’re still consuming more calories than your body needs to lose weight. Ideally your diet reflects both healthy whole foods, and calories/macros.
- Stress: Stress can affect digestion, sleep, hormone functions, water retention… everything. If you’re going through a really tough time in your life, this is not the time to start a weight loss diet. If you’re getting overwhelmed with day to day tasks, make sure you carve out ‘you’ time daily. Ideally, this will be time spent in your parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’ system. Reading, meditation, baths, massage, deep breathing techniques, journaling, family time (if positive), are all great examples. The only thing I ask is that it’s time spent away from screen time.
These are the top reasons why you’re not seeing results from your diet. This is why having a coach is instrumental in seeing continued progress- they can suss out the nuances of weight loss. As discussed, it can become a lot on your own. Be kind to yourself as you make changes. Real change is going to take time, and mentally beating yourself up isn’t going to get you anywhere productive.
Keep in mind, your weight is the least interesting thing about you.