Help! I’m Eating In A Calorie Deficit And Not Losing Weight!
One of the most common things I hear each day in consultations with weight loss clients is “I’m doing everything right. I’m eating in a deficit and exercising but I’m not losing weight”. Believe me, I understand the frustration that goes along with this feeling. Having been a serial yo-yo dieter I’ve said this phrase a lot of times over the years. Either I was starting something new or I was on some program and had reached a plateau and couldn’t figure out how to bust through it. If only I could go back and tell myself the things I know now. I could have saved myself so much frustration and wasted effort.
Unfortunately, I can not go back. I can tell you all what I know now though. Let’s start by establishing how we achieve weight loss. There is one way and one way only to lose weight. A calorie deficit. There are many ways to achieve a calorie deficit and we can dive into those in another post at another time. For now let's just say that all the popular fad and named diets help you lose weight by putting you in a caloric deficit.
So you decided to go on a diet and you’re making healthier food choices. You are eating less and you are exercising. Yet despite your efforts that number on the scale just is not moving at all. If you’re anything like me this will go on for a little while and you will eventually give up and try some stupid fad diet, get results, learn nothing and regain the weight. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
My first question to you as a coach is going to be “Are you tracking your food”. Most often the answer is no but many experienced dieters are tracking their intake but still not seeing results. There are a couple different reasons this might be.
Body recomposition. I’ll go into this one first because it’s honestly the least likely cause of the problem for beginners. Basically this means that you are losing body fat while building muscle. If you are strength training, in a deficit or at maintenance, and getting the proper amount of protein you this may be what is happening. That being said if this is the case you will see results in circumference measurements, progress pictures and the way your clothing fits.
Not actually being in a caloric deficit. This is honestly the most common reason you are not seeing the results you want. Trust me I realize this is a hard pill to swallow. Especially when you honestly believe that you are.
So let’s talk more about how we can troubleshoot this. First we need to figure out how much you are currently eating and how it is affecting your weight. The most effective way to go about this is to weigh yourself, track your food intake for one week with no changes, and weigh yourself again at the end of the week. We can tell by how your body responds if you are in a deficit. If your weight increases you are in a surplus. If your weight stays the same you are in maintenance and if it decreases you are in a deficit.
Most commonly what I see is people logging as though they are in a severe deficit. I’m talking 1200-1400 calories a day but yet they aren’t losing weight. So now we begin the investigation. There is some disconnect in tracking that is causing you to underestimate the amount you are consuming. A few common ones are:
Eyeballing food. Sure for some people in the beginning using the plate method or eyeballing the quantity of food they consume could yield some results. However most of us are so used to overeating that we have completely distorted ideas about what a portion of food looks like. If you are not using a scale then you are guessing. Now, hear me out, I’m not saying you have to use a scale forever. However weighing food is a skill and a tool that can be used to help you correct that distorted idea of portion size.
Weighing foods raw but tracking and measuring food as cooked. This is a huge disconnect I personally made in the beginning. I didn’t realize there was a difference. There is and it can be massive. 4 ounces of raw meat has a different calorie count than 4 ounces of cooked meat. ½ cup of dry rice is very different from ½ cup of cooked rice. There’s differing opinions on which is the better way to track. My opinion, what worked for me while losing 115 lbs, and what works for my clients is that it doesn’t matter if you do it raw or cooked. It matters that you pick one and you are consistent with it. I weigh everything cooked. It’s what works and is easiest for me.
Oil. The oil that you cook your food in. This one is huge. We use oil in our pans. Again if you’re anything like me you do 4 or 5 swirls around the pan and throw your lean meat and veggies in to saute. Unknowingly you just added a few hundred calories to your meal. Do that daily and boom there goes your deficit.
Eyeballing coffee creamer. Even the sugar free and fat free versions of coffee creamer can be incredibly calorically dense. A serving is generally 1-2 tablespoons and can be anywhere from 30 to 80 calories depending on what you choose. Listen, I'm certainly not saying to skip the cream. I am saying it needs to be measured and tracked especially if you drink multiple cups of coffee a day.
Of course I could go on and on about disconnects in tracking that put you out of a deficit. These are the four most common and the four I personally struggle with. If you need a little help troubleshooting your calorie goal drop me a comment or book that free call. You can lose the weight and keep it off forever and you can do it in a healthy way that doesn’t sacrifice your quality of life. I’d love to help you get started.