Losing weight isn’t easy. Our biology doesn’t work in our favour. Our bodies are built to try and retain as much energy as they can. It all comes from our hunter-gatherer days. That’s why we store fat.
Unfortunately, in today’s society, that’s not really a requirement most of us need. In fact, the opposite is true. But we haven’t quite evolved to do things that way round, so weight loss is really us fighting against our instinctive biological processes.
Losing weight is a challenge most people have embarked on at some point in their life. Successfully, or not. Either way, we all know it’s a long and frustrating process that often sees a lot of trial and error.
Whatever tactic you try, the fundamental principle to weight loss is a calorie deficit. There’s no other way to achieve it. It’s the sole cause of reducing body weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. But applying that science to real life is where it gets tricky.
If you feel like you’ve been putting the effort in for a while now but getting nothing out, here are the most common reasons why the weight isn’t being lost.
And before we start, we always like to caveat that weight loss isn’t for everyone. You decide your goals. Whatever they are, focus on feeling good.
1. Not tracking your intake
Without knowing how many calories you’re eating, it’s hard to tell whether or not you’re in a deficit. Calorie counting isn’t for everyone, but it’s a handy tool for those looking to lose weight.
It also helps educate you about portion sizes, low-calorie options, and encourages you to eat more fruit and vegetables. This is because of their high volume but low energy density. You can have a meal that looks huge but contains a lower number of calories when it’s packed full of your 5 a day.
2. Not moving enough
The easiest way to increase the number of calories you burn during the day is to move more. And not the type of movement that requires heavy sweating and gym gear.
Going for a walk, cleaning the house, taking the stairs. This type of general physical activity is quickly going to increase your total calorie burn for the day without you even realising.
When you shift your focus to moving more, you don’t rely on a restrictive diet as much. Because you’re creating that calorie deficit differently.
3. Relying on a fitness tracker too much
Fitness trackers are beneficial in relation to point 2. Measuring your general activity level and seeing the total number of calories your burn in a day gives you an insight into how much impact moving more has.
But when it comes to tracking gym workouts, runs, or sports, most fitness trackers have a tendency to over-estimate. Plus, it can never be entirely accurate in understanding your metabolism. It sometimes reports a calorie burn figure a little higher than reality. This means, your calorie deficit could be much lower than you thought, or even not exist at all.
4. Overestimating how many calories you need
There are lots of average calculations that can give you an indication of how many calories you need. None of them are ever entirely accurate. They can’t take into account individualities like genetics and body composition.
The only way to truly know how many calories you need is by listening to your body. Following natural hunger cues and feelings of fatigue is a good start. But in our modern world, that’s quite hard to do. However, once you start monitoring your calories, you’ll know if you’ve overestimated or underestimated how many you need by your rate of weight gain or loss.
5. Eating healthily but high calorie
Healthy and low-calorie foods don’t always go hand in hand. Healthy foods are those packed with the essential nutrients the body needs to survive. They offer us vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, and energy sources that allow us to thrive and function. However, these nutritious foods aren’t always low in calories.
Nuts, avocados, beans, pulses, olive oil. These are foods that can be considered healthy, but they pack a punch when it comes to calories. Even for a small portion. Without understanding the amount of energy they come with, you can easily consume more than you need without even realising.
6. Ignoring what happens on the weekend
It’s easy to think the weekend is a time to relax the diet and enjoy more treats. And you’d be totally right. It is. A diet that doesn’t allow for the enjoyment of food and is overly restrictive will never be successful.
However, it’s easy to undo any calorie deficit created in the week by overdoing it at the weekend without realising. This usually happens because of a diet that was too harsh and restrictive during the week. It then becomes a bit of a cycle. Diet hard, lose control, then diet hard again. Not only is this an ineffective way to lose weight, but it can also trigger an unhealthy relationship with food.
A little bit of self-compassion and patience is a much better tactic. Pick a diet and a routine that works for you and doesn’t impact your lifestyle too much. Track your calories every day of the week, even on the days you’re planning to be more relaxed. This way, you can monitor your total calorie burn across the week and not day today.
7. Not waiting long enough
Arguably the most challenging thing about weight loss is that it takes a long time — especially the type of weight loss that is sustainable and kept off in the long run.
It’s also expected that after an immediate surge in progress, you start to plateau. That’s normal. Remember to be patient with it. Focus on small steps and little goals that motivate you to keep going.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, it might help to have a look at some of the reasons why. Whatever way you go about it, remember that weight loss isn’t for everyone. Exercise offers many more benefits than just calorie burn. It’s worth doing for loads of reasons. Focus on feeling good and define fitness for yourself.