One of the first things most people do to lose weight is reducing the number of calories they consume per day. Makes sense, right? The less you eat, the more you lose!
Well, it doesn't always work out that way.
It’s common for people to initially drop a lot of weight following this strategy, but don’t let those results fool you. It may come as a shock, but eventually, our bodies hit a plateau pretty early on if our only strategy is to decrease the number of calories we’re eating.
Don’t get me wrong, it is important to monitor caloric and macronutrient intake if you want to lose weight. For someone who is overweight or obese, not being in a caloric deficit will make it impossible to lose weight, especially if physical activity has remained the same.
So what do we do if weight loss has come to a screeching halt?
Increase your calories. Yes, you read that right. It is totally possible that you may not be getting enough calories and nutrients in your diet. If you find yourself eating less than 1300–1500 calories for a female, and 1600-1800 for a male, and you can’t seem to lose weight, I would highly recommend trying the reverse dieting method. With this strategy, you slowly and steadily increase your calories, and it may be the solution your body needs to work optimally.
Move More. Calories from food and drinks may be down, but what are you doing to move more? If you’re not too familiar with resistance training, start small by just going for a walk every day for 30 minutes. Doing this alone can help you burn 100 to 300 calories a day, which equates to a 700 to 2100 calories a week. Over the span of a few months, that can mean a lot in terms of weight-loss!
Take a Break. You could be doing TOO much. If you are overtraining and in a calorie deficit, your body is probably screaming for rest. The last thing your body wants to do when it is in a constant state of stress (meaning intense, calorie-burning workouts and strict dieting) is to lose weight and burn fat. If you feel like you’re pushing yourself to the max, and can’t seem to lose weight, take a week off and see what happens. This isn’t an excuse to go nuts with your diet; still be mindful of what you’re eating, while also focusing on recovery and active rest so that you can physically (and mentally) reset.
Also, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you REALLY in a calorie deficit? Or do you just think you are? Little bites here and there add up, and more often than not, people underestimate how many calories they eat by as much as 300 to 500 per day. Being that far off with your calorie-count will severely thwart any progress you wish you make with your weight-loss goals.
I highly recommend counting calories for at least a few weeks. The first thing you need to do is know what your daily calorie intake is now, then determine how much of a calorie deficit you want to be in. If you don’t plan on increasing your daily activity (which I highly recommend you do), you’ll probably end up decreasing your calories at a greater percentage than someone who plans on adding more physical activity to their routine. The more calories you burn through exercise, the less you’ll probably need to cut back on in your diet.
And when you track your food, track everything. Yes, even that bite of your kid’s mac n’ cheese. It really helps to maintain a consistent eating routine, so that eventually, you can estimate how much you’re eating per day without even logging it.
I like to rotate between 3 or 4 different breakfasts and lunches, and then I have an arsenal of nutritious snacks that I turn to when I’m on the-go. This way, I’m not really stressing about calories and I can just enjoy my meal! Because in the end, the last thing we want is for our lives to revolve around calories.