Losing weight can seem elusive. For some, they feel the harder they try, the harder it is. How can it seem like you are doing everything right and still getting nowhere?
Underestimating What You Eat
Let’s just say 2,000 calories is your maintenance. If we want to lose weight, that means we need a 500 calorie deficit daily (so now we are at 1500 calories to start weight loss). On Monday-Friday you follow that. Saturday and Sunday you go out with friends and off the diet a little and you eat 2,500 calories both days because you overindulged. 2,500 calories is not hard to hit for any of us. What is the result at the end of the week? You spent 5 days in a nice deficit, but then overate by 500 calories during the weekend. Instead of being in a weekly deficit of 3500 calories it has now come down to 1500. What this means is it’ll take twice as long for you to lose the weight as the deficit has come down significantly.
This is what leads many people to feel like they’re constantly undereating, but never getting anywhere. You are trapping yourself in a vicious cycle where you aren’t dieting enough to lose weight consistently, but just enough to experience all the worse aspects of it. If you are going to diet, you have to commit to the process so that you aren’t spinning your wheels. Stick to that 500 calorie deficit, and try not to slip up during the weekend only to offset all your hard work during the week.
Not Eating Protein
Eating enough protein is another huge component to getting to the body you want. Muscle is calorically expensive to maintain, especially in a diet. If the body has a choice, it would rather burn through muscle than eat up fat when dieting. For this reason, we need to make sure we are providing more than enough excuses to hold onto that precious muscle. This involves following a proper workout regimen that will keep the muscle building signal elevated. This also involves eating enough protein to fuel the building blocks to build or keep the muscle we already have.
If we don’t do this, we risk our body eating away at our muscle and keeping the fat. The result is a smaller, flabbier version of yourself. You will see the scale move down, but you will not look any different in the mirror. So make sure to keep your protein high! Aim for 1g/lb of your goal bodyweight. This will provide more than enough protein to get you that tone look.
Burning Less Calories Than You Think
One final issue I’d like to bring up is most people burn less calories than they think. Particularly when we diet down, over time, we burn less and less calories. When less food is coming in, our metabolism will start to tamper down to make up for the lack of calories coming in to preserve energy. We also tend to just not burn as many calories as we take in.
During lockdowns, I was still working out 5 days a week but eating my same 2300-2500 calories. I found myself slowly gaining body fat and couldn’t figure out why. If I’m still training 5 days a week and eating the same way, how could I be gaining fat? It turned out, my NEAT had gone down. NEAT is all the moving you do outside of working out in your day to day. Before lockdowns, at my job I was on my feet all day getting 13,000 steps. Being stuck at home that was all gone. I was averaging 4,000-6,000 steps a day. The lesson learned here was how important being intentional about your movement throughout the day is. You don’t have to go crazy and be doing excess cardio and movement 24/7. Cardio is not the key to a successful weight loss journey, however, for overall health, we should still be intentionally pursuing daily movement. For simplicity sake this can be 10,000 steps a day. Don’t be rigid on that number, but use it as a guide to make sure you aren’t spending most of your day being sedentary. This will help kickstart any fat loss plateau you may be having.