You’re eating healthy food, you’re exercising, you’re making a real effort to shift those pounds – but it’s not working.

What’s going on?

Firstly, don’t panic! In this blog, I’ll go through the reasons why you might not be getting anywhere – or at least why you might not be seeing the number on the scales dropping as quickly as you’d like.

1. You’re not in a calorie deficit

This is the big one.

You will only lose fat (or see a change on the scales over time) if you are using more calories than you consume ie if you are in a calorie deficit.

The deficit doesn’t have to be huge – even having 100kcal less each day will result in fat loss. If you were cutting out 400-500kcal per day, you’d see results more quickly. (Note: every body is unique and a deficit will look different to each of us, depending age, gender, size, lifestyle, goals etc. Best to speak to a nutrition practitioner for help with assessing your personal calorie needs).

Unfortunately, knowing our calorie intake is at best a reasonable estimate. There are so many variables, both related to our body and to the food we eat, the best thing we can do is aim to consume calories within a range, with even the higher end leaving you in an effective deficit.

So, what if you’re tracking your calories but you’re not seeing any changes?

Well, if you’ve given it long enough (see point 2 below) and you’re getting nowhere, it’s highly likely that you aren’t in the deficit you think you are (sorry).

Maybe you’re underestimating portion sizes, or forgetting to include in your daily tally any drinks, or veg, or condiments, or the kids’ leftovers, or the bits you eat while watching tv? Perhaps you’re overestimating how active you are, or forgetting about your food intake at weekends or social events? Being on track Monday to Thursday can easily be cancelled out by a couple of takeaways and a few drinks Friday to Sunday.

These things would be the first ones to address because the inescapable truth is that if you are consistently in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.

2. It’s early days

If you’ve been in a fat loss phase (or dieting) for a few days, it’s too soon to see results.

You may have found in the past that some commercial or extreme diet plans cause your scale weight to plummet in the early days, and find it frustrating that the same thing isn’t happening when you try to lose fat in a more sensible way.

That “5lbs in a week” thing from those crash diets isn’t fat melting away, it’s mostly water. Water is stored alongside carbohydrates in your muscles; when you use up those carb stores by not eating much (especially if that means on a low-carb / keto type diet), the water is released. This makes you look lighter on the scales but it’s only really a temporary effect. It can certainly be motivating, but it’s a bit meaningless when your aim is to lose body fat, not water.

If you’re taking a slower, less drastic approach, it can be 2-3 weeks until you see the scales start to shift.

3. You’re putting too much (metaphorical) weight on the scales

Bodyweight scales are just one measure of fat loss progress, and not a particularly great one.

Daily fluctuations can obscure what’s actually going on and cause disheartening results: it’s best to take a long view of bodyweight to see a downward trend.

What about other measures of progress? Ones that are more reliable and mean more to you?

Think about your clothes: are things getting a little looser or more comfortable? You could even monitor this more objectively by taking monthly measurements and noting any changes.

What about your food behaviours? You’ll be developing positive habits all the time and these should be celebrated as that’s the trickiest part of most fat loss attempts.

Other factors like energy levels, sleep quality, food variety, digestive health, activity levels, overall fitness and how you feel on the inside (physically and mentally) are so much more meaningful than a number on a screen.

4. Beware of the fitness watch

Your wearable can be a great source of data and information, but it isn’t particularly accurate when it comes to measuring your daily calorie expenditure. Just because your wrist tells you that you are within your calorie goal doesn’t mean that you are – it could be enough off the mark to negate your efforts. Much better not to rely on it too heavily but to keep aware of changes to your body as time goes on.

So to recap…. if you think you’re doing everything you should but you’re not making progress, check:

  • that you are actually in a calorie deficit (cut down your food intake a little for a couple of weeks and see what happens)
  • that you aren’t inflating the impact of exercise and eating “because I’ve just burnt this off in the gym”
  • if you are making progress in non-scale ways (how you look, how you feel, what you do)
  • if you are taking the fitness tracker too literally – you know best what’s happening to your body, so be guided by that as much as you can

It can be really hard to see what’s going on when you are right in the middle of all of this, and so emotionally invested in your efforts. Talking things through with someone else can reassure you that you’re doing ok, or help you to make the changes to get the results you want.

For support with your fat-loss journey, give me a call, it’d be a pleasure to help.