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Why you're not losing weight in a calorie deficit?




Have you been eating less and working out more yet not seeing the scale move? Well, you're not alone. In fact, according to recent research, the majority of women who diet experience stalled or no weight loss after their first few months of calorie restriction. So what's going on? Today we're discussing the possible reasons why you might be struggling to lose weight in a calorie deficit – despite your best efforts.


1. Scale weight is masking fat loss

Changes in weight can often mask fat loss (or gains). For example, you may see the number on the scale go up even though you are eating in a calorie deficit and working out regularly.


This doesn't mean you are getting "fatter". It's likely due to factors such as:


- Water retention: This can be caused by things like sodium intake, stress, menstruation, and other factors.


-Glycogen stores: Glycogen is stored carbohydrate and it binds to water. So when glycogen stores are full, you will hold more water weight.


Food in the gut, digestion rates and bowel movements (how much food passing through your body) will also impact your scale weight.


This is the reason why you may sometimes see a large spike in weight after a weekend. However this isn't something to be too concerned about.


For arguments sake, let’s say your daily calories are 1,800. Although it’s not absolutely true, let’s go with the notion that 1lb of fat is 3,500 calories and that every calorie over your daily allowance will store as fat (which it doesn’t). This means you would have to eat around 9,000 kcals to put on just 2lbs. Eating 9000 calories in a day is really not that easy!


Let’s look at a little bit of research too:


1. Overeating on peanuts and sweets for 2 weeks (an extra 20 calories per kg of BW), that’s an EXTRA 1800 for me, only put on 0.3kg and 0.8kg respectively. *Hardly anything* - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19396658


2. Subjects bumped up kcals to 50% ABOVE their energy requirements and only gained around 1kg (half of which was fat) over 2 weeks - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7598063


In short, a few days of overeating really won’t make much of a difference to fat gain.


This can be a very frustrating process. If you're not seeing results after working out regularly and eating well, it may lead to giving up and quitting altogether. Or, making changes that are counterintuitive such as cutting calories too low, which makes sticking with the programme even harder!





How to get around this?


Track your progress correctly. At Box Nutrition I recommend a few key steps:


  1. Take the number at face value - Use your weight as a metric of where you are now rather than a measurement of success or failure. Use it to help you move forward, not as a reflection of your self worth

  2. Weigh often - Weighing yourself once per week can be skewed by the above factors, whereas weighing 3-5 times per week builds a better pattern about how you’re getting on.

  3. Weigh at the same time - Weighing at different times of the day will show vastly different numbers on the scales. Fluid balance, menstrual cycle, carbohydrates, sodium and if you've gone to the toilet will impact your scale weight.

  4. At the end of the week, calculate your average weight and compare it to the week before. This gives you a more accurate representation of what's going on.

  5. Use other metrics - Photos, body fat, how your clothes fit and circumferential measurements are just as important as weight, if not more-so when your goal is to change your body composition


A note on the menstrual cycle - The menstrual cycle can cause large swings in weight that may not be fat. To help account for this, you can either choose to ignore this week and not weigh in, or use it as an anchor week where you compare the same week each month.





2. You're not giving it long enough

The next problem is asking yourself if you've given yourself enough time to see results. It can be easy to give up if you don't see the needle move on the scales, but it's important to remember that fat loss is a slow process.


The average person loses approximately 0.5 to 2 pounds each week in the initial phases of fat loss. It might take a few weeks to notice changes, and depending on your starting weight and composition, it might take several weeks to begin seeing results.


As a rule of thumb, you should anticipate to lose 0.5-1% of your bodyweight each week. Using percentages help better align results with your expectations depending on your current weight


This is the reason why with metabolism testing, we are able to set more realistic weight loss targets based on your current metabolism and body composition.


Recommended weight loss targets

Example - 90kg


A target rate of weight loss will be 5-10% of 90 = (90/100 x.5) (90/100 x 1) =

0.45- 0.9kg per week.




3. You're eating back your calories from exercise


Another issue I frequently encounter is people eating back the calories they've burned through exercise. A lot of people believe that they are entitled to a post work out treat, but this attitude often leads to people accidentally overeating and negating all the good work they've done. In fact, studies have shown that is common for gym goers to overestimate the calories they have burned by up to 70%. We also know that studies have shown people eat back more calories than they burn because they think they deserve it.


Even when you track your workouts, research papers have shown your trackers can be off by ip to 40%.


What you should do


  1. Stick to your set calorie intake and account for your activity when calculating your calorie needs.

  2. Monitor your progress to help determine if you need to increase your cardio/decrease your food to help continue to see progress.


4. Metabolic adaptation


Metabolic adaptation is reduction in your calorie expenditure (burn) which is caused by a combination of changes in Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), Thermic Effect Of Feeding (TEF) and Active Energy Expenditure (AEF). When you eat less, your body burns fewer calories at rest and during physical activity.



This is a natural response to having less calories going in and is one of the main reasons people hit plateaus or find it harder to lose weight as they get smaller.


When you do this long enough, your metabolism will adapt to the new calorie intake and make it harder for you to lose weight. This is why a lot of people end up yo-yo dieting because they keep going through cycles of under-eating and overeating, which ultimately does more harm than good.


The solution is to eat at a slight calorie deficit consistently and not go too low for too long. This will help you lose weight gradually and avoid any metabolism slow down. This is one of the major benefits of metabolic testing, by using your metabolism to create the right calorie deficit.


You can find more information on metabolic adaptation here.





5. Health


Fat loss and your metabolism can be affected by a variety of health issues, such as menopause, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism. If you've been diagnosed with any of the above then a metabolism test maybe able to highlight why your weight loss progress is stalling. Also ensure that your Dr is your first port of call to check any underlying health issues.


What next?


So, there you have it. Some of the main reasons why you might not be losing weight, even though you're doing everything right. If you're struggling to lose weight, then consider getting a metabolism test to help identify any potential issues that may be impeding your progress.


Metabolic testing is clinically proven method to help with weight loss. It is a non-invasive, but very accurate way to measure how much energy your body is burning and how much food you should be eating. Many people who have used this method have been successful in losing pounds with far less effort than restrictive dieting. Ignite uses metabolic testing to help build a diet plan around you as an individual. Find out more and book your testing now


Or book your strategy call to see if the programme is right for you



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