Are you trying to lose weight for health or better performance, but the pounds aren’t coming off?
Read on for ten solutions!
Sometimes minor tweaks can be game changers, which can be a key in itself, so read on to get tips.
If it’s been weeks and you’ve seen no progress, here are ten tips you may want to consider if you have not been losing weight:
1. Your food intake is off.
By doing this one step, many can find the answer and stop reading this now.
Some like to claim that it’s not all about calories in versus calories out, and honestly, it can sometimes be more complicated (more on this later.)
However, if you haven’t tried this basic formula, how will you know if this method works – for you?
Websites and apps like MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers all allow you to readily track the food you eat and the calories you burn exercising using an extensive database of food counts and exercises.
You need to eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, which is usually many people’s first problem.
Studies have shown that many consistently underestimate their food intake and overestimate their daily activity, saying they must have a slow metabolism, bad genetics, or other factors.
If you feel this method is too inconvenient for you, do it for just three days or a week. That alone may surprise you into being more mindful of your eating.
2. Check in on your food portions.
This goes along with #1… if you are tracking but haven’t weighed or measured your food, it can be an eye opener as to what a portion size is.
A simple food scale can do the trick here. Weighing can be more accurate than measuring, for example, 120 grams of something versus a measured half cup.
One hundred twenty grams is 120 grams, but a measuring cup can be overfilled, even unknowingly.
Another way is to go by observational portion sizes, but even these surprise many: a 3-ounce serving of protein is about the same size as your palm. A serving of peanut butter is about the same size as your thumb. See this chart for more…
If you were tracking and measuring for a while and then decided to “wing it” after a time, it’s good to track and measure again for a few days to ensure your portions are still in line.
It’s natural sometimes to get a little hungry when trying to lose weight. Psychologically this can cause slight “excesses” here and there – a slightly more significant portion here, a small snack there.
And the term for being hungry with running is so common it has its nickname, “Runger!” And it all adds up!
3. Correct your calorie deficit.
To lose weight, the typical rule of thumb is that a 500-calorie deficit per day will equal around a pound of weight loss per week.
A generally safe rate of weight loss for most people is around 1-2 lbs per week or about 1% of your total body weight per week.
Some might see shows such as the “Biggest Loser” and think, “But that’s too slow!” But frankly, the smaller and leaner you are, the longer it can take to lose fat safely.
Everyone is different, and you may lose somewhat faster (or slower) than this.
However, expecting to drop 10 pounds in a week with a highly high-calorie deficit, either through eating too few calories or combining that with exercising to the extreme, can be unhealthy and even dangerous, causing nutritional and hormonal imbalances.
At a lesser level, it can slow weight loss in the long run. Also, as hunger rises, it can lead to a binge and cause a more significant setback than it’s worth.
On the other hand, if you are at a very low- or no-calorie deficit, you will find your weight loss stagnant or non-existent. There could be several reasons for this.
First, see #1 and #2. Then, even if you diligently follow what you read, the listings for calories in food values can be inaccurate.
Calories burned during exercise are also based on average equations and can vary significantly from person to person.
So what to do? One method is to adjust what you’ve been doing.
If you have calculated a reasonable calorie deficit according to your preferred method, continue using the same technique as before, but adjust your TOTAL daily calories by 100-200 calories per day, and see if that changes anything.
Experiment until you find a level at which YOU begin to see your desired results.
3. Stick with the program.
Actual weight loss programs may take 3-4 weeks to show results.
Some may notice weight loss immediately, while others may take longer as their body adjusts.
Factors such as sodium intake, bloating, or dehydration can skew results. Many people choose to weigh themselves once a week, and any of these factors can influence the number you see.
If exercise is involved, it can be even more complicated.
Movement is powered by carbohydrates stored in the muscles. A hard workout burns off carbohydrates.
Since carbohydrate is stored in the muscles with water, this can cause weight loss. When the carbohydrate is replenished, this can again appear as weight gain – however, it is not fat gain, yet the scale will vary due to these issues.
Therefore, it can take a while to see a weight trend.
4. Measure results in different ways.
I usually advise people to use more than one measure for the most accurate results if they are trying to lose fat.
A scale is one tool but doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Regularly checking body composition, or the percent of your body comprised of fat, is also essential. “You could be gaining muscle” is often heard by frustrated, exercising dieters.
Yet this almost cliché statement can be true!
How do you check body composition?
Some argue the step on bio-impedance scales varies in their readings. However, I have found on several occasions that when using a 7-day average of results, a step-on bodyfat scale has been within 1% of the DEXA or underwater weighing methods for measuring body fat.
Also, it’s not always getting stuck on the exact number, but observing a gradual downward trend matters.
Other commonly used methods are how your clothes fit (using the same clothes), measuring tape, progress pictures, a mirror, or athletic performance.
These can all give a better-rounded picture of your progress than just a number on the scale.
There are many ways, with some of the methods considered the most accurate (the “Bod Pod” air displacement chamber, water displacement, or DEXA scanning) being the least available and most expensive.
Other ways include an experienced trainer using calipers to “pinch-test” the amount of fat on the body (the more sites “pinched” with the calipers tend to be, the more accurate).
Or a step-on body fat (bio-impedance) scale.
5. Reduce your stress levels as best you can.
Stress can stall weight loss or cause weight gain, as can poor sleep.
Stress and tension can cause the “stress hormone” cortisol to build up in the body, which some say can lead to excess fat accumulation, especially around the midsection.
Anxiety can also be a significant culprit of overeating or even sedentary behavior.
Looking at lifestyle factors outside of diet and exercise can cause the “A-ha” moment in your body and be the key to weight loss success.
Relaxation and focus techniques such as meditation, massage, and even enjoying more moments of laughter or serenity can all help with both stress and weight loss.
Intense bouts of exercise can also help calm anxiety.
Be careful of “justification calories.”
After an endurance race or other challenging fitness goal, taking a break and giving your body the extra calories it needs to heal can be OK.
However, it’s not uncommon for the gap to become an extended vacation from healthy eating habits, leading to weight gain over the coming weeks or months.
This attitude can even happen after a single exercise session. In one experiment, researchers had two groups of people walk the same route around campus.
One group was told they were going to walk this route for exercise. The second group was told they would walk the same way to sightsee. Afterward, both groups were polled as to what they ate – and guess what – the group who thought they did the route for exercise ate more than the “sightseeing” group.
So again, watch the “justification” calories.
8. Start just one time.
On the contrary, it’s tempting to give up after falling off the wagon only once.
“I already ate a donut, so I might as well eat <fill in the blank> and start over tomorrow/next week/next month.” Constant progress over perfection is the goal.
Often, if someone has overly perfectionistic attitudes toward eating, this can also result. So give yourself a reality check and keep going!
9. Moderate the “cheat.”
As mentioned before, not counting small snacks here and there can add up. However, some people choose to give themselves free meals or days during the week.
While some can find this motivating, having an extreme free for all, even just one day a week, especially when paired with any of the previous steps, can set a person’s weight loss plan back several days – each week.
An integrative doctor I used to see commented that hormonal markers such as insulin levels can take many days or even longer reset after an event.
While it’s OK to give yourself treats or a break now and then, try to keep in mind moderation and a complete picture of figuring out a lifestyle change that will work for you for a long time to come.
10. Change it up.
If what you’ve been doing for the past three months or three years has not worked – stop and try something else!
Just because it worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for your particular body type, chemistry, or lifestyle.
Or, if it was working for a while and then is no longer working, perhaps your body has become accustomed to your routine. The human body is highly adaptable, so change your workout routine or food intake.
I wrote in a recent Facebook post about my 60+ lb weight loss.
There was a point when I ate very healthfully and trained twice a day but could not break out of a weight loss plateau I had reached.
At one point, I accidentally injured my foot and could barely walk. Not wanting to gain weight without exercise, I cut calories to a passive level and watched my intake like a hawk.
That week – the weight started falling off.
Weeks later, as my foot healed, I had lost 18 lbs without any exercise whatsoever, whereas everything I tried before hadn’t worked.
When I went back to a workout class I had regularly attended before my foot injury – everyone else who had gone to the same type looked the same. They all asked me what new diet or exercise program I had tried.
I told them I stopped exercising as much and relaxed my calorie deficit. To this day, I’m not sure some of them believed me.
Sometimes, doing the opposite of what we think – even taking a break from trying to lose weight for a while – can break you out of your plateau.
The overriding point is that the key to lasting weight loss is finding what works for YOU.
This is what I have successfully done working with many clients in the Running and Holistic Weight Loss Program – check it out here:
Keep running with life ! – Amie