Troubleshooting Weight Loss, Pt. 1

Posted November 26, 2013 by

Let’s talk about why when it comes to weight loss, some people can seem to do everything right and still not see results when they step on the scale.

After all, nothing is more annoying than busting your ass for weeks at a time with the goal of losing weight, only to be rewarded with a measly pound or less of weight loss, or even worse yet, weight GAIN over that period of time, am I right?

Unfortunately, most people take that as a sign that “weight loss isn’t for me” or that their program is wrong… but as you’ll see, this is only ONE of the possibilities—and as for the “I can’t” crowd, EVERYONE can lose weight, no matter who they are, so don’t even go there.

Over the next 6 installments I am going to analyze each of the potential reasons that you’re not seeing the fruits of your efforts, and hopefully this will help you troubleshoot your situation and allow you to reach your goal instead of losing motivation along the way.

Weight Loss Hiccup #1: You’re not ACTUALLY in a deficit.

This is ironically the most common reason for lack of results. The reasons for the discrepancy can vary from the simply lack of any sort of calorie tracking at all, to underestimations of portion sizes, to an incorrect calculation of what a deficit entails in the first place.

Luckily, addressing this is fairly simple. First and foremost, if you’re not tracking your calories and you’re not seeing results, start tracking your calories (FatSecret.com is a great website to do this)! This alone brings your awareness of what’s going into your body to a new level.

Make sure you’re accurate when measuring instead of trying to eyeball or guesstimate things. The more closely you control this variable, the easier it is to fine-tune things when you hit plateaus. Measuring cups/spoons and a food scale should be a dieter’s best friend.

As far as knowing if you’re in a deficit, the easiest way to accomplish this is the following: if you’re not losing weight and you’re consistent in what you’re eating, you need to reduce your calories. Start with a 10-15% reduction from where you’re currently at (see the importance of tracking calories?) and see how your body responds. If you’re still not losing about a pound to two pounds per week (or more if you have a lot to lose), then you should take another 10% off and observe again.

Another option is to add more exercise while keeping calories constant, as this will increase the “calories out” side of the equation. This is an especially useful tactic for people who feel that if they have to reduce their calories any further, they will be tempted to cheat. With our athletes we will sometimes use a combination approach, where we alternate between slightly lowering calories and slightly increasing activity levels so that we can keep people eating as much as possible and still losing weight.

Which approach is best? Like a great many things in the fitness and nutrition world, the answer to that is extremely individual. Some people have a hard time eating a lot of food, or are extremely busy and have a limited amount of time to exercise. For them, focusing more on reducing calories is going to make the most sense.

Other people seem to be a protein shake away from gnawing their own arm off, or enjoy being extremely active—for these types of people, focusing more on increasing activity while keeping calories constant might be a better option.

Of course, most people probably fall in the middle of these two extremes, so some sort of combination approach might be optimal. My advice is to play around with it and see what approach provides you the most comfort and energy, while keeping the challenge of staying on track as minimal as possible.

In part 2 we will talk about “sneaking calories” and how this simple mistake can completely make or break a diet.

Click here for part 2