If you are only ever able to read one of my articles, let it be this one.
Most people I work with and most people who take an interest in my articles wish to reduce their body fat and there’s a certain amount of empowerment that comes from knowing you’re doing everything right as well as knowing when you’re doing things wrong.
So let’s jump into it... the 10 reasons you’re not losing fat.
#1 - Your perceived calorie deficit is not your actual calorie deficit.
Just because an online calorie calculator says that if you eat X amount you’ll lose fat, does not mean that it’s definitely going to happen. Don’t get me wrong, online calorie calculators can give you a decent idea of how many calories you should be consuming, but it’s not a foolproof system. If you’re in a caloric deficit then you WILL be losing fat, as you’ve created a shortage in energy required to maintain your current body fat. I often hear people say I’m in a caloric deficit but I keep gaining weight, I’m sorry but this is impossible as is defies the first law of thermodynamics (the law of conservation of energy). Everyone is different, we all have different genetics, but nobody can create and accumulate fat without the necessary energy to do so.
#2 - You’re exercising too much
Energy expenditure is important to lose fat, you need to burn more than you’re consuming. But often people take this too far. Keeping your calories controlled can be difficult when you’re smashing your body into the ground with two to three sessions per day. Quite often I reduce clients training volume to put them in a position where a calorie deficit is more sustainable.
#3 - You’re not moving enough
NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) is the energy expended for everything we do outside of sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. Things like walking to work, typing, gardening and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities can significantly increase metabolic rate! As a lot of this can be subconscious movements it can dramatically reduce when you reduce your caloric intake or increase your training volume. This is because your body will try to preserve energy, even when walking your body will try to be more efficient in its movement to preserve as much energy as possible. Your body doesn’t care if you want to look great in a bikini this summer, your body just wants to survive. To simplify this, after you’ve done a horrific leg session the following days are generally filled with sitting down and avoiding movement at all cost, thus preserving energy. What you need to do is be aware of this and keep moving when possible. For people who meticulously track their intake and have stopped losing fat, this is quite often the reason why.
#4 - You’re not accurately tracking your calories
Everyone does this, consciously or subconsciously, even I do this. We under report our calories and over report the amount of steps we do. This is not because we are liars, we just don’t think we ate as much as we did. Not only this, even if you’re incredibly meticulous with your tracking, there are things out of your control, like food labelling, as this is not 100% accurate. Remember that things like butter, oils, sauces and liquid calories all count and can really add up.
#5 - Underlying medical condition meaning
Medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), certain pharmaceuticals (corticosteroids or birth control), severe thyroid dysfunction, sex hormone disruption, leptin resistance and more can effect fat loss. Even if you have one of these medical conditions it still wouldn’t defy the laws of thermodynamics, but, of course, it will make the process far more challenging. If you feel like you might have a medical condition that’s effecting your weight management, then please go see your GP, I’m not a Doctor!
#6 - You are too stressed
Cortisol is a stress hormone and it has an impact on our bodies fluid levels. Exercise and calorie restriction are both stressors, when we’re stressed, cortisol typically increases. When cortisol increases, our bodies may hold onto more water, which means we generally feel a bit softer. This can make us feel like we are not losing fat when in fact we are. Often when people are stressed, hungry and they don’t feel like something is working, they end up binge eating which consequently results in them not getting a chance to see the progress they made.
#7 - Your bodies energy needs have changed
This is quite straightforward, when you lose fat your metabolic rate (metabolism) will slow down, this is due to many things, the main one being you’re a smaller person and now require less energy. If your fat loss has halted, you might need to reassess your calories.
#8 Not getting enough quality sleep
When you don’t get enough quality sleep you move less in the day, this of course affects your NEAT. We are more likely to skip sessions when tired and of course we don’t perform quite as well. On top of all this, when we are tired we are generally hungrier, therefore we tend to eat more food, often hyperpalatable high calorie foods. 7 to 8 hours sleep is a good target to aim for.
#9 You’re impatient
If you’re overweight, then it’s likely it’s taken you years or even your entire life to accumulate the body fat you now have. Therefore, it’ll likely take more than a few months to see the results you seek and it’s not uncommon for your weight to fluctuate day by day and even week by week, in fact, it’s expected. Fat loss in not a linear process. For most people, when they’re not seeing the results they seek, they give up and go back in to old habits thinking they just “can’t lose fat”. Of course they can lose fat, they’re just impatient
#10 Focusing your energy in the wrong places
This is a good place to end this article as this is generally the problem, with so many different dietary strategies, supplement and fitness “gurus” misleading the general public, it’s no wonder people are confused. What happens is people focus all their energy on making sure they’re consistent with taking that supplement or following that new diet but fail to create the deficit required to lose fat. Don’t get me wrong, most diets create a caloric deficit, you don’t need to count calories to be in a caloric deficit. But you could be following a diet 100% and still not be in the deficit required for YOU to reduce body fat, everyone is different, everyone has different calorie requirements. This can be very disheartening, especially when people try so hard. This is why I’m doing my best to give people the information needed to achieve the result they seek by taking a no BS pragmatic approach.