Why Am I Not Losing Weight In a Calorie Deficit?

You have a fat loss goal and so you’ve reduced your intake and upped your workout frequency but don’t seem to be getting the results you want… why am I not losing weight, I hear you say?! 

It can be an incredibly frustrating situation you find yourself in, but you’re not alone. There are countless reasons why this could be and we’re here to tell you why this could be the case.

As a reminder, when it comes to fat loss, you need to be in a calorie deficit this means burning more calories than you consume (or vice versa). 

A calorie deficit can largely be achieved in two ways, either by increasing the amount of physical activity you do or decreasing the quantity of food you consume below your maintenance amount. There are other considerations, which we discuss more about here.

6 reasons why you are not losing weight:

1. You’re not really in a deficit 

It may sound harsh but often, we can think we’re in a deficit when we’re actually not. The reason for this is twofold:

  1. Overestimate energy expenditure: We often set pretty ambitious goals when it comes to our activity levels and life just gets in the way sometimes and means we do not actually get around to it. Setting slightly more realistic goals when it comes to exercise will not only take the pressure off slightly but also mean your estimated calories are better suited to your energy expenditure. 
  1. Underestimate intake: a little snack outside your plan here and there will not be the reason why you aren’t making substantial progress, but if you are consistently having things outside of your plan, this will start to have an effect.

A coffee when you need a mid-morning pick-me-up and a handful of nuts late afternoon hardly seems like a big deal, but some of your go-to’s can quickly make your calorie intake rise. For instance, if you had a Starbucks latte, around 150 kcals, followed by some nuts mid-afternoon, it would total over 300 kcals on top of your meals. Now we’re definitely not saying you need to remove these things from your diet, but you should consider being more mindful with your choices and alter your meals to allow for the extras.

2. You’re not being patient/not giving yourself enough time

We all want to see quick changes, especially when we’re putting in stacks of effort. We can often become impatient if we don’t see noticeable results in the desired timeframe. It’s common to give up at this point as your frustration gets the better of you.

Opting for a quick fix, e.g. dropping calories drastically, will often be more difficult to stick to and you will likely experience negative effects on both your physical and mental energy levels. This will translate into your daily life, making things like getting up in the morning or getting through a chaotic day at work 10x harder. This definitely is not sustainable, nor is it something that we would recommend or support!

Often, people are unrealistic with their goals and can end up being disheartened when things don’t go as planned. You may not be giving yourself enough time to see results. Take a step back and set yourself a smaller number of manageable goals which are both measurable and achievable.

3. You’re comparing your own progress to others

Everybody is different and fat loss will occur at different rates depending on your genetics, metabolic rate, training regime, sleep patterns and hormone levels. Although easier said than done, try not to compare your efforts and progress to others and this may have detrimental effects on your mindset and impair progress. Comparing yourself to others will only cause unnecessary stress. 

The important thing to remember is that long-lasting results take time – so don’t pressure yourself. Focus on yourself and why you decided to start in the first place.

4. You’re not being consistent 

Often, many do not stick to the same plan for long enough to benefit and others are far too strict all week and end up going overboard at the weekend. 

Consistency is key when it comes to getting long-lasting results. A constant schedule enables you to get into a better routine and turn the actions from chores into habits. In saying that, it is important to allow some flexibility with your plan as, let’s be honest, being too strict with things will often cause you to overdo it at some point or another. 

In addition, you may be focussing more on short-term changes and what you need to take out of your diet or dramatically change about your lifestyle, rather than seeing the bigger picture and/or thinking about what you are adding in or improving about your lifestyle – for example trying out new forms of exercise, trying new recipes or hitting your 5-a-day.

5. You’re gaining muscle

If you’re not losing weight or have even started gaining weight, and you’re certain you’re eating in a calorie deficit — then there’s a good chance you’re gaining muscle. Whilst pound for pound, fat and muscle weigh the same, muscle is more dense than fat and takes up less space, so adding muscle could increase your scale weight, even though you’re losing body fat.

This is a definite reason why you should not solely use the scales to determine your progress. Your progress will not follow a perfectly linear pattern over time and the scales do not show you the whole picture. Tracking your body measurements, progress photos (note this is not for everyone and is completely down to personal preference), and strength gains will be far better indicators of muscle growth. 

On the topic of tracking progress, ensure you are also considering changes and improvements in energy levels, exercise performance and mood, to name a few – don’t hang your whole mindset on a singular number on the scales!

6. You’re not prioritising sleep and stress management

Sleep and stress are both important considerations when it comes to fat loss progress and should never be overlooked.

Sleep: lack of good quality sleep has been attributed to weight gain.  It has been suggested that the number of hours of sleep you get each night may influence body weight and metabolism, largely linked to fluctuations in appetite hormones. Tips on how to improve your sleep can be found here.

Stress: when you’re stressed, the body secretes the major stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can raise your blood sugar levels, affect your appetite, lower testosterone levels, reduce your ability to burn fat and increase the rate you store fat.

Consistently elevated cortisol levels can work against your weight loss efforts. As with a lack of sleep, cortisol can also impact appetite hormones, in particular, it can increase ghrelin levels (a hormone that stimulates appetite), which could suggest why we may overeat when under pressure and feeling stressed.

When it comes to fat loss, there are always going to be setbacks or obstacles along the way. However, the important thing is to learn to identify and work to overcome them. Fat loss progress is rarely perfectly linear and so it is important to accept this and see the bigger picture/ trends along the way rather than obsessing over daily data. 

Being in a deficit puts stress on your body, and doing so for an extended period of time can cause your body to take steps to offset your weight loss, as it is not a state it wants to be in.

Therefore, it is important to minimise the impact this stress can have – doing so in a sustainable, controlled manner (as we do at FFF) is far more beneficial that any drastic measures.

If you’re unsure where to start, FFF can take the guesswork out of the process for you and give you more time to focus on yourself. Our team of nutritionists are just a click away and ready to help you smash your goals today!

If you would like to discuss a bespoke plan, book a call with one of our all-knowing nutritionists to discuss this further. Have all the information you need but just don’t want to cook? Give one of our plans a go with £50 off your first 5-days with code BLOG50 – Start your trial here.

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