Losing weight is tough… Might it be that most of us feel that the effort we put in is somehow supposed to pay off more and quicker? Because weight loss does take effort. And it also takes time. And sometimes it just feels like you are putting in all the effort but not seeing the results. Let’s have a look at various influences that might be affecting your ability to lose weight.
- Your calorie (energy) intake is too high
You may feel as though you’re not eating a lot of calories. But studies show that most of us tend to misjudge and underestimate what we eat. Healthy foods also contain energy, so be careful of consuming too many of these, like nuts and cheese. If you rely on convenience foods, these can also easily be loaded with extra calories. Reading food labels can help you to make informed decisions when buying grab and go meals or snacks. If you have a personalized eating plan, be pedantic about the specified portion sizes you should eat to achieve your daily calorie goal. Your caloric requirements are unique, so make sure you get professional, personal advice about your caloric requirements for your specific weight loss goal.
- Your calorie (energy) intake is too low
Studies show that eating too little calories promotes muscle loss and slows down your metabolic rate, therefore not allowing your body to burn fat for energy (2). It might therefore appear that you lose weight when measuring total bodyweight on a scale, but the weight is muscle that is instantly regained when the severe restriction is over. When muscle tissue has been lost in this way, all of it not replenished with muscle tissue, and is replaced by more fat cells instead, which can make future weight loss efforts more difficult
- You rely on the scale too much
Your weight can differ as much as 1.5 kg throughout one day. What a scale says you weigh is influenced by many factors like water retention due to increased estrogen levels, hydration level and salt intake; undigested food and digested food residue left in the digestive tract and time of the day. If you have been exercising, you might also have gained some muscle mass. A good strategy is to measure yourself with a measuring tape as this will indicate more accurately whether you have been losing fat mass. You may be losing body fat even if the scale reading doesn’t change much.
- You are not exercising enough
Many people think they can lose weight by only controlling their food intake. Don’t expect a loss in weight if you are not exercising! Exercise helps to minimize the amount of muscle you lose, increases the amount of fat you lose and prevents your metabolism of slowing down. Start with walking for at least 3 days of the week and progress to 5 times a week for 30 minutes. Include weight training, which boosts your metabolic rate further, especially if your weight is standing still. Your weight loss efforts might start off good without exercise, but physical activity is crucial for sustained weight loss.
It is virtually unavoidable to lose some muscle mass together with fat mass during weight loss. But without exercising, muscle loss is much bigger, with a consequent drop in metabolic rate. If you are not exercising at all, don’t expect weight loss results!
- You are not monitoring what you eat
It is good to take a day or 2 every week and keep a food diary. This way, you get an accurate picture of your calorie and nutrient intake. Without tracking your intake and comparing to your weight loss plan, you won’t know whether you are complying to your dietary goals.
- You are not sleeping enough
If you are not sleeping well or too little, you are at risk of gaining more visceral (belly) fat. Too little sleep also causes an increase in a hormone called ghrelin, which increases your appetite. Make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep every night.
- You stress too much
It is well known that stress increases the hormone, cortisol, which may prevent fat breakdown and can influence your appetite. Everyone has stress, it is how you handle it that matters. Try meditating, or exercise to get rid of stress, or seek counselling to get rid of stress.
- You are not eating enough protein
Protein is vital for weight loss. It can reduce appetite, increase satiety, decrease calorie intake, increase metabolic rate and protect muscle mass during weight loss. By adding a protein powder to a fruit smoothie or milk drink, you can easily increase your protein intake, if it forms part of your daily calorie intake goal. This way, you get the additional amino acids without the added fat of eating more meat or cheese!
- You are not eating enough fibre
Soluble fibre holds water and makes you feel fuller for longer. All types of fibre is good for weight loss, although soluble fibre in fruit, oats, oat bran, vegetables, brown bread and brown rice are better in controlling your appetite and reducing calorie intake. A high fibre diet can even reduce the number of calories that are absorbed in a mixed meal!
- You are still drinking too much sugar
Liquid calories affect our appetite centres in the brain differently than those from soluble food and makes us eat more calories overall. Sugary drinks are high in calories and even 1 glass of fruit juice or soft drink can increase your daily caloric intake and prevent you from reaching your daily caloric restriction.
- Your daily drink is in the way
If you don’t see weight loss results, it might be a good idea to ditch the red wine for a few weeks. Alcohol promotes fat storing, especially when you drink before a meal. It can also increase your appetite and lead to eating more than what you planned.
To conclude: if you are stuck and not losing weight, despite putting in some effort, consider the above strategies and don’t give up!
- Condon SK, Kleinman K, Mullen J et al. Consumers' estimation of calorie content at fast food restaurants: cross sectional observational study. BMJ. 2013 May 23; 346: f2907.
- Harunobu Nakamura, Hirao Kohno, Toyoko Okuda et al. Metabolic response to short-term 4-day energy restriction in a controlled study. Environ Health Prevention Medicine. 2006 Mar; 11(2): 89–92.
- Stiegler P, Cunliffe A. The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Med. 2006;36(3):239-62.
- Nicklas BJ, Chmelo E, Delbono O et al. Effects of resistance training with and without caloric restriction on physical function and mobility in overweight and obese older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clinical Nutrition. 2015 May;101(5):991-9.
- David S Weigle, Patricia A Breen, Colleen C et al. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. American Society for Clinical Nutrition; Mar 11. 2005.
- Wanders AJ, van den Borne JJ, de Graaf C et al. Effects of dietary fibre on subjective appetite, energy intake and body weight: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Obesity Review. 2011 Sep;12(9):724-39.
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