Okay- you’ve finally decided. It’s time to commit to making changes in your diet and your life to lose some weight.
Maybe you packed on some pounds after an injury at the gym. Maybe a new job changed your whole schedule around.
But it’s all good- because today is the day it all changes.
You renewed your gym membership. The fridge is stocked with vegetables. You’ve thrown out the cookies and the chips in the cupboard. Congratulations- you are on your way!
I’m super stoked when I meet with a client and they share the progress they’ve made so far.
It’s awesome to see people’s efforts and determination when making lifestyle changes. Change is hard, and taking the first step is the hardest.
However, very often the reason people are coming to me is because the progress they’ve made has halted or is even slipping. They’re frustrated because they’re still doing everything they had when they started and now the scale is stuck.
Here are the three most common causes I see when it comes to why your progress has stopped or is backsliding, and how you can avoid them from happening in the first place.
Setting Your Caloric Intake Too Low
This is probably the most common thing I see. I get an athlete who’s been crushing it in the gym, lost a good amount of weight, and then they tell me how much they’ve been eating and I’m shocked they can still train.
Your body has something called a basal metabolic rate- this is a predetermined amount of calories your body needs just to maintain normal function. If you set your calorie intake below this, you are gonna mess things up big time.
Your body also has a set point weight- the weight at which it prefers to be come hell or high water, and it will fight like mad to keep you there.
When you decide to cut calories (which yes at the fundamental level is how you lose weight) you are working against your metabolism and your set point weight.
Drop your calories too low, your metabolism goes down. Gain the weight back to your set point weight, your metabolism will stay at the lower weight but now you are back at your original weight, just with a slower metabolism. Make sense?
Set yourself up for success. Don’t try to drop 10 pounds in two weeks (you didn’t gain it that fast!) and find a caloric intake that is manageable but keeps your metabolism humming along in a healthy way.
I made a calculator I refer my clients too- this will give you an idea of how many calories you need to sustain your body weight now. Get that number then decrease it by a small percentage- say 200 to 300 calories.
You will also want some days where you’re eating a normal amount so your body never settles. Your body likes homeostasis and will work really hard to adjust to whatever you’re feeding it.
Cutting Carbohydrates While Cutting Calories
Choose one. Cut calories or cut carbs. When you do both you stress your body out, a lot- especially when you make big calorie jumps OR you still participate in glycogen dependent sports (Crossfit, running, cycling, etc).
There is a time and a place for low carb. But I rarely recommend it to my brand new dieters.
In general I’m not a fan of low carb if you’re active. If you’re sedentary and have high blood sugar, sure kicking the sugar habit it a good thing. If you’re an active person with 20lbs to lose I set my clients at 30% protein, 30% fat, 40% carbs. And I suggest putting most of your carbs around training/exercise times.
I use low carb in the last few months of a person striving for aesthetic goals- i.e. gunning for a 6 pack. It tends to not be sustainable long term and is associated with contributing to adrenal fatigue.
Whether WE like it or not, our BODIES likes carb sources as our go-to fuel source. Should we be bingeing on sugar every night? No. Is rice an awesome post workout recovery food? You bet it is.
I will throw in the keto argument to this discussion. Just about everyone knows someone who has done or is doing keto.
The argument comes up “so and so is doing keto and loves it. Look how they perform, etc etc”. I am not against keto- it has demonstrated some amazing benefits for managing neurological conditions like epilepsy and Parkinsons.
Going into ketogenesis- using fat over glycogen as the primary fuel source- is something our bodies are designed to do. But our bodies are designed to do this in a food shortage when we have to use our reserves.
Keto is not something we are designed to sustain long term. Want the other side of “your friend is doing amazing on keto”- did you ever think about how amazing he might be doing if he ate some carbs from time to time? Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
When you get less than 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, your body is in a stressed state. When that happens your cortisol levels are up.
Raised cortisol levels prevent fat from being oxidized (ie being used as a fuel source), raises your blood sugar (makes you crave foods- especially sugary ones), and helps you store the excess food you eat as fat. Sounds fun right?
Every single one of my nutrition and health coaching clients can attest to the fact I won’t address weight loss without addressing sleep.
Its like wanting to sail a ship around the world with leaks in the hull. Depending on how big the leaks are we might never get there.
Sleep is ESSENTIAL for weight loss. Should I say it again? It’s ESSENTIAL for weight loss. No if’s, and’s, or buts about it.
You want to lose weight? You will get your sleep.
Weight loss is a good thing, but diet change, calorie deficits, and new exercise routines are new stressors. Good stress, but stress all the same.
Sleep is the antithesis of stress. It helps you manage and recover from it. Sleep helps you make good food choices. It helps you crush your day and your workouts. It helps you think clearly. Sleep is the piece of the puzzle most people are missing.
I understand how much most people resent it- I’m in the same boat. But since we don’t have a choice, and we know how much not enough screws everything up, why not try to be the best at it?
This is a non negotiable when I work with people. I tell them: you have 16 hours of life and 8 hours of sleep. If you make it the priority it SHOULD be then it will be a priority no matter what.
I also understand about kids, and roommates, and anxiety. I get that there are a ton of factors which affect your sleep. But I PROMISE you- you can make a huge difference in your weight loss goals just by focusing on your sleep. If you make that the numero uno priority, you will be blown away by how easy the rest of it is.
Weight loss can be challenging. Committing to slow, sustainable weight loss while caring for your body will help make these changes permanent.
Work on fueling your body for how you want it to perform. Feed it the right amount of fuel at the right time, get your rest, keep showing up at the gym, and the results will come!
Have questions? Comment on this post or feel free to contact me!