This is how dieters feel when they eat an extremely low-calorie diet (fyi, also called malnutrition) and are not losing weight.
Most of them will blame their metabolism, genes or hormones. Whereas this can be partially true, let’s look in detail and see why exactly this happens and how to deal with it.
Here are 4 possible reasons for not losing weight on 1000-1300 kilocalories:
1) You are under-reporting calorie consumption.
Not counting a bit of sugar in coffee, a glass of wine at dinner, 2 spoons of oil in the salad, going blind for a weekend. Too often I see some mysterious gaps in my clients’ nutrition diaries. Be brave and accountable, let yourself and your coach see what exactly is going on! And when the picture is clear it is so SO SO MUCH EASIER to cope with the problem.
Solution: run a reality check and/or track calories consistently, every day over a prolonged period of time. Be brave. Be accountable. Be consistent.
2) You are losing weight, but slow.
An expectation of an average dieter: 1kg per week. Reality: 0,5kg per month. To lose 1kg of weight the deficit of ~7000 kcal should be created. Calculate, how soon one is supposed to lose 1 kg if their daily deficit is 200 kcal? And 200 kcal is a very good, sustainable, healthy deficit for an average person. (We aim for 5-10% deficit, so if your maintenance calories are 2000, 200 kcal is exactly 10% of that)
Solution: measure regularly and wait. Instead of comparing 2 separate days, look at the trend over a longer period of time.
3) You are losing weight, but it is ‘masked’ with water retention.
Under the calorie deficit, stress hormone cortisol may increase, this will cause water retention. You will be losing fat, but weight will remain the same for a few weeks.
Calorie deficit-> Fat loss -> Stress -> Water retention
Solution: measure regularly and wait. The water will flush eventually in a few weeks. Normally happens after ‘refeed’ or a good night sleep
4) You are tiny, sedentary outside of the gym and you are not progressing in training
In modern life, activity for many people is limited to walking from home to car and from car to office desk. Our everyday activity may account for the huge amount of calories burnt. Gardeners, mums of small kids, builders, etc can burn thousands of calories without any exercise, just by doing their everyday tasks. When we say that some people have ‘faster metabolism’, they simply move more even if this movement is simply fidgeting or washing dishes.
As for the exercise, our body becomes fuel-efficient in case we are doing the same type of training for years at the same level of intensity. The best way to tackle this is to gradually progress in strength.
Solution: start gradually increasing calorie consumption and activity outside of the gym; focus on getting stronger in the gym.
Fat loss expert, elite group fitness instructor and personal trainer based in Sheffield.