Weight loss can be elusive sometimes.
You may struggle with the same ten or twenty pounds for years.
You’ll be down a couple of pounds one week and up a pound or two the next week.
Lose five pounds in November, put them back on (with another pound or two extra!) in December.
Many people yo-yo most of their lives, usually dependent on how “committed” they are to their nutrition and workouts at that particular point of time.
But what if you feel like you’re doing everything “right” with your nutrition, exercising regularly…and you’re still not losing weight?
There could be a few things going on, but it primarily comes down to two things:
1) Overestimating How Much Exercise Matters.
2) Underestimating The Impact Of Nutrition.
Many people rely too much on exercise to do the work for them.
There isn’t a massive increased calorie burn from a bout of exercise.
Let’s look at how it breaks down.
The amount of calories you burn in a day is referred to as total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
TDEE is composed of BMR (basal metabolic rate), NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), TEF (thermic effect of food), and EAT (exercise activity thermogenesis).
BMR, how many calories your body burns just keeping your normal biological processes going, represents about 70% of your day.
NEAT, the amount of general activity you do throughout the day (walking, standing, fidgeting, cooking, twiddling your thumbs) makes up about 15%.
So, yes, doing those 10,000 steps a day can make a difference to how many calories you burn over the course of the day.
TEF, how much energy it takes to process and digest your food, represents about 10%.
Protein takes the most energy for your body to use, followed by carbs and then fat.
Whole, fibrous foods take slightly more energy to digest than processed foods.
But remember that those differences are relatively minor and TEF is still a small portion of TDEE.
EAT, the amount of calories you burn exercising, normally represents only about 5%.
Cardio machines tend to overestimate the calories you’re burning, and they don’t subtract how many calories you would burn if you were just sitting around.
So you may get too excited about those calories you thought you were burning and inadvertently eat too much later on.
Cardio also tends to increase your appetite, one of the reasons I don’t recommend much of it for most of my Online Coaching clients.
And while weight training is very beneficial, it’s not going to make a huge change to your daily energy expenditure.
The same applies to HIIT (high-intensity interval training), by the way.
It’s not the magical fat-burner that some people perceive it to be.
HIIT is a very efficient way to exercise, provided you have a reasonable level of fitness to begin with.
Let me state for the record:
Exercise is awesome!
Just don’t rely on it too much for weight loss.
If you just started exercising, but haven’t made any change your your nutrition plan, you probably won’t see a huge change in your weight.
Once you start addressing nutrition, bigger changes start to happen.
The biggest mistake though is not being aware of how many calories you’re eating.
Many people underestimate how much they’re consuming each day.
A bite here, a taste here, a bit more sauce over there.
All those extra calories add up and they often put you into a calorie surplus (where you’ll gain weight) or keep you in balance (so your weight doesn’t change).
While eating whole foods tends to make it easier to keep your calorie consumption down, it’s not always enough.
Many whole foods, like nuts and whole grains, can be calorie-dense.
If you don’t keep your portion sizes reasonable you may struggle to lose weight.
It’s not about “clean eating”.
The term isn’t scientific or meaningful.
Get the right amount of calories, macros (protein, carbs, fat), and fibre and you’ll start losing weight.
Use a tool like myfitnesspal to help you keep track at the beginning.
This is also part of the education process that I give my Online Coaching clients to learn more about the food they’re eating.
You need to figure out how to fit things into your daily plan, including your favourite treats.
Seems too simple to be true, but it works.
And remember to be patient.
We normally expect a weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week, if you’re at least 10 pounds over your target weight.
The closer you get to your ideal weight, the harder it is to lose more weight.
If you’ve stalled with your weight loss, take a closer look at what you’re eating.
A little fine-tuning might be all you need to get it kick-started.