Why can’t you lose weight?
It could be because your thyroid is inactive and you eat carbs, meat, gluten and dairy. Maybe you eat at the wrong time of day. Also your hormones are off kilter, the universe is punishing you for that thing you did (you know what I’m talking about), and your parents didn’t hug you enough as a child.
Or, maybe, quite possibly, you eat too much!
More specifically, you eat more calories than your body needs.
A few years back I decided I was going to lose some kilos. I was already weight training at the gym daily, doing martial arts, group fitness classes and workplace sport, so I started running to work to up my calorie burn.
I was running a minimum of 50 km weekly, and I was burning an extra 5,500 calories per week (about 2/3rd’s of a kilo of body fat). So of course that much running paired with all my other training resulted in… Nothing! Well I certainly got fitter, but my weight didn’t budge.
Why? It’s because our bodies are happy where they are and they don’t want to lose weight, they’re preparing for the next famine or when you get stuck down a well. So if you suddenly up your energy expenditure, your body will simply up your hunger levels. I was routinely very hungry, I also had the trouble of having to fuel myself for the run home. I can also safely say that I was overestimating the amount of energy I was burning.
Energy in, VS. energy out…
This is the problem, it is not hard to replace calories you’ve burnt in exercise. I would burn around 680 Calories on my 7 KM run to work, then I’d have a protein shake mixed with half a cup of oats. Whilst this was conservative and healthy, it packed 428 calories! That left me with 252 calorie deficit and still hungry!
You see, your bodies Basal Metabolic Rate is the calories you burn at rest, it is very hard to change, and it’s responsible for 60-80% of daily energy use, digesting food makes up around 10%. This leaves ALL physical activity (work, walking, exercise) responsible for only 10-30% of energy use!
Get this into your head, write it on your fridge and tattoo it to your eating hand: Your diet is responsible for roughly 90% of your results! You simply can’t out run your fork.
All diets boil down to one factor, burning more calories than you consume (despite what the latest trend says). They just have different ways of getting you to consume less calories. Whilst you should also focus on your health and consuming life prolonging foods, the fact is that you can lose weight eating anything, check out the Twinkie diet for proof of that.
So if you really want to lose weight, then you need to track your calories, understand your daily energy needs, and disregard the number of calories that your fitness tracker says you’ve gained (mine routinely gives me an extra 3000 calories!).
It doesn’t mater what diet you may be doing (intermittent fasting/low carb/keto/low fat), if your not in a calorie deficit then you simply won’t lose weight. And the unfortunate fact is you just may have to be a little uncomfortable, or even a little hungry on occasion if weight loss is your goal.
You can find your daily energy needs by getting a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) scan, or by using a diet calculator, I happen to have one right here. Whilst the calculator won’t be as accurate to your individual body as getting a BIA scan, it will help you find an accurate baseline to start at. Once you have your daily energy requirement, begin by dropping no more than 500 calories a day, but be strict.
Then why exercise?
Now I know what you’re thinking, if diet is so important, then why do I need to exercise at all? Clearly, I don’t need a personal trainer at all, Sam. No! You need me! Well, you don’t need me specifically, but you should certainly be training.
Besides all the health benefits, living longer, feeling better, and looking amazing. Exercise makes it a lot easier to eat healthy. It is pretty hard to train your arse off all week, then binge yourself into a food coma without feeling really bad for it. Sure, exercise burns calories also, but it’s a lot easier to not eat a donut than it is to burn it off!
Of course factors such as slow metabolisms, sluggish thyroid conditions, lack of sleep, food intolerance’s etc. will all play into your weight loss efforts. And these along with other factors can definitely make things harder, but these are the cause of your over consumption of calories, not the cause of your weight gain.
The bottom line is, providing you consistently remain in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Exercise is merely a tool to help you on your weight loss journey, as it not only gives you health benefits, it also makes you crave healthy eating.
Losing weight isn’t easy, that’s why it’s a billion-dollar industry (over 70 billion in the US alone). But it’s definitely possible. You just need examine your calorie intake, if your burning more calories than you consume, your body must get that energy from your fat stores.
It does take commitment and consistency, and now that you have your calorie requirements, you need to count them, all of them, yes that includes the sneaky half a handful of nuts, and the butter you spread on your toast, and the little bit of mayo on your salad. Get yourself some food scales off eBay and weigh everything, most people overeat through consistently eating just a little bit too much. Try it for at least a week and you might be surprised at how easy it is to overeat.
But it’s not just calories that count, you still need to eat healthy. Not only will eating healthy help you to effortlessly consume less calories (compare 500 calories of broccoli to 500 calories of take away), but you will feel better, you will have more energy, and your ability to train will improve. For science backed nutrition guidance, visit eatforhealth.gov.au.
If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share bellow!