Google returns over 4 million results when you search for “how to lose weight”. While the actual mechanics of weight loss are quite simple (burn more calories than you consume), the realities of applying this in everyday life aren’t quite as easy.
Losing weight and keeping it off requires time, patience and a lot of willpower. And even when you’re doing all of the right things, there are still some common mistakes that can easily trip you up.
Tracking your calories, exercising 4-5 days a week and increasing your daily step count is a great place to start, and you might notice incredible results in the beginning. But rapid weight loss is not sustainable, and eventually you might hit a weight loss plateau. Or you might find that you’re doing all of the right things but not noticing any big movements on the scale.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the common reasons that you might not be achieving your weight loss goals and how you can remedy these all too common problems.
How does weight loss work?
Weight loss is very simple, but also very complex. The basic principle of weight loss is that you need to burn more calories than you consume. This typically means calculating how many calories you need at rest, adding on calories you need for exercise, and then reducing this to ensure you are in a calorie deficit.
A calorie deficit simply means that you are eating less than you burn. If you can maintain a calorie deficit over a sustained period of time, your body will turn to fat stores in the body for its energy.
However, maintaining a calories deficit over a long period can be quite difficult. Firstly, accurately tracking calories is very time consuming, which means individuals tend to get more lax with their tracking as time goes by. And secondly, we’re surrounded by temptation all the time, which can make sticking to a low calorie diet challenging.
What gets in the way of weight loss?
When starting to track your calories and workout consistently, you might notice an initial drop in your weight. After time, this might slow down, leading you to question if your plan is still effective. These are some of the most common reasons that individuals struggle to lose weight, and what you can do about it.
Treating exercise as punishment for food
You can’t out-train a bad diet, and you also shouldn’t be aiming to “earn” your cheat meals. Having an unhealthy attitude towards your diet can lead you into a restrict and binge cycle. So while you might be hitting your calorie and macro targets during the week, you’re overeating at the weekend which is halting your progress.
A more effective approach would be to allow yourself to enjoy your favourite foods in moderation. When you see your food as fuel for your next workout instead of seeing your workout as punishment for what you ate, you’ll be far more likely to see success.
Not eating enough protein
Carbs are often vilified by those who are trying to lose weight. Carbs aren’t the bad guy and it is certainly possible to lose weight while eating carbs. But failing to get enough protein in every meal is certain to derail your progress.
Protein is essential for building muscle, but it also helps you to feel fuller for longer. By increasing the amount of protein in every meal, you might find that you have fewer cravings between meals. Try these vegan protein-rich recipe ideas to help get you started.
Not getting enough rest
If you’re struggling to give it your all during workouts, you might not be prioritising rest as much as you should be, and this could get in the way of your weight loss goals. Rest is about more than just getting your 8 hours sleep every night. You also need to plan rest days to give your body a break.
If you’re training too hard and not getting enough sleep, your cortisol levels will spike. High levels of cortisol can lead to weight gain and muscle weakness. To combat this, you need to make sure your body is able to recover properly after a workout. This means prioritising eight hours of sleep every night and making sure you have enough rest days.
Not drinking enough water
There are a few reasons that water can help with weight loss. For starters, it can help to reduce the amount you eat at meal times by helping to fill your stomach. One study found that a glass of water before a meal can reduce the amount you eat by around 13%.
Water also helps your muscles and connective tissues to function correctly, while also helping to clear waste from the body. And finally, if you’re drinking water, you’re less likely to be drinking high sugar alternatives such as fizzy drinks or juice. This can help to decrease your overall caloric intake.
Not staying consistent
You can’t expect overnight results. When you step on the scale every morning, you might see small fluctuations. Instead of worrying when the weight goes up slightly, focus on the overall trend. If you are tracking your calories accurately and working out consistently, your weight will decrease over time.
Instead of thinking in terms of days weeks, try thinking in terms of months and years. Remember, if it didn’t take 12 weeks to put the weight on, you’re not going to lose it in 12 weeks either. Remain consistent in your approach and you’ll be on the right track.
Is weight loss everything?
The number of the scale has very little to do with your strength and health, so it shouldn’t be the only thing you are using to measure your success. You can also use progress photos, measurements and how your clothes fit as an indicator of your progress.
Remember that your weight can fluctuate by up to 6lbs per day, so don’t stress if the number on the scale is higher than you had hoped. If you’re eating right, exercising with a plan, drinking water, eating protein and prioritising rest, you will be on the right track.