Weight loss issues are bound to come up during your healthy lifestyle transition. The following are 3 of the most common problems people come to me seeking help to fix.
Stalled Weight Loss
I had to lead off the list with this one, as it is probably the #1 issue plaguing most people. The problem is that the cause could be any number of factors. The most common causes are:
- Eating too few calories – eating too few calories is a sure way to slow your metabolism and have your progress come to a screeching halt. Muscle loss and down-regulated metabolic hormones are 2 side effects of prolonged calorie restriction. Read more about not eating enough to lose weight.
- Not eating enough quality food – it’s not just about calories. Nutrients are needed for your body to function optimally. If you don’t get in all your essential nutrients, your body is not going to easily let go of extra energy (fat). Find out why I recommend focusing on the quality of your food before restricting calories.
- Paying attention to the scale instead of body fat – the scale readings don’t always align with your progress. You can easily lose 5 pounds of fat while simultaneously gaining 5 pounds of water – effectively making you think you haven’t made any progress. Focus on body fat readings instead. Read more about why you might be working out but gaining weight.
- Being impatient – most people have unrealistic expectations of how fast they should lose weight. From shows like The Biggest Loser, to the standard 2lbs per week “safe” weight loss advice, people easily get discouraged when they aren’t hitting those numbers. You can expect to lose .5-1% body fat every 1-2 weeks, with the lower number being the most likely. You’ll need to be measuring body fat to monitor that progress. Here is a cheap pair of body fat calipers I recommend.
- Overdoing the cheat meals – do you live for your cheat meals? I’ve seen time and time again how people eat nearly 100% healthy food all week long and then blow it with a weekend long binge fest. One meal turns into 2, which eventually turns into a whole day, or worse – a whole weekend. Those calories add up. Don’t binge. Eat what you want in a meal, but watch your portion sizes. Find out if cheat meals are holding you back.
Determining Calorie Intake
Confusion about calorie intakes is probably one of the first weight loss problems people experience. They aren’t sure if they’re eating too much or too little. Calorie calculators and fitness apps all suggest a different number, so who’s right? The following are 4 ways to determine your intake, ordered from least accurate to most accurate.
- 10-12 times your body weight in pounds. Start with the higher number and come down only if necessary.
- Use a calorie calculator to estimate your energy needs. Here is one that uses the Harris-Benedict formula.
- Use the BodyMedia Fit armband to accurately track your daily calorie burn and create a deficit of 15% based off that number.
- Find your maintenance calories by experimenting with your diet through trial and error, and then create a 15% calorie deficit. I laid out a plan to find this number in this article.
How Do I Get Rid of the Fat From ____ (insert body part)
A lot of people would be happy with their bodies if they could only get rid of the fat from so and so part. It can be frustrating when it seems like you’re losing fat from everywhere on your body but the one spot you really care about.
The way we lose fat is systemic. That means it comes off from all over our bodies. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that it comes off evenly from all over. Other factors influence where the fat comes off. Your insulin sensitivity, hormone levels, and level of blood flow to those particular fat tissues can all have an effect on how you store and release fatty acids.
The one thing that’s not going to work is targeting fat loss in those areas with exercise. No amount of crunches will get you six pack abs if you have fat covering them up.
But while you can’t target fat loss in the technical sense, certain nutritional modifications and exercise protocols can influence hormone levels, which can have an impact on the proportion of fat loss in specific areas.
For example, strength training has been shown to decrease abdominal fat even in people who aren’t eating a weight loss diet . Also, high intensity interval training (HIIT), when compared to steady state cardio, produced greater reductions in abdominal, leg, and total body fat .
Keep your exercise intensity up and the quality of your diet high, and then be patient as you lower your total body fat. The lower your body fat percentage gets, the less stubborn fat you will have.