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You decided to lose a bit of fat, you got your gym membership, and started going to a few fitness classes every week. You also cleaned up your diet, adding a bit more vegetables and cutting down on chocolate.
Two weeks later, you don’t see much of a change. And yet, you’re doing everything right! So what’s wrong?
In this article, I’m going to cover a few potential reasons that are getting in the way of your progress. Let’s get into Number 1!
1. You aren’t in a calorie deficit
Most people have a pretty good idea of what a balanced diet is supposed to look like. Yet, even when they believe they are checking all the boxes, they are still frustrated by their lack of results.
When I ask them, “Are you counting your calories?” Their answer is no.
The thing is, fat loss doesn’t care about what you are eating as much as it does about how much you are eating.
For example, let’s say you were eating one cookie every day, but you stop doing that at the beginning of your diet and decide to include “healthier” choices instead, so you start having an avocado with your lunch. A medium avocado is about 160 calories, whereas a cookie is around 150 to 200 calories.
The difference in caloric intake is close to null, despite the fact that you might perceive the avocado as “healthier.”
That’s why the weight on the scale isn’t changing. To make that happen, how much you eat is going to have a much bigger impact than what kind of food you eat.
By no means do I recommend counting calories for the rest of your life, unless that’s something you find beneficial and not at all distressing.
However, some form of tracking – whether that is logging calories and macros or using portion sizes – can be an extremely valuable teaching tool for you to understand how much you eat and how much you would need to eat to achieve your goals.
In time, you will become proficient enough to be able to eyeball your portions for the purpose of maintenance and perhaps only track food for a more specific purpose, such as losing fat or gaining muscle.
In fact, a client of mine is implementing this strategy right now in our coaching practice.
At first, we worked on optimising her nutrition to fuel her workouts, which was her initial goal, then she told me she wanted to learn how to track calories to maintain her food intake, as she has a history of struggling to eat enough to sustain her active lifestyle.
Though not a fan of calorie-counting, she is sticking to it, and we are collecting data from her MyFitnessPal logs to create a blueprint that she can follow to create her meals in the future, when this period of tracking comes to an end.
Food logging can thus be an educational segue into more “intuitive” eating, saving you from unwanted weight gain or loss even after you’ve said goodbye to MyFitnessPal.
2. You are tracking, just not accurately enough
It can be easy to overlook some foods and drinks, maybe because you don’t know they add calories, or maybe because you only have “a little bit,” so it can’t be “that bad” for your total calorie intake.
These mistakes add up, and by the end of the week your average caloric intake isn’t enough to put you in the energy deficit you need to lose fat.
Some examples of foods and drinks you might not think of tracking include:
3. You aren’t lifting weights… or you are
Maybe you have lost fat, but you still don’t look the way you would like to look. You might be smaller, but you resemble a stick figure with flabby skin, which isn’t exactly the athletic figure you were aiming for.
Unfortunately, many of us still don’t know about the benefits of resistance training for fat loss, due to the fact that the popularity of this type of training among average gym-goers and the research on its benefits for the general population are relatively recent.
Most tend to associate a fat loss diet with the treadmill or another cardio machine. Certainly, if you are only just starting to go to the gym with the goal of losing fat, cardio will help you burn more calories – and thus achieve a caloric deficit with more ease – whilst strengthening your heart and lungs.
However, what cardio won’t do is build an appreciable amount of muscle, which is necessary to achieve the look most of us aspire to.
In other words, losing fat is only one aspect of a fat loss phase. The other aspect is building muscle, which a “gym newbie” can usually do at the same time as losing fat. This means you will replace your “old pounds” of fat with “new pounds” of muscle in your first one to three months on a comprehensive exercise program that includes some form of resistance training.
So, if you don’t lift yet and you don’t like the way you look, a basic full-body program two to three times per week could do wonders for your physique development.
On the other hand, if you have already started lifting, you have been following your diet, and the scale hasn’t budged much over the past few weeks, don’t worry.
You might be undergoing a process called “body recomposition,” which means you are losing fat and putting on muscle at the same time. As a result, the scale might not change, but you are.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to focus on other ways of assessing progress, such as strength and performance improvements in the gym, pictures, circumference measurements, and the good ol’ mirror.
In Future Episodes:
To complement this article, I will tackle why you might not be gaining weight next!
What are you struggling with on your own fat loss journey?
A personal trainer who likes superheroes, bread, lifting weights, and studying “fitness stuff”.
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