This is the month of New Year’s resolutions.
Many people make resolutions to lose weight with the best of intentions before January 1st, but then find it hard to follow through.
One of the reasons many of us fail is because we make resolutions at a time when our resolve is high: usually right after a binge or overindulgence!
You’ve heard it before, you might have even said it yourself: “I’m never eating x again,” or after a night of drinking and the hangover sets in: “I’m never drinking again!”
This never works because we don’t have the foresight (it’s human nature, really) to anticipate how we will feel in the future when the stone-cold reality of what we’re currently experiencing is over.
We can’t project how we’ll feel in some future time because the future is uncertain.
Not to mention the fact that we’re human and notoriously bad at using past evidence to predict our future behavior!
Regardless, many resolutions will be abandoned because we approach them with too much optimism and not enough strategy.
If you find yourself in this position, that is, wondering why you can’t lose weight and why you failed on your resolution, don’t worry!
I’m going to break it down for you, and give you plenty of tips for what you can do to be more successful next time.
So why aren’t you losing weight? Here are some likely reasons:
1. You don’t know what or how much you’re eating.
In order to be successful on a weight loss plan, you have to establish a baseline. This is why most coaches ask you to give them a short food diary prior to developing a plan for you: they want to know what your eating habits are and what you like to eat.
It’s hard for us to be objective about our food choices: we underestimate how much we eat in general. This is why tracking our intake is not only good to establish a baseline, but necessary for success, at least in the short term.
Once we have a handle on how much we’re currently eating and how much we want to eat to lose (i.e. the size of our deficit), we can be more strategic about how to plan what and how we’ll eat going forward to keep us full and satisfied!
2. You’re not in a calorie deficit.
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous. If you don’t know what and how much you’re eating, how could you know whether you’re in a deficit or not?
You have to eat less than you burn to lose weight, period. It’s simple mathematics. Of course, the things surrounding that core principle vary and are more nuanced, but the fact remains that in order to lose, we need to be in a deficit.
We achieve that deficit by tracking our intake so we know what and how much we’re eating.
3. You’re tracking calories, not macros.
This is a big one! If you’re counting or tracking calories indiscriminately, you may not be losing because you’ve unintentionally triggered your body to think it’s starving.
Our bodies are smart: they get used to being at a certain weight, and they resist change. They like homeostasis, so when we try to do too much all at once (i.e. dramatically reduce calories and increase exercise at the same time), our bodies rebel by holding onto weight.
In order to circumvent this, we must reduce our calories strategically. We don’t want our metabolism to plateau or go down too soon, so we need to make sure that we’re getting adequate protein to feed our muscles and promote their growth, even in a deficit.
By counting macros, we can reduce overall calories but maintain optimal ratios of protein:carbs:fat to promote what we really want: to lose body fat.
4. You’re not getting enough protein.
Boom! Not getting enough protein in a deficit is the nail in the coffin of our results.
Protein helps us stay satisfied and remain fuller, longer. It takes longer to digest than carbs, and it contains less calories per gram than fat so increasing protein is a simple way to eat less overall without feeling deprived.
5. You’re exercising too much.
Hmmm, maybe you thought that adding that extra few hours of cardio each week was helping speed your results along, but let me say that it’s probably doing more harm than good.
In the right amounts and at the right intensity, cardio can be one of the most effective ways to get lean, but moderate-intensity exercise (what most people do for “cardio”) can actually impede our results by elevating cortisol levels and increasing the hunger hormones.
Strength training 3-5x per week and some leisure walking is the best prescription for fat loss, at least for those just starting out on their weight loss journeys.
6. You’re avoiding the foods that you enjoy.
This is another one that makes you go “hmmm,” right?
You’re probably thinking, “But Hilary. I enjoy potato chips, cookies, pizza and burgers. How could I possibly enjoy those foods while trying to lose weight?”
Well, have you ever noticed that when you’re dieting and forcing yourself to avoid certain foods, you find that you crave then even more? That’s because we want what we can’t have…even if it’s something we wouldn’t normally choose to eat!
It’s human nature to want what we can’t have, and when we try to resist that temptation, we end up intensifying our cravings.
Eventually, we can’t hold out any longer and we binge.
A better strategy is to tell ourselves that nothing is off limits. The simple act of giving ourselves permission to eat what we we want makes us not want to everything.
7. You’re eating foods you dislike.
This goes hand-in-hand with avoiding the foods we enjoy.
There is no such thing as an off-the-shelf diet that works for everyone. Diet is individual, and the perfect diet is the diet that you’ll stick to.
If I force myself to eat bland chicken breast and asparagus 6 times a day–even if I’m not hungry!–I’m going to crave other types of foods, the ones that I do like.
And when I start to crave the foods I like, I’m going to try and rely on my willpower to resist the urge to eat them. Since willpower is a finite resource, I am going to eventually lose. The body always wins because we can’t outsmart it.
8. You’re basing your results on the scale and not on other indicators.
We have a tendency to fixate on a number on the scale when we’re trying to lose weight and not consider the other barometers of success, like how our clothes fit, our energy levels, and how we’re managing our hunger, craving, etc.
As I mentioned above, what we want to do instead of “lose weight” indiscriminately is lose fat. When we lose fat, we may not see the scale move significantly, but we will look different physically. Our clothes will be looser because we will have lost inches.
The scale only tells one part of the story! What difference does it make what the scale says as long as we’re losing inches and feeling stronger and more energized, right?!
9. You’re not doing enough leisure activities.
I cannot impress enough how important it is to take time for ourselves. Self care is a crucial part of any wellness program, and what we do for leisure is a huge part of that equation.
Many people don’t have the ability to relax. They are too preoccupied to think about leisure, let alone do it! Unsurprisingly, these are often the folks who need to relax most!
The modern world we live in is inundated with stress triggers. Many people operate under a blanket of low-grade stress that they consider normal.
It’s in fact far from it.
When we experience stress, our cortisol levels rise. If we release that stress–through exercise or leisure activities, for example–our bodies aren’t constantly flooded with this hormone that studies have shown causes stubborn belly fat to accumulate around the mid-section.
But when we have no true outlet, that’s when cortisol levels stay elevated, which can lead to higher risk of heart disease.
Leisure walking, gentle or restorative yoga, etc. are great ways to alleviate stress, lower cortisol levels, and recuperate between tough workouts.
10. You’re focused on a particular number, and not on the process itself.
When we diet, we tend to have a particular goal in mind. Usually, it’s a number or a size.
When we do this, and we fall short, we tend to blame ourselves or the program. Either way, we make ourselves out to be the victim and it leaves us feeling powerless.
The antidote to feeling powerless is falling in love with the process of getting healthier/stronger/more fit/more capable/less prone to injury/etc.
The bottom line is that the road to health is a bumpy, indirect one with lots of detours. We need to constantly reassess where we’re going and how to get there.
The point is that we’re perpetually moving, and that’s the true success!