Im sure you have been here before.
You tracked everything, you did all of your workouts, but still no progress.
Or maybe you saw progress at first and now it slowed down and it’s impossible to come by.
I recently wrote about metabolic adaptation HERE. This is one reason why you could be seeing a plateau. Many people also think they have a damaged metabolism, but if you read that article you will find it actually isn’t damaged, just adapted.
Read HERE to see how to make adjustments during a weight loss plateau.
However, chances are you are making this common mistake even professionals make.
If you are trying to lean out and it’s not working studies show you are probably eating more than you think.
Just telling someone to eat less is terrible advice and never actually works. It goes deeper than that, but in saying that many people are simply not aware of how much they are actually eating.
Here is what I mean:
Clark et al. (1994) looked at a group of women who claimed to be “small eaters.” Small eaters could be described as someone who claims to be eating a small amount but cannot seem to lose weight. These small eaters claimed to eat 1,340 calories per day, but when they used a technique called the doubly-labeled water method (a very accurate way to find how much someone actually consumes) they found that they were actually eating 2,586 calories per day. They later put them on the actual amount of calories they thought they were consuming, and guess what happened? They lost 1.65lbs per week.
Another study on dietitians by Champange et al. (2002) showed that even nutrition professionals such as dieticians misreported their true intake by up to 200 calories per day.
Another study by Lichtman (1992) et al. showed that people underreport their caloric intake by up to 50% or more and overestimated their physical activity by up to 50% or more.
So the next time you tell yourself that there is no way you are arent overeating, just remember even professionals underestimate.
I bring this up because it is a real problem, people will say “but My Fitness Pal says I need to eat more” or “I think I’m eating too little so my body doesn’t want to lose any more body fat”, however, this likely isnt the case.
Look at this example of how you can be a couple hundred calories off but it looks like the same amount of food.
Let me tell you why I think that is:
A 2000 study by Lafay et al. showed that not all foods were equally underreported. Guess what types of foods they found to be underreported the most?
You guessed it, the foods considered “bad for health” (think cookies, cakes, french fries etc) were the foods they found to be reported less frequently and in smaller portion sizes than what they actually consumed.
These foods are high in calories and really don’t fill you up much, so they tend to be overeaten without you even knowing and you still have that feeling that you are hungry.
This eventually leads to you eating a calorie amount that will either maintain your body weight or worst case lead to weight gain. 250-500 extra calories (that you dont know about) per day adds up over time.
The goal here is to make you aware of the problem, not to just tell you to eat less. I think awareness is the biggest issue.
People will look at the scale number and let it overconsume them and decide what food choices they make for the day. Instead, use the scale as feedback.
If it isn’t going down as you want, it doesn’t mean you suck, it just means you need to take a look at yourself in the mirror and figure out what you can improve upon.
Remember you are in control. Trying to convince yourself there is something else going on is only going to keep you stuck, maybe there actually is something else going on? But focusing on what we cannot control gets us nowhere.
So maybe you are now thinking “ok I might be eating more than I think. How can I fix this?”
How to Fix This
Practicing weighing out foods
Getting a food scale and portioning out foods can be super beneficial. This allows you to see what an actual portion size looks like. You do not have to do this forever, however, weighing foods every 3-6 months (for about 4-8 weeks at a time) is probably a good idea. You wouldn’t believe how quickly you can forget what a portion size looks.
How to use a food scale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kizveVq2jyM&t=4s
Stick to a consistent eating schedule
Eating at different times each day and eating a different amount of meals each day is a sure way to ensure you will overeat a lot. By getting into some sort of routine in terms of how many meals you eat and what time, this allows you to regulate your calorie intake much better.
Limit eating out
Most meals you eat when you go out are usually loaded with calories that you are not aware of (think butter, dressings, sauces etc.), not to mention the portion sizes of these meals are on the larger side, making it tough to lean out if you eat out too much.
Eat with no distractions and slow down your eating
Mindless eating while watching TV or working is a good way to ensure you will overeat. Slow down and try to eat most of your meals undistracted at a table.
Portion out tasty treats
Either weigh it out or grab a bowl and put the tasty food in there compared to eating out of the bag and then once you are finished, leave it be. This isn’t guaranteed to work because you can just get up and get more, but it decreases the chance that you will overeat.
Those handfuls of chips or candy you had throughout the day need to be tracked just as much as your healthy lunch (actually its probably more important to track the snacks). It’s much easier to say you are not losing weight eating healthy, but you are just hurting yourself by not tracking these foods and worst of all you are taking away your control that you have.
Tracking is a skill just like anything else and you get better with it over time.
One of the biggest things you can do to see the results you want is to take responsibility. If you arent seeing the results you want then chances are there is something you are doing that can be improved upon.
I hope this helps you get there.
If you struggle with this that’s exactly one of the main things we work on with online clients. If you are interested in my 1:1 coaching program check it out HERE.
Clark, D., Tomas, F., Withers, R. T., Chandler, C., Brinkman, M., Phillips, J., Berry, M., Ballard, F. J., & Nestel, P. (1994). Energy metabolism in free-living, ‘large-eating’ and ‘small-eating’ women: studies using 2H2(18)O. The British journal of nutrition, 72(1), 21–31. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn19940006
Champagne, C. M., Bray, G. A., Kurtz, A. A., Monteiro, J. B., Tucker, E., Volaufova, J., & Delany, J. P. (2002). Energy intake and energy expenditure: a controlled study comparing dietitians and non-dietitians. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 102(10), 1428–1432. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0002-8223(02)90316-0
Lafay, L., Mennen, L., Basdevant, A., Charles, M. A., Borys, J. M., Eschwège, E., & Romon, M. (2000). Does energy intake underreporting involve all kinds of food or only specific food items? Results from the Fleurbaix Laventie Ville Santé (FLVS) study. International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders : journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 24(11), 1500–1506. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0801392
Lichtman, S. W., Pisarska, K., Berman, E. R., Pestone, M., Dowling, H., Offenbacher, E., Weisel, H., Heshka, S., Matthews, D. E., & Heymsfield, S. B. (1992). Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. The New England journal of medicine, 327(27), 1893–1898. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJM199212313272701