The 5 Biggest Reasons Why You Cannot Lose Body Fat
Trying to lose weight? We have all been there time and time again. Sometimes we feel like we are doing everything right, but for some reason, we can’t see the changes we are hoping for. It can be very frustrating, believe me I know. But fat loss is not always as simple as “calories in, calories out,” and “eat less, exercise more.” In fact, our bodies are a lot smarter than we think they are and if we try to outsmart them, you may end up gaining more fat in the process of trying to lose it. But don’t worry, all hope is not lost! There may be some simple things you are missing the mark on which may help you get back on track seeing healthy, sustainable results in no time.
1. You are not aware of how much you are really eating
The first question I always ask anyone who asks me about losing body fat is “are you tracking your food?” Nine times out of ten, the answer is no. Well, let me ask you this: if you are not tracking your food intake, then how do you know if you are over consuming or under consuming calories? The simple answer is that you don’t and most people significantly underestimate the number of calories they think they are consuming. Eating too much will mean your body cannot burn enough calories to lose body fat; however, eating too little can cause your body to switch to “survival mode” and hold onto unwanted fat for dear life. Both are not ideal situations for fat loss goals.
Use any food tracking app that allows you to plug in your daily food intake. It will give you a much more comprehensive idea of where you are at and you can see more clearly why you may not be making the progress you are after.
2. You are not active enough
You may be working out 5-6 days a week for one hour per day. But what about the other 23 hours in your day? Of course, at least 8 should be spent sleeping! But the activity that you’re doing, or not doing, for the remainder of your day, may be hindering your fat loss. Most of us, even if we work out consistently, tend to have a sedentary lifestyle due to an office job that has us sitting down behind a computer or driving and sitting in the car all day. NEAT matters. What is NEAT? This acronym stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”. In laymen’s terms, it essentially means the energy you burn through everyday movements and activity such as cleaning the house, walking, fidgeting, getting up for a glass of water, etc. If you are struggling to get the weight off, you may need to re-assess how much activity you are really doing.
Get an activity tracker. There are so many activity trackers on the market these days that sync to apps on your smartphone, and even your smartphone has apps you can use independently while simply leaving your phone in your pocket all day. Track your daily steps and increase them. Surprisingly, I found that I was only doing 2,000-3,000 steps per day when I started tracking my activity level. I now aim for at least 6,000-8,000. This has allowed me to make more optimal progress on a higher food intake by simply being more conscious of getting up and moving every few hours during the day.
3. Your sleep quality sucks
Sleep! The one piece of the fat-loss puzzle that most people underestimate, A LOT! When you sleep, your body produces hormones that help your body repair and recover, but also help you burn body fat.
Go to bed at the same time every night. I suggest going to bed by 10 p.m. every evening in a dark room for optimal hormone function, as this is the time your body starts to secrete hormones that prime your body for a good night’s sleep. If you are struggling with disconnecting, set an alarm 30 minutes before bedtime (ideally 9:30 p.m.) to remind you to turn off all technology, make a cup of tea and just relax. I know that some days we can’t always get 8 hours of sleep in, but do your best. Sundays I have a rule: no alarms! I never set an alarm on a Sunday; I just wake up when I wake up, with no guilt!
4. You are underestimating your stress levels
Our body is built to survive; that is, in fact, its primary purpose. It doesn’t care about your fat-loss goals, it essentially wants to make sure everything is functioning properly. So sometimes when we push our bodies by reducing calories and increasing the amount of exercise, it is very stressful on our bodies and causes our bodies to fight back.
I know, it’s not always just exercise and nutrition that plays a role here. Lifestyle factors such as crazy busy jobs and social commitments leave most people with little down time – which is also stressful on your body. Extra cardio coupled with minimal calories and inevitable lifestyle factors can easily cause your body’s cortisol to increase. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone which signals your body to go into survival mode. But when we hit plateaus and fat loss stalls, we want to push harder, which can have our bodies fighting the process even harder. When our body is under stress, it creates adaptations as a consequence, like slowing down the metabolism and changing the way our hormones function.
When “dieting” for a goal, give yourself plenty of time so that you make slow sustainable changes. You can use tools such as diet breaks and refeed days which are periods of higher calorie consumption to help reduce any hormonal adaptations and alleviate stress from dietary restriction. And don’t forget to take time out for you! Incorporate active recovery such as yoga, meditation, extra sleep and deep breathing when you can. Have some time out just for YOU!
5. You are not consistent
I cannot stress this enough: Consistency is absolutely the KEY to success. Something I see all too often is the “all or nothing” approach to fat loss. Many people are on their nutrition and training 150% for a couple of weeks, then they fall off the wagon for a few weeks. Then they “start again on Monday” for another few days, then it’s someone’s birthday on the weekend and off the wagon they go again. This is not a sustainable approach. Someone who is 150% compliant only 40% of the time will struggle to see any progress compared to someone who is 80% compliant 100% of the time. Those people may have a day here or there where they are not perfect, don’t we all? But those who keep going as best as they can no matter which small hiccups they have – those are the ones who are going to get sustainable fat loss!
Let’s look at an example. Are you Person A or Person B? One day you are out for a social gathering and have a slice of pizza. Person A feels like they have already blown their diet and chooses to eat nearly the whole pizza and rationalizes this by saying, “I will start again on Monday.” Person B, on the other hand, eats one slice of pizza, maybe even two, and sees it as no big deal and decides to move on.
Person A just blew their calories for the entire day in one meal, while person B might have gone a little bit over without much damage and gets back on their plan the very next day. Person B will see better results in the long run than Person A. Think about it…which are you? Be honest!
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Do your best each day, get your workouts in, and start small. Get in 2 workouts a week without overcommitting and slowly add in workouts as you have time. Focus on your nutrition and make good choices 80% of the time and 20% will allow for some extra leeway for fun foods and outings without hindering your results.
Track your progress and do your best to stick to your plan. And if you don’t, it’s okay, you can start fresh the next day and keep on going!
Do any of these big reasons why you cannot lose body fat make you think a little bit? Let me know in the comments below where you are lagging or where you are excelling!
About Nina Silic:
With over 20 years of dance experience, 8 years in the fitness industry & a thriving passion for health and nutrition – Nina is an IFBB Bikini Pro Athlete, Bikini Champion, Oxygen Cover Girl and an Australian health and fitness coach as well as the marketing and content manager for Muscle Worx Australia, one of Australia’s leading sports nutrition retailers. After years spent with hormone imbalance and crash dieting, Nina found a way to balance her hormones and reach healthy aesthetic goals with a fit and healthy lifestyle. It’s her passion and mission now to help others do the same.