First things first; If you have a medically diagnosed condition such as hypothyroidism for example, where there is a legitimate reason for your weight gain. If you are on medications such as some psychotropics or prednisone which are known to cause weight gain, this article is not aimed at you. However, you might want to read along anyhow for future reference.
We correspond through email with several of our readers quite often by answering their weight loss and management questions. One prevalent topic goes as such; Joey Bagofdonuts claims to be consuming only 1800 calories per day, and per his fitness tracker he is burning 1000 calories each day, yet he cannot lose weight. Immediately when I read or hear these types of statements being made, I have questions to ask about their dietary and physical fitness routines or habits. This may ruffle a few feathers, but here is the real deal with no sugar coating to sweeten this. You are either not being entirely honest with me or yourself. Or, you may truly believe that you are doing everything you should be, yet you are quite possibly ill informed as to what it takes to successfully lose and manage body fat, which likely means you are not doing everything you should be doing.
Questions I am going to ask, and points I will address:
1. Do you have any medically diagnosed issue which could legitmately cause you to gain, or retain, body fat. If so, I am going to refer you back to your doctor to discuss your concerns. If you are on a medication that causes weight gain, you will want to consult your doctor to see if there is another suitable alternative.
2. Do you know your daily caloric needs based on your basal metabolic rate? Do you track the calories of everything you consume during the day? If so, how do you track them?
- Do you weigh and measure your foods while paying close attention to your portion sizes?
- Do you track calories from the peanut butter you might have licked off a spoon after making your child a sandwich? It only takes 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to equal 190 calories. Those licks add up as do finishing the last few bites of your childs sandwich they left on their plate when they ran outside to play.
- If you find there is one last cookie in an ohterwise empty package, do you track those calories if you pop that one little morsel of goodness into your mouth?
- How about bite size candies you might find in in a bowl at your doctors office reception desk? One Hershey’s Kiss equals 22 calories, or 66 calories if you got greedy and had three.
- If you finish off a glass of milk left behind by your child did you count those calories? Four ounces of 2% milk equals 60 calories.
As you can see, those small amounts of calories can quickly add up over the course of your busy day. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories. In order to lose that one pound of fat in a week, you will need to reduce your daily calories by 500 per day. If you need 2300 calories to maintain your level of body fat, or 1800 calories per day to lose one pound per week, then those little bites which are not tracked are going to easily keep you close to, possibly even over that 2300 required for maintenance. Which means, you are not going to lose body fat.
3. Do you keep track of your macronutrients? Do you know what macronutrients are? Macronutrients are carbohydrates, fat and protein. Do you know that you are getting sufficient quantities of each? Are you consuming enough protein to maintain and or build upon your lean muscle mass? Are consuming enough healthy fats to ensure proper absorption of vitamins and minerals into your system? And are you consuming enough carbs to keep your body fueled for your level of activity? I recommend a high protein low carb diet with fat included. This manner of eating is going to keep you better satiated for weight loss, but know the amount of each macronutrient is dependent on the amount of physical activity you do each day. For example, as a strength trainer, my protein needs are going to be higher than one who is sedentary for the most part.
4. Are you still eating simple carbohydrates such as table sugar? If so, then stop now. Simple carbs are addictive in nature and drive insatiable cravings that are difficult to not feed. Besides the addictive nature of simple carbohydrates, they cause many ailments such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, fatty liver, metabolic syndrome and more. Simple carbohydrates also cause inflammation in your body which means that your body is going to hold onto excess fluids which are going to keep you feeling bloated and over weight. Refer back to my article “Are Natural Sweeteners Better For You” for more information about simple carbohydrates and refined sugars.
5. If you are using your fitness tracker or app to figure out how many calories a day you can eat, do yourself a huge favor and stop this if you are not losing body fat. While there are some fitness trackers that are fairly accurate, there are also many which are not anywhere near being accurate in regards to how many calories you have burned through your physical activities. Some calorie counters on fitness apps, treamills and such are wildly inaccurate. For example:
- You basal metabolic rate dictates you need 2000 calories a day to maintain your weight and 1500 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week, and
- Your fitness tracker said you burned 1000 calories a day, so you added that to your 1500 and acutally consumed 2500 calories per day. If your tracker is accurate in calories burned, you should still lose that 1 pound per week. This is pretty simple.
- Equally simple, if you take the above figures and are not losing that 1 pound per week, either you are not burning as many calories as you believe, or, you are consuming more than you think. Unless you have a medical condition, this is going to be true for every otherwise healthy individual. Your body is not as unique unto yourself as many people believe. Either you are over rating your amount of activity, or underestimating your caloric intake. It truly is this simple for everyone.
6. One popular weight loss program, Weight Watchers, assigns a point value to foods, and zero points for other foods. No matter the point values or lack thereof, all foods contain calories. If you are on this point based system and cannot lose weight, you might consider counting how many calories you are actually consuming. Where folks unknowingly sabotage themselves on Weight Watchers:
- They earn their blue dots for the day with no consideration to how many calories they have consumed. The number of calories could be under their daily needs, or just as easily, could far exceed their caloric needs. You are supposed to be in your target range of points when you are given a blue dot.
- They consume less than optimal foods and earn their blue point, and then fill up on zero point foods which causes them to exceed their caloric needs while maintaining their blue dot status.
- Whole fruits have zero points assigned to them while crushed, blended or pulverizing those same fruits cause them to gain points. People will blend fruits into a smoothie for example and not count thepoints from the blended fruit because they do not believe this is necessary since the whole fruit is not assigned any points. The fallacy in this thinking is they do not consider, or realize, that once you have removed, or pulverized the fiber content of said fruit, then you might as well be consuming any other simple sugar.
7. You can be awarded extra points for physical activity on Weight Watcher and additional calories on other fitness apps, which means you should be able to safely eat a little more and still lose weight. The problem is people are adding points or calories for basic activities such as running their vacuum cleaner. No matter if you earned extra points or additional calories from any other program/app, if the activity did not cause your heart rate to elevate into your fat burning zone for a minimum of 20 minutes, you are not losing body fat. It takes on average 20 minutes in the aerobic fat burning heart rate zone to burn off of your glycogen stores before any body fat is going to be burned off too.
Without exception, otherwise healthy individuals who have difficulty losing body fat will either underestimate how many calories they have consumed, and or, over rate the amount and intensity of their physical activity. This is the truth, your body is not so unique that these principles do not apply to you if we are being honest with each other. It does not matter so much if you want to be dishonest with me on these issues, the larger question is are you going to be honest with yourself. And if not, who does it hurt the most?