For the past 8 weeks, I led 10 women through the Love Your Temple Weight Loss Challenge. This was an online challenge using communication through a private Facebook group; I set the woman challenges, such as exercising 4 times a week or a week of eating clean for dinner and they would post their sweaty selfies and yummy chickpea burgers for us all to see. It was a success for many reasons and it was great to see women who had never met before encouraging each other and working hard because they felt motivated and accountable.
It was a great learning curve for myself because I was able to observe the different women and their progress and see why they were or were not losing weight. There were a few ladies with the typical weight loss excuses such as “not having enough time” but they were able to learn how to overcome them and make progress. There were those who thought they ate well but actually did not seeing them change their habits. It was really interesting and it led me to write the following post because I have been able to relate to a few of them and maybe you can too. So here we go, 5 reasons you are not losing weight:
Disclaimer: I am not a Personal Trainer or health professional.
1. You’re not eating (and drinking) clean
The key to weight loss is simple, eat well and exercise but I’ve realised that we all have different ideas of what a healthy meal consists of. I remember when I was about 18 and I thought eating Special K cereal, Brunch bars and tinned soup was healthy but now I know better. I explain in this blogpost what eating clean actually is and yes you can lose weight by following plans such as Weight Watchers where you’re allowed chocolate and chips every day but in my opinion, eating whole foods is best for your body and gets you lasting results.
You need to know exactly what is in your food. What ingredients have been added? What will they do for your body? The same applies for drinks; I just spoke to someone the other day that didn’t realise how much sugar was in the juice she drank everyday and this is a common problem because we eat without reading. When we shop on ASOS we read the description of the clothes and perhaps check what material it is made of but we shove yogurt into our mouths without even knowing what it contains. You might be running every day and going hard with the weights but you also might be drinking 50g of sugar every day.
If you want to lose weight you need to cut down on your sugar, salt and refined carbohydrate intake and eat more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. You need to eat fresh food and not rely on ready meals and packaged foods. You might think what you’re eating is healthy but unless you have made it yourself or have carefully read the label, how can you be sure?
2. You’re eating more than you realise
This is quite common; you’re eating your brown rice and lentils every day but you’re not losing weight. Why? First of all that mountain of rice is not doing you any good. Portion control is very important when it comes to weight loss. We commonly eat more than we need because we love the taste of food or because that’s simply the way we have been brought up. The image below is a useful guide when planning meals. Portion control also applies to snacks; just because fruit is good for you, it doesn’t mean you need to eat the whole punnet of grapes and just because you cooked the chicken yourself, that does not mean you need 4 drumsticks.
Another issue when it comes to eating too much is not being able to account for your food. This is for two main reasons; firstly because you are not planning your meals. If you do not plan what you will eat that day, how can you guarantee that you will eat well? If you are serious about weight loss you need to write out a meal plan, cook the food and plan when you will eat it. You cannot leave things by chance or depend on how you ‘feel’ that day because most days I feel like eating donuts for dinner so if I don’t have my chickpeas ready, that’s exactly what I’ll do. You might wake up early, do a morning workout and have a healthy breakfast but then because you have not planned that day’s food you end up grabbing a sandwich at work, snacking on a whole packet of biscuits without thinking and then buying a takeaway for dinner because you’re knackered from a long day. If you had planned your lunch and brought it from home you would be able to eat exactly how you wanted to and according to your goals but leaving it to ‘how you feel‘ means that you might end up eating junk or not being able to control how much you eat. Also, having a partially or fully prepared dinner waiting for you at home means that even when you’re tired you can still make sure you’re eating well.
Secondly, we forget that we have eaten certain things. Have you watched Secret Eaters on Channel 4? (Go and catch up now!) It shows how we might think we ate ‘just a bit of pasta’ or ‘didn’t have chocolate yesterday’ but we actually did the opposite. You have to remember that every single bite counts, from the biscuit your colleague gave you at 11am to the 2 forkfuls of cake you ‘tasted’ from your child’s desert. Although you did not sit down and consume it as a meal or snack, the fact that you ate it as enough and although you may not remember eating it, your body sure will.
Learning to say no when people offer you food is very hard but it has to be done. Every bite matters. Also, finishing food because you don’t want to waste it (for example your child’s leftovers) matters because it counts as more calories you have consumed. Cook only what you need and portion it out according to your goals. You might feel bad rejecting that special sweet that Sally brought back from Japan but will Sally be there when you can’t fit into that dress? You might not want to throw away the remaining slices of cake after the dinner party you hosted but what is more important? The money you spent on the cake or your goals? Tell the guests to take it with them, give it to your neighbours or throw it away! Your health and your goals matter.
3. You’re not pushing yourself hard enough when you exercise
I’ve been going to the gym since I was 17 but it has only been in the past 2 years that I have seen great progress. I used to jump onto the x-trainer, move my legs for 45 minutes, sweat a bit, hop onto a few leg machines and then go home. Did my legs change? Barely. Did I see huge progress? Nope! I realise now that I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough. When you are doing cardio for weight loss, you need to be working hard! You need to run your absolute fastest or how will your body change? Running (or even walking!) at a comfortable pace will not get you results you want. I remember asking a friend what speed I should use on the treadmill and he said, “You need to feel like you’re dying!” Please don’t kill yourself at the gym but you should be at a level where you are breathless and can hardly speak. You should not be able to Skype on the spin bike and hold a normal conversation. You need to push your body if you want it to change and make every minute of that workout count. Taking too many breaks to take mirror selfies and reply to messages will not get results; your rest stops need to be limited depending on your type of workout.
I saw a quote that says ‘If you can read a magazine while working out, you’re not working hard enough’ and though I can’t say it is 100% fact, I do agree to some extent. I commonly see girls on the bike in the gym texting or reading and I look at the pace of their legs and they’re hardly moving. I’m no PT but girl you need to pedal faster! You might think that you ‘go hard in the gym’ but you actually might not and it was not until a friend gave me a workout guide that I realised I had been wasting time. I also did a lot of my own research and found that those 45 minute jogs could be replaced with a 15-minute sprinting intervals. Are you really pushing yourself? Is that weight comfortable or can you use a heavier one? Always seek to improve. I spoke to a woman who said she was squatting 10kg over the past year and hoped to increase one day. The only way she will ever increase to 20kg is if she picks it up and uses it. Don’t injure yourself but increasing your weights is the only way you will get stronger and change your body. If you can complete 15 reps with 15kg and only 12 with 20kg then keep using the 20kg until you can get to 15. You could try the first two sets with 20kg and then the second two with 15kg until you are able to do all 4 sets with 20kg. Do not limit yourself! If you stick to what is comfortable then you will not progress; hop out of that comfort zone and start to sweat.
4. You’re not eating enough
Over-eating is not the only cause of weight gain or lack of weight loss. For some people, it is under-eating that is the problem. Sometimes it is intentional, people will starve themselves and cut their calories, or sometimes it is accidental, people simply forget to eat or do not know how much they should be eating.
When you under-eat, for whatever reason, your body does not burn more fat as some of us think but instead it slows down your metabolism which makes the fat burning process even slower or it can even stop. Your body does not know when its next meal is coming because you’ve been hardly eating and so it holds onto the fat so that it can use it for energy and this can make you either maintain or gain weight.
“Eating any overly restricted diet is the quickest way to ruin your heath and start shutting down your entire system. During a period of underfeeding, your cells start to prime themselves for when you do eat food, so that they can store fat better than ever before, more efficiently and more quickly than when your food energy intake was much higher. This happens particularly in the abdominal region (making it easier to gain weight in this region during and post-undereating) as fat stores in this area act as a reservoir of energy for vital organ function.“
For most people, eating small meals and snacks every 3-4 hours (about 5 in total) works effectively for weight loss. That might seem like a lot but that’s the point – you need to eat to burn fat. When you eat little and often your metabolism is constantly working and thus constantly burning fat. Combine this with exercise and your body will start changing. Whether it takes preparing meals in advance or setting eating reminders you need to eat regularly if you want to lose weight.
5. You’re not consistent
So you went hard in the gym on Monday. Killed the leg press and even did a few heavy squats. Well done, but if you don’t keep it up and continue then you will not see progress. You really need to remain consistent if you want to see results. Those who work hard for a while with their exercise and nutrition then give up for a few weeks are the ones who usually fail because they get fed up at the lack of quick results and throw in the towel. But, they get inspired again and get back on the bandwagon only to have another month’s break and then wonder why they haven’t lost any weight. These breaks are hindering your progress; you need to stop giving up or letting things get in the way. Set yourself a goal e.g. exercising 4 times a week, make a schedule and stick to it. Your body needs a routine and it will only change if you keep on pushing it. The same goes for food, if you’re eating clean throughout the week and then stuffing your face with rice and cake on the weekends then your body will get a bit confused and you won’t be able to drop as much weight as you’d like.
It’s really hard to stick to a new plan, especially when you’re invited out to dinners and other social events, but plan ahead and do your best to keep on track because that’s when you really do see results. Over the past two years I haven’t missed a week of exercise at all and my body knows it, I don’t know the science behind it but I definitely don’t gain weight as fast as I used to because I’m always exercising, no matter what. Whether I’m working a 45 hour week or on I’m on holiday I make sure I work out because firstly I believe it is what God wants me to do, secondly I don’t want to undo all of the hard work that I put into losing weight and lastly, I have new goals to reach.
If you remain consistent, and I mean truly consistent, to eating clean and working out and give it 100% you will see results. Give yourself 8 weeks and I know for sure you would have lose weight. It does not happen overnight and your body might not change in the way other people’s do but it will change if you don’t give up. Plan your meals, read labels, eat well and make each workout count. If you ever need advice or have a question then I’m always happy to help; I know how it feels to struggle with weight so feel free to get in touch.
All the best with your weight loss journey!