Let’s be honest, you’re here because you’re struggling to lose fat.
Maybe your fat loss straight up sucks and you’re not sure why, maybe you know exactly why and just need to be kicked into gear or perhaps you feel you’re one of these people who “just can’t lose fat”.
I'm calling bullshit on that last point! Everyone can lose fat you’re just got to understand how to make it happen.
The most common mistake is thinking that all the different types of diets, the fads and the quick fixes will actually help you.
Sure, you may see short-term results, but they’ll be short-lived, drastic and unsustainable. You’ll soon give up, rebound and decide that you can’t lose fat.
Look, I hate to break it to you, but the truth is trying to lose fat like that is never going to work long-term and you’ll always end up back at square one, or worse, a couple of steps behind square one.
I know this first-hand.
I’ve been on the whole no carbs at night, eat 6 meals day, include this magical food in your diet to suddenly burn away all your fat and get six pack abs trip.
I’ve experienced the crushing disappointment upon realising it just doesn’t work, but thankfully I also learnt that to actually lose weight and keep it off you must be in a calorie deficit.
I’ll say that again because it’s so important.
To lose weight you MUST be in a calorie deficit.
There are no 2 ways about it.
If you think you’re in a calorie deficit but you’re not losing weight then, guess what?
You’re not in a calorie deficit!
It’s truly that simple.
How Do You Make Sure You’re In A Calorie Deficit?
Recalculate your calories, reset your macros, log everything you eat and carefully track your progress.
Remember you want to use a moderate deficit of about 20% under maintenance calories and aim for weight loss in the region of 0.5 – 2lb per week (the leaner you are the slower you want to lose weight).
Now at this point, if you’re thinking…
“but I’ve done this SO many times and I’m sure that I’m in a calorie deficit…BUT I’m still not losing weight, what do I do?”
Let me reiterate,
“to lose weight you MUST be in a calorie deficit!”
Even if you’re absolutely sure you’re in a calorie deficit but you’re not losing weight, you need to check again.
Recalculate your calories, reset your macros and track everything closely for at least a couple of weeks.
If after this you’re sure that you’re in a calorie deficit and are still not losing weight, then there are a handful of other circumstances which may be at play.
However, it’s only at this point you should start to really consider these factors.
#1 – You’ve Been Dieting for Too Long
After dieting for a while your metabolism gradually begins to slow down due to a process called adaptive thermogenesis.
This means the amount of food you need each day to maintain your bodyweight slowly reduces overtime and as you get deeper into your diet and lose more weight your body’s need for energy diminishes.
This means the calories you could eat per day when you first started to end up being more than you need at your new lower weight in order to stay in a calorie deficit.
Recalculate your calories based on your new weight and track your weight for 2 – 3 weeks to see if fat loss starts again.
If this doesn’t work then take a ‘diet break’ by eating at maintenance calories for a couple of weeks to reverse adaptive thermogenesis or alternatively use weekly refeed days to reduce the effects of leptin and increase the effects of ghrelin.
Remember, the two things you DON’T want to do at this point are;
- Increase the amount of cardio you do
- Drastically reduce your calories
Use one of the 2 strategies above (diet break or refeeds) to kickstart your fat loss again.
#2 – Sleep, Stress & Water Retention
When you diet for a prolonged period of time you’re putting your body under an extended period of stress, when you combine this with subpar sleep quality and/or quantity you increase this stress.
When stress is elevated for a long time your body begins to produce a hormone called cortisol (unsurprisingly known as ‘the stress hormone’).
When not kept in check cortisol can increase the storage of body fat and cause water retention which means you’ll gain unwanted gain or at the very least the impression of weight gain.
Take steps to improve your quality of sleep and reverse the effects by using the following tactics;
- Make your room as dark as possible
- Stop using your phone, laptop or TV at least 60mins before you sleep
- Do something calming before getting into bed like reading or meditation
- Don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon
- Try and keep the bedroom cool as it’s easier to sleep in cooler conditions
- Invest in a comfortable mattress and good pillows
Additionally, try and do things that reduce your stress levels on a regular basis.
This can be anything from walking to journaling or meditation to weekly massages. Take the time to do things that put you in a better state of mind whilst avoiding things that you know trigger stress and try to enjoy yourself.
Additionally, if you've been dieting for a prolonged period of time you may consider taking a 1 – 2 week break from your diet to help reduce the stress on your body.
#3 – You’re Gaining Muscle as Well
In some situations, you can and will gain muscle when eating in a deficit and it’s in these circumstances that you can mistakenly think you’re not losing weight.
However, what’s happening is that you’re losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
Firstly, this is a great position to be in so don’t take it for granted, instead make the most of it. To ensure that you’re losing weight even if you’re building muscle you need to track your progress carefully through a number of methods, don’t just rely on scale weight.
- Take monthly photos to get a clear picture of the progress you’re making
- Take monthly measurements if your waist is getting smaller you know you’re losing fat even if the scales don’t show it
- How your clothes fit will indicate your progress i.e. if your jeans are looser but your t-shirt sleeves tighter then you’re losing weight and building muscle
#4 – You Don’t Need to Lose Fat
Sometimes you don’t need to lose fat.
If you’re already quite lean but not very muscular, then instead of trying to get leaner and smaller, spend time building some muscle as this is most likely what you actually need to do to get the physique you’re actually after.
Realise that as you get to the lower levels of body fat you’ll look smaller than you anticipate, and any lack of muscle will become more obvious and prominent.
Stop jumping from weight loss to weight gain every other month and instead increase your ‘cutting’ and ‘bulking’ cycles and aim to build an appreciable amount of muscle.
Use lean bulking (a small calorie surplus of 300kcals) to work on building muscle slowly to round out your physique whilst minimising fat gain.
#5 – You’re Not Giving It Enough Time
Fat loss always, always, always takes longer than you think. This is partly because you’ll generally have more fat to lose than you think and partly because things never happen as fast you’d expect them too.
You expect to see noticeable progress on a daily basis, but the reality is that progress will reveal itself on a weekly and monthly basis.
Fat loss is a non-linear and messy process when judged on a day to day basis but when you step back and look at the bigger picture you should be able to draw a straight line mapping your progress over the months.
There’s not much more to say here other than be patient and trust the process, if you apply a calorie deficit and stick to it you WILL see progress, that I can promise you.
Double or triple the time you allow yourself to lose any unwanted fat, work on reminding yourself that it’ll take longer than you expect and work on using tools and tactics to help recognize this.
- Take monthly photos and measurements
- Weigh yourself daily and take a weekly average
- Keep a workout diary
Remember that as far as fat loss goes a calorie deficit rules supreme and there is simply no avoiding the fact that if you’re not in a deficit you will not lose weight.
However, there are a number of factors that play a role in weight loss once a calorie deficit has been established.
Achieving a calorie deficit and managing this additional factors is key to building a body you can be proud of.