The Not So Obvious Reason You Aren't Losing Weight
Updated: May 7
I am 32 years old. If you've read my bio, you know I have been on (and off) a weight loss program since I was 9 or 10 years old. Because my weight has always been linked to my self-worth (I am working on overcoming this, believe me), diets only lasted so long, and then I would binge (in shame), and then feel intense guilt for having binged, leading me to go back into restriction mode. I would repeat this cycle over and over again throughout most of following 20 years. Recently, I had this epiphany that if I wanted a different life-- if I TRULY wanted VICTORY over this problem in my life-- I would have to actually live differently. It meant NOT GOING ON A DIET. Don't misinterpret what I am saying here. I don't mean live life in a full time binge... I am saying, live a life you can love yourself for.
Why You're Not Losing Weight
I am going to assume that you have already seen your doctor and been tested for the many medical reasons why people have trouble losing weight. Perhaps you have a thyroid issue or you are pregnant and don't know it yet. There are a lot of MEDICAL reasons why you may not be losing weight, and it is very important to see your doctor to make sure you are healthy.
However, if you ARE healthy, your metabolism is probably freaking out for having tried too many crash diets. I am speaking to those women, who like me, search for ways to lose massive amounts of weight quickly, and then attempt to do it. Your body can only live on cabbage soup or boiled eggs for so long before you just binge hard on whatever junk is in the pantry. This cycle of restricting and binging is a cycle that is more than physical... it is enormously emotional, and learning more about the emotional side is what really saved my health.
How do I know if I restrict/binge?
Restricting is a behavior in which you cut out certain types of food from your diet or do not allow yourself to eat more than a certain amount of food or a type of food. In other words, restricting is dieting. Restricting is counting calories. Restricting is counting carbs. Restriction alone isn't the problem; it is a problem when it creates disordered eating patterns in an individual that then lead to an eating disorder like anorexia, bulimia, or binging (eating a ton in a short amount of time).
I am going to be super honest with you guys. I am a restrict/binge person. It is VERY important for me to really think about eating enough and making healthy choices and listening to my body. I have spent a lot of years gaining and losing the same 30 pounds on keto, or Weight Watchers, or whatever fad was in front of me (not every diet program is a fad for everyone... more on this later).
For me, I understood that my eating habits needed to be evaluated alongside my emotional responses. I realized that cutting out carbs entirely is not going to be sustainable for me. It may be for some other people, but health and weight loss is 100% about sustainability. If you cannot do "the diet" forever, then you will just yo yo diet forever-- going on and off plans. The only way to lose weight and keep it off is to make good choices, control portion sizes, and plan for your triggers.
Yes. This is going to sound weird. But, seriously, stop dieting. Spend a week eating intuitively. Eat when you're hungry. Listen to what you want. Track every single bite into My Fitness Pal. Evaluate your moods, emotions, physical health, and weight.
During this time think about patterns you're seeing. Are you hungrier at night? Do you eat breakfast because it is nostalgic or it is sweet to hang with the family for a minute? Or, are you starving in the morning, and when dinner is done, you're done for the night? Really spend some time thinking about this because if you're serious about changing your life and your weight, you can't eat 700 calories at every meal and then enjoy wine and ice cream too. It is about balance. It is about moderation. Do you prefer eggs and bacon and the idea of never eating a flaky buttery croissant again doesn't bother you a lick? Or do you prefer fresh fruits and higher fat foods make you queasy? Again, this is what you're looking out for as you track your habits and your emotions.
Make a Plan
From the evaluation of the first week, decide your plan of action. Earlier I mentioned fad diets and included Keto and Weight Watchers in there. Neither of these programs are fads if you truly think you can sustain your weight loss forever eating what is on that plan. I have lost 30 pounds or more on both of these plans, and have gained it all back because neither was something I could stick to forever. The points system for me was excellent because nothing was off limits, but when I didn't want to pay for the plan anymore, it was difficult to do the same thing on My Fitness Pal. I got too obsessive about the calorie counting and point counting adding up to similar goals, and the frustration drove me to quit entirely. Keto was great until I want bread. And good grief do I love bread. I know these things about myself, so I created a plan that is unique to me and my dietary preferences, and I have seen incredible success, and I know I can sustain this for the rest of my life.
Doctors and nutritionists generally agree that it is not the program that matters, it's that you stick to the program you pick. If you are counting calories, then count them every single day. Period. The end. Consistency is what matters here. Make your plan and stick to it. I am happy to consult with anyone who is feeling overwhelmed in this department.
Do the dang thing. Do it every single day. If you have to say "oh I am cheating today" then you are doing it wrong. Your life shouldn't require "cheats." You made a plan... live within that plan, or create a plan that you can feel happy about.
What works for me
My doctor suggested an elimination diet. Sounds restrictive, doesn't it? Haha, yes! It was... for a very short time. I eliminated everything except lean meat and green vegetables for 10 days. I was allowed to eat as much as I wanted. I was not counting calories. I at until I was full. After 10 days, like a newborn baby, I would introduce new foods one at a time, and journaled my sensitivities. I realized I was sensitive to milk (acne), to almonds (the gave me horrible gas), and some mild food allergies that I had always eaten anyway (corn, beans, yeast). From there, I considered everything I had craved during that 10 days... chocolate, ice cream, crunchy tortilla chips, bread, cheese, strawberries, etc.
Now I had some data to create a "diet" that I could live with, and would lead me to a life I was happy living. I knew which foods made me feel well... which foods I reached to in order to feel good... and which foods made me feel downright terrible. I knew I didn't want to live super low carb. I needed some carbs. Especially fruit. I can eat fruit like it is my dessert-- I love it and was not willing to give it up. I knew I wanted to keep my diet mostly clean, because during the course of the elimination diet, I had lost 11 pounds. I was so excited about that little kick start, that I knew that I could live mostly within the confines of lean meats and veggies, but still indulge in the occasional chocolate covered strawberry or a serving of chips and salsa. So, calorie counting and macro tracking is what was right for me.
I used the calorie calculator on calculator.net to help me figure out how much I should budget for myself to lose weight sustainably and healthily. The cool thing was, this site gave options for ZigZag calorie cycling. According to the site, "As you keep a low-calorie diet, your body will likely adapt to the new, lower energy environment, which can lead to a plateau in your progress. Zigzag calorie cycling, also known as a "zigzag diet," is a method of calorie consumption that can potentially help you overcome this plateau and get you back on track to meeting your goals." Below are 2 examples of the caloric goals that the site gave me as options for my age, height, weight, and goals.
After looking at this, and knowing that I am a creature of habit, I know option 1 is the best for me. I don't have time or the interest to come up with new daily menus where the calorie count varies so much. I eat the same thing every day, and like to indulge here or there on the weekends.
I don't love to eat breakfast when I am working... it always made me feel hungrier all day long, and I like to feel FULL when I am going to bed. I am a night time snacker. Sometimes I like to splurge on the weekends and enjoy a good breakfast, but this plan allows for that flexibility. My M-F menu will look something like this:
I hope that you found this helpful. Reach out to me if you are overwhelmed and need guidance one on one. Comment below how crash diets have impacted you.