Losing body fat is simple on paper. It just requires is you to create an energy imbalance in which you burn more calories than you take in. In theory, all you need to do is “eat less and move more.”
But things get a little tricky when you apply it to real life. Even with the best intentions and a great workout and nutrition plan, it’s easy to make mistakes. This article will help you troubleshoot by giving you the run down on four of the most common reasons why you might not be losing body fat:
#1: Your Reason For Exercising Is To Burn Calories
When people are motivated to work out with the express purpose of burning calories, they often aren’t successful because they end up eating more calories afterwards. Known as “compensation,” scientists think that people have become conditioned to reward themselves for physical efforts that they associate with weight loss.
This doesn’t mean that you should ditch exercise. Working out kickstarts your metabolism. You end up burning more calories and fat, and it builds muscle, which raises your resting metabolic rate. It also improves hormone balance, relieving stress so that you stay more upbeat and active.
What you need to do is set performance-related goals rather than fat loss goals for your training. Focus on increasing the weight on the bar, doing more reps per set, or finishing your sprints in a faster time. Be aware of your eating behavior and how workouts influence it. Humans are amazingly good at rationalizing behavior that goes against our goals. Track your eating with a food journal so you can get an honest picture of your behavior.
#2: You Are Sedentary Even Though You Exercise
If you have a desk job or work at a computer all day, you might not realize that you’re leading a sedentary lifestyle even if you exercise on a regular basis. When you are sedentary for long periods of time, insulin sensitivity and blood sugar tolerance drop, which means that your body isn’t burning energy effectively and is more likely to store it as fat.
Studies show that regular workouts can’t solve sedentariness. The calories burned during training won’t offset the drop in metabolism that you experience from not moving for hours on end. Regular workouts simply aren’t enough if you’re spending 7 to 12 hours a day in a chair.
The solution is to make a conscious effort to be as active as possible. Stand up and move around every hour. Take walks at lunch and during breaks instead of playing on your phone. Track your daily steps with a pedometer and shoot for a minimum of 10,000 a day. Make a pact with friends and family to do social physical activity instead of congregating around food and drinks.
#3: You Have No Plan Besides “Lose Fat”
A lot of people start with the best intentions: You know you need to create a calorie deficit and decide that you will cut back on portions and skip meals.
This seems to work well for a couple of days as you get by on adrenaline and the satisfaction that you are finally making progress in your desire to lose fat. Then Friday rolls around and you end up devouring drinks and dinner with friends. You wake up Saturday and there is no chance you’re hitting the gym, let alone sticking to your diet, so you give yourself a “cheat day” and eat everything in the house.
By Sunday, you’ve basically forgotten that you were trying to lose fat and by the time you remember on Monday afternoon, it’s too late to salvage the day and you go to the store and load up on everything you plan on depriving yourself of in the coming week once you get back on track: Bread, chips, ice cream, chocolate, pasta.
Instead of winging it, you need a plan for what and when you’ll eat. By having meals at the same time each day, you take advantage of your body’s circadian rhythm, which leads to better blood sugar and greater fat burning.
We recommend 3 to 4 meals a day so that you eat every 4 to 5 hours within a 12-hour window. What you are going to eat should also be planned out: For breakfast and lunch, try high-quality protein that contains healthy fat and veggies to promote satiety. Save higher carb foods for dinner when you’re ready to relax and get ready for a restful night’s sleep.
You should always be thinking at least one meal ahead so that you don’t get caught famished, stressed, and pressed for time with not options except a food court. You should have a similar approach to exercise: Plan out your workouts in advance and have a back-up strategy if the gym is busy and you can’t get your favorite piece of equipment or if all the squat racks are in use.
#4: You Are Inconsistent
Study after study shows that the reason people don’t lose fat when dieting or exercising is that they don’t stick to their programs. They either eat too many calories, skip their workouts, or both.
It’s as simple as that. Fat loss doesn’t take a fancy diet or a complicated training program. It just requires you to show up, give it full effort, and follow the plan. Patience is also key because success takes time. On low-carb diets, you can see changes within a few days, but low-calorie diets typically take a few weeks before you start to notice progress.
All you need to do if you want to change your body is as follows:
Get a written workout plan that fits into your schedule and follow it religiously.
Never skip workouts.
Always give full effort. There will be hard days in the gym, but if you give it all you’ve got, these are the days that will make all the difference.