If your weight isn’t budging, let’s look at ten areas you could put your focus into to see a drop.
1-Dine out less: It’s not impossible to lose fat when you dine out, but it is difficult. Consider that the average restaurant entrée is approximately 1100-1200 calories. This does not factor in any appetizers, alcohol, or dessert. You can find lower calorie options going through a fast food window but not everyone is judicious when it comes to staying low calorie at the drive-thru. If you need to see a change in the scale, consider making a big reduction in dining out or being very strategic with your restaurant options. Skip the appetizer, alcohol and dessert for better effectiveness.
2-Drink at home: If you imbibe, do so at home. It is easier to manage quantity, it is more economical, and you are potentially less susceptible to the social cues of having more than one (just because everyone else is having another). Alcohol can impair your judgement when it comes to extra calories in the way of food. Consider reducing or removing alcohol from the diet if you’re not currently seeing fat loss success.
3-Swap the sweeteners: If you use sugar for desserts, coffee, tea, etc. look at zero calorie substitutes that still give you an element of sweetness without the additional calories. My mother has Type I diabetes and she experimented with several different brands of Stevia to find one she truly enjoyed. She now uses this to sweeten her iced tea at no caloric cost. Everyone’s taste buds are different so you may not like Stevia or may need to try a different brand but other alternatives exist as well.
4-Reduce (not eliminate) carbohydrates: This isn’t advisable if you have an active lifestyle but for those who are more sedentary, look at areas in the diet where you can reduce carbohydrate intake. Carbs hold water and this can have an effect on what the scale says. Of note, this is one of the reasons why many people see such a dramatic drop on the scale when they go from their typical diet to a low-carb variety. It may not qualify as true fat loss, but it may be weight loss and some people report a reduction in bloating when they make reductions to carbohydrates. Even if your estimation is that you currently consume 60% carbs in your day, a reduction down to 40% can not only be what it takes to put you in an energy deficit for the day but can contribute to that initial drop in water weight.
5-Walk more: It’s not sexy, it’s not intense, and it’s not fast, however, walking is easy to do, easy to recover from and is less likely to raise your hunger. Take your dog for a walk, walk with a loved one, walk while you listen to a podcast/music or walk on your treadmill while you watch a streaming show.
6-Assume your app is wrong: Calorie calculators are estimates only and if you find that you’re hitting your goals on your app and your weight isn’t budging, assume that the calorie estimate on the app is incorrect. You can aim for 10% less and see if that moves the scale in the appropriate direction.
7-Assume you’re underreporting: If the calories in your app are estimated correctly, and you are hitting the numbers but you are not losing weight, assume that there is a user error. This could be from picking an incorrect option for your tracking, it could be from using an eyeball measurement or there could be an error on the food label (this does happen). Food scales and, to some degree, measuring cups and spoons can be your friend in this situation. Try measuring more (or more accurately) and see if this changes the outcomes.
8-Hormones matter but they don’t trump total energy intake: Hormones can influence how much or how little you eat. Some of this is genetic, some of it is environmental and some of it is influenced by food quality and diet composition. For instance, perimenopause and menopause can affect women’s hormones, which can, in turn, affect hunger signals. This can make it more difficult to adhere to a calorie deficit but you can’t escape the deficit for fat loss.
9-Develop non-food coping skills: There’s nothing wrong with you if you use food as a way to cope with emotions. However, you may need more than just food or you may need something to substitute in place of food so that it isn’t your only (or your favorite) coping mechanism. Find a hobby or an activity that can occupy your mind which is less likely to stimulate your hunger. Sometimes, we just need a distraction because our previous pattern was to eat when we are bored, sad, happy, or stressed.
10-Use an approach of adding instead of subtracting: It can be a subtle shift but rather than thinking of ways to “cut back”, think of ways that you can strategically swap. Adding in more fibrous vegetables can potentially reduce other areas of the diet like lowering fats or reducing starchy carbs (potatoes, rice, pasta). There is nothing wrong with the latter but if you need to change the scale, certain swaps can work in your favor. When you take an approach of: adding more water intake, adding more fibrous vegetables, etc. you may be reducing other areas in the diet which can work favorably for fat loss.
Lastly, fat loss is not recommended for all people at all times. If you have a history of an eating disorder or believe that you struggle with disordered eating behavior, please consider utilizing the help of a therapist who specializes in that area. Healing your relationship with food is more important than the next crash diet.
(Photo courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez)