Ryan McMahon Fitness | personal trainer Pimlico

10 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight (and the fix!)

You (think) you're doing everything right but that needle on the scale just won't budge. What's the deal?

1. You’re not tracking your food and drink properly.

Ask any nutritionist – if a client fills in a food diary I automatically add 10% to their tracked calorie intake. The big items are tracked but dressings, small snacks etc. are often overlooked. This might seem trivial but 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a salad could add over 350 Kcal to your daily intake!

The fix: Track everything that passes your lips – including drinks, sauces and small snacks that you assume are low calorie.

2. You eat less, but still pick high-calorie foods.

We all know that if you expend more calories than you ingest, you lose weight. But you could be tricking yourself that cutting the quantity of food means less calories. Let’s say you decide to skip lunch of a chicken wrap and reward yourself with a snack of sliced apple with peanut butter and a handful of grapes. Less quantity for sure, but you may now have eaten 100 Kcal more than if you had lunch.

The fix: Vegetables and lean protein are low calorie and make you feel fuller. Feel free to pile up your plate with veg!

3. Sugary drinks.

With the increased range of diet versions of your favourite fizzy drinks and mixers, you’d think their full-sugar relatives would be near extinct. In my experience with clients this isn’t the case. Sugary drinks have very little impact on your satiety (how full you feel after consumption). That’s why they come in 2 litre bottles. At least chocolate might satisfy your hunger for a bit. Yeah, don’t don’t eat chocolate either….

The fix: Good ol’ H2O! If fizzy drinks are your fix then try carbonated water with a little natural fruit juice. You could even try a fruit infuser which can make water a little more exciting.

4. Not enough weight-based resistance training.

Ok, I’m a personal trainer so obviously I’m going to push the benefits of exercise. But the science is beyond doubt: studies show higher intensity resistance training can help raise your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after your workout. Meaning you burn more calories for the next few days while working, sitting or sleeping. Not to mention the many other benefits of challenging your body to become stronger, particularly as you age.

The fix: Joining a gym would be ideal but bodyweight exercises you can do at home like squats, lunges and push ups will all help. To get maximum benefit you should focus on multi-joint, compound exercises which target the largest muscles (glutes, quads, back, hamstrings). If you’re already an experienced exerciser, intensity is key – regularly lifting at least 75% of your maximum for each exercise.

5. Not enough intense cardio training.

I always recommend clients increase their daily activity levels by simple wins like walking to work instead of taking the train. Any additional calories you can expend each day are a bonus. But intense cardio based workouts provide an extra boost to your weight loss. You feel motivated after you’ve built up a sweat and the focus required during high intensity exercise clears your head of the day’s stresses. And who feels like slamming a pizza after a spin class?

The fix: Crossfit, spin or HIIT classes are great options if you’re reasonably fit and injury-free. Classes can give you extra motivation in feeling part of a group striving to get better.

6. Too much alcohol.

Wait – don’t click away just yet. Hear me out. Alcoholic drinks are empty calories providing next to nothing of any nutritional value. And if you like to party, let’s face it – you’ve probably no idea how many calories you’re pouring down your throat at your local at the weekend.

The fix: Going teetotal isn’t a realistic option for many. You should be able to enjoy a drink with friends without feeling guilty. But be smart. Pints of beer are not helping your waistline and cocktails are basically the devil. Choose clear spirits with diet mixers, wine by the glass rather than a bottle, and always alternate with water.

7. You’re not in your 20’s any more.

They say “growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional”. Likewise, if you continue to overindulge as you age, growing fat is inevitable! Just because you could eat 25 slices of pizza in an eating challenge at 17 (not my proudest moment!) doesn’t mean your body is going to forgive you for the same violation in your 40’s…

The fix: Simple: understand it’s just harder to lose weight as you age and eat accordingly.

8. You’re an emotional eater.

Not to be confused with eating disorders which require professional intervention. Stress-eating is something many clients suffer from, but very few acknowledge. Think head hunger vs stomach hunger. If you connect the dots you might find patterns in dietary slip-ups or full-on binges. Are you using food as reward? Or as a crutch on a bad day?

The fix: You should always seek help if you feel you have an eating disorder. If you eat more calories when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, then try to find other ways to cope. Try exercise, reading, yoga or just going to bed before you start mindlessly walking to the fridge.

9. You’re struggling to get quality sleep

“Good” sleep varies between individuals but if you regularly have broken sleep, or wake up feeling exhausted, chances are your weight will be impacted. Studies have proven this to be the case. In fact, poor sleep is one of the biggest risk factors for obesity.

The fix: Build a sleep routine you can stick to.

10. Your body needs a break

If you’ve been following a calorie-restricted diet and your weight loss plateaus for around 4 weeks, it might be time to ease off. When your body shrinks your metabolism slows down.

The fix: Reverse dieting has been shown to help break through a plateau. Wait, eat more food to lose weight? Well, yes. If done strategically. Gradually increasing your calories can make it easier to do intense exercise, speed up digestion, and give your metabolism a kick start.