Scales refusing to show a weight loss that you feel you’ve earned? Personal fitness trainer, Ash offers an insight into why weight loss isn’t so clear cut; why things fluctuate and what to do when you’re not seeing results.
Many of us have big hopes and expectations when we make the decision to start exercising and eating well. We want to lose X amount of kilos and we want to do it ASAP. We’ve decided we’re willing to put the work in, we’re invested with a training plan, we’re even cutting back on our favourite treats, so of course we should reach our desired weight in the next couple of months, right?
In reality, big results require consistency over a longer period of time, especially if those results are to be sustainable. If you are “only” losing half a kilo per week, imagine if you were averaging that for a year? That would gradually be 26 kilos! If you were to lose that amount of weight in say, three months, would you be able to sustain the huge calorie deficit required or would you likely end up putting some (or all) of the weight back on?
Here’s what it boils down to. When it comes to achieving weight-loss that stays off, the first and most important thing to remember is not to set your short-term expectations too high. Focus on the long game.
I know what you’re going to say here… “Ash, I understand all of this! I’d be content with 0.5-1kg of weight loss per week, but I’m not even seeing that.”
If you’ve been training for a few weeks now and your weight is pretty much the same as when you started (or higher), there are many reasons your weight may not be budging, and it varies between each individual. Here are some of the most common reasons.
- You’re consuming more calories than you’re burning
I know this one is hard to stomach when you feel like you’ve been restricting yourself and making healthier choices, but this is probably the most common reason you’re not losing weight. People are inclined to underestimate how much they are eating and overestimate how much they are exercising. Underestimating our calorie consumption can come from a lack of awareness of how energy-dense some healthy foods are, having larger portion sizes than is recommended and from discounting calories for little extras such as drinks, sauces, oils etc. Even though these may seem insignificant at the time, it all adds up and can bring your calorie count over the amount that you’re burning off.
- You’ve gained muscle mass
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “muscle weighs more than fat” and that’s because 1kg of muscle compared to 1kg of fat is significantly denser. This means you could totally transform your body, looking lean and toned, while actually being the same, or sometimes an even heavier, weight on the scales. It is particularly easier to gain muscle when you’re new to training and haven’t yet reached a plateau. Don’t let this deter you from wanting to gain muscle: having more lean mass in your body actually allows you to burn more calories while resting and having more strength in the gym means you’ll be able to get more out of your workouts.
- Your body is holding onto more fluid.
Sometimes when we’re nit-picking at small differences on the scales it’s actually just water weight. Our weight is fluctuating all the time based on this, which is why it’s best to check first thing in the morning to keep things consistent, but even then we’ll be holding varying amounts. Factors that can contribute to water retention include eating foods high in sodium, menstrual changes or fluctuating hormones; sitting or standing for long periods of time and the body recovering from training. This is totally normal in small amounts and isn’t something to stress over.
I hope this information helps you to keep in mind that not all weight is coming from fat and you don’t need to place all importance on that one figure. It can be a great tool to use for guidance if fat loss is your main focus, but other ways to track your progressions could include progress pictures; how your clothes are fitting; measurements; performance in your workouts, and most importantly – how you’re feeling! If your weight continues to climb or refuses to budge after more than a few weeks I would start to look at creating more of a calorie deficit through reducing portion sizes and/or increasing low impact activities such as walking.
Be kind and patient with yourself on this journey and learn as you go. Remember that results aren’t always linear and consistency is key. You’ve got this!