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The definitive guide that shows you why you're not losing weight

Der definitive Ratgeber, der Dir zeigt, warum Du kein Gewicht verlierst

Not losing weight? Read this article and you'll never again wonder why or what you can do about it.

It's 6am and you're trudging towards the bathroom like it's the gallows. The cold wind howls outside the window. Shadowy fingers clutch your neck. Today you will be judged. Today is the day you have to step on the scales again.

You step onto the scales and wait like a deer staring into the hunter's rifle. The number appears on the display. Not a number, but that number. That same, damn, rotten, sneering number.

This is the definitive guide that tells you why you're not losing weight

Why? Why the fuck aren't you losing weight?

You're doing everything right. You're following all the rules. Your diet is cleaner than an operation. You abstain from all carbohydrates from 7pm sharp. You're eating this cyclically and restricting that...for what?

Well, I have good news for you:

  • You are not genetically cursed
  • Your metabolism is perfectly fine
  • Your hormones are not conspiring to keep you fat
  • You are not eating too little of the right foods
  • It's not the carbs, nor the dairy, nor the artificial sweeteners

The real reason you're not losing weight is simple. And the solution is probably simple too.

So say goodbye to weight loss secrets, tricks, hacks and all that other nonsense. You're about to learn the real science and physiology of weight loss and trust me - you're going to fall in love.

I know, I know. You don't believe me yet, but give me ten minutes and I'll give you the keys to weight loss.

Let's get started.

Are you losing fat but not weight?

The most common reason people lose fat but not weight is water retention. This is especially true for women who are hormonally predisposed to retaining water and who have to deal with large fluctuations during their menstrual cycle.

What happens is very simple: you lose a pound of fat in a week, but you store an extra pound of water at the same time. Obviously, this ratio is not always 1:1, so when weigh-in day comes, it may look like you've only lost a negligible amount of fat or even gained weight during that week.

If you want to see how much water retention can affect your weight, simply double your sodium or salt intake for a week and watch the scales. You can easily gain 1 or 2 pounds a day for several days.

Fortunately, you can easily eliminate water retention problems. It usually doesn't take much more than a better balance between sodium and potassium intake and adequate daily water intake while keeping your cortisol levels under control.

Once this is done and your electrolytes are in balance, you are adequately hydrated and your cortisol levels are in the normal range... and you are not getting your period, you can rest assured that your water levels are stable.

Another reason why people lose fat but not weight is that they are still beginners in resistance training

This matters because beginners can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, and building muscle naturally means gaining body weight.

In addition, when you are just starting to train intensively, your muscles will store a lot of extra glycogen and water. This also means extra weight.

These beginner gains are so predictable that I often tell beginners who are dieting at the same time that they should not expect to lose weight during the first 3 to 6 weeks.

Certainly you should monitor your weight, but during a diet your waist circumference is a more reliable indicator of fat loss progress. If your waist circumference is decreasing, then you are losing body fat regardless of what your scale is telling you.

Of course, if you want to lose a greater amount of fat, you will eventually have to achieve weight loss. Unfortunately, the rapid initial muscle gains will eventually come to an end and your body simply won't be able to build muscle as fast as it can lose fat (and eventually you'll reach the point where only one or the other is possible).

I've seen people who trained and dieted properly for 2 or 3 months and were only 5 to 6 pounds lighter afterwards, but changed their bodies dramatically during that time. Depending on your genetics and your discipline with your training and diet program, you can gain a good amount of muscle in the beginning while losing a good amount of fat at the same time.

And now that we've got the easy reasons out of the way, let's look at the more likely reasons that you're not losing weight...

You're not losing weight because...

I'm going to start this section like a good story - in media res.

The reason you're not losing weight is because you're eating too much.

Seriously. This is the climax. The big resolution. The way out of the haunted house.

Okay...time for a review. Now I'm going to explain how we got to this point.

The first stop on your journey is the most important, so listen carefully. It's the scientific principle of energy balance and energy equilibrium and this alone determines weight gain and weight loss.

Energy balance is the relationship between the energy you put into your body (through food) and the energy your body uses (through physical activities and processes required for basic bodily functions). Energy balance is often measured in calories.

Think of the energy balance as a bank account:

  • If you deposit more energy into this account than you "spend" (consume), then this results in a positive energy balance or energy surplus in your account.

And what does your body do with an energy surplus? It stores some of it in the form of body fat.

  • If you put less energy into your account, you overdraw your account and generate a negative energy balance or energy deficit.

And how can your body compensate for this deficit in your account? It can do this by drawing on its fat stores. In fact, the primary purpose of body fat is to serve as a source of energy during times of hunger or energy deficits.

I know that ratings-hungry TV presenters, authors selling diet books and companies hawking diet pills will tell you different stories, but you shouldn't fall for the hype too quickly.

No, Professor Oz hasn't found the only fat loss supplement you'll ever need and Dr. Smith hasn't made a discovery that disproves thousands of scientific studies and the first law of thermodynamics.

Energy balance is not a theory or an outdated view. Rather, it is a scientific fact based on a century of metabolic research.

And this brings us back to why you are not losing weight.

I said you're eating too much, but it's a little more complex than that. It's actually not quite as simple as "you're not in an energy deficit".

What is missing from this well-known statement is the element of time. This means that for significant weight loss to occur, a net energy deficit must be maintained over a given period of time.

Let's say you want to lose 10 pounds of fat.

Each pound of fat contains between 3,000 and 3,500 kcal of energy (exactly how much is a debatable point, but it's not necessary to go into more detail for our purposes).

This means that you need to lose 30,000 to 35,000 kcal worth of fat and the only way to achieve this is to burn that amount of extra calories over whatever period of time.

The average person eats and consumes perhaps 2,000 to 2,500 kcal per day and you should not dramatically reduce your food intake and starve yourself, which means you will need some time to achieve this goal.

Time...that's the real devil in the detail. Here's what I mean:

  • Let's say you eat 500 kcal less per day than you consume - every day, every week, without exception.

Let's say that your weekly calorie deficit is 3,500, which means that simple math will tell us that losing 10 pounds of fat will take something in the range of 8 to 10 weeks.

  • Let's say you eat 500 kcal less than your body uses 5 days a week and let's say you consider the weekend as "cheat days" and eat 500 kcal more than you use on both Saturday and Sunday.

This will reduce your weekly calorie deficit to 1,500 kcal, which means it will take you about 20 weeks to lose 10 pounds.

  • Let's say you eat 500 kcal less than you consume every day for 3 weeks and then go overboard for a week and eat 10,000 kcal more than you consume.

As a result, you have reduced your calorie deficit from 10,500 kcal at the start of the diet to 500 kcal and are more or less back where you started.

In the real world, weight gain and weight loss are not as exactly mathematically predictable as in these examples, as there are other factors such as body composition, genetic and hormonal predispositions and the thermic effect of food, but the bottom line is that it all works more or less as just described.

Weight loss is cumulative in nature. Every calorie you burn in excess of what you eat is a tiny step towards your goal and every calorie you eat in excess of what you consume is a tiny step back.

Now that we understand a good part of weight loss physiology, we can be a little more accurate about why you're not losing weight.

You are not losing weight because you are not adequately controlling your energy balance.

The only reason you haven't lost weight over the last week, month or year is because you haven't generated a large enough energy deficit during that period.

Let's look at an example to make this clearer.

Let's say that despite regular exercise and "dieting" you have not lost any weight. Even though we can never know the exact numbers, let's play God and say that we know you burned 82,000 kcal during that month.

Approximately how much weight would you have lost if you had only eaten around 78,000 kcal? That's right, about a pound. And what about 73,000 kcal? That would have resulted in a weight loss of about 2.5 pounds. 69,000 kcal? 3.5 pounds. Etc.

Why do you think you didn't lose any weight? That's right, your calorie intake was too close to the 82,000 kcal you burned, so you weren't able to produce any noticeable changes in your total fat mass. And what would have happened if you had consumed significantly more than 82,000 kcal? You would have gained weight.

In the real world, we can't predict calorie consumption so perfectly, and calorie intake isn't the only thing when we're talking about fat loss and not just weight loss, but you probably know where I'm going with this. The quantities vary, but the underlying mechanisms do not.

If the inability to lose weight is simply based on an inability to properly control energy balance, then what are the most common ways people screw this up?

In the next part of this article we will look at other reasons why you are not losing weight and then look at how to calculate your calorie needs.


By Michael Matthews

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