Problem 1: You're eating too much
This might seem almost too obvious. Calories count and if you’re not in a calorie deficit then you won’t be losing fat anytime soon. However, even if you are technically in a calorie deficit you might not be generating a big enough deficit to keep you motivated.
Early on in a diet, you can be more aggressive with the calorie deficit for a number of reasons.
- The more fuel reserves available to you the less likely you are to lose lean tissue.
- The more fat loss you experience early on in your diet the more you reinforce your initial motivation and build momentum.
- You can still be in a substantial calorie deficit whilst taking care of your nutritional needs. Think calorie, not a nutrient deficit.
The most frustrating thing for people is putting in the effort but not seeing the results. Prepping food, tracking macros, getting in the daily steps and hitting the gym are all important but won’t accelerate progress if there isn’t a sufficient calorie deficit.
At the beginning of a diet aim to have a 400-600 calorie deficit (20-30% deficit) below maintenance and be as active as possible.
2500 maintenance- 500-750 deficit=1750-2000 (Regular Balanced)
2000 maintenance- 400-600 deficit= 1400-1600 (Regular LC/Small Balanced)
1500 maintenance- 300-450 deficit=1050-1200 (Small LC)
Problem 2: You’re eating too little
Hang on doesn’t this contradict the advice above? Yes, kind of. But not really.
Surely eating too little is what dieting is all about?
Eating too much will stop you losing weight.
Eating too little will stop you sticking to your diet. This leads to eating too much. See above.
When trainers boast about increasing their clients’ food intake with a miraculous ensuing drop in weight here is what is actually happening.
The client is eating only 1000 calories per day- this isn’t enough food for the client who should be around 1800 at maintenance. This leads to a lack of compliance and a restrictive attitude toward food. Weekend and evening binges are commonplace and result in a net calorie surplus despite the low level of reported calories.
The trainer steps in and advises a higher calorie intake: 1400 calories.
This is a substantial increase in food, in this case approximately 50 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs. A whole extra meal.
The client is now able to stick to the diet plan and reports a far greater level of compliance. She also feels much more in control of her eating and less susceptible to cravings.
So technically we’ve actually decreased the food intake. However, we’ve ramped up the calories to a sweet spot that ensures compliance and progress.
If you find yourself having regular cheat meals and uncontrollable binges perhaps you are setting your calorie intake too low? You should also ensure that you’re making good food choices and choosing foods with a high satiety rating
Problem 3: Eating Just Right
Eating just right is the goal. But eating just right shouldn’t be set in stone. Your diet should vary based to match your activity level.
As you get leaner you’ll need to increase your calorie intake over time to fill the demands that your fat tissue was previously meeting. Failing to return to maintenance levels of intake can undermine a successful diet plan and make you more likely to rebound.
In addition, your diet should fuel the type of activity that you enjoy. If you’re a sedentary desk worker then a low carb diet might be just the thing to get you back in shape, however, once you find a love of cycling and end up spending 10 hours per week on your bike training at high intensities you need to start fuelling appropriately for your sport.
Likewise, the Crossfitter who starts out eating Paleo and loses a ton of weight eating Paleo will need to reevaluate their intake once they move from beginner to intermediate status and start trying to compete.
Nutrition, like training, benefits from being periodised. This used to happen in line with the seasons but now we have year-round access to foods this is something that we have to be more aware of.
Take a step back and look at your nutrition in terms of months versus days. Does it match your activity levels? Have you improved in your sport recently? If not, is your nutrition holding you back? Does your input match your output?