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Help! My Weight Loss Has Hit A Plateau!

weight loss plateau

Has your weight loss hit a Plateau? Read this.

weight loss plateau.

First of all – Let’s have a quick look at the basics.

Most people think, fat is burned because of

“Eating healthy/clean foods”

Jogging/walking early morning”

“Eating 6 to 8 small meals a day”

And they cannot be more wrong. If you are a believer of any of the above reasons, then the first and foremost thing you need to do is to erase them from your memory and keep your mind fresh because you’re going to learn the real truth about fat burning.

So, how is fat burned? Simple. Fat is burned because of being in a Calorie deficit and getting involved in Resistance/Strength Training; Weight on the other hand can be lost just by being in a Calorie deficit. Energy Obtained vs. Energy Used. If you’re eating more energy (food – specifically Calories) than your body needs to function, then you’re going to gain fat – doesn’t matter if those calories came from broccoli, spinach or cheese pizza. In other words, if you’re eating “Clean” and working out, you still will not lose fat unless you’re in a Caloric deficit.

Let me show you a simple calculation of how it works.

There are 7,700 Calories in a kg of fat.

No! It’s not 9000 Calories

Because human fat tissue is approximately 87% lipid,

Putting these together,

0.87 * 9 * 1000 = 7830 Calories

It is estimated that 1 kg of fat gain represents 7700 Calories.

And most people aim for 0.3 kg to 1 kg of fat loss per week. So let’s say, you want to lose 0.5 kg per week, then set a daily goal that’s 550 Calories below your TDEE.

But why 550 Calories?

550 Calories x 7 days = 3,850 Calories = 0.5 kg of fat.

Or you can just use the TDEE Calculator to know your Daily Caloric requirements to lose fat. The fatter you currently are (more than 25% bodyfat), the more you can try to lose. If you’re very lean (less than 20% bodyfat) and trying to lose the last few kgs, aiming for 1 kg fat loss per week is not very realistic. Similarly, if you’re extremely fat who is trying to lose 50 kgs, aiming for 0.3 kg per week is way too slow. Just choose amount of Calorie Deficit in the Goal Calculator section of the TDEE Calculator then use the number shown in the Daily Calories as your daily requirement. (Choose “20% Suggested” if you are lean and “30% Reckless” if you are extremely obese).

If you are looking for more information on the basics of losing fat, Calories, etc., read the posts in the Stickies section.

So, why aren’t you losing weight?

There are two main reasons that can result in Weight Loss Plateau,

  1. Being Impatient
  2. Not eating at a Deficit

>> Being Impatient:

It’s vital to know two things –

  1. Fat loss is neither continuous nor immediate.
  2. Almost 70% of your body weight is Water.

Because of the above two reasons, it’s common for your weight to plateau for days or even weeks. As a result, it’s quite impossible to determine the success or failure of your diet on such a short term basis. If you’re in a Caloric deficit, your body is burning fat. It’s inevitable. However, it doesn’t always happen immediately.

For Example, Let’s consider a person whose stats are

Gender – Male

Age – 30 years

weight – 100 kgs

height – 180 cms

Daily activities – Sedentary job

Exercise – None – couch potato

So, if you put these stats into the TDEE Calculator and chose 25% Aggressive, it would return a Daily Calories of 1635 Calories/day which is a deficit of 544 Calories/day as his TDEE is 2180 Calories. Let’s say he has been eating exactly 1635 Calories a day for a week. Now this will result in a total deficit of approximately 3800 Calories (544 Calories * 7 days = 3808) over that week, which will result in 0.5 kg of fat loss. But that loss is not necessarily going to happen during that 7 day period. It might take a couple more days for that amount of fat to be burned. But it will be burned. Your body is lacking energy, and although it might be able to survive in the short term without burning fat, eventually it will have to have to burn fat to fulfill that lack of energy. Now this is the reason why you weren’t losing weight.

But, what about plateaus that last for a couple weeks?

This is where water weight comes into play. The system that regulates water weight is unbelievably complicated. There are so many things that affect water retention. One major factor is stress; yes, dieting puts your body under stress. Your body hates it. So it messes with your water retention levels. As a result, it’s common for the body to absorb extra water while burning fat; thereby making you believe that the weight loss isn’t happening. But what’s happening is your body is continuing to burn fat, which should result in a lowering of weight, but as you keep on losing fat, your body keeps on absorbing extra water and so your weight isn’t changing. But it’s just water, and eventually your body is going to release it. It may take 2-3 days, in some cases it may take up-to 2-3 weeks. But your body will let go of the extra water eventually. It’s irritating I know, but there’s no need for you to panic, and there’s absolutely nothing you could do about it. Just let it run its course.

But what if the plateau lasts more than 2-3 weeks?

And what if your weight has even gone up?

The Answer for this is simply, You’re not in a Caloric deficit. Period.

>> Not Being In a Deficit:

Don’t panic, You’re not the only one to experience this. There are lot of reasons that can prevent you from being in a Caloric deficit. Let’s go over it one by one.

1. Improper Calorie Tracking– So your food tracking website says you’re eating 1,800 Calories a day, but you’re not losing weight/actually the weight is even increasing. Surprise! You’re counting wrong. Either you could be lying to yourself or you could just be miscounting.

If you are lying to yourself there’s very little anybody can do for you. You have to be truthful to yourself otherwise no diet is ever going to help you. Your body doesn’t care what you record in those Calories tracking websites. If you’ve recorded 2,000 Calories, but ate 3,000 Calories, you’re never going to lose weight.

With respect to the second issue (miscounting), there are so many ways you can go wrong. You need to track “anything and everything” that goes into your mouth. Did you put mustard & ketchup in your burger? Track the mustard & ketchup. Did you put cream and sugar in your coffee? Track the cream and sugar. Did you have apple juice? Track the apple juice. Did you have a bite of your friend’s birthday cake? Track that bite. Did you have alcohol? Track the alcohol. Did you cook in Coconut Oil? Track the Coconut Oil (Note: “Zero Calorie” cooking sprays are not calorie free. They have the same calories as normal oil, they just use the serving size tricks to fool you.) Did you have salad with mayonnaise dressing? Track the mayonnaise. Did you butter your bread? Track the butter. Are you getting what I’m trying to tell here?

Also, it’s absolutely essential to weigh your food. For example, let’s say you’re making chicken at home, weight it before you cook it and estimate the Calories. If you’re making a Chicken sandwich with Cheese, First put the breads on the kitchen scale. Note the weight. Add the cheese. Note the weight and determine how much cheese you added. Now do the same with the chicken, etc. You will feel stupid doing this at first, but who cares? Being fat makes you look a lot more stupider than weighing your food does, Right?

I have already told this above, but I’m going to tell it again anyway. It doesn’t matter if you are eating “clean” or “healthy”. WHAT MATTERS IS, YOUR CALORIES. If you eat too much of clean and healthy foods, you’re still not going to lose weight. You can eat only Dairy Milk and Ice cream every day for a month but if you’re in a Caloric deficit, you will lose weight. Conversely, you can eat nothing but broccoli and spinach every day for a month but if you’re in a Caloric surplus, you will gain weight.

2. Over-estimated Total Calorie requirements – So you entered your details in the TDEE Calculator and estimated your TDEE at 2,800 but you’re not losing any weight. Why? Because you overestimated your TDEE. People have a habit of significantly overestimating their daily activity and exercise intensity. They see “Moderately Active – Teacher, Salesman, etc” and think “Hey, I’m a teacher!” Yeah, except not. You may be teacher, but who knows what you’ve been teaching?, You could be a regular subject teacher who sits in a desk most of the time or a physical education teacher who roams around the entire campus. So the one who is desk bound won’t experience any weight loss while the one roams around the campus will. Such is the case for exercise. You may go to the gym, but who knows how intensely you’ve been working out. Probably not as intensely as you think. IMHO, you’re better off choosing the “Sedentary” in the TDEE Calculator. So if you used a different activity setting to calculate your Total Calorie requirements and you’re still not losing weight, then you are overestimating. In this case please use the Sedentary and Light settings instead and re-calculate your Calories accordingly.

There are some people, who have the habit of “eating back” their Calories. They go to the gym, run for 45 minutes on the treadmill and then look at the screen to see that they burned 500 Calories. So they eat an extra 500 Calories that day. Never do this. Those Calories on the treadmill screen are not accurate, they are just estimates. It may say you have burned 500 Calories, but you may have burned much less, perhaps 300. So if you ate an extra 500 calories because you think you burned 500 Calories exercising, but you actually burned only 300. So now you just ate an extra 200 Calories. Guess what? YOU’RE GAINING WEIGHT. So I’m asking you again not to do this.

3. Damaged Metabolism – So you’re sure that the above 2 explanations are not the cause for your weight loss plateau. You swear that you calculated your Total Calorie requirements correctly, and you’re damn sure that you’re tracking your Calories correctly. So your metabolism must be damaged right?

Guess what? – It isn’t.

Metabolic damage is uncommon and to the extent that it would negate your dieting efforts is unbelievably rare. So even if you had extreme metabolic damage, you would still lose weight being in a Caloric deficit. But if you’re so damn sure the problem is metabolic damage, then it’s time for you to visit your doctor. If your doctor agrees with you, he will prescribe you some medicines and hopefully that will fix the damaged metabolism. And even if you still don’t lose weight, you’ll at last come to an understanding that the issue was not because of damaged metabolism, the issue was one of things I said above.

You’re not an Ice cube under the hot sun to melt down just like that. If you’re not losing weight, you’re either being impatient or you’re eating more or burning less Calories than you expect or in any of these combinations.

I was losing weight, but it stopped

Let’s say you’ve been patient (as discussed above) and still you are not losing weight then the only thing you need to do is to lower your Calories. Here’s why, When you weighed 135 kgs, 3,000 Calories may have been your Total Calorie requirements to lose weight. Now that you’re 100 kgs, your Total Calorie requirements might be 2,200 Calories. Lower your Total Calorie requirements to 2,200 Calories and you weight loss will resume. As a rule of thumb, it is recommended to use the TDEE Calculator to estimate your Total Calorie requirements once every 2 weeks.


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