Level – Intermediate
Words – 1000
Reading time – 3-5min
Often people say “I’m not eating enough to lose weight”. This adds to why many of us are confused about how much to eat, what to eat, and why we may not be losing weight at the desired rate, if at all.
In this article I hope to cover why you may not be losing weight, and answer the question;
“Can I lose weight by eating more”?
I’m going to approach this from a position people may find themselves saying this from. That’s at a point where they are trying to diet but not making progress and think it’s because they are not eating enough to lose body fat.
So let’s start from the from the beginning…..
In order for you to lose body fat, you have to be in a negative energy balance. Either by…
- Increasing your energy expenditure.
- Reducing your calorie intake.
Or a combination of the two.
Your main goal for fat loss is to accumulate a significant caloric deficit over the entire week. Depending on the individual, a 10%-20% deficit of maintenance calories would be recommended.
People often think that “starvation mode” and “metabolism slowing down” happens with a flick of a switch. This rarely occurs unless you’ve reached extremely low body fat levels, and have been dieting for a long period of time.
What really happens is your body just adapts to the dieting stimulus.
There are certain adaptations that will occur when dieting which may slow down or make the process harder. These would include..
- An increase of your primary hunger hormone (Ghrelin) signalling for you to eat.
- A reduction of NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which are the calories expended through day to day activities. Without knowing it, you will actually do less, and more likely to get lazy.
Remember, your body doesn’t want to lose body fat, it’s a never ending battle between you losing fat, and your body remaining at Homeostasis (To keep at a stable level).
These adaptations are to slow down the rate of you losing body fat, which is just one of your body’s survival mechanisms. What is important to note is that they only occur once you’ve actually lost a certain amount of weight and have just plateaued.
Jenny who is 3 stone overweight, has just finished her first 2 weeks of dieting but hasn’t made any progress is not experiencing dieting adaptations, she is simply over eating.
The real reasons why you are not losing weight are:
- You are not accounting for all the food/drink you are consuming
- You are underestimating how much you are consuming
- You are overestimating the amount of exercise you are doing
In other words; you are simply eating too much or not doing enough.
So Jenny hears “Eat more to lose weight” and follows it, let me tell you, she won’t be dropping a dress sizes any time soon.
Why people may think they are “eating more and losing weight” is because, they start reducing the amount of high calorie, processed foods they consume and increase the amount of lower calorie, high nutrition foods they eat.
So opposed to the 350kcal Granola square their have from the coffee shop, they choose to have..
- 200g Low Fat Greek Yogurt.
- A handful of strawberries and blueberries.
- A protein bar
And still use fewer calories! Not to mention the increase in satiety, more nutrition, and higher protein content.
The amount of food they consume will increase, not the amount of calories.
So although Jenny thinks she is eating very little, she’s still eating too many calories to lose body fat. She either needs to increase her expenditure, decrease her food consumption or both to see progress.
Lets say Jenny requires 1600kcals to lose body fat at the rate of 1-2lb per week. This is based off of her doing 3, 60 minutes weight sessions per week.
Lets look into where Jenny may be over consuming, without even realising it, which may apply to why you may not be losing weight as well….
I like to called these peripheral calories. Meaning coming in, and around meals from “bits and pieces” opposed to actual meals.
2 coffees with milk = 100kcals
Glass of fresh orange juice 300ml = 120kcals
Butter on her toast = 100kcals
After the school run:
Another coffee but a Skinny latte this time (Jenny’s trying to be good remember) = 120kcals
Small Granola square (Thinking it’s healthy because it’s got fruit and seeds in) = 350kcals
Kids dinner time:
Makes the kids a Spaghetti bolognese a few hours before she eats, and has a handful of the grated cheese that’s left over = 125kcal
Tea with milk = 50Kcal
As you can see, a few bits and pieces Jenny wouldn’t think would be adding a great deal to her day….
Is nearly adding over 1000 calories to it.
- There are adaptations your body will go through when dieting which may result in your progress slowing down or plateauing.
- Starvation mode is often looked at for the reason to blame but is rarely experience by any of the general population.
- Weight/body fat will always be lost if a negative energy balance is present.
The reason why many think they are consuming more and losing weight isn’t an increase in calories they are consuming. It’s largely down to the amount of food volume they get to eat as a result of the food choices they start to make.
The main reason you aren’t losing weight/body fat at the desired rate, is because you’re consuming more calories than you think you are. Most likely from Peripheral calories without knowing it.
So rather than Jenny thinking she needs to eat more to lose weight, what she really needs to do, is to be a bit more mindful with what she is consuming, to understand calorie value, and calm down on the Gingerbread Lattes.
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