Weekly column by fitness experts Adam Wright and Jacqui Watson for the Waterford News & Star, in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
“I’VE been in a calorie deficit all week and I haven’t lost any weight” said someone who (probably) hasn’t been in a calorie deficit all week. This is a very frustrating place to be and a lot of people find themselves here. There’s a couple of things that could be going on so let’s examine it a little closer…
First, let’s define calorie deficit again to make sure we’re all on the same page. A “calorie deficit” is the difference between calories consumed and calories burned (when consumed is less than burned). However, if that’s a bit technical for some, this whole idea applies equally well to “I’ve eaten so little all week” and/or “I’ve eaten so clean all week” or, for that matter, “I’ve worked out so hard all week”.
The problem is your body responds to what you actually do, not what you think or believe. It’s really important (and sometimes difficult) for people to separate the two. It doesn’t matter how many calories you think you ate or think you burned (or even what your activity tracker tells you you’ve burned… those things aren’t very accurate for calories), if you aren’t getting results then there’s something off between your calories consumed and calories burned. You aren’t in a consistent calorie deficit.
Second, for a calorie deficit to work it needs to be medium to long term. One day in a calorie deficit won’t change much at all.
Four days in a calorie deficit but then three days in a calorie surplus (like most people’s weekends) results basically in breaking even and this won’t change much either (it could work long term but very slowly).
And even seven days in a deficit may not actually show that much change given that a sensible rate of fat loss is between half a pound and a pound a week and a person can gain or lose that much weight by drinking a large glass of water or going for a pee, respectively. So a person would need a few weeks progress to know for sure they were or weren’t making progress as over one week the progress could be hidden or exaggerated by the fluid activities mentioned above.
Give it more time. Track data over four weeks before you assume it isn’t working. This seems like a long time but it’ll be better to have realistic expectations and give it a bit more time than you want, than constantly yoyo over the course of a week and not get anywhere.
And if it has already been more than four weeks take your feelings and beliefs out of it and go with the most obvious solution… You haven’t actually been in a calorie deficit. Change something about the plan and try again.
What should you change? The first things to look at will be your consistency of adherence and how you’re collecting data.
Are you actually weighing food or just guessing grams (this happens more than you might think)? What percentage of your meals are home cooked (80% home cooked meals means only eating out six times or less a month)? Are you as active as possible or just doing the bear minimum according to your fitness tracker? Are you going to the gym for an hour but then doing next to nothing the rest of the day?
The first thing you should not do is cut calories even further and/or add even more workouts (if you’re already doing three to four a week. If you’re doing less than this and could realistically fit in another one or two that could be worth trying). These things might be needed later but the more likely problems are we’re consuming more and moving less than we think because we’re letting our hopes get the better of use and not actually paying as much attention as we think.
For more, to ask a question, or discuss this further: Find me on Instagram or Facebook @AdamWrightPT