Why Am I Not Losing Weight: 11 Reasons You’re Failing To Lose Fat

image descriptionPosted by ACalorieCounter image descriptionSeptember 10, 2013 image description306 Comments

Oh no… here it comes again. “I’m eating less, eating healthier and working out more. I’ve done everything right, but it’s still not working for me. Why am I not losing weight???

I hear it so often that it’s beginning to haunt my dreams. Tons of people who are consistently failing to lose weight despite telling me that they’re doing everything right. What the hell? How can this be?

I’ll tell you how. In fact, to help you solve this problem once and for all, I’m going to give you a list of 11 possible reasons for why you’re not losing weight. Ready? Let’s do this…

1. You’re Eating Too Many Calories.

Here’s how it works, folks. Everything we do burns calories, and everything we consume (minus obvious stuff like water) contains calories.

Now, if the amount of calories being consumed is consistently greater than the amount of calories being burned, we gain weight. This is known as a caloric surplus, and it forces the body to store these left over calories in some form for later use. That form is most often body fat.

The good news however is that the opposite of this scenario has the opposite result. Meaning, if the amount of calories being consumed is consistently less than the amount of calories being burned, we lose weight. This is known as a caloric deficit, and it forces the body to burn some alternative fuel source for energy instead. That source is most often body fat.

What I’ve just described is the scientifically proven and always true energy balance equation commonly summed up as Calories In vs Calories Out.

So if you’re not losing weight… you’re simply eating too many calories and no deficit is present.

2. No, Seriously… You’re Eating Too Many Calories.

Maybe you accidentally skipped over #1. It’s cool. I skim articles all the time, too. So just in case you missed it, here’s your chance to go back up and read the first item on this list. It’s kinda important.


What, you thought I was joking? I’m not. The reason you’re not losing weight is because you eat too much. That’s it. A caloric deficit is the one big requirement here, and you simply don’t have one.

4. I Know You Were Hoping For Other Reasons, But There Aren’t Any.

Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no big secret being hidden from you or any little tip that you’ve somehow missed. You’re just not creating the required caloric deficit. Simple as that.

5. Too Many Carbs After 7PM Is Causing… Nope… It’s Still Calories.

Hi. Above all else, weight control and body composition really do revolve around calories. Eat more of them and you gain weight, eat less of them and you lose weight. Taaadaaa!

And yes, I know you’ve probably heard otherwise. I get that you’ve probably seen some person claim that the key to weight loss is everything from carbs, to fat, to avoiding certain food groups, to eating 6 small meals per day, to not eating after a certain time at night, to only eating healthy “clean” foods, and on and on and on.

That’s all bullshit.

Truth is, the key to weight loss (and weight gain) is and always will be calories. Anyone who disagrees is an idiot who should be ignored. And the product they are likely trying to sell should be avoided, too.

So while a lot of this other stuff definitely matters in terms of overall health and still definitely plays an important role in helping you improve your body, it’s always a distant second to calories when it comes to weight loss or a lack thereof.

More about this here: The Truth About Fat Loss

6. “But I’m NOT Eating Too Many Calories, I Swear!” Yes, You Are.

I know, I know. You’re counting calories and eating healthy and you know for sure that you’re eating the right amount that you need to eat in order to lose weight. Yet, you’re somehow still not losing weight.

Well, guess what? You’re wrong.


If there’s one thing damn near every nutritionist and diet professional can agree on, it’s that people trying to lose weight almost ALWAYS underestimate how many calories they are actually eating. It happens all the time, and various weight loss studies prove it.

Some people underestimate the quantity of food they consume (like thinking you ate 1 serving when you really ate 3 or 4), while others underestimate the amount of calories it contained (like thinking a meal was 500 calories when it was really 1000). Some underestimate both.

Mistakes And Under-Reporting

In fact, many people just screw up during the serving size measuring process and take significantly more than they think they’re taking. Leigh Peel shows a few examples of this right here.

Many other people just think there are certain “free” foods they can eat and not count… like fruits and vegetables for example. As if the calories they contain are magic calories that somehow don’t matter? Funny stuff. In reality, they matter just like any other calories matter, and they can add up pretty quick. Count them. Count everything.

And don’t forget the people who eat “tiny” amounts of something here and there and assume it’s so insignificant that they don’t even need to bother counting it. Guess what? The calories from that sort of thing adds up pretty quick, too.

Once again, this is all stuff that is seen over and over again, and it commonly ends up accounting for hundreds or sometimes even thousands of accidental “I-didn’t-even-realize-it” calories.

I actually show a typical real world example of this kind of thing right here.

Hell, many people just flat out lie about how much they are truly eating. Why? Because they’re apparently too embarrassed to admit what they eat (even to themselves), yet not too embarrassed to be and stay fat as a result.

You’re Unknowingly Getting It Wrong Somewhere

Now I’m not accusing you of being an underestimater, or a bad measurer, or a liar, or someone who’s just bad at counting. I’m just telling you the facts.

And the fact is, weight loss always happens when a caloric deficit is present. So if you claim to consistently be eating the right amount of calories yet still aren’t losing weight, then you’re simply not in a caloric deficit and had to have screwed something up somewhere.

7. “But I’m Burning Tons Of Calories, I Swear!” No, You’re Not.

I know, I know. You’re exercising like crazy and burning tons and tons of calories through cardio and weight training and are therefore in the caloric deficit you need to be in for weight loss to occur. Yet, for some unknown reason, you’re still not losing weight.

What could it possibly be? Oh, I know… the fact that infinite real world examples and various studies also prove that people trying to lose weight almost ALWAYS overestimate calories burned.

Yup, in addition to underestimating the calories we consume, we also overestimate the calories we burn. How’s that for a recipe for disaster?

So you know the “tons” of calories you assumed you’ve burned doing cardio? Yeah, that didn’t actually happen. Based on all of the research I’ve seen, an average person doing a typical form of cardio at a typical intensity will burn around 7-10 calories per minute on average.

Think about that the next time you assume 30 minutes on the treadmill is going to have some super significant calorie burning effect. It won’t.

Not to mention, another big problem with overestimating calories burned is that it gives people the false mindset of “Oh, I was on the elliptical for 25 minutes today, so I can surely afford to eat this extra 1000 calories now… right?”

They then proceed to cancel out whatever small amount of calories they burned (and then some), and then wonder why they’re not losing weight despite “working out all the time.” HA!

8. You MIGHT Be Gaining Some Other Form Of “Weight”

Okay, you got me… there’s an exception to some of the statements being made in this article, and there is a legitimate reason for why you might not be losing weight besides a lack of a caloric deficit.

What is it, you ask? Well, it could be that you ARE in that required caloric deficit and you ARE losing fat, but you happen to be gaining something else that is counterbalancing your weight.

See, even though we often use these words interchangeably, there’s a difference between weight loss and fat loss. Fat loss is always fat. Weight loss however can be fat, muscle, water, glycogen, poop or all of the above. And since most people only monitor their fat loss by monitoring their weight on the scale, your true progress can be temporarily hidden (this is extra true for women on a monthly basis).

This is why it’s a good idea to do more than just weigh yourself. For example, take measurements, take pictures, and get your body fat percentage measured.

Of course, the difference between “weight loss” and “fat loss” doesn’t change the calories in vs calories out equation. Nor does it change the fact that a caloric deficit is still the one and only requirement here. It just means that it’s possible to lose fat while gaining something else, and it can make it seem as though you haven’t lost any.

BUT… you must keep in mind that this scenario is just a short term thing at best. Meaning, if week after week is passing and you’re still not losing any weight, it’s HIGHLY unlikely that you just so happen to be simultaneously gaining some other form of weight (like muscle) this consistently.

Instead, it’s MUCH more likely that you’re just eating too many calories, not creating a caloric deficit, and are just not losing any fat, period.

I cover this weight loss plateau myth in detail here: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat?

Speaking of which…

9. The Dreaded Weight Loss Plateau…

Were you previously losing weight, but then it just stopped? If so, you’ve hit the dreaded weight loss plateau and that can only mean one thing: you’re still eating too many calories. Let me explain…

A weight loss plateau is what happens when the caloric deficit you successfully created has ceased to exist. There’s a few reasons for why this happens and why it’s so common, but it would honestly take its own article to fully explain (don’t worry, it’s on my to-do list).

But the gist of it is simple… calories in vs calories out still remains true, it’s just that your specific numbers in that equation have changed as a result of the weight loss you’ve already experienced.

This is partially because being in a deficit causes your metabolic rate to slow down a bit over time (a process known as “adaptive thermogenesis”), but it’s mostly just because you’ve already lost weight… so the calorie intake that worked when you were 250lbs doesn’t work the same now that you’re 200lbs.

And this is all just another way of saying that you’re eating too many calories for your new current weight and the required caloric deficit no longer exists. Eat a little less (or burn a little more) and you’ll magically break that plateau.

10. “Starvation Mode”

Ah yes, the always entertaining starvation mode. This is one of those subjects that’s going to need WAY more than a quick mention in an article to properly cover. Hell, it’s going to need a full article of its own just to define what it actually is and isn’t.

Most people using this term have no clue.

Fortunately, I’ve recently written that article and I highly suggest checking it out (after finishing this one, of course): Starvation Mode: Is It a Myth or Is It Real?

For now, allow me to briefly summarize the two most relevant points I make in that article.

First, the people who think they aren’t losing weight because they are “in starvation mode” are wrong. Instead, they are just failing to lose weight due to one of the reasons we already covered (e.g. you’re eating too many calories).

In this case, “starvation mode” is just one of the many silly things people throw out there as their excuse for failing to create a caloric deficit. Happens all the time. The solution of course is to fix your diet and training program, actually stick to it, and make sure the one and only thing you need to be doing (creating a caloric deficit) is actually being done.

The second point is that the definition of “starvation mode” most people have in their head is wrong and nothing more than a myth. So the idea that not eating enough is preventing you from losing any weight or even causing you to gain weight is just pure bullshit.

However, there are certain aspects of “starvation mode” that are real, but they are better described as the “starvation response.” For example, your metabolic rate does slow down when you’re losing weight (due to a combination of adaptive thermogenesis and the fact that you weigh less than you used to).

And yes, the more excessively low your calorie intake is (and/or the more excessively high your output is), the more significant this “slow down” will be.

But the thing is, this “slow down” will never actually be significant enough to STOP or PREVENT weight loss from happening or somehow CAUSE weight gain. That’s a myth.

The truth is, there is no such thing as “not losing weight because you’re eating too little.” No matter how little you’re eating, you’ll always lose weight if a deficit is present.

So then what about that girl who claims to be “eating 800 calories per day and still isn’t losing weight?” Simple… she’s wrong. In reality, she’s miscalculating, underestimating and/or under-reporting her calorie intake and is consuming more than the 800 or whatever calories she claims to be. (Or, eating 800 calories most days is causing her to binge like crazy on other days, thus creating a wonderful scenario where she’s starving herself with very low calories some days, and then binge eating very high calories on others. In the end, the ‘binge calories’ beat the ‘starvation calories’ and no deficit exists.)

Like I said, it happens all the time. Take someone claiming to be eating very little and not losing weight. Lock them in a room and closely monitor/weigh/measure their food intake for them, and they will magically lose weight just fine. Studies like this have been done. Turns out they weren’t eating as little as they thought.

That’s the ironic thing about the concept of “starvation mode.” Certain parts of it are real (like your metabolic rate slowing down), but they’re either nowhere near as significant as people think (like that same metabolic slow down) or they’re just not what people think, period (“I skipped breakfast today… I’m probably already in starvation mode and burning muscle while gaining fat!!!”).

Which is just a long way of saying that the people who claim it’s their reason for not losing weight are incorrect. Instead, they’re just eating too many calories. Surprise surprise.

11. Legitimate (But Rare) Medical Issues.

I know we’d all like to believe that we’re failing to lose weight because some mysterious outside factor is screwing up our results. The thing is, it’s almost NEVER the case.

That’s why I find the “it’s my thyroid” thought so damn funny. In reality, you’re just not creating the caloric deficit that is required for weight loss to take place. Seriously, if your thyroid was capable of laughter, it would be laughing at you for trying to use it as an excuse for eating and exercising like a dumbass.

However, for the sake of being as complete as possible, I do want to mention that SOME people truly do have problems with their thyroid and/or other legit medical issues that can affect their ability to lose weight. Blood work is the only way to know for sure.

However, while this is real and it does happen, it’s probably not happening to you. You’re just eating too many calories.

And even in the cases when it IS happening to you, the reason for the lack of weight loss is still just a lack of a caloric deficit. The solution here however is less about eating less calories and more about solving the underlying health issue that’s preventing your body from burning as many calories as it should be.

The Big Point… Just In Case You Missed It

If you’re not losing weight, there’s likely a thousand different possible aspects of your diet and workout you might consider as the culprit. And of those thousand, you’d be wasting your time and energy giving a crap about 999 of them.

Instead, the true culprit is calories and the fact that you’re either eating too many of them or not burning enough of them. Even if you think you are… you’re just not.

If you were, you’d be losing weight.

So before you start focusing on the hilarious garbage, meaningless nonsense, and countless myth-based excuses that most people tend to focus on as possible reasons for why they’re not losing weight, step back for a second and take a closer look at exactly how many calories you’re eating and exactly how many calories you’re burning.

100% of the time, that’s where your problem (and solution) will be found.

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Leave Reply
  • Cherish Lukes July 01, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    What happens if I drink only water no juice no soda for about 2 weeks will i be gaining the weight i’ve lost afterwards?

    • ACalorieCounter July 02, 2014 at 6:07 pm

      It depends on your total calorie intake, not what you do and do not drink.

  • Kdawg July 03, 2014 at 3:26 am

    This information is what I want to hear! But what’s up with this bullshit that losing weight is not just calories in calories out people are saying insulin spikes will cause you not to lose weight even though your in a calorie deficit and how different foods have a different effect on our hormones so it causes us not to lose weight.

    • ACalorieCounter July 03, 2014 at 8:44 am

      Different foods do have different effects. However, calories in vs calories out ALWAYS applies.

      And that’s what fat loss/fat gain will ALWAYS revolve around.

  • Wendy July 04, 2014 at 2:22 am

    I have a question…I’ve heard that if u really eat too less to loose weight, in the future when u go back to the regular eating then u will gain weight easily, which I think ppl call it yo-yo dieting…so does yoyo dieting exists? I watched Chris Powell’s extreme weight lose before and he did mentioned yo-yo dieting too…

    • ACalorieCounter July 04, 2014 at 2:03 pm

      If you eat an amount that causes weight loss, and then return to eating an amount that causes weight gain… you will always gain weight 100% of the time.

      The key is to lose the weight in the first place in a manner that is sustainable, so you don’t actually return to eating an amount that causes the weight to be regained in the future.

  • Tamara July 08, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I’ve never had a wt problem until I had a hysterectomy. I gained 10 pounds in two months. Now I’m forced to do HRT and I’m showing signs of high blood glucose. I’m a runner and I know how to eat right. Still just calories in calories out? Or am I screwed and need medication. My fasting home test was 116:-( and my blood test showed a glucose level of 8. Thanks…

    • ACalorieCounter July 09, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      It’s always calories in vs calories out, however in some cases health issues are affecting that equation in ways that need to be solved through some other means (like medication) first. This is something only your doctor can answer, of course.

  • Mike collier July 09, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I would like to say that this is the most informative site I have found in the last couple years. You have a great way of making it very understandable and interesting
    To read ” to the average diet dummy” (me). I’ve been dieting for over a year now
    But recently suffered a huge power loss in my weight lifting ( mainly bench press)
    Which got me looking into my Dailey maintenance calorie intake. I had cut my calorie intake to under 2000 and lost 30 lbs of my bench press in a month or so. That got me wondering how diet effects Power and energy levels, and if its even possible to gain muscle while trying to cut weight And your site pretty much answered all my thoughts. I’ve looked a little on your site for a mobile app, but couldn’t find any thing. Can your recommend an app that will allow us to pin point
    all the macros. I’ve been using my fitness pal but I don’t think it will let you get to the exact numbers.

    • ACalorieCounter July 09, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      Glad to hear it Mike!

      Nope, no app yet (it is on my eventual to-do list), though MyfitnessPal is probably the most popular one.

  • Shondra July 11, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    This article is hilarious. Thank you much! I really needed to face the truth. I (like many others) are confused about my lack of weight loss. It’s called denial… and you helped me clarify my weight loss issues. Thanks again.

  • kiven July 15, 2014 at 12:06 am

    I’ve one question…. I’ve been dieting and exercising since 2 weeks and I just have lost 2 kg, while I’ve heard that I could easily lose 2 to 3 kg in just one week.

    Notice, the way that I’m dieting and exercising is very well and I’m sure about that!
    because Im doing what my personal trannier said.


    • ACalorieCounter July 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Help what? 2kg lost in 2 weeks is already more than the average amount I’d recommend losing.

  • Becky July 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Even though what you speak is common sense, I still tried to fool myself with the starvation-mode concept as the reason to blame for gaining 2 pounds in one day, and will now stop the foolishness. One day weight-loss/weight-gain does not matter. It is the consistency of calories in vs calories out that will make a difference in if I am successful or not. I am going to stop over-analyzing and just keep doing what I have been doing until I am done–eating fewer calories than I burn. When I am done losing weight, I will use my scales and calorie-burning calculators to help me be able to make sure I eat about the same amount I burn to not gain the weight back. I needed to read your no-nonsense, back to reality facts to quit making excuses. In case you didn’t see it, THANK YOU!


    Big-boned, hypothyroid, starvation-mode, binging big-mac eater following 15 minutes of exercise, yo-yo dieting, alcohol doesn’t count as calories, high-sodium, water-retaining, m&m sneaking, now reformed dieter who has just stopped making excuses thanks to you.

  • Case E Joanz July 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    As a guy who has lost 83lbs. in the past 9 months, I have to agree with every aspect of this writing. I really love the continued reaffirmation of what most people who have been successful, don’t want to hear. Which is that it REALLY is about monitoring caloric intake. I had never even tried to lose weight prior to this, and read an interesting article one day out of the blue, several years before I did this. It was a Univ. of Arizona Professor who lost 40 lbs. eating nothing but Twinkies. For the first 40 lbs. I lost I ate Micky D’s for breakfast & Jack in the Box for lunch about 3 days a week. Sausage McMuffin (280 cal) & a Jumbo Jack w/cheese (570 cal). That’s only 850 with two meals down, and one to go. Did I mention that another key to this was absolutely nothing that comes out of a deep fryer goes in your mouth? But the rule still does apply, caloric deficit means you can eat that stuff if you count it in. But really, that stuff is very bad for you. Anyway, fantastic read, really dig your style there, dude. (Lebowski fan for sure!) To anyone who reads this, and is trying to lose weight, be honest with yourself, do the math, be self-disciplined, and it will happen. Oh, and this was coming off of ACL reconstruction surgery, I have an L3 compression fracture, broke the heal of my left foot, and got the flu twice during this, that had to be killed off with azithromycin! So, just try a little harder. I said harder!!

    • Case E Joanz July 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Oops, that was supposed to be people who are UN-successful, don’t want to hear. Sorry.

    • ACalorieCounter July 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Congrats on the 83lbs dude! I actually reference that Twinkie Diet over here.

  • Jfaust July 15, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    While I would like to believe what you have written here. I have followed these rules on diets for many attempts at dropping weight, and in reality it never works.

    I am very over weight, 6’1″ male currently 354lbs. I am eating 600-1000 calories a day. Counting calories by food weight using a gram scale, and if you think I am stupid enough to fall for the “over estimating” calories or using heaping scoop fulls when measuring you are dead wrong.

    I spend 1-2 hours every night walking in the horrible heat and humidity, and come home completely drenched in sweat.

    Yet my weight has barely budged in 3 weeks(in the past, my weight would remain at 360 after a month of this). While I simply agree that “there is no way humanly possible I should not be losing weight with such a calorie deficit” the reality is I am not losing weight at the rate I should.

    Any metabolic stall or “starvation mode” or over estimation of calories cannot simply overcome the fact that I am at over a 3500 calorie deficit a day but do not lose weight.

    So I ask you, am I eating too many calories? To be perfectly honest, I am at the point where I am simply going to stop eating all together.

    • ACalorieCounter July 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      You either have a fairly seriously medical condition, or you are simply very wrong about your calorie intake.

      There is literally no other option.

      • Jfaust July 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Well I know my calorie counts aren’t wrong. Unless for some reason the food I am eating has 4 times the calories as it is supposed to. Last time I checked turkey breast, fat free cottage cheese, and low-carb vegetables don’t have a high variance in calories.

        Even if I overestimated my calories by 1000 a day, I should still lose significant weight. However, once again, my weight has stalled out at about 350. Just like previous attempts. Eating 600-800 calories a day plus 90 minutes of cardio, and I am the same weight as 3 weeks ago.

        I probably will go have some blood work done, thyroid disease does exist in both sides of my family, but never had a reason to be tested.

        Really just sucks, because the first 20-30 lbs melts away in the first month, and then its nothing for 1+ months after. I plan to stick with it all the way this time, but it really does crush your spirits to not see results.

        When you have a 25,000 calorie deficit for the week but the scale hasn’t moved, you are just left seeking answers nobody can give you.

        • ACalorieCounter July 22, 2014 at 2:28 pm

          Well, if the tests come back good and you are healthy/no problems, then I can promise you that this article is the answer you’re looking for.

        • dadinco July 27, 2014 at 3:49 am

          Dude, how can you survive on 800 cals per day?! That’s like one regular size meal per day. With your size and you say 90 minutes of cardio! There is something very wrong!

          My BMR is around 1800 and TDEE is like 2500. I don’t think I can go 3 days on 1500 cals/day. I would at least certainly not be able to go to the gym.

          If you are so certain of your calories intake then please go do the blood test ASAP.

        • JD August 06, 2014 at 11:28 am

          I’ll just leave this here….


  • David July 16, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Finally, someone who gets it! No bullshit, no excuses, measure your calories, hit your numbers or STFU!

    Something I’ve been wondering about recently, for fun, is whether having a nutrient packed healthy diet can change your maintenance level. For instance, if my intake includes a decent level of all vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein, carbs, fats and water – my body is optimised and working in harmony. Would that actually lower the maintenance calorie number?

    • ACalorieCounter July 18, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Different nutrients effect your body in different ways (for example, protein has a higher thermic effect than fat or carbs, so more protein = more calories burned during digestion).

  • Shawn July 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I wanted to lose 25 pounds last year (200 down to 175). I measured and wrote down everything I ate. I gave myself a 1750 calorie budget per day. I let my self “earn” bonus calories at the rate of 2.5 per minute of cardio. I wrote that all down as well. I lost 5 pounds in the first week (water weight?) and then about a pound a week. About 5 months later I was at my goal weight.

    Can you give me an Internet pat on the back plz?

  • Arjer July 16, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve heard so many “we are more than calories in – calories out” and that conservation of energy does not apply to open systems like the human body I was about to punch a wall in frustration.

    • ACalorieCounter July 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      I have a feeling many walls have been punched for this very reason.

  • Jonathan July 17, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Great article! People don’t believe me when I say it’s all about calorie intake. Now I have a good support article. Thanks!

  • Amanda July 19, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    I’m not going to lie, as someone who has plateaued for several months, regardless of weighing everything I eat, its hard to accept what you wrote. But as a women of science, I know you are right. I’m just wondering how you suggest we better estimate these calories in and calories out. Do you just recommend increasing the caloric deficit in order to account for the miscalculations?

    • ACalorieCounter July 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      A food scale is the first place I’d start, along with closely tracking/measuring/weighing everything.

      But honestly, if you are eating 3000 calories but think you’re eating 2000 calories… the simple fact is that you need to eat less. So if you do that and now think you’re eating 1500 calories but are in reality eating 2500 calories… who really cares? As long as a deficit gets created and fat loss is happening, you’re good. Even if the numbers aren’t accurate.

  • Mark Johnson July 21, 2014 at 4:25 am

    If I’m not mistaken when you hit the dreaded plateau you should also start lifting because muscle has a higher metabolism then fat correct? Like you should still be losing a little bit if you’re tracking calories but if you are losing very little you should probably do some strength training as well. Correct me if I’m wrong

    • ACalorieCounter July 22, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I wouldn’t wait until a plateau to start lifting. Ideally the person would be lifting from day 1.

      And yes, muscle is more metabolically active than fat, though the difference is surprisingly small (2 calories per pound vs 5-6 calories per pound).

  • Alex July 23, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I had my first baby in Dec 2013, I gained 55lbs during my pregnancy :-(. I’ve been the same weight since Feburary but have lost inches. I use myfitness pal to help track calories (1350 daily) and macros. Weight train and run at least 3 days a week but still haven’t lost any weight. What could I possibly be doing wrong!? (Am I eating too many calories)

    • ACalorieCounter July 24, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      If you’ve accurately tracked your weight and legitimately haven’t lost anything in 5-6 months, then there is simply no deficit present.

  • Jess July 25, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Man, I needed this kick in the ass! I’ve been working hard at the gym and I swear I’ve been calculating/tracking my calories in vs out, but obviously I’m doing something wrong…. This article just reminded me to stop over thinking the why’s. Is there a particular calorie calculator you’d recommend? I use the “Lose It” app for iPhone which tells me I should eat something like 1400 calories…..does that seem low or high for a 5’8″ female at 160 lbs? Thank you!

    • ACalorieCounter July 27, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      I prefer the calculator here.

      But, all any sort of calculator is giving you is an estimated starting point. What truly matters is what actually happens in the real world and that you’re adjusting when/if needed.

  • Angella July 26, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I understand what this person is saying, but I could’ve done without the sarcasm.

  • Trying July 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    I’ve been stuck for three days. I am a 29 year old women. I started at 220 and dropped to 202 very easily but the scale is exactly the same for the last few days. Calories in 0 1 day 500 the next and 0 today. ????? I’m a firm believer in the calorie in calorie out method.

    • ACalorieCounter July 27, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Stop looking at day to day changes. Look at what your weight is doing over the span of weeks.

  • Tiarra July 31, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Is it possible to me more muscle than fat? I am a 20 year old female that is 5’2 and weight to much i am currently at 166, some days its 162, some days it 164. overall my appearance look proportionate ( with some area that need toning up), but could the number I am seeing be all fat or part fat and muscle?

    • ACalorieCounter August 03, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Are you asking if part of your total body weight is muscle rather than just being fat? Um, yes. It’s also part bone, water, blood, organs and a bunch of other stuff.

  • jamie August 02, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Kiss..keep it simple stuipd! Love it. Love ur article. Lol so me. very very well written! Thank you thank you!!!

  • Richard Bilken August 04, 2014 at 3:33 am

    I would have probably written the exact same thing a year ago. My wife is in her 40s and has been on an 800 calorie diet for a month. She counts every single calorie. Even individual carrots. She started on 1200 calories and dropped to 800 when 1200 didn’t work. She runs 3 miles every other day on the treadmill and on those days, she eats 1000 calories. I have gone through her food with her and watched her and seen her struggle.

    The fact is, she is not losing weight. In fact, on an 800 calorie diet, she has gained about 4 pounds. I say about because her weight fluctuates every day, like everyone’s does so that is the average. She is now heavier than she ever has been in her life (150, 5’7″, 42 years old)

    As I said, I would have written the same thing before. At the start, I was sure it was water weight or something. But her caliper measurements have gone up as well.

    Can her metabolism slow to such a low level that on an 800 calorie diet she can be gaining weight? Where is the weight coming from? I’m guessing it has to be water binding to something because nothing else makes sense.

    I am at a loss to explain it myself. I have read online that other people have seen weight loss stalled on low calorie diets. Why? No idea.

    I read the comment from a guy who said his weight loss was stalled on a really low calorie diet. That seems to be reality. I don’t understand it but on really low calorie diets, maybe compounded by age or hormones or.. again, no idea. But it seems to happen, like it or not.

    • ACalorieCounter August 04, 2014 at 10:45 am

      No, no, no, no and no.

      First, have your wife go to a doctor and get everything checked out, blood tests, thyroid, etc. etc. etc.

      If everything comes back normal, she is simply eating more calories than she thinks. There is literally no other possibility.

  • Melissa August 06, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    I have been calorie counting for 4 weeks now. I am using myfitnesspal app which I absolutely LOVE! I have been losing weight, but in my transition of cravings and low energy, I decided to do a little research to make sure calorie counting would continue to be effective (I would hate to miss out on that cheesecake for no reason at all). I came across this article, and I absolutely love it! It is very validating and keeps me moving forward! I am paranoid about under-estimating, so I tend to error the other way (which I think is part of my energy issue).

    Thanks for the encouragement! Here’s to more counting! Can’t wait til next summer to see what size I am wearing!!

    • ACalorieCounter August 06, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Glad it helped!

      Also keep in mind that as long as you make those cheesecake calories fit in with what your overall calorie intake needs to be, you can certainly eat some cheesecake.

  • Kat August 06, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Is it safe to lose 2 lbs/week just by cutting calories? I calculated what I’ve been consuming and what I need to consume in order to lose 2 lbs/week and it is 1,000 calories per day(147 lb, 5’6 woman in 20s).

  • Kat August 06, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    One last thing about my previous question- Most of my calories come from alcohol, about 1,000/day on average (I live in a big brewery city) and I plan to cut out all alcohol for two months and see what happens. That and keep calories to 1,000 /day and be realistic about serving sizes and calorie counting. I should notice a loss of that 2 lbs/week without any added exercise, right?

    • ACalorieCounter August 14, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      A deficit from diet alone (no exercise) will cause fat loss just fine. But a calorie intake of 1000 calories per day is much lower than you should attempt to eat.

  • Glenn Dixon August 09, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I just posted a link to this article on Facebook after running into most of these arguments on a friend’s thread. THANK YOU! Tough medicine, hard for people to hear. From now on I’m going to stop debating people, post this link, and drop the mic.

    • ACalorieCounter August 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      Ha, glad to hear it dude!

      • Glenn Dixon September 06, 2014 at 11:56 am

        Update – just hit 200 (200.2 actually) – lost 23 pounds in 11 weeks or so.

        One thing that seems to cause a lot of problems with counting calories is margin of error. Everything is an estimate: BMI, BMR, TDEE, etc. If you factor the error margins in, that’s a wide range! The calculator at WebMD won’t give me a daily calorie recommendation below 1500, and yet I am losing weight at 1200. I’m fairly accurate on my intake, and we walk 3.5 miles a day in an hour, so this just means that my particular metabolism and all other factors requires 1200 to lose weight at this rate. The facts on the ground don’t add up to what the calculators suggest for me, so screw them!

        Using your calculator page, I get the following:

        Method #1 – 200*14=2800 maintenance calories – -1000 to lose 2 lbs/week=1800 – and yet I plateaued a week ago at 1400 calories…

        Method #2 – Maintenance = 2093 – 1000 = 1093 for max weight loss (I used the ‘sedentary’ option since I find activity levels in calculators add extra error)

        [NOTE: I've been using the 500 cal/lb X 2 = 2 lbs /week advice, not your 20% advice]

        So 1200 is theoretically low, but that’s what is working now.

        Just for kicks, I made my food and fitness entries on MyFitnessPal public, so you can see if I’m missing something somewhere…


        • ACalorieCounter September 08, 2014 at 7:20 pm

          That’s why all of the calculators and estimates and examples and guesses in the world are great, but the only thing that TRULY matters is what’s actually happening to your body. If it’s doing what it should be doing, cool. If not, it’s the only confirmation you need that something needs to be adjusted.

          And damn fine progress! Pretty much best case scenario numbers right there.

  • Rol Yat August 13, 2014 at 9:49 am

    So, if someone stupidly did a 5 day water fast and lost 7ish lbs, and followed the 5 day fast with a week of eating only 600 calories (if anything, they overestimated how much they were eating by counting 1 carrot as 35 cals, etc.)… the 3 lbs weight gain would be water weight, right?

    *hides face*

    I think I know the answer already.

    As someone with disordered eating AND hypothyroidism, thanks for the common sense article. I think I may even be less strict on my diet for now on and just let the weight come off as slowly as it needs to and not worry so much about it anymore.

    • ACalorieCounter August 14, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      That weight would be water, glycogen, maybe poop from a build up of #2 while stupidly doing a water fast, and just the weight of finally having some food in your stomach (even though 600 calories worth of food is still unacceptably low).

  • Bill August 16, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Good info, but you’re kind of a dick…

  • Paula August 18, 2014 at 3:26 am

    Okay, so I am 21, 5ft 5, 120 pounds, and my goal weight is 111 pounds (the lowest possible weight at which I can have a healthy BMI). I have had an underactive thyroid since I was 15, which caused me to gain some weight. I was 130 pounds when I started dieting four years ago, and my diet didn’t produce any results until I was eating under 800 calories a day and swimming for an hour four times a week. I got down to 111 (and managed to stay there on a 1200 calorie diet), but gained ten pounds during freshman year of college (although some was muscle because I’ve been doing strength training). Since then, I’ve been having an unbelievably difficult time getting rid of those ten pounds despite being on a 1200 calorie diet and exercising regularly (I don’t want to go lower because I’ve had irregular periods since my caloric intake went below 800)

    Do you have any advice on how I can lose these last 10 pounds? Should I just start saving up for lipo at this point?

    • ACalorieCounter August 24, 2014 at 7:53 pm

      As someone with a underactive thyroid, this is the kind of thing you need to discuss with your doctor.

  • George August 19, 2014 at 3:27 am

    Normally I would 100% agree with you, as I have been exercising and eat a healthy diet for 4 years.

    However, all of a sudden, each day that would pass, I would gain a pound. Seriously limiting my diet even more than before to 1000 calories (I don’t snack, I count EVERYTHING, and only drink water) while exercising by running 7-8K a day didn’t do anything. I kept gaining. For four months. Each day a pound. At first I thought it was water weight, but it just kept going up and now I’m 35 pounds more than I was before, and if I don’t run 10k a day I gain weight eating 1/4 what I used to eat before with no exercise to maintain my weight. If I don’t exercise and eat just a sandwich that day I’m up a pound on the scale.

    Went to doctor, I am 100% healthy and she is confounded since everything has been tracked and there’s no explanation.

    Point is, as I am a super active person, it’s not always the calories, as anyone who knows me knows that I don’t snack and literally monitor everything. I have no idea what’s wrong with me. If I eat less than what I am eating now of a literal 1000 calories, I wouldn’t be alive given how active I am.

    The funny thing is when I normally diet and exercise like I’m doing now and as you mentioned above, the fat melts off me since I love exercise and healthy conscious eating.

    Like I said above though, it happened to me out of the blue one day eating the same as I always have, moving the same as I always had, yet for some reason my body decided to pack on 35 pounds. It makes no sense to me that it would happen all of a sudden. No problem with thyroid, no water retention, nothing. Doctor is keeping a close eye on situation cause makes no sense.

    • ACalorieCounter August 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      Get a second opinion from another doctor. If everything still comes back fine, the message of this article applies to you just the same.

  • Ana August 19, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Excuse me? I’ve been eating 1000 calories a day for 5 weeks and haven’t lost any weight. Am I eating too many calories? Is 1000 really that much?

    • ACalorieCounter August 24, 2014 at 7:55 pm

      Read the article again. You’re not actually eating 1000 calories a day.

  • Sam August 20, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    What’s your understanding of the whoosh effect because I’m a little confused? If your fat cells can be replaced with water after losing fat, then how do we lose that water and how long does it take?

    • ACalorieCounter August 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Search Lyle McDonald’s site (and his books), he has written more about the whoosh effect than anyone else.

  • Lila August 22, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Pregnancy should affect the “calories out” side of the equation, correct? I have been tracking calories in/out for over a year and am still doing so during pregnancy. My net calories has not changed, yet I have gained 9 pounds during the 6 months I have been pregnant. If I am now using up more calories due to the baby, why the increase in weight?

    • ACalorieCounter August 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm


      Ever consider the possibility that you have a living thing growing inside of you, and that may cause some weight gain?

  • Confused August 27, 2014 at 3:46 am

    I’ve always found this works for me, but how do you explain those skinny people that eat high fat/calorie foods all day, rarely work out, and never gain weight?

    Also, do you think heart rate monitors are an accurate way of deciding calories out?

    • ACalorieCounter August 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Some people burn more calories than others due to activity level and genetic factors (especially something called NEAT… non-exercise activity thermogenesis), and some appear to eat a lot of junk but when you actually add up their calorie totals for the day (or maybe their average daily calorie intake for the week) it’s actually less than you might assume. Or a little of both.

      But basically, everyone gains weight in a surplus and everyone loses weight in a deficit. Some just require more or less calories to be in those scenarios.

      Do you mean something like FitBit? If so, they can be an okay starting point.

      • Confused August 30, 2014 at 12:34 pm

        It’s a Polar heart rate monitor with a band that goes around your chest that sends information to a watch. You enter height, weight, gender and age in the watch for accuracy, and it does the calculation of calories burned based on heart rate.

        • ACalorieCounter August 30, 2014 at 5:23 pm

          None of these things are ever 100% accurate, but they do provide useful estimates.

  • Liliana August 30, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Hi! Your article makes me pretty sad actually. I eat only fruit, veggies nuts, cheese from raw milk, milk and youghurt skimmed, eggs and fish… No processed foods, no sweets, no junk. I’m actually allergic to smthing in processed foods. I excercise daily for 30min + 15-60 min yoga also daily. I do not think my lifestyle can get ‘healthier’ than this when working full time! Yet, according to your postulate, to lose further weight I have to either starve or do more sports (which I’d love to but I also go to work). It’s just makes me feel sad and cheated. Everyone says “eat healthy and exercise and you’ll loose weight!” In reality they are bullshitting us – the truth is “torture yourself by starving and excercizing till you feel like dying and yes, you’ll lose weight”. No, thanks, not for me.

    • ACalorieCounter August 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Um, no.

      First, the “eat healthy and exercise and you’ll lose weight” is in fact bullshit. It’s much easier to overeat junk food, sure. But it’s still extremely easy to overeat “healthy” food. People do it all the time. That’s why “eating healthy” doesn’t cause fat loss. It’s not the quality of the food that does it… it’s the total quantity (calories) of it all.

      And you’re welcome to go on thinking “torture yourself by starving and exercising till you feel like dying and yes, you’ll lose weight” but in reality it’s nothing like that at all. It just takes eating slightly less than you usually do. As long as you do that, no exercise is even needed at all (though I’d always recommend weight training… cardio is purely optional and I almost never do any).

  • Sam September 03, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I am a 60 year old male. I started dieting July 15th, I was 220 lbs and wanted to lose 40 lbs, on Aug. 20th I was down to 196 lbs but since then I’m stuck at that weight, I keep my calorie intake at 1000 to 1200 a day and I walk 5 miles everyday. Why did I stop losing weight?

  • Dawn September 04, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    This is NOT true for everyone.
    I eat less than 1000 calories a day. I have had people follow me to make sure of this. Everything that passes my lips is recorded now for over a year. I am gaining weight and have had every medical test there is…. I work-out. I don’s eat sweets I don’t like them, I am a vegetarian and eat only salad for lunch and dinner, once a week fish. I eat greek yogurt for breakfast. I don’t drink soda or juice – only water.

    • ACalorieCounter September 08, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      Then you are either not human or you’re eating more than you think you are.

      Which one do you think is more likely?

  • Uchenna September 10, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I am 6’4 and 260 pounds. My blood pressure is great according to my doctor , as well as my blood levels. I’ve been on and off working out at weeks at a time, however this time I’ve been serious on sticking to going to the gym 6 days a week. I’m halfway thru week 2 and I haven’t moved at all… I’ve been doing 30 mins of elliptical cardio which burns around 550-600 cals. And lifting for about 40 more minutes. I eat about 2000-2500 cals a day(honestly), keeping my fat intake around <60% dv(based on 2000 calorie diet). I want to burn fat while toning or gaining muscle. I am reaping the benefits of lifting but my weight isn't moving. Am I being Impatient about losing weight? Or am I doing something wrong?

    • Uchenna September 10, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      BTW to add I have a 40″ waist size and 47″ chest span. A good amount of the fat i need to lose is located in my thighs and butt(which I feel is odd and embarrassing for a male). I figured elliptical training would address this

    • ACalorieCounter September 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm

      If you haven’t lost any weight whatsoever in 2 weeks, you’re either not correctly tracking your weight or… you’re simply not in a caloric deficit.

      • Uchenna September 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

        Going into week 3, it turns out I am making progress (though I will decrease my intake to speed it up). I had a very bad habit of weighing myself everyday at the wrong times(at times after lunch). I have decided to weigh myself only on Sunday mornings.

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