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

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.

3. Maybe You Didn’t Hear Me: YOU’RE EATING TOO MANY CALORIES!

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 or magical superfoods, 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.

Underestimating

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.

This is a topic I cover here: Why Am I Gaining Weight? 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain

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.

A HUGE Update…

After an entire year of writing, I have finally released my program: Superior Fat Loss.

In it, I break down every single cause of weight loss plateaus (not just the common causes, but the less common causes as well) and show you exactly why they happen, exactly what causes them, and exactly what you need to do to easily get back to losing fat again.

I also show you all of the diet, workout and lifestyle adjustments you need to make to reach your goals while minimizing metabolic slowdown, losing fat without losing muscle, continuing to eat the foods you love, avoiding annoying diet rules and restrictions, and so much more. You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

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

  1. Alright, I’m not going to lie…you’re actually wrong. You addressed “that girl” in your post, but you just aren’t right. I’m living proof. I used to be able to drop weight easily if I followed the “calorie in, calorie out” methodology. But, I can tell you honestly that recent (5 months worth of?) weeks of less than 800 calories daily combined with vigorous running and strength training (all of which worked until recently) have ceased to produce a loss in weight, but have actually witnessed a 10 pound increase! Indulge me…what’s the key?

    • Unless you are already at anorexic levels of weight or have some kind of health issue (such as something thyroid related)… you’re simply wrong and the information in this article stands. There are no exceptions.

      Even if you happen to think you are one.

      You’re not.

  2. What about breastfeeding? I’ve noticed when I’m breastfeeding I can not lose the last 5 to 8 pounds I want to lose and I have love handles. Then when I stop breastfeeding and change nothing else in my routine, the pounds fall off and the love handles disappear! Why does this happen? I’m a creature of habit and I eat the exact same thing for breakfast every day and alternative between a few different choices for other meals. I work out 5 days a week. I do three days of weight and two days of cardio. No matter what I do, I just can not lose those last pounds when I’m breastfeeding. I know other women who say breastfeeding helped them lose weight, but it’s the opposite for me!

    • A couple of women have mentioned breastfeeding in the comments of this one, but it’s honestly not something I know much about. So, I’m probably not the best person to ask.

  3. Man, I love the casual way you try to drill it to people that it is calories. I do agree. I would like your opinion on my situation though, I’ve been tracking my macros using IIFYM and I’ve done intermittent fasting for 3 months twice. While I do see changes in my body (squishy fat changing/climbing up from my gut and back and even inner thigh. But my weight will not change, and even if I try to keep sodium in moderation I still hold more than ideal water. Any response would be splendid.

  4. 5’3 inches. 126 pounds. 26% bodyfat.

    Lately I’ve barely been eating 1000-1200 calories daily and losing, but I often consider if I could be eating more without jeopardizing my progress. How do you determine when your body is in a deficit? Or how long do you need to be eating at that calorie allotment to make that determination?

    • Estimate your maintenance level and go about 20% below that for 2-3 weeks and see what happens. If you’re losing weight, you’re in a deficit. If not, adjust in small increments until you find the point where you’re eating as much as possible and still losing weight at a decent rate.

  5. I’m one of those rare medical cases. I was very fit when I was younger and then had a traumatic brain injury that affected various glands. My thyroid has been struggling for years and I didn’t understand what was happening until last year.

    I was approaching 400 pounds when a doctor finally figured it out. I’ve been on thyroid meds for the past 9 months and I’ve lost 120 pounds. (I’m female btw).

    This weight loss is the result of feeling so much better and, therefore, moving a lot more. I also now have the energy to make real food.

    All of that brings me to my point. I’ve been decreasing my calorie intake as I’ve lost weight. About two months ago, I started a moderate weight training schedule three times per week, in addition to walking/jogging around 15 miles a week.

    As soon as I started weight training, I stopped losing weight. The inches are coming off pretty drastically, but the scale isn’t moving.

    I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong here. I could understand a temporary change in water retention at the start of the new schedule, but two months worth? It’s strange. What do you think?

  6. Hi,

    Nice article.

    I do bodybuilding. While bulking up, I was eating aroung 2900 calories, and went from 68 to 80 kgs in 3-4 months. Gained tummy also. Now I want to cut fat.

    I reduced my calories to 2200, while still doing exercise, but from last 2-3 weeks I am measuring same (79.5 kg). Not loosing fat.

    Should I drop more calories. Problem is that if I drop more calories, my protien intake will also go low, and I fear loosing hard gained muscle. My daily food comprise of milk, whole eggs, wheat bread and lentils.

    Please help.

    Thanks
    Snoopy

    • If you are trying to lose fat and haven’t lost any weight in 3 weeks, you need to reduce your calorie intake slightly.

      However, this reduction should come from carbs first, then fat, and rarely ever from protein.

  7. Ok You say it’s all calories… I am on a 800 Calorie a day diet…… and I have actually only been taking in 500 Calories a day… Yes we burn 1800 calories a day or whatever it is people say we burn… But I am gaining weight. I am active I go to the gym every 3 days, I walk everyday, I drink 1.5 liters to 2.5 liters of water everyday. I have gone from 144 pounds to 174 in LESS than a month and I can’t fit into my clothes anymore… what can I do to change this??? I check the foods that I am eating and I am doing everything right. And, my doctor hs ruled out Thyorid disease. maybe I am just born to be fat.. All of my family are smaller then 144 pounds. My father only weighs 135. Help me please.

    • If you’re healthy and a doctor has ruled out any sort of heath issue (like thyroid) then you’re simply eating a shitload more calories than you think you are.

      People don’t magically gain 30lbs in a month “eating 800 calories per day.”

  8. awesome article, you had me chuckling at the beggining. I have been working out consistantly a little over a year now but I only recently started strictly counting calories (2 months).. I have a calorie counter and I make sure I don’t over or underestimate anything, I am cutting calories by 1000 so I lose 2 pounds a week, my question is, is this safe to do or will I lose more muscle mass because of it… I have lost weight but I’m not seeing it so much ( I thonk I have lost 6-8 pounds)
    I am a 20 year old male (5′ 11″) (162 pounds in morning)

  9. I was wondering why calories shown on the label is the total of everything? Why do they put other things like (ex. Calories of fat) if there is already calories on the label? If you are trying to eat 1000 calories a day, what do you need to look at to add up all your calories total? Do you need to look at calories, calories of fat, or both, to know when you have reached your limit of 1000 calories a day? I would like to know, but I do not know what to look at on the label?

    • The amount on the label listed for calories is already the total amount of calories from everything (protein, fat and carbsd) in that food.

      The ‘calories from fat’ listing is completely meaningless and serves no useful purpose whatsoever.

  10. Hi, I am so glad I found and read your article. Really I am 5’6 150lbs, have been exercising for the last 6 months harder than ever before in my life. Have a personal trainer 3 times a week and another 2 days I go to the gym and exercise by myself. I eat between 1300-1600 calories/ day and I always tough that was too much for me in order to loose weight. However, my trainer keeps telling me I need to eat more and that I am in “starvation mode” all the time which I had hard time believing. I was eating 1.5 grams of protein per my body weigh, and 0.5 grams of carb and fats and no results whatsoever:(… I always believed in this strategy simple eat less but listening to other advice did not get me nowhere…. If my BMR is 1300 cal how much do you suggest I have to eat in order to start loosing some weight. Assuming that I do cardio 3 times a week 2-3 miles HIT, and weight lifting 4-5 times a week 30-45 min…. thank you so much. Great advices.

  11. Thank you for clearing the air around this topic. i would appreciate it heavily if you can explain the adaptive thermogenisis, the actual rate of loss, and at what point of Bodyfat % does it become important to take counter measures for it

  12. At first it seems harsh when your read your article but it is great. 100% true *** I have four sisters and we are always on this drop 15 pound on and off diet. It will be working great and then taper off. As we get bored and the fun motivation wears off we stop watching and all admit to lying to yes ourselves that we ate that extra cookie or 2 or taste this or that while making stuff and not adding that calorie into account. So great to be reminded we are only fooling ourselves and setting us up for diet failure .

  13. This may sound silly but how can you estimate how many calories you burn in a day? I am a SAHM mother of 3 children under 5 years old and I exercise lightly once a day with about 10 minutes of jumping jacks, and around 15 minutes of ab, arm, or leg exercises depending on the day. But im always cleaning, cooking, and playing with the children the rest of the time unless Im sick. I have around 25 pounds to lose after my 3rd child who was born in March. I’m 5’4, 33 yo and around 153. I just started intermittent fasting with an 8 hour window and my calories are roughly 1200 to 1400 a day with 900 on fasting days. Im just having difficulty tracking my calorie burn. Thank you!

    • The best option is to try to keep your calorie intake and calorie output as consistent as you can and simply monitor your progress. If your weight is moving in the direction you want it to at the rate it should be, keep doing what you’re doing.

      If it’s not, adjust intake, output or some combination of the two until it is.

  14. I’ve lost 20 lbs in 35 day by counting my calories with the MyFitnessPal app. It turns out that my triple triple coffees had more calories than the meals I was eating. It’s easier to change a bad habit when the data is staring you in the face.

  15. Best article about losing weight I’ve ever read! It just puts it all in perspective!!!! It’s just simple math, no tricks, no excuses, just math! I only have 10 pounds to lose and I already eat very healthy, now I have to get off my butt!!!! Thanks, for making it so clear. I just wish the article had a few images, so I could pin it, to share on my pinterest.

  16. For years I’ve been in a caloric surplus or eating at maintenance thinking that I created a calorie deficit, and for years I have not been able to lose any fat weight except the usual 1-2 pounds and then I would regain. My downfall was that I have been “eyeballing” my portions or calories for years, and miscalculating my calories big time. As I read through your article, I stayed in constant denial. What does he mean you are eating too much? I was offended about being in a calorie surplus based upon what your article was saying. But, I was determined that enough was enough with being overweight. I thought, maybe he’s right; I’ve been in a surplus all of these years (years, sad isn’t it?) After two months of counting correctly, and no longer “eyeballing” my portions or calories, I’m happy to report that I’ve lost 10 pounds! My mistake was eyeballing my calories thinking that by eyeballing them I was being accurate. Now, I weigh my portions with a food scale or use the palm of my hands to determine my portions. Bottom line, 90% of people who begin a diet to lose weight are still in a calorie surplus as your article states. Now, wWhenever my friends and family ask me why I’m losing weight so easily, I tell them that I am in a caloric deficit. I referred them to your article, however, they are in denial as I was. The fog has lifted for me, and I’ve learned my lesson. It took awhile. Whenever, my weight loss stalls, I check my calories first. I no longer eyeball my calories because my perception of eyeballing has caused me to be in a caloric surplus for far too long. And all of the typical myths about weight loss (e.g., eating late at night, starvation mode, and all of those other bull crap excuses), are now hilarious to me. I STAND CORRECTED AND AM NOW THOUGHLY INFORMED!!! My family and friends are still clinging onto the old weight loss myths and are still struggling with their weight. You would think with my weight loss progress/success that they would listen to the advice that I give them. Even referencing your article has not motivated any of them. They want a reason for not having fat weight loss success so that they can throw in the towel, and eat at a caloric surplus, without the sacrifice. At any rate, your article is a God-send, and thank you for being so correct and “no-nonsense” with the truth. I’m down 10 pounds, and nothing can stop me now! Thanks a million!

  17. Thanks for your precious time explaining how calorie deficit works if done correctly!

    I am 26 yo mum, have 2 babies… I am 5’3 large frame, my started weight was 238 pounds and the last 2 years I managed to lose around 83 pounds, I reached 155 pounds this month but I stopped losing weight and currently i weigh around 158-160. I am using MFP and tracking all my food intake and exercise, but I think I hit a plateau and yesterday and today I thought to give it a try and eat at maintenance level and unfortunately today I passed the maintenance level. I don’t know what to do after, should I eat at calorie deficit starting from tomorrow? I need to lose the last 30 pounds, and more importantly to be under 20% bf. please help, I am lost!

    I am hoping to lose 1.5-2 lbs a week, I am really depressed and annoyed about the fat hanging over my hips I feel unhealthy despite the large weight loss but I still feel unhappy. I want that feel about being feather and can fly high without worrying about the excess fat.

    • If you’ve been in a deficit all/most of the last 1-2 years, you’re due for a break. Take a 1-2 week period at maintenance or better yet slightly above maintenance, and then resume your deficit until the remaining 30lbs are lost.

  18. Love this article mad me laugh and also gave a few home truths.. im keeping it for that moment i moan about not losing weight 🙂

  19. Female, 232#, 5’4″, 35 yrs. Started MFP almost 3 weeks ago and a 1400 calorie intake. I know this is significantly less than I have ever eaten before because I have never attempted to lose significant weight of any kind. I have never ever paid attention to what I eat and have almost always gained 10 pounds a year since puberty. Got on the scale today and have not lost any weight at all! Shouldn’t I be seeing something on the scale? Or am I too early? I’m going to keep going regardless but any help/tips you can recommend would be great.

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

    • 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.

      • Sorry, but you’re giving wrong advice. Many, many people count every calorie, exercise and do not lose any wiehgt. I am one of them. I dare you to call me a liar and say I’m eating too much. Is 4 years of 1200 per day and 5 days a week exercise too many caories. It’s the rotten attitudes of people like you that keep America not loosing weight. Evidently there are metabolic things at work, but instead of researchers looking into this and how to help poeple it’s more profitable to blame people. So, guess what at 350 lbs I am NOT eating too much. I speak for thousands, we are sick of this stuff..we need someone to come up with something and not another stupid pill to make us feel full, a dumb operation to cut up our anatomy or a weight loss product…fuillness is not the problem…we’re eating like birds and not loosing!!!!

        • So let me get this straight. You’re 350lbs, eating 1200 calories per day for 4 years straight and not losing weight?

          Yeah, that’s not actually happening.

          I’m not saying you’re lying. I’m sure you truly believe this to be the case. However, while you may not be lying, you ARE incorrect. You’re eating quite a bit more than you think.

  22. 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…

    • 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.

  23. 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…

    • 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.

  24. 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.
    Thanks.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

    PLEASE HELP!!!

  27. 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!

    Sincerely,

    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.

  28. 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!!

  29. 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.

      • 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.

  30. 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?

    • 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).

  31. 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?

  32. 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.

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

  34. 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?

    • 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.

  35. 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

    • 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).

  36. 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)

  37. 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!

    • 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.

  38. 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.

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