I remember back in the day when I worked out twice a day 5 days per week, I watched everything I ate, I got plenty of sleep, and I could NOT seem to drop the stubborn pounds that had settled around my midsection.
And as someone who was fascinated by health and fitness throughout my entire life, it was extra frustrating that I was so stumped.
To make an extremely long story short, my problem turned out to be my hormones and my stress levels. Once I got my thyroid numbers in check, and let go of my rigidness in my mind and in my life, suddenly the weight all but fell off.
Now that might not be your exact issue (or maybe it is). But over my 9 years of personal training, I would argue most of my clients were dealing with stubborn weight, and it almost always boiled down to one of these 6 problems.
And as frustrating as weight loss can be, once you find that magic ingredient that's missing, the road will become much much easier. So let's get you some clarity here and now.
I'm sure you know that in order to lose weight you have to be consuming fewer calories than you're burning. But there are some common pitfalls that may be sabotaging this for you.
1. You're eating out too often. The average restaurant meal in America is 1200 calories, and even when you think you're making healthy choices there often are hidden calorie bombs. I can't tell you how many 1000+ calorie salads I've come across.
2. You're counting calories without paying attention to where they came from. Your body burns more calories processing whole foods than it does already processed foods.
In other words, if you eat 100 calories of a whole food, your body is storing fewer of those calories than if you ate 100 calories of a processed or packaged food.
What exactly qualifies as a whole food? A food that has been grown in the ground or had a mother, and that has not been altered or processed.
3. You're overestimating how many calories you're burning and underestimating how many calories you're eating. Oftentimes you don't realize how quickly you can cancel out your gym session. ONE slice of pizza can easily counteract 80 minutes of weightlifting in the gym. So be mindful, 80% of your weight loss efforts happen in the kitchen.
This one is hard for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. Especially the generation of people who grew up on diets like the Master Cleanse and the Cabbage Soup Diet that were all about restriction.
But the science remains, when you drop your calorie intake too far below what your body is burning, your body basically freaks out and shuts down the metabolism.
So how much is too much? Ladies, never eat less than 1200 calories. Men never eat less than 1500 calories. If you don't have a significant amount of weight to lose, aim for a 500 calorie/day deficit. And if you do have a significant amount of weight to lose, aim for a 1000 calorie/day deficit.
A good rule of thumb for how much to eat in a day?
Maintenance calories = 15 x your current body weight
Less than 20 pounds to lose = 12 x your current body weight
More than 20 pounds to lose = 10 x your current body weight
Attention all Program Hoppers!! You can not keep ditching a program every 2 weeks because it "isn't working." You didn't gain weight in 2 weeks, you aren't losing it in 2 weeks. You have to give your body a chance to register what you're doing and adapt. So give your program a solid 4 weeks before you jump ship.
And by the way, slow weight loss doesn't mean the program isn't working. You may need to bump up the intensity a tiny bit, or (more likely) you need to learn to have patience with your weight loss. Slow and steady is the name of the game. Period.
On the flip side. You can definitely stick with a program for too long. I've seen many people who come to the gym and they do the same exact workouts day in and day out and because they're sweating they feel like it's a good workout, plus "it worked at first!".
But weight loss is an adaptation the body creates in order to accommodate a stimulus beyond its current capabilities. And when the stimulus isn't strong enough (or your body has gotten used to it), it stops having to adapt, which is where you see plateaus happening.
So stay consistent long enough for your program to stick, but also make sure you're consistently challenging yourself by increasing your reps, sets, weights, or challenge level of your exercises.
This is the one that I see most often, but it also is the one that gets brushed off most easily. Do not brush this off. I told you weight loss is an adaptation, well rest and recovery is when that adaptation happens.
In the gym you tear everything down, but during recovery is when your body builds itself back up and that's where you see real results happening.
And beyond the adaptation response, your body does not like to lose weight under high stress. When you're in a chronic state of fight or flight (which most of us are who have stressful jobs, stressful relationships, or stressful mindsets), your body pumps out cortisol which is the hormone that tells your body to store fat, specifically around your midsection.
So while stress may never go away, you've got to make sleep a non-negotiable and you've got to get into a sold stress management plan.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my achilles heal. My hormones were out of whack for years without me knowing it.
Now, I'm no hormone expert and you should definitely make a trip to your endocrinologist if you suspect this to be your issue.
But my initial thought is to tell you to get your thyroid checked. An under-active thyroid can be a devastating culprit of stubborn weight issues.
Hopefully reading this sparked a realization about what may be causing your stubborn weight issues.
But trust me, there is a lot of nuance with each of these culprits and there are countless other possibilities.
The body can be complicated, and confusing, and stubborn, and sometimes it can be hard to tell what's going on when we're too close to the problem.
Which is why I want to offer you a Free "Plateau-Busting Call" so I can help you analyze your nutrition, fitness plan, and daily habits to see what your most likely saboteur is and how we can create a plan to get you past it.
During the recording of the episode we mentioned a couple things I promised to link to:
My favorite wearable calorie tracker/fitness app is Healbe.
And I promised to share Gio's before and after!