Every so often, we would hear people around us say: “I have been dieting for a month but my weight is not dropping”. I’m sure many of us would have met with such a situation as well. Instead of figuring out what went wrong, we kept making changes to our diet and we eventually gave up on losing weight. However, have you ever tried figuring out what was exactly the cause?
Weight loss is complicated and it is definitely a lot more than just “dieting”.
I am definitely no professional, but I believe I have done enough research and heard sufficient from many personal trainers that weight loss only happens when your calories input is lower than calories output.
While it may seem like a simple rule, it appears that not many understand this simple equation.
If calories input = calories output, your weight will remain.
Assuming calories input > calories output, your weight will increase.
And obviously, when calories input < calories output, your weight decreases.
This equation may also be the reason why people see weight loss as simple as “eating less”, as technically speaking when you’re eating less, you should be consuming lesser calories than usual.
However, there are times when we are in calories deficit, but the numbers on the scale just doesn’t decrease – here’s why:
1. You Have Reached Plateau
We shall start off with the most common reason.
But before that imagine this: you have been following your diet, worked out hard in the gym, and your weight is dropping!
Then one day, you weighed yourself and you realize that your weight is the same as last week’s, and you told yourself “It’s okay, just keep up with the effort, the numbers will drop again.”.
Two weeks have passed, you check on your weight, “Crap! Why isn’t my weight going down anymore?”. Then you got upset and you decided to give up on your diet plan.
If this had happened to you before, more often that not, you have hit a weight-loss plateau.
So, what causes weight-loss plateau?
Most of us may have noticed a rapid drop in our weight during the initial stage of diet. However, as time goes by, we will realize that the progress gets slower and slower, then it would stop progressing.
The rapid drop at the start is mainly due to water weight loss. When we first started being in calories deficit, our body would start using the body’s energy reserves, also known as stored glycogen. As glycogen is partly made up of water, the body loses water weight whenever stored glycogen is released and used, which explains the rapid weight drop at the initial stage.
After the initial rapid drop, we would start noticing that the progress tend to be pretty stable. But, during this stage, we tend to lose some muscle mass together with the fats, and as we all know, calories used (your metabolism) is affected by your body composition.
With lesser muscle and fats, your metabolism drops together with your weight, causing you to burn fewer calories. Therefore, your weight loss slows down and eventually stops as the calories burnt by your body is equivalent to your calories input – that’s when you finally hit a plateau.
Do, however, note that this is assuming you did not reduce your food intake further, neither did you increase your workout capacity.
And with that being said, to lose more weight, you have to either increase your activity level or decrease your food intake, which we will talk about in details in the other article!
2. Body Composition
The next reason has got to do with your body composition, which refers to ratio of fat, protein, minerals and water mass in your body.
Body composition is said to be a more accurate way to describe weight instead of BMI, and definitely works better than your usual weighing scale.
I believe most of us, at some point of time, would have seen similar photo being circulated online before.
While it may not be the most accurate representation, this photo does serves its purpose – to prove that muscle takes up less space than fats, assuming it’s 1:1 weight ratio.
With that being said, this is the reason why the numbers of the scale may be stagnant; as you may be losing fat, however gaining muscle mass at the same time.
Take out your measuring tape to check on your measurements, it may be a more accurate way to track your fat loss progress instead of the numbers on the scale.
3. You Are Not Drinking Enough Water
When we were younger, our parents would constantly remind us to drink at least 8 cups of water a day. And we are all aware of how important it is to be hydrated, after all 60% of our body is made up of water.
But how many of you are aware that drinking sufficient water also helps you with the burning of calories?
Putting aside that keeping hydrated reduces water retention and bloatedness, water is also a crucial component in helping with the breaking down of fats, which is also known as lipolysis.
This is proven by a mini-review from 2016 whereby it was found in an animal study that an increase in water intake improves the lipolysis process as water molecules is needed in the process to help with the release of fatty acids.
The review had also stated that water acts as a natural appetite suppressant as it leads to a feeling of fullness due to the space taken up in the stomach, hence tricking the brain to think that you are full and to stop you from overeating.
A study done in 2014 have also noticed that drinking cold water would require your body to burn more calories. The test has noticed that those who drink 500ml of cold and room temperature water burns 2-3% more calories which is is mainly due to your body requiring more energy to heat up the water before digestion.
Adding on to that, water helps with the removal of waste – in simpler term, it helps you poop and remove toxins from your body!
Moral of the story? Drinking sufficient water is as important as tracking your diet!
The numbers on the scale also doesn’t represent your progress accurately. A good way to tracking your progress, other than keeping track of your body measurement, will be to have a “picture diary” where you snap photos of your body progression.
Personally I do think that a picture diary works way better than weighing scale and measuring tape as it is less time-consuming and shows you exactly how your body is transforming!
Do keep in mind that weight loss may not be such a difficult progress, however, it requires tons of patience and determination! So, the next time when things get tough, take a short break and get back up again. Never ever give stress yourself too much – physically and mentally!