CALORIES. Some call them the tiny little creatures that hide in our closet and sew our clothes tighter overnight, to others they 'don't even matter when losing weight' but truth be told CALORIES ARE THE REASON you are or are not losing weight:
- Not your damaged metabolism
- Not your underactive thyroid
- Not diabetes
- Not genetics
- Not your dairy intolerance
- Not your gluten sensitivity
Why is this?
Each person has a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) which is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns on a daily basis. The context of the individual i.e. their medical and dieting history, activity level etc are factors to consider in this equation but they aren't counteracting factors in the ability to lose body fat. Eating less than this total daily energy expenditure therefore in a calorie deficit results in fat loss. So it's not food quality as such (although it is important for macro and micronutrient targets to some extent) but rather food quantity and your individual factors are like accessories rather than the binding reason as to why you're not losing weight. So fat loss WILL occur if energy expenditure is greater than caloric consumption. So quite simply why aren't you losing weight?
You're eating too much!
Somewhere along the line you're eating too much.
Our Equalution client Caitlyn, down 12kgs and 69cms in body measurements.
This was achieved through independently selecting foods of her choice meeting our strategised macronutrient and micronutrient intake requirements set on a weekly basis according to her progress and goals.
How can extra calories creep into our diet when you think you're doing all the right things...
1) Liquid calories: alcohol, coffees, soft drinks etc all contain calories and if you're having this on top of a day’s worth of food it could be adding additional intake onto your day's intake.
2) A cheat day or blow out: A cheat day or blow out can counteract a weekly deficit through excessive calorie consumption in one day.
3) Picking or biting at food: an extra 100 calories a day through a few picks or nibbles has the ability to counteract a whole training session and a half in a week or a calorie deficit altogether.
4) Trying to eat ‘healthy’: focusing on eating healthy with little regard for calorie intake can mean that you're not aware of your energy intake and therefore not eating in a calorie deficit. If you're trying to lose weight it's necessary to be conscious of caloric intake given it is possible to overeat in clean foods just as it is possible to overeat on chocolate and icecream. IN FACT, calorically some clean staples like avocado, nuts, brown rice, salmon etc are high in calories and require conscious portion control and caloric awareness.
5) Focusing on cutting sugars and carbs rather than calories: when people embark on a diet one of their main aims is to reduce carbohydrate intake and cut sugars altogether. All forms of carbohydrate we eat are either metabolised into glucose or are left undigested, serving as dietary fibre. Our body can’t distinguish between the natural sugar found in fruit, honey or milk, and the processed sugar found in a Snickers bar.
They’re all digested in the same way: they’re broken down into monosaccharides, which are then turned into glucose, which is then shipped off to the brain, muscles, and organs for use(1). What differs is the rate of digestion as sugar is a fast-digesting carb leading to a quick spike in energy as opposed to low GI carbs which are slow-digesting which may prolong the duration of energy.
6) Eating the calories burnt in exercise: If you're watching your caloric burn on a heart rate monitor and calorie burn tracker like a FitBit and with every bit of extra activity are consciously consuming those calories then it's possible you're over-consuming to your days burn. This can come from counteracting an active activity level taking it to a sedentary daily burn (which is quite low), miscalculation and/or inaccuracy of the device.
Why you can't out-train a bad diet
What does this really mean? You hear of it from all the health nuts and experts but what does this phrase mean? Quite simply it is far easier to cut 300 calories from your diet through a few light switches than trying to counteract food consumption with exercise. Let's put it into perspective:
The proof is in the pudding... The science
There's no one that just can't lose weight and if you're convinced you're doomed it's likely you've just not found your magic deficit number and not given adequate time and a consistent effort to the process. Here's what science says:
Study 1 The Twinkie Diet(2): we've used this study time and time again to show not that you should try and fit as much junk food into your diet as possible but that at the end of the day no matter your food choices calories in vs calories out will always trump when it comes to losing body fat. Bottom line: eat less = lose weight. In recent years there have been more extreme science-based studies undertaken testing the limits of calories in vs. calories out using subjects eating in a calorie deficit consuming only potatoes(3), McDonald's (4) and even eating only food from a gas (petrol) station(5). The common denominator in all of these cases being each individual is in a calorie deficit (eating less than expenditure for a period of time). So it's not a matter of if calorie-controlled diets work, it’s a proven science that they do(6) and is all the more reason as to why you should be focused on meeting an intake requirement rather than being ruled by foods that are promised to be guilt-free.
Study 2 The Minnesota Starvation Diet: this study not only showed the drastic body fat reduction with a calorie deficit in a group of male subjects but also the importance of sustainable dieting for ensuring sound mental health and stability throughout the process. Bottom line: eat less = lose weight(7).
Study 3 Macros or Calories Study: This study tested various macronutrient splits with the same amount of calories on individuals of the same/similar TDEE's. This study found that calorie intake irrespective of their macronutrient splits will result in fat loss or fat gain not macronutrient quantities(8).
Key take-home points on cutting calories:
- It IS necessary for fat loss.
- Optimum nutrition for fat loss will ensure the individual has a diet of adequate protein, fats and carbs as well as micronutrients but will be eating less than expenditure.
- Long term fat loss will see that the strategy is sustainable so the aim is to be on as many calories as possible while losing the optimum amount of fat possible.
- Be aware of what you've had & what you're going to have for the rest of the day. You can be flexible in your food choices given the body doesn't recognise food as good or bad but do note calories. Calories should be regarded in respect of what you've eaten so far that day and what you plan to eat when consciously trying to lose weight.
- Whatever your food preferences, don't be confused by ingredients and 'free from' claims. You may think you're doing your body wonders but your body might not agree at the end of the day calories in vs. calories out will always trump.
Don’t look for a reason to cut things from your diet and overcomplicate a simple equation, ultimately corning yourself into a tight space of restriction and negatively geared mindset. Don’t be heavily influenced by marketing gimmicks and base your food choices on promises that could have you putting on weight regardless of how ‘healthy’ you think you are. The underlying cause of your body woes is failing to eat in a calorie deficit (less than what you’re burning) for a consistent period of time to achieve your goals rather than consuming a ‘devil food’.
Dismiss and don’t rely on the idea that there is a magic list of foods that you can eat in limitless quantities and still lose fat, and likewise opting for foods ‘free from’ something is also a false impression that it will do you paramount health favours that may promote fat loss. These claims if not in regard to caloric and macronutrient regulation are unsupported by science.
Despite the influences of the media and beautiful Instagram bloggers who have found an approach that is their way of life and working for them, do not defy the calories in vs. calories out principle of attaining results. Looking at these clean eating/superfood advocates on Instagram, you’ll see evidence of this science unbeknownst to them as their lean physiques are often maintained by a satisfactory macronutrient intake of protein, fats and carbs comprised by all the quinoa, avocado, chicken, nuts and broccoli - but it's by no means at all to do with the food choice. You will need to put in the work of monitoring what you consume in terms of your caloric and macronutrient intake, but this is how you attain results, don’t be fooled by the marketing promises instead.
Want to know what your body needs to lose weight? Ask us, we have the answer!
8. Leibel RL, et al Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. Am J Clin Nutr. (1992)