Not Losing Weight - What's Your Excuse?

I often see a ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ approach from clients embarking on a new eating plan and healthy lifestyle. Before me the controlled, responsible ‘self’ that promises to eat a balanced three meals a day, with a few healthy snacks along the way. Plus a determination to exercise at least three times a week.

But then there is the other ‘self’ that seems to take over. This one starts the day with the recommended porridge or cereal, a piece of fruit mid-morning, and a bowl of home made soup and roll for lunch. Then, come the afternoon, devours a bar of chocolate, a half a pack of biscuits, then slips in a portion of chips for dinner as a reward for starting the day well! And they just can’t fathom why they have gained 2lbs at the end of the week…

Excuses for failed weight loss are rife, often blaming the weight gain on their genes or over-indulgence. They are unable to lose weight because they are big boned, or have an inherited slow metabolism, a sluggish thyroid, or insist that their parents are fat, so they are doomed to carry around the inevitable large fat cells.

There is little doubt that it can be hard to lose weight permanently, especially when results don’t come quickly enough. It is also very easy to give up and blame it on something else. Weight loss is a great goal, but unless you have some motivation, what's to keep you going when the scales don't budge? So, perhaps now is time to face the facts about successful weight loss. My motto for clients is the 3 D’s - Desire, Determination and Discipline.

But I hardly eat a thing!
It is very easy to take in more calories than you think, as per many of my clients. Studies have shown that when slimmers were tested, the difference between actual calorie intake and their reported intake was underestimated by up to 25%! For instance, one study by the International Journal of Obesity showed that intake of participants averaged 1,900 calories, whereas their own reports averaged 1,500 calories – a difference of around 16%. In fact the worst ‘estimators’ under-estimated by over 50%!

Maybe you do eat less than your skinny friends, but it’s vital to question yourself as to what you do eat. Fat and sugar contain more calories than protein or unrefined carbohydrates, so if you eat more fat but less total food, you are likely to put on extra pounds in weight. Carbohydrate calories are the body's preferred fuel as they burn more easily than fat calories. It is also easy to miscalculate portion sizes, or forget to allow for calories in drinks or snacks nibbled while preparing meals or sitting on the sofa in the evenings. Keeping an honest food diary will help to monitor your actions.

I’m big boned
The common misconception that losing weight is impossible because you have big bones just doesn’t wash! You lose weight by losing fat, regardless of whether you have a big frame or not. A healthy female’s skeleton makes up about 12% of total body weight, the rest being muscle, fat and fluids. The bones in your body are relatively light. For example, a woman who weighs 10 stone (64kg) would have about 17lb (7.75kg) of bone weight from her skeleton. It is the rest that is negotiable!

It’s my slow metabolism
Our metabolism breaks down the nutrients in our food to give us energy. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns over a set period, just to keep your body working. Your metabolic rate does change though, depending on how fit, or fat, you are. Muscles need more energy to fuel them than fat does, so active people will have a higher metabolic rate than sedentary people, who may be overweight. A pound of muscle burns 30 to 50 calories a day, whereas a pound of fat burns two calories a day. In other words, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn ‘doing nothing'.

I’ve got the wrong body shape
You can’t change your basic body shape, but how much fat you put on your body is up to you. This will relate to both your diet and exercise. Look at your lifestyle and see what improvements you can make. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, limit your fat and sugar intake, eat lots of whole grains and make sure you exercise regularly. This will both tone and improve any body shape.

I have an underactive thyroid
If the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones it can slow down metabolic rate, although only by a small amount (10% or less). But unless your thyroid is extremely underactive - in which case there would be other clues such as fatigue, depression, dry skin and hair, and a loss of sex drive - it’s unlikely to be the blame for any weight gain. Your thyroid can be easily be checked by your doctor.