Have you ever felt like you hardly eat anything, but you’re still not losing weight? (Or had a personal training client who has felt this way?)
Despite doing everything they “should” be doing, including eating less (maybe a LOT less) they’re still not losing weight. In fact, they might even be gaining weight!
A quick internet search will give you lots of explanations — “broken” metabolism, starvation mode, insulin resistance, cannibalizing lean muscle, hormone deficiencies, to name a few.
If you’re hardly eating anything but you’re still not losing weight, is there something wrong with you? Is your body broken? Is it all in your head?
Or can you actually gain weight from under-eating?
Let’s look at some facts first, then some suggestions for why you may not be losing weight:
Facts first — Calories DO matter.
- If we eat more calories than we expend, we gain weight.
- If we eat fewer calories than we expend, we lose weight.
In the end, that energy balance is what will determine whether you gain or lose weight.
Everybody knows that.
BUT…it’s not just simple math.
Measuring both calories (the “in”) and metabolism (the “out”) is imprecise.
The nutrition databases (like the free MyFitnessPal app) are just ballpark figures for how many calories certain foods contain.
The nutrition labels on food are a good estimate/average, but research shows that they are often 20 or 30 percent off!
Same goes for guessing how many calories you burn.
- Your apple watch will give you a target.
- Your fitness app will give you a different target.
- The Harris-Bennedict equation, or a free online tool to determine your optimal calorie intake will give you other numbers.
- Your treadmill or elliptical trainer will display calories burned.
So, most of the time, we have to guess. And nutrition research shows that our guesses aren’t very good 🙁
There’s no good way for us to truly know the actual energy in (calories consumed) and the actual energy out (calories burned).
Ballparking and experimenting is all we can do.
Our biggest problem with not losing weight is perception.
As human beings, we’re bad at correctly judging how much we’re actually eating and expending. We tend to think we eat less and burn more than we do — sometimes by as much as 50 percent!
(Interestingly, people who are working out to gain weight often have the opposite problem — They overestimate their food intake and underestimate their exercise expenditure.)
More than anything, it’s that we struggle to estimate portion sizes and calorie counts.
This is especially difficult in today’s western society, when plates and portions are bigger than ever. Calorie-dense, incredible tasting, highly brain-rewarding “foods” are plentiful, cheap, and encouraged with advertising.
(I once had a client discover he was using ten tablespoons of olive oil — 1200 calories — rather than the two tablespoons — 240 calories — he thought he was using as his salad dressing. Yikes!)
Sabotaging your weight loss efforts
Let’s take an example of how “calorie creep” can sabotage your weight loss efforts, even when you almost always eat well.
A colleague of mine, Dr. John Berardi, went out to eat with some friends at a well-known restaurant chain. He ordered one of their “healthier” meals that emphasized protein, veggies, and “clean” carbs. Then since it was a special occasion, he finished off dinner with cheesecake for dessert.
Curious about how much energy he’d consumed, he looked it up.
Five. Thousand. Calories.
Imagine yourself in this same scenario — You’ve been under-eating almost every meal during the week and maintaining an estimated negative energy balance of about -3,500 calories. Great week, good job! Then, during one single meal (a healthy menu option plus a splurge dessert), you accumulated 5,000 calories.
That one meal would put you in a theoretically positive energy balance for the week (+1,500 calories), leading to weight gain!
No wonder we all lose our minds after eating 20 “perfect” meals in a row and 1 “not so bad” meal, and gain weight!
THIS is why we feel like our metabolism is broken, or that there’s no hope — because we were just about perfect.
But it has nothing to do with being “good” or not, it’s just that there were more calories for the week than you knew.
We don’t defy the laws of human physiology. We just think we do, because we’ve made assumptions about portions and calories that were not correct.
Calories burned — your metabolism
You may have heard that one pound of fat is 3,500 calories, so if you cut 500 calories per day, you’ll lose a pound per week.
That looks good on paper, but human metabolism isn’t that cut and dried. The human body is a complex and dynamic system that responds quickly to changes.
When you undereat, especially over a longer period, your complex body adapts.
Here’s an example of how undereating might play out:
- You expend less energy in digestion because you’re eating less.
- Your resting metabolic rate goes down because you weigh less.
- Calories burned through physical activity go down since you weigh less.
- Non-exercise activity (daily-life movement) goes down and you subconsciously expend less energy through the day.
- Your digestion slows down, and you absorb more energy from your food.
Your body will also adjust hormonal feedback and signaling loops. For instance:
- Appetite and hunger hormones go up (i.e. we want to eat more, are more stimulated by food cues, may have more cravings).
- Satiety hormones go down (which means it’s harder for us to feel full or satisfied).
- Thyroid hormone goes down.
Your planned 500 calorie daily deficit can quickly become 400, 300, or even 200 calories (or fewer), even if you intentionally exercise as much as you had before.
And, speaking of exercise, the body has similar mechanisms when we try to out-exercise too much food.
For example, research suggests that increasing physical activity above a certain threshold (by exercising more) can trigger:
- More appetite and more actual calories eaten
- Increased energy absorption
- Lowered resting or basal metabolism
- Less fidgeting and spontaneous movement
There are other factors, such as the health of our microbiome, our feelings about eating less (i.e. whether we view eating less as a stressful thing), and so on.
The point is that your metabolism is much more complicated (and interdependent) than most people realize.
Not losing weight
All of this means that when you eat less, you may lose less weight than you expect. Depending how much less you eat, and for how long, you may even re-gain weight in the long run thanks to these physiological and behavioral factors.
- The calorie counts of the foods you’ve logged might be higher than expected, either because of erroneous labeling or because of small errors in your own measurement.
- Your energy needs might be lower than calculated (or even measured).
- You’re expending less energy through movement than your fitness tracker or exercise machine suggests.
- You have less lean muscle than you think.
- You’re absorbing more energy from food than you realize (for instance, if your gastrointestinal transit time is slow, or your microbiota are really good at extracting nutrients).
Our own unique responses, genetics, physiology, and more means that our calorie needs will differ from the needs of others, or the numbers predicted by nutrition and exercise calculators (and the equations they rely on).
You’re an individual, and your body will probably not respond the same as someone else’s.
Personal training and nutrition coaching
That’s why we do PERSONAL training and nutrition coaching. Helping YOU make the best of your own unique body, lifestyle, and challenges.
So let’s go! ——–
Click here to drop us a note — we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
Why am I not losing weight with a personal trainer? ›
For exercise to be effective it needs to be done regularly- at least three times a week. To promote weight loss it will need to be either high intensity or completed almost every day. So simply seeing your trainer once to twice a week in a nutshell, is NOT enough to give you weight loss results!Why is it so hard for me to lose weight when I barely eat? ›
Your metabolism slows down about 2%-8% every decade. That may be from decreased muscle mass. Eating too little. It sounds strange, but the truth is, if you skip meals or follow a very low-calorie diet, it can backfire by making you burn calories more slowly.Can a personal trainer really help you lose weight? ›
With proper guidance through personal training, you can lose weight fast, enjoy a healthier lifestyle, and then maintain your target weight with light, long-term workout routines. Your personal trainer can help you lose inches and get the maximum results out of every workout.What do I do if I tried everything and can't lose weight? ›
Replacing some carbohydrates with protein can control hunger better, reduce cravings, create steady energy levels. Focus on quality of food and quality and quantity of exercise. Elevate protein, fiber and water and control starch intake. Eliminate processed carbs completely.What should you not tell your personal trainer? ›
Can't you die from drinking too much of it?” 13) “My last trainer was [harder, better, smarter, tougher, more buff] than you.” 14) “I might as well just give up—I'm never going to get in shape.” 15) “I'm doing the Master Cleanse so I can't work out too hard—I don't want to pass out.”How long does it take to see results from a personal trainer? ›
With a personal trainer, you should see results in about three to six months. It can, however take longer or shorter than that. The real answer depends on a few things: Your goals.Can I be eating too little to lose weight? ›
Our bodies need sufficient calories to function properly, and it's definitely possible to eat too few of them — even when you're trying to lose weight. Reducing calories too drastically for too long can actually derail your efforts to slim down, and even cause health problems.Why do I weight so much when I barely eat? ›
Unintentional weight gain occurs when you put on weight without increasing your consumption of food or liquid and without decreasing your activity. This occurs when you're not trying to gain weight. It's often due to fluid retention, abnormal growths, constipation, or pregnancy.Why don't I lose weight no matter how little I eat? ›
Research has shown that this is mainly due to changes in fat storage that occur after periods of calorie deprivation. Essentially, your body stores more fat when you begin eating more after a period of deprivation, so that it has a reserve available if calorie intake decreases again ( 7 ).When should you stop using a personal trainer? ›
If you've been working with your trainer consistently for three to six months while consuming the proper nutrition, and you don't feel stronger and see progress in attaining your fitness goals, it's time for a change, says Rodrick Covington, founder and chief executive officer of Core Rhythm Fitness, a fitness and ...
How many times a week should you see a personal trainer? ›
As a beginner, you should see a personal trainer two to three times a week for six weeks to start. This helps you establish a consistent fitness routine, which is important in the beginning. It is also a good opportunity to learn new workouts and techniques and ensure you perform exercises in the safest way possible.How long does it take weight training to lose weight? ›
Significant weight loss and muscle gains will take approximately eight weeks to see, however, even though you're not seeing muscle definition, the benefits going on in your body and mind are considerable.What to do when you desperately need to lose weight? ›
- Count calories. ...
- Drink more water. ...
- Increase your protein intake. ...
- Reduce your refined carb consumption. ...
- Start lifting weights. ...
- Eat more fiber. ...
- Follow a sleep schedule. ...
- Set reasonable goals and stay accountable.
Wasting time: “My pet peeve is people that waste their own precious time during a class. Talking to friends or hanging on their cell phones shows they aren't dedicated. It's a mindset. You're either serious about being and doing your best, or you're not — it's as black and white as that!Do personal trainers tell you what to eat? ›
Is that true? No. Personal trainers can and should talk to clients about what they eat, and suggest ways to improve their choices. But there are limits to what you can and can't tell a client.Do personal trainers judge you? ›
According to a recent survey from TreadmillReviews, 44% of more than 500 trainers from various fitness backgrounds said they've judged a client for their behavior or appearance. (If you do CrossFit, instructors are even judgier, with more than 50% saying they've thought worse of a client for their bad behavior.)How many personal training sessions to lose weight? ›
Optimally 3-4 sessions a week would be conducive for fat loss, however due to the high work and life stress of many of our clients we often recommend 2-3 sessions a week.
“At 6 to 8 weeks, you can definitely notice some changes,” said Logie, “and in 3 to 4 months you can do a pretty good overhaul to your health and fitness.” Strength-specific results take about the same amount of time.Why am I not seeing results from exercise? ›
You're not varying your workouts
You're body needs new stimuli and progressive training if you want to see results. A more developed cardiovascular system will also increase your ability to recover faster. Both HIIT and steady-state cardio are essential even if your main goal is to build muscle and strength.
- You feel depressed. The lack of nutrients such as vitamins B and D, iron, zinc, and others may affect your mood, causing you to feel depressed.
- You are constipated. ...
- You often feel cold. ...
- You feel lethargic. ...
- You've been losing hair.
Can eating too little cause weight gain? ›
You will not gain weight from eating too few calories.
There are many reasons why it can seem like under-eating can lead to weight gain. But, science has shown over and over again that this isn't physiologically possible.
You can't lose weight on 1200 calories a day because you're no longer in a calorie deficit. Your body has adapted to what it's been doing and plateaued. If you start your diet with a 500 calorie deficit per day, your body adapts to this in various way so that over time your energy requirements are reduced.Are there people who can't lose weight no matter what? ›
You may have a medical condition that causes weight gain
If you have a medical condition causing weight gain, you may struggle to lose weight no matter how much you exercise or how well you follow any diet. The following medical conditions commonly cause weight gain.
You're eating too much during your eating window.
“If you end up consuming the same number of calories (or more) during your eating windows as before you started intermittent fasting, then you won't lose weight.”
Depending on your goals, starting point, and physical ability, one personal training session can be enough, although 1-3 personal training sessions per week is recommended. For those new to exercise, 2-3 personal training sessions per week is recommended to ensure that you develop proper form and a sustainable routine.How much should you spend on a personal trainer? ›
How much does a personal trainer cost? The Personal Trainer Development Center states a typical hourly rate of $60 to $70, while Lessons.com puts the national average at $55 per hour. Costs can range widely, though. Find Your Trainer reports that, across the country, personal trainers charge $29 to $166 per session.How to speed up metabolism? ›
- Exercise more. Add interval training to your cardio routine and burn more calories in less time. ...
- Weight train. Add muscle mass to your body and you can burn more calories at rest. ...
- Don't skip meals, especially breakfast. ...
- Eat fat-burning foods. ...
- Get a good night's sleep every night.
- Phase -1 – GLYCOGEN DEPLETION. Glycogen Depletion: ...
- Phase -2 – FAT LOSS. This is the sweet spot for healthy weight loss. ...
- Phase -3 – PLATEAU. ...
- Phase -4 – METABOLIC RECOVERY. ...
- All the Phases of Weight Management:
That burns an extra 3,500 calories per week. Since there are about 3,500 calories in one pound, it would take you one week to lose one pound and 20 weeks to lose 20 pounds.How can I lose 20 pounds in a month without exercise? ›
- 1) Start Your Meals With Protein. ...
- 2) Watch Your Portion Sizes. ...
- 3) Stay Hydrated. ...
- 4) Avoid Sweets, Unhealthy Snacks, and Other Unhealthy Foods. ...
- 5) Drink Your Coffee Black. ...
- 6) Monitor What You Eat. ...
- 7) Drink Water With Meals Instead of Soda or Alcohol. ...
- 8) Get Plenty of Sleep.
What is the most extreme way to lose weight? ›
- Tapeworm tablets. Not fond of exercise and healthy food? ...
- The cotton ball diet. ...
- The vinegar diet. ...
- The slimming soap. ...
- The cigarette diet. ...
- The cabbage soup diet. ...
- The 'Sleeping Beauty' diet. ...
- The baby food diet.
- Diethylpropion (Tenuate dospan®).
- Liraglutide (Saxenda®).
- Naltrexone-bupropion (Contrave®).
- Phendimetrazine (Prelu-2®).
- Phentermine (Pro-Fast®).
- Phentermine/topiramate (Qsymia®).
- Decrease your calorie intake. You don't need snacks in between meals. ...
- Take a HIIT. ...
- Stop eating sugar. ...
- Work out at least 30 minutes a day. ...
- Drink 64 ounces of water. ...
- Get enough sleep. ...
- Choose whole foods. ...
- Eat healthy fat.
You will likely gain muscle mass and may begin to lose some fat mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, but it also burns more calories. Closely tracking your weight during this window can be confusing—your clothes may feel looser while the number on the scale stays the same or even goes up a few pounds.Why am I not seeing results from intermittent fasting? ›
Possible reasons for not seeing change
Extend your fasted hours daily. Try a couple of longer fasts, 24-48 hours, during the month. You aren't taking in water through food so up your intake. It takes the body up to 72 hours to start burning fat again after a night of drinking.
Walking is one of the best exercises for weight loss — and for good reason. It's a convenient and easy way for beginners to start exercising without feeling overwhelmed or needing to purchase equipment. Also, it's a lower-impact exercise, meaning it doesn't stress your joints.When should you leave a personal trainer? ›
You should change your trainer when you feel like the relationship has grown stale. Personal Training can be pretty expensive, especially if you want to spend the money on something else. You might want a new trainer because you'd like to try a different approach.Why am I gaining weight when I'm eating less? ›
You've gained muscle.
And here's an often overlooked fact: Muscle tissue is more dense than fat tissue. So as you gain more muscle and lose fat, you change your overall body composition, which can result in a higher weight, but a smaller figure and better health.
Building Muscle Mass
Fat and muscle weigh the same amount, but muscle is denser and takes up less space. So you may be eating healthy and taking in fewer calories -- and you probably see a difference in your body and the way your clothes fit -- but the number on the scale might be going up instead of down.
Becoming a personal trainer is a great way to help others reach their fitness goals. If you are overweight, don't let this stop you from pursuing your dreams. You can be an excellent personal trainer, and you can help your clients lose weight and get fit.