Even the most effective diet plans can be foiled by one or two missteps, and have you wondering why isn’t my diet working?
Here are the top 12 reasons why and how to fix them:
1. You Are Losing Fat, You Just Don’t Realize it
Weight loss isn’t a linear process. If you weigh yourself every day, then there will be days where the scale goes down, other days where it goes up.
It doesn’t mean that the diet isn’t working, as long as the general trend is going downwards. Many people lose a lot of weight in the first week of low-carbing, but it is mostly water weight. Weight loss will slow down significantly after that initial phase.
Of course, losing weight is not the same as losing fat.
It is possible, especially if you’re new to weight lifting, that you are gaining muscle at the same time that you’re losing fat.
To make sure that you’re losing, use something other than just the scale (which is a big, fat liar). Use a measuring tape to measure your waist circumference and have your body fat percentage measured every month or so.
Also, take pictures. Take note of how your clothes fit. If you’re looking thinner and your clothes are looser, then you ARE losing fat no matter what the scale says.
2. You’re Not Cutting Back on Carbohydrates Enough
Some people are more carb sensitive than others. If you’re eating low-carb and your weight starts to plateau, then you may want to cut back on carbs even further.
In that case, go under 50 grams of carbs per day.
When you go under 50 grams per day then you’re going to have to eliminate most fruits from your diet, although you can have berries in small amounts. If that doesn’t work either, going under 20 grams temporarily can work… eating just protein, healthy fats and leafy green vegetables.
To make sure that you’re really eating low-carb, create a free account on a calorie tracking app and log all of your meals.
3. You’re Stressed All The Time
Unfortunately, it isn’t always enough to just eat healthy and exercise.
We need to make sure that our bodies are functioning optimally and that our hormonal environment is favorable. Being stressed all the time keeps the body in a constant state of “fight or flight” – with elevated levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
Having chronically elevated cortisol levels can increase your hunger and cravings for unhealthy foods.
4. You’re Not Eating Real Food
A low-carb diet is about more than just lowering your intake of carbs. You have to replace those carbohydrates with real, nutritious foods.
Throw away all processed low-carb products like Atkins bars, they are not real food and they are NOT good for your health.
Stick to meats, fish, eggs, vegetables and healthy fats if you need to lose weight.
Also, “treats” like paleo cookies and brownies can cause problems even though they’re made with healthy ingredients. They should be considered as occasional treats, not something you eat every day.
What is also important is to eat enough FAT. If you try to cut back on carbs AND fat, you will end up ravenously hungry and feel like crap.
Eating a diet with nothing but protein is a very bad idea. Low-carb, high-fat and moderate protein is the way to go if you want to get into ketosis, which is the optimal hormonal environment to burn body fat.
5. You’re Eating Too Many Nuts
Nuts are real foods, no doubt about that. They are also very high in fat, almonds for example having about 70% of calories as fat.
However, nuts are very easy to overeat on.
Their crunchiness and high energy density give us the ability to eat large amounts of them without feeling full. I personally can eat a bag of nuts and still not feel satisfied, even though that one bag contains more calories than a meal.
If you’re snacking on nuts every day (or worse, nut butters) then chances are that you’re just eating way too many calories.
6. You’re Not Sleeping Enough
Sleep is incredibly important for overall health and studies show that a lack of sleep correlates with weight gain and obesity.
A lack of sleep can make us feel hungrier. It will also make us tired and less motivated to exercise and eat healthy.
Sleep is one of the pillars of health. If you’re doing everything right but still not getting proper sleep, then you won’t see anywhere near the results you might expect.
If you have a sleeping disorder, see a doctor. They are often easily treatable.
Some tips to improve sleep:
Avoid caffeine after 2pm.
Sleep in complete darkness.
Avoid alcohol and physical exercise in the last few hours before sleep.
Do something relaxing before sleep, like reading.
Try to go to bed at a similar time each night.
7. You’re Eating Too Much Dairy
Another low-carb food that can cause problems for some people is dairy. Some dairy products, despite being low in carbs, are still pretty high in protein.
Protein, like carbs, can raise insulin levels, which drives energy into storage.
The amino acid composition in dairy protein makes it very potent at spiking insulin. In fact, dairy proteins can spike insulin as much as white bread.
Even though you may seem to tolerate dairy products just fine, eating them often and spiking insulin can be detrimental to the metabolic adaptation that needs to take place in order to reap the full benefits of low-carb diets.
In this case, avoid milk, cut back on the cheese, yogurt and cream. Butter is fine as it is very low in protein and lactose and therefore won’t spike insulin.
8. You’re Not Exercising Right (or at all)
You should NOT exercise with the goal of burning calories. The calories burned during exercise are usually insignificant, they can easily be negated by eating a few extra bites of food at the next meal.
However, exercise is critical for both physical and mental health.
Exercise, in the long run, can help you lose weight by improving your metabolic health, increasing your muscle mass and making you feel awesome.
But it’s important to do the right kind of exercise. Nothing but cardio on the treadmill is unlikely to give you good results and doing too much may even be detrimental.
Weight lifting – this will greatly improve your hormonal environment and increase your muscle mass, which will help you lose weight over the long term.
Interval training – doing high intensity intervals is an excellent form of cardio that improves your metabolism and raises your levels of human growth hormone.
Low intensity – being active and doing some low-intensity work like walking is a great idea. The human body was designed to move around, not sit in a chair all day.
9. You’re Eating Too Many Sweeteners
Despite some sweeteners having no calories, they can affect our appetite levels.
Several studies show that artificial sweeteners can affect appetite, either negatively or positively, in some cases making people eat more overall calories.
Additionally, consumption of artificial sweeteners is associated with weight gain in the long term.
This probably depends on the individual, but if you’re eating a lot of sweeteners and aren’t losing weight then you may want to try removing them.
10. You’re Cheating Too Often
For people who are able to control themselves, having cheat meals or days every now and then may be fine.
For others, especially those who are prone to food addiction, having cheat meals is likely to do more harm than good. If you’re cheating often… either with “small cheats” here and there or entire days where you eat nothing but junk food, then it can easily ruin your progress.
Having more than 1-2 cheat meals per week (or one cheat day) is going to be excessive.
If you just can’t seem to control yourself around unhealthy foods no matter what you try, then perhaps you have food addiction. In that case, completely removing the junk foods from your life is probably a good idea.
11. You’re Eating Too Many Calories
At the end of the day, calories do matter.
One of the main reasons low-carb diets are so effective is that they reduce appetite and make people eat less overall calories without trying.
If you’re not losing weight but are doing all the right things, then try counting calories for a while.
Again, download a calorie tracker and track your intake for a few days.
Aim for a deficit of 500 calories per day, which theoretically should make you lose 1 pound of weight per week (doesn’t always work in practice).
12. You Don’t Have Realistic Expectations
At the end of the day, weight loss takes time.
It is a marathon, not a race.
Losing 1-2 pounds per week is a realistic goal. Some people will lose weight faster than that, others slower.
But it’s also important to keep in mind that not everyone can look like a fitness model. At some point, you will reach a healthy set point weight, which may be above what you initially hoped for.
If you’re looking for a plan to lose weight the healthy way, then try the HASfit Guide to Losing Fat.