This is a common problem that plagues so many.
WHY THE SCALE WON’T BUDGE
It’s frustrating. Your daily calorie intake is 2000 per day and then you reduce that to 1500 so you can lose weight. It makes perfect mathematical sense, and should result in losing 1 pound each week.
It seems fine for the first little bit, maybe you lose a couple of pounds in the first month or so but then the scale stops moving and you feel like all of your efforts, and the discipline that you endured, seemed to have been for nothing.
Why is that?
The short answer is because of adaptation.
You’ve probably heard this concept discussed before but it is worth looking into again. Your body likes stability and so it likes things to stay the same, and tries its best to keep you that way. So here you are, going about your life being the same person all the time, with the same body and not much changes.
Perfect, says your homeostatic mechanism. Your body has adapted to being the way it is.
If you were to sit a lot and hunch over, you might develop your posture, and if you were to work in construction, you’d likely have a very strong grip. If two people in those two jobs switched places then the construction worker would slowly lose his grip strength and the office worker’s posture would improve.
That’s because they changed something in their physical environment and so their body had to adapt.
BACK TO WEIGHT LOSS
The same thing happens when trying to lose weight. You lower your calories by about 500 and your body detects the change and starts to adapt by losing a few pounds. Over time it gets used to this new change (as it’s supposed to) and so doesn’t have any reason anymore, any stimulus to keep on changing, which in your case means dropping more weight.
Now that doesn’t mean that you have to continually restrict your calories further and further each month in order to lose weight. That would be unhealthy. That WOULD be a way of introducing a new change or stimulus that your body has to adapt to, and if you did this you ‘would’ lose weight in the short-term, but of course long term it would be disastrous. You’d be anorexic and have much bigger problems than simply needing to lose a few pounds.
A similar example of adaptation can be found in gyms where men work out every day trying to gain more muscle. In order for the body to change they need to give it a reason to do so, and so they stress their muscles by working them out under heavy loads.
After a few weeks their body adapts to the load and so they need to give it a new stimulus. The logical course of action would be to increase the weight (the equivalent of reducing calories) and many guys do that, but that is only one type of stimulus for adaptation.
There are many other ways for them to stimulate the body (in this case adding muscle) to change. For instance they could keep the weight the same but do more repetitions. Or they could do new exercises which work the muscle in a different way. Or they could do the same exercises but for a longer time, or a shorter more intense time etc.
Remember all that’s needed for the body to change ( to lose weight) is some kind of stimulus.
OTHER WAYS TO STIMULATE WEIGHT LOSS
So what would be our equivalent to what the guys in the gym are doing?
We’ve already tried calorie counting by reducing how much we eat by 500 cal each day. That resulted in some weight loss but now are stuck.
Here are some more ways to get your body out of its comfort zone and force it to have to adapt:
– Change when you eat. Try some type of intermittent fasting where you might take your breakfast and spread it out over your lunch and dinner meals. This way you’re eating the same amount of calories but over a much smaller time period leaving your body in fat burning mode, that much more each day (18 hours).
It’s all about insulin which you can read more about here.
– Change what you eat. Many people lose weight eating the same amount of calories they always ate, except they change the type of calories they take in each day. Examples would be trying low-carb diets like the Keto, Paleo etc., where you would eat cheese bacon, eggs and all that good stuff, in the same amounts, without cutting calories but they still lose weight because they’re not secreting much insulin.
– Change your body composition. Adding just a little bit of muscle to your frame by doing higher intensity exercise like hill running, weights, calisthenics etc., will increase your metabolism even while you’re resting (24/7). And for those who don’t want to gain any size there’s no reason to worry. Gaining muscle doesn’t necessarily mean gaining size. For many people who are not trying to body build, , muscles usually stay the same size. They simply become thicker and more toned.
– Replace sugar with sweeteners. If you’re someone who consumes a moderate to high amount of sugar in the day than this single recommendation will really help a lot. If you eat lots of carbohydrates in the day, like breads and processed foods, switching to better quality carbohydrates like grain bread and whole-wheat will also be a big help in changing your metabolism to burn more fat tissue. Again it’s all about the insulin.
I hope this helps. I hope it gives you some more insight into how your body works and why you might be getting stuck even when you’re in a calorie deficit.