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💪 Training,🥙 Nutrition

Not Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit? This Might Be Why 🤌🏻

Eating in a calorie deficit but not losing weight? Below we uncover some of the reasons you're struggling to lose weight.
Updated on Nov 21, 2023

You’re eating in a calorie deficit and not losing weight. What the heck is going on? For most of us, losing weight is as simple as calories in vs calories out – eat fewer calories than your body uses to keep you alive, and you’ll shed weight.

So if you’re not losing weight while in a calorie deficit, it could be one of several things:

  • You’re not actually in a calorie deficit
  • You’re not eating the right foods
  • Water retention
  • You’re not doing the right exercise
  • You’re someone with a menstrual cycle
  • You’re stressed
  • You’re not being consistent with your weigh-in times/days
  • You have an underlying health condition

Want to know more? Let’s keep talking.

Why You’re Not Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit 🥴

1. You’re Not Actually in a Deficit

You may think you’re in a calorie deficit, but unless you figure out exactly what you’re calorie deficit should be for weight loss, and start tracking every single thing that goes into your mouth (even that little teaspoon of honey in your coffee), you won’t truly know if you’re in a calorie deficit.

Also, the calorie counts on food labels aren’t always precise. In Australia, a variation of up to 20% is allowed, meaning the actual calorie content could be much higher or lower than what’s stated. This makes it hard to keep an accurate track of how many calories you’re consuming.

2. Eating the Wrong Foods

Losing weight isn’t just about eating less and exercising more. What you eat matters too, with a focus on whole, unprocessed foods being ideal. Simply eating fewer calories, even from fast food, might lead to weight loss, but it’s not healthy or effective in the long term. Plus, not all calories are the same in how they affect your body. For example, calories from nuts are absorbed differently than those from pizza, impacting your hunger and energy levels differently.

3. Not Eating Enough

You might be inadvertently starving yourself. When you eat less, your body reacts by slowing down your metabolism and conserving fat, making it harder to keep losing weight. It also changes how you feel hunger and how your body processes food. This means that even with a calorie deficit, weight loss can be more complicated and challenging than it seems.

Top Tip: Create a meal plan for the week and make sure each meal you’re hitting your daily calories. There are tonnes of apps to help with this, or you can speak to a professional dietician.


4. Water Retention

Water retention can be a deceptive factor in your weight loss journey. Even when you’re shedding fat, your body might hold onto water, which can mask your progress on the scale. This retention is often due to factors like high sodium intake, hormonal changes, or dehydration.

When your body senses a lack of water, it tries to conserve it, leading to temporary weight gain or a plateau in weight loss. This can be frustrating, as it hides the true progress you’ve made in losing fat. It’s important to remember that this is a temporary situation and not a true reflection of your weight loss efforts.

Regular hydration, balanced electrolyte intake, and patience are key to overcoming this phase and seeing the real results of your hard work.

5. Not Consistent With Weigh-Ins

Inconsistent weigh-ins can give you a misleading picture of your weight loss progress. Your weight naturally fluctuates throughout the day and week due to factors like food and fluid intake, exercise, and hormonal changes.

Weighing yourself at different times, under varying conditions, can show significant variations. To get a more accurate understanding of your weight loss, it’s crucial to weigh yourself consistently – every day at the same time of day (ideally in the morning after using the bathroom and before eating or drinking).

Also, wearing similar clothing or none at all during each weigh-in helps in getting a more consistent reading. Remember, focusing on long-term trends rather than daily fluctuations is key to accurately assessing your weight loss progress.

6. Not Doing the Right Exercise

It can be hard to know what type of exercise to do to lose weight. But actually, exercise isn’t even essential for weight loss. It can help speed up the process, but plenty of people lost weight from diet alone. Exercise is just important for your general health – so you shouldn’t be skipping it.

But is there one type of exercise that’s best for weight loss? Some professionals say cardio, while others say weights. Some say both, while others say high-intensity interval training is best. Basically… it really depends on your body and what you enjoy doing.

Personally, doing a combo of strength and cardio while being in a calorie deficit helped me lose 10kg, but I also have a friend who dropped 5kg by running outside. It comes down to what you enjoy doing and what you’ll stick to. So when I say you’re not doing the “right” type of exercise, I mean you’re doing something you hate – so you’re less likely to do it.

Top Tip: Find an exercise you love and stick to it. Also, book in a session with a PT. 

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7. Menstrual Cycle

During your menstrual cycle, your body can play some tricky games with your weight loss progress. Hormones like progesterone kick into high gear before your period, leading to water retention and that all-too-familiar bloated feeling. Plus, let’s not forget those pesky cravings that have us reaching for snacks more often.

So, if you hop on the scale and notice a little bump up in weight, don’t stress – it’s just your body doing its thing, and it doesn’t mean your hard work isn’t paying off. Remember, these changes are just temporary visitors and won’t stick around long-term. Keep this in mind, and don’t let those pre-period days throw you off your weight loss game!

8. You’re Stressed 

If you’re stressed out at work or because of other issues going on in your life, your body is going to have a high level of cortisol running through it. Cortisol is both normal and important for the body, but when it is exposed to cortisol for longer periods of time, it starts to cause negative effects, like stubborn fat that won’t budge no matter how good your diet and exercise regime is. So, once you get your stress under control, you might find the weight starts slipping off, too.

Top Tip: A healthy mind equals a healthy body. It’s a balance. Take care of your mental health, and your physical health will follow.


9. Underlying Health Condition

There are a range of health issues that may prevent you from losing weight, even when you’re doing all the other “right things”. Diabetes, PCOS, hypothyroidism, depression, and hormonal changes can all make it difficult to lose weight. For this reason, if you are struggling to lose weight, it’s important you speak to a health professional to rule out any health conditions you may have.

Pro Tip: Whenever undertaking a new health regime, always speak to a health professional.

Stopped Losing Weight In A Calorie Deficit? 😮‍💨

Hitting a plateau in your weight loss journey can be frustrating, especially when you’re sticking to a calorie deficit. But don’t worry, this is quite a common speed bump. There are a few reasons why this might be happening.

  1. First, your body could be getting too comfortable with your current routine. Just like we get bored doing the same old thing, our bodies can too. They adapt to the diet and exercise regimen, becoming more efficient and burning fewer calories in the process.
  2. Then there’s the possibility of water retention, which can mask fat loss on the scales. This could be due to a range of things from dietary changes to stress.
  3. It’s also worth considering that as you lose weight, your body needs fewer calories to function than it did before, so your original calorie deficit might not be a deficit anymore.

The key is to keep your body on its toes – switch up your workouts, try new foods, and keep an eye on your portion sizes. Remember, your body is an incredibly adaptive machine, so a little variety can go a long way in reigniting your weight loss progress

Will You Lose Weight if You Eat 1200 Calories a Day? 🍽️

1200 calories a day is often seen as the magic number for weight loss. While cutting down to 1200 calories might lead to weight loss initially, especially if it’s lower than what you usually consume, it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.

Your body’s needs depend on many factors like age, activity level, and overall health. Plus, going too low on calories can sometimes backfire, making your body hold onto weight (or making you so hungry you binge eat to compensate). It’s more about finding the right balance that works for you and that you can maintain long-term. It’s a marathon – not a sprint!

How Many Calories Is Too Low? ⬇️

Dipping too low in your calorie intake can be a bit of a tightrope walk. Sure, you need a calorie deficit to lose weight, but how low is too low? It really varies from person to person. Generally, going under 1200 calories for women and 1500 for men can start to feel like you’re in the danger zone.

So make sure you use a calorie calculator that takes into consideration your age, height, current weight, goal weight and regular activity level to get the most accurate number.

At the end of the day, it’s not just about the number of calories, but also getting the right nutrients. Skimping too much can slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling drained. It’s always a good idea to chat with a healthcare professional to find your sweet spot.

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Ally Burnie
Ally Burnie
Health & fitness journalist and presenter based in Melbourne/Naarm with a passion for – you guessed it - health and fitness, cooking, outdoor adventures, hiking, and travel.


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