Skip to content
Menu

Why isn’t my weight going down when I’m only eating X calories?

Q: Why isn’t my weight going down when I’m only eating X number of calories?

A: The simple answer is that, often, what we’re tracking, and what we’re eating are two different things. There are a few main reasons why this happens:

  • Not measuring properly – “eyeballing” portion sizes.
  • Accidentally omitting things – not logging everything. 
  • Intentionally omitting things – not being honest with what we’re logging.
  • Disregarding weekends or “cheat” or “bad” days, so the average calorie intake is higher than you think.
  • Incorrect entries on MyFitnessPal.
  • Food label inaccuracy.
  • Discrepancies between theoretical and actual daily calorie requirements.

Inaccurate measuring

Unless you’re weighing and measuring your food then it’s all guess-work. So, the meal that’s logged as 400 calories could be anything. It’s very hard to eyeball portion size. For example, what does 10g of butter look like compared to 20g, or 10ml olive oil, compared to 20ml. We’re talking double the calories.

Accidentally omitting things

Unless everything is logged, it’s likely that that calorie intake is x number of calories logged, plus y number of calories not logged. For example, someone says they’ve had 1400 calories but it’s really 1400 that they’ve logged and another 230 in bits and bobs – milk in coffee, chewing gum, olive oil etc.

Intentionally omitting things

If we’ve eaten something that we think is “bad” or is “cheating”, or if we think something doesn’t matter then there’s a temptation not to log it. Again, giving the perception that we’re only eating X but, in reality, we’re eating X+Y!

Disregarding weekends or “bad” days

It’s not uncommon to see instances of people saying, “I’m only having 900 calories a day and I’m not losing weight”. When you check their MFP, there are 3 days missing or suspicious over a 10 day period. What’s often happening that they are logging 950 calories on some days and eating 4000 calories on the missing days.

Inaccurate entries on MyFitnessPal

MFP is a great tool but it’s far from perfect; the same can be said of other calorie counting apps. Even when we use the label scanner it can be wrong or it can difficult to log the portion size correctly. All we can do is check that it’s correct and assume there will be some margin of error. See examples below.

 

Food label inaccuracy

Food manufacturers are allowed a 25% margin of error in the nutrition label. So, something that comes up as 500 calories could well be 625 calories or more. The industry is well aware that consumers are increasingly conscious of calorie consumption so, it could be argued that they have a vested interest in understating what are they are giving us.

If they are legally allowed a margin of error when stating nutrition information, and they have a track record of selling horse meat as beef, then it’s reasonable to suspect they may be tempted to push the limits as much as they can with nutrition labels.

Read more below:

Discrepancies between theoretical and actual daily calorie requirements

In addition to the factors discussed above, there’s also the issue of discrepancies between theoretical and actual daily calorie requirements. For example, the recommended calorie intake is 2000 for women. But that’s such a huge spectrum of human physiology. A 6ft, 10 1/5 stone woman who runs 5 times a week and has an active job, doing 15k+ steps a day, is going to have a totally different requirement to a 5ft woman who is sedentary, doesn’t exercise and does 3000 steps a day. So, the first woman might have a maintenance requirement 2400 calories and the second might have a maintenance requirement of 1500 calories.

Moreover, the calorie system is over 100 years old and is thought to be in need of updating.

Summary

All these things can add up to a huge difference between what you LOG what you consume. Basically, if you are LOGGING 500 calories and not losing weight then, for whatever reason (see above), you’re not EATING 500 calories. If you were you’d be starving and losing weight rapidly! But, what we’re logging and we’re eating are often two different things. But that doesn’t matter – we just need to accept that there’s a margin of error and get into a calorie deficit, regardless!

I want you to be eating as many calories as possible whilst still achieving your goal! So much so that if I think your goal is unhealthy or unachievable, I’ll tell you! I have NEVER worked with anyone who has ended up underweight on the BMI chart (N.B. BMI charts are a very good measure for the average population, despite what you might have heard – you’re not a bodybuilder).

So, if you can achieve your goal on 2000 calories then I’d never advise you to do it on 1500 or 1200 calories – that would be pointless!

In order to work out how many calories you need to hit your goal, the starting point is to understand this:

  • Weight consistently going down = You’re in a Caloric Deficit
  • Weight consistently going up = You’re in a Calorie Surplus
  • Weight staying the same = You’re Calorie Neutral (Neither a surplus or deficit)

So, if you are trying to lose weight and aren’t then you need to reduce the number of calories you are eating and/or increase your activity level. It doesn’t matter if the number of calories you are currently eating seems very low (see above for reasons) – if you are not losing weight then you need to reduce the calories or increase activity.

Yes, hormones can play a part, but all that happens in that case is that you can gain or lose weight more rapidly. If you gain weight then you’re still in a calorie surplus. You can’t gain weight consistently without being in a calorie surplus. There can be a temporary water-weight gain, which can fluctuate day-to-day but will balance itself out over a week or so.

In summary, regardless of the number of calories you (think!) are consuming, if you are not losing weight then you’ll likely need to reduce the number of calories you’re eating and/or increase your NEAT. It doesn’t matter whether that number is 10,000, 1000, 5000 or 500 calories. We’ve worked with enough people with various conditions and issues, including menopause, PCOS, underactive thyroid and we’ve never had an instance to the contrary.

Remember

It’s not your hormones!
It’s not your metabolism!
It’s not your thyroid!
It’s not carbs!
It’s not your age!
It doesn’t matter how “clean” you are eating!
It doesn’t matter how “good” you are being!
It doesn’t matter how hard you are trying!
It doesn’t matter how many calories you think you are eating!

If you are not losing weight, you are not in a caloric deficit!!