If You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories, Read This Article To Discover Where You're Going Wrong
Counting and tracking calories can sometimes feel a chore. Finding the right type of banana among the thousands on offer in MyFitnessPal, can grind you down. So when you're not losing weight, despite counting calories, it can get frustrating.
You feel as though you're doing everything right. But still the scales don't move in the right direction. And you can't see any material change in the mirror either.
If you're on the verge of giving up, you're in luck. Because, in this article, you'll discover the 6 most common reasons you're not losing weight counting calories. Over the next few minutes the pieces of your fat loss puzzle will start to fall into place.
If you're ready to end your frustration with counting calories, then keep scrolling.
But don't be tempted to skip around. Read the whole thing from top to bottom, because you don't want to miss out on these weight loss knowledge bombs.
Ready? Let's do this.
And if you want to listen to the audio version, click the play button below:
A Word On Calorie Counting Before We Start
"Counting Calories Is Great, But It's Not An Exact Science"
Counting calories is a great method of achieving and managing a calorie deficit.
But it's neither essential, nor an exact science. There's a degree of error and inaccuracy in the process. And the same goes for any other dieting method too. But once you understand how to minimise those inaccuracies, you become a lot more chilled about the process. And that's what this article is designed to do.
Help you chill the fuck out.
Firstly, I'm going to assume you've calculated your calories correctly. We're not going to be delving into how to do that here. But if you do need some help, then you can use this super simple calorie and macro calculator. It's free, and in less than 60 seconds, you can find out how many calories you need to be eating to achieve your goals.
Plus, you can grab a free beginner training programme while you're there.
So now we're clear on the ground rules, let's get started by talking about how inaccurate food labels can be.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #1. Food Labels
"Food Labels Can Inaccurate By Up To 20%"
Are you one of those people who march up and down the aisles of the supermarket, carefully looking at the nutrition labels on the back of everything you buy?
Me too. I'll put my hands up to that one.
And this as a good thing. After all, it shows you care about your health and have a level of commitment to achieve your goal.
But, those labels can be inaccurate by up to 20%.
Yes, 20%! The regulations around food labelling, allow for this degree of error.
To put that in context, a food with a claimed 200 calories per serving, could be anywhere between 160-240 calories. This study, also looked at popular American snack foods and found several inaccuracies, mainly in terms of total weight and carbohydrate content.
So the big question is, 'What causes these inaccuracies. And should you care?'
Inaccuracies in food labelling can occur for many reasons. But the main two would be varying sizes of specific foods, and marginal differences in macronutrient content.
For example, take a bag of apples. Not every apple in the bag will be an identical size. It would be ludicrous to expect every single apple to be individually measured and labelled with their exact calorie content. So the label serves as a reference point. A guide, if you will.
The second reason is related to macros. Take beef mince as an example here. The food label will provide nutritional information per 100g, with a break down of protein, carbs, and fat. But every packet of mince you buy won't have a perfectly equated macro ratio. They'll all have subtle variances.
Does That Make Calorie Counting Pointless?
With this information it would be tempting to leap to the conclusion that calorie counting is a waste of time.
But before you delete MyFitnessPal for good, consider this.
No doubt, you eat relatively similar foods each week. This is a good thing, because reducing food variety and palatability helps manage hunger and cravings. And in the context of food label inaccuracies, everything will even out over the long-term.
One day the errors may work against you. And on another day, they may work in your favour. Either way, managing calories in some form, is the best way to consistently make progress towards your weight loss goals.
Yes. Food labels have a degree of inaccuracy, which may cause some day-to-day variance in your efforts to count calories. But in the long-term everything will balance out. So don't panic.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #2. Portion Sizes
"Is Your Version Of A 'Rounded Tablespoon' Twice What It Should Be?"
Next up is portion size.
Certain forms of measurement are more subjective than others. For example, 100g of chicken breast is 100g of chicken breast. There's no debate.
But if I were to ask you to measure a rounded tablespoon of peanut butter, do you think that would be as accurate? Probably not.
How you measure food becomes all the more important in this scenario, particularly with foods high in calories. Measuring low calorie foods, such as green vegetables by the spoonful is unlikely to cause you to greatly exceed your calorie target. However, nuts, avocado, peanut butter, and other calorie-dense foods, are very easy to mis-track if not weighed correctly. And this could be a fundamental reason why you're not losing weight counting calories.
This doesn't mean you have to weigh everything you eat for the rest of eternity. But controlling portion sizes of higher calorie foods is a good idea.
Take the time to measure these foods to increase the accuracy of your calorie tracking and to educate yourself on portion sizes.
And here's a top tip for measuring foods like peanut butter. Place the whole jar on the scale and press the 'Tare' button. This sets the scale to 0g with the jar on top. As you dig in to take your spoonful, the scale will show a negative number, ie -7g. And that's how much peanut butter you just used. GENIUS!
Think of weighing your food as part of the education process needed to eventually transition to a non-tracking, intuitive way of eating in the future.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #3. Swigs, Licks, And Bites
"All The Swigs, Licks, Bites, And Tidbits Count"
How many times do you take a few extra swigs, licks, and bites as you prepare food?
A swig of milk from the carton before you put it back in the fridge. A lick of the spoon after taking a carefully measured 7g of peanut butter from the jar. Or an extra slither of cheese and the crusts from the kids' sandwiches as you prepare their packed lunches.
It happens more frequently than you realise.
Sadly, these little extras aren't free. And lying to yourself doesn't make the calories evaporate.
So your focus should be on minimising these inaccuracies as much as possible. And the licks, bites, and other untracked extras should be a focal point. Because they're one of the biggest reasons you're counting calories and not losing weight.
Everyone lies. Just because you didn't log it in MyFitnessPal, doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #4. MyFitnessPal Data
"Your Tracking App Could Be Wrong"
The data in MyFitnessPal can be likened to the Village Bike. At one time or another, everyone's had a go and left their mark.
Your favourite tracking app can be a complete minefield when it comes to the accuracy of nutritional information.
Multiple products, all identical, have different calories and macro breakdowns (even if they have the precious green tick next to them). And this means selecting the right option can be a lottery.
So when it comes to counting calories and not losing weight, the issue might be completely out of your hands. But, as with the accuracy of food labels, now's not the time to throw your toys out of the pram (or should that be apples out of the trolley?).
There's a few things you can do to minimise the inaccuracy of your tracking in this situation.
- Use the scanning function. Often the barcode brings up the right option in the app.
- Compare different entries and look for consistency. If there's 5 options for the same food, ignore the ones wildly different to the majority. Don't just pick the lowest because that gives you more room for food.
- Enter the values yourself. If you KNOW the right calories, then go with that.
MyFitnessPal data isn't 100% accurate for everything. If you have to, limit food choices and brands to those you trust.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #5. MyFitnessPal Choices
"With So Many Choices It's Easy To Pick The Wrong Option"
But let's assume the data in MyFitnessPal is CORRECT for the foods you're eating. There's still room for you to make errors here.
As someone once told me, most technological issues are PIBCAK errors... Problem Is Between Chair And Keyboard (ie, YOU!).
For instance, you might pick the cooked chicken, instead of raw, or vice versa. You may incorrectly eyeball a large avocado as medium, consequently causing you to under-report calories.
The solution is to be as diligent as possible with the options you select and to try a weigh/measure as accurately as possible.
And The There's Eating Out
Estimating calories while eating out is almost an impossible task, which is why I typically advise coaching clients not to bother. Instead, opting for more logical and practical strategies can be a much better approach.
Whether that's managing calories during the week, or making "better" selections from the menu, navigating eating out and staying on track, doesn't need to be a big headache.
Think about the options you select. And develop other strategies when eating out to avoid wildly inaccurate guesses.
Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories: #6. Daily Activity And Exercises
"You're Not A Robot. Expended Energy Will NEVER Be The Same Each Day"
You are not a robot. You don't do the EXACT same number of steps each day. And you don't burn the EXACT same amount of calories in each workout.
Every day is different.
And those differences might be enough to alter your energy balance equation to the point you're not losing weight, despite calorie counting.
The key here is to chill out. Think long-term. Day-to-day calories in and out will fluctuate, as will your weight. So the important thing to do is focus on what's in your control and major in those basics.
Manage calories as best you can. Maintain or increase step count. And get your butt to the gym and train. These fundamentals will have the biggest impact on your progress.
Chill out. Energy balance will vary from one day to the next. Don't panic and stay consistent.
The Bottom Line On Why You're Not Losing Weight Counting Calories
There's many reasons why you're not losing weight counting calories. But there's no need to panic or abandon the process altogether. Most of your issues are easily solved with a little thought and consideration.
The most important thing to remember is calorie tracking inaccuracies are to be expected. And that's ok.
You just need to understand why, and how to work around them.
Once you've done that, you can chill out and enjoy the process.
Here's How To Calculate How Many Calories You Need To Achieve Your Fitness Goals (And A Free Training Programme)
If you want to get on the fast track to a leaner, healthier, stronger body, I've got something for you. Simply click the link below and you'll get access to my free online calorie and macro calculator. Designed to take the headache out of knowing how many calories you need to achieve your goals. Plus, you can grab my Lean Life Kickstarter Pack. In it you’ll find a free 4 week beginner’s training programme (complete with exercise videos and a workout tracker), free recipe packs, plus so much more.
So if you want all that, go here.
But for now, all I’ll say is… Keep living the Lean Life and I’ll see you soon.