Why is weight loss so slow: A guide to why losing fat is hard

Simon Long

Simon Long

Simon is a highly experienced personal trainer and behavioural psychology expert
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If there’s one thing people want to be fast, its losing weight. But weight loss almost never happens at the speed you would like. It seems it’s always too slow! And difficult! But this is normal. Everyone goes through it. And there are a number of reasons that you may be losing weight slowly. Knowing these reasons can help you make the changes required to increase the pace of weight loss. Or at the very least help you reassess your expectations.

You’re eating too many calories

When it comes down to it, losing weight is all about creating a calorie deficit. If you eat less calories then you use through a day, then you lose weight.

If you’re not losing weight or if it’s happening slowly then your calorie intake is probably not optimal. This is incredibly common. Most people try to eyeball their food and estimate the calories they intake. But this is a very inaccurate way of monitoring.

Even if you do weigh your foods and look at the calorie content on the packages, or use a calorie tracking app (i.e. My Fitness Pal) you won’t be getting a completely accurate representation. Maybe you measure by cup sizes (which could be off by up to 50%), or don’t include certain foods (common with vegetables). Another common mistake is not taking into account the change in weight once cooked (raw and cooked chicken will be very different). And this is before you accept that calorie counters and package figures are good, but not perfect.

All these factors can add up to an extra 200 to 300 calories being eaten per day. Over a week this will result in two thirds of a pound less fat loss.

Solutions to this problem involve being more precise and aware. Make your own foods instead of having others prepare them for you. And measure the amount by weight (scales) not volume (cups).

You’re not using enough calories

I often have people ask ‘Simon, I’ve been on the exercise bike 3 times this week and burnt 500 calories each time. Why am I not seeing more weight loss?’.

There are a few things to realise about this. Firstly is the amount of calories burnt. 500 calories 3x a week would equal 1500 calories each week (shocking I know). A pound of body fat contains 3500 calories. So if these bike sessions are your whole approach to weight loss then you will drop just under half a pound of body fat each week.

And this isn’t even factoring in the inaccuracy of exercise machines. The calories burnt estimate is very unlikely to be correct. They can be out by as much as 30%. Above or below. That’s a swing of 60% accuracy!

Another issue around exercise and calories burnt is that most of the time people will eat more because they trained. You may even treat yourself to a burger because you’ve done a workout. But if the average burger contains 500 calories then you’ve completely negated the exercise you did. So you’re not going to lose any weight.

The best advice I can give for this is to focus more on consistency in your exercise routine. And don’t treat yourself every time you train! Once in a blue moon a big mac is fine as a reward. But every time will result in no changes occurring.

You’ve already lost weight but haven’t adjusted the calories

If you’ve been following a weight loss diet for a while, then you may well have already lost a significant amount of weight. Because your body weights less (Woo!) it costs less energy to maintain and move (Boo!).

So if you’ve already lost a stone then you need to drop your calorie intake accordingly. Try for 100 fewer calories per day. It’s not a huge amount but it should help cover the difference.

Or an even better option would be to do a bit more exercise. This will burn up those extra calories that aren’t needed anymore as well as getting you fitter and healthier. It’s the very definition of win win!

You weigh less than others

If you weigh less than the next person, then you’re going to lose weight slower. Two factors make up this fact. Number one is that they can create a larger calorie deficit. Let’s do the maths:

Harry weighs 125kgs (275 pounds). To maintain his weight Harry needs to eat 3,000 calories.

Sally weighs 65kgs (143 pounds). To maintain her weight Sally needs to eat 2,000 calories.

If they both use a 20% calorie deficit, then Harry will lose 1.2 pounds per week. Sally on the other hand will lose 0.8 pounds per week. Or a third less.

The other issue is the fact that Harry will burn far more calories exercising then Sally.

If Harry goes on the cross trainer for half an hour he will burn 600 calories. If he does this 3 times a week, then he is an additional 1800 calories down.

If Sally goes on the cross trainer for half an hour she will burn 300 calories. If she does this 3 times a week, then she is an additional 900 calories down.

These differences very quickly add up.

Your reducing your NEAT and NEAP

NEAT is the number of calories you burn through sub conscious movement. Such as fidgeting whilst you’re sat down. NEAP is the physical activity that you do that is not classed as exercise. Examples would be taking the stairs or standing up whilst you play games on your phone.

Both NEAT and NEAP lower when you are on a weight loss program. Subconsciously your body saves energy by making you move and fidget less. And consciously you choose to take easier options, such as the lift instead of stairs. This is usually down to feelings of low energy, due to the weight loss diet. Another huge contributor is the thought that you don’t need to be as active as you’ve exercised that day anyway.

In combination these can contribute to between 200 and 400 less calories burnt extra every single day! Fidgeting whilst you’re sat down, instead of sitting still, costs 46% more calories alone!

So fidget more, take the stairs and stand up (and preferably walk) at every opportunity.

Your genetics are making it tougher

Even if you hit every other nail on the head you may not lose fat as quickly as the next person. And it’s all, unfairly, because your genetics are different. Some factors that affect your speed of weight loss on this level include:

  1. Being a women. (Unfortunately females have a harder time dropping fat. It’s because your metabolic rate is lower and you also use fat as a fuel to less of a degree. Sorry ladies).
  2. Lower insulin sensitivity.
  3. Lower thyroid activity levels.
  4. Increased rate of metabolic rate drop when on a diet.
  5. Lower physical tolerance to exercise.
  6. Reduced rate of recovery from exercise.
  7. Lower mental ability to adhere to exercise and diet plans.

There’s nothing that you can do about these. But as long as you are taking them into account and using the other tips within this article you will still make progress.

So there you go. You can probably see that most of these differences only add up to a couple of hundred calories each. But put 2 or 3 of them together and you’ll be talking a huge difference in the amount of weight you lose. Weight loss can be slow. It’s actually wise to aim for a slower weight loss as its more sustainable. 1 pound a week is a great approach. But either way knowing what you’re doing to hurt your progress will allow you to correct. So take on board these tips and get to wherever you want to be!

There are 100s of other tips and tricks you can use for your weight loss journey. And I’m slowly getting them all out there. Don’t miss any by jumping on to my Facebook and Youtube channels and giving them a like. I upload articles every couple of days and videos every day. So this time next week you’ll be a hundred times more knowledgeable then you are now. And that’s going to be a massive help!

Until we meet again. Thank you for your time and have a great day!

Simon =]