You plan your meals, sign up to a new gym, track your steps and absolutely kill it for the first 3 weeks! But nothing’s happening on the scale – what gives?
Regardless of how well you execute a plan, if it’s the wrong plan, you won’t see the results you’re after. Using the example above, there could be a million reasons why the scale doesn’t move, you could be:
- Retaining water
- Building muscle
- Storing more glycogen
- The list goes on…
My point is, basing your progress solely on the scales is the wrong way to go about it. You also want to be looking at your progress pictures, tape measurements, body fat measurements, fitness/strength gains and more.
But, let’s say nothing is changing and you’re not losing fat. Why is that?
You could simply be eating too much.
Although you might be eating incredibly healthy, total food volume and calorie intake still matters, and how much food you need to eat will be determined by your goals. If you want to lose fat, you’ll probably have to eat less. If you want to build muscle, you’ll likely need to eat more.
So, how do you know how much you’re eating and if it’s the right amount?
The best way to identify how much food you’re eating and make any adjustments necessary is by tracking your calories with an app or something similar. This gives you a relatively accurate measurement of exactly what you’re eating.
Do you have to track to figure it out though?
No, it can be done by simply keeping tabs on your progress and adjusting your food intake to suit. It doesn’t matter what some calorie calculator spits out and tells you to eat, the only thing that matters is whether or not you’re making progress.
For example, you could input all your data into a calorie calculator and it might give you 2600cals per day. It’s a reasonable assumption but there are so many variables that can skew this number, you can’t just follow it blindly.
You might overestimate your activity level and now it has you eating more than you actually should. Or you might underestimate your activity level and now you’re not eating enough to build muscle.
You might actually burn more than what it gives you through a faster metabolism or burn less due to a slower metabolism.
Regardless of whatever number this calorie calculator gives you, you should only use it as a starting point. As the weeks go by you need to track your progress and then you can make an educated decision on whether or not that number is working for you.
If it gives you 2600cals and you go 3 weeks sticking to that and you’ve lost 2kgs.. perfect! It’s working for you.
If you stick to 2600cals for 3 weeks and you gain 2kgs, maybe you need to reassess.
Like I said above, you can do this without tracking calories as well. You can log your food in a journal and make that same educated decision based on the food you’ve logged. After 2-3 weeks check your weight and other metrics of progress (photos, tape measurements, bodyfat %). If you’re in the same place, you probably need to reduce your total food volume.
Did you progress?
Perfect! You’re eating and moving a good amount, keep it the same.
It’s also important to keep the bigger picture in mind. If you are stepping on the scales everyday and judging it on a day-to-day basis, progress will look slow. You’ll probably be unhappy if at the 3-week mark you stayed the same as the 2-week-and-6-day-mark. Make sure you are tracking trends over the course of your journey. Compare day 1 to day 21, not day 20 to 21. If you’re 98kg on day 1 and 95kg on day 21, that’s incredible progress… even if you were 94.7kg on day 20.
Of course, all of this relies on complete transparency with your eating. If you haven’t actually stuck to your calorie number or didn’t log your food, you don’t have accurate information to go off. Reducing your food in this instance would most likely end up with you restricting too much and eventually quitting.
Be honest with yourself and make sure you track or log your food honestly and consistently before making any assumptions about your progress… or lack thereof.