Occam’s Razor essentially means that the simplest solution is often the correct one.
I’ve found this to be incredibly accurate over my time as a personal trainer and coach. It’s generally not some underlying thyroid issue, you’re just eating too much. It’s typically not a metabolic issue, you’re just not active enough.
We all would like to think that we’re special and that there’s a reason out of our control for why we’ve failed before. But the truth is: it’s because weren’t doing the right thing. We weren’t consistent enough. We weren’t working hard enough.
For example, I’ve heard this plenty of times before. “I’m eating 1200 calories per day and I just can’t lose weight”.
Applying Occam’s Razor here, what do you think the simplest and most obvious solution is?
The 1200 calories sticks out to me. Are you actually eating 1200 calories?
It’s all good and well to say you’re only eating 1200 calories, but you need to show me 1200 calories.
Are you tracking? Do you know how many calories you burn per day? Do you know how many grams of protein you’re eating?
“Oh, I read food labels and I’m pretty sure it all adds up to 1200cals”
Are you sure? Because studies show that when people recall their food intake they are wildly inaccurate .
People often UNDER-report their food intake by 35-50%. So that 1200 that you say you’re eating? That could easily be 1800cals.
It’s not because you’re lying or being dishonest and you feel guilty. Although, that is definitely a big factor on why people under-report. I mean, put yourselves in the shoes of the participants in those studies. They’re in front of a bunch of researchers and feeling judged based on whether they eat good or bad. Of course they’re going to make themselves look a little better.
But you simply may not know what you’re looking for when you track your food. You may not know what 1200cals actually looks like. You may not know how many calories certain foods contain and your estimations are way off.
Whatever the reason, unless you’re tracking to a tee, you can’t assume you’re eating a certain number of calories. Odds are, you’re wrong.
Let’s say you are right, though.
You actually only eat 1200 calories per day. Why aren’t you losing weight then?
Well there is no set number that causes weight loss in everyone. Setting an arbitrary number like 1200 for women and 1600 for men does nothing. Everyone is different!
1200 for you might be enough to keep you in maintenance, while the 100kg woman down the street might lose 3kg a week on 1200cals.
We can’t put out a blanket number of calories for everyone to stick to and expect the same results. Everyone’s metabolism is different. We have different amounts of muscle. We weigh different amounts. We’re different heights.
There are too many variables to consider when just throwing out a random number for fat loss. The best thing you can do is track your calories (accurately, of course) for 2-3 weeks and monitor the changes to your body.
If you lose weight, you’re in a deficit. You’re eating less calories than you’re burning.
If you gain weight, you’re in a surplus. You’re eating more calories than you’re burning.
And if you stay roughly the same, you’re at maintenance. You’re eating pretty much the same as you’re burning.
That’s the most accurate way to see where your energy intake needs to be. I don’t care what your Apple Watch says or some random calorie calculator on the internet says. Your body is unique and we can’t accurately predict what you need to eat every day.
They can give you a rough estimate of your calorie intake/expenditure and they’re a great starting point, but they’re not gospel.
That’s another point as well – your energy expenditure.
Sure, you might be eating 1200cals per day. But are you moving enough? Are you active enough to burn those calories and create a deficit?
As with energy intake from self-reporting, research shows that activity trackers are inaccurate as well. In fact, research shows that wrist-worn activity trackers have an error rate ranging from 27-92% .
So your Fitbit might say you’re burning 1500cals per day, but in reality, it could much lower than that. Even if you don’t wear an activity tracker, the odds are that you simply aren’t as active as you think you are.
This is especially true when dieting and trying to lose weight. When you eat less food and cut your calories, your body tries to slow its energy expenditure down to accommodate for this.
It can view the lower food intake as a ‘threat’ and decide to make you move less. You walk less. You feel less motivated. You feel more lethargic in your workouts. You even fidget less. This all adds up.
So you might be eating 1200cals, but now you’re actually burning less energy than before. That’s definitely not a reason to avoid a calorie deficit, but it certainly encourages a gradual reduction in calories, not a drastic cut to them.
At the end of the day, there could be hundreds of reasons why you aren’t losing weight. The good news is, most of those reasons are in your control.
While there are some people that are exceptions to the rule, the odds are that you simply aren’t one of them. Don’t try to find factors that make you different from everyone. Don’t look for reasons why you magically don’t follow the principles of fat loss that everyone else follows.
Work more consistently.