What to do when your diet stops working.

Wed, 03/06/2019 - 11:39 -- Jamie

So what can we do about this?


Any of us who have dieted in the past have probably had that good initial weight loss where we’ve dropped pounds over the first couple of weeks and then it starts to slow down where it stalls and so today we’re going to look at as to why this happens and what our options are when this happens.

Ultimately a diet fails (meaning when you’re no longer losing weight) when it no longer creates a calorie deficit (when we’re burning more calories than we’re consuming) to which you can stick to.

Can you stick to a calorie deficit? Often people will break sociologically before they ever break physiologically. If we gave you a restricted diet of 500 calories and you were locked up in a room, which they tend to do this in studies in which this is called a metabolic ward and then they only fed you 500 calories a day, you’d lose weight indefinitely until you died, however in the real world where we’re surrounded by delicious food and we can go into any shop nearby and buy food, it’s normally being able to stick to a diet that’s the problem.

Today we will focus on the physiological points so we will focus on what happens within our bodies.


Dieting scenario- You’re maintaining your weight- 17,500 calories per week (2,500x7).

So say you have started a diet with your coach and the number of calories that you are consuming is 2,000 calories per day which give us roughly a 500 calorie deficit so therefor each day we are eating 500 calories less than we need to maintain our body weight. By the end of that week, we should lose roughly 1 pound of fat as 3,500 calories equals to 1 pound of fat.

Intake-14,000. Requirement (17,500) = 3,500 calories (1 pound of fat).

However, as we start to lose weight to adapt to our diets we actually now require fewer calories to maintain our body weight. E.g if you was 13 stone and you needed 2,500 calories to maintain your body weight but then you got down to 12 stone 8, now you might only need 2,250 calories to maintain your body weight so your deficit is now smaller. It’s now 250 calories a day which equates to 1,750 calories per week which is half a pound of fat, so now progress has slowed.

Intake- 14,000. Requirement (15,750)= 1,750 which is half a pound of fat.

Eventually, you’ll get to a point where your body requirement will match your intake. Intake of 2,000 calories will match your requirement of 2,000 and you will now be weight stable and you are no longer in a calorie deficit, you are now in a calorie maintenance.

Why does this happen?

You weigh less - You now have to do less work so if you lost 10kg, you are now carrying less weight as there’s less weight of you so for example, there’s less of you to have to carry up the stairs etc. There’s also less weight for you to process so within your organs there’s less organs to have to maintain and less tissue to have to maintain and if we put a 10kg backpack on you and asked you to start walking around then you’d gain more calories burned as you’d have to do more work to be able to carry that backpack.

Your body becomes efficient so not only do you move around a bit less but actually your body can do the same amount of work for fewer calories. This goes down to your cells levels as the cells in your body get more efficient at doing the same amount of work for fewer calories. This comes down to evolution to survival so if we were in a period of famine it would be very little use to us, to the human race if we couldn’t protect ourselves against periods of starvation so we become more efficient.

The body looks to preserve calories and this is where it is important when we’re dieting to maintain a high activity level outside of the gym because naturally if you’ve gone through a dieting phase for long periods of time then you would have felt that you have things such as- worse posture as you want to slump more as you don’t have the energy to hold yourself up, you have poor energy, you don’t want to talk to people or you generally have less activity(NEAT) so this saves a lot of calories within your body to preserve and what then was once a calorie deficit then becomes a plateau and a calorie maintenance.

Increased hunger levels- roughly for every kg that you lose, your appetite is increased by roughly 100 calories per day. If you were to lose 10kg or 22 pounds of fat which is a lot of fat to lose then your appetite would actually increase to want to consume an extra 1000 calories a day because again our bodies don’t know that you want to feel or look better or that you want to lose weight, it just wants to fight against you being around for the next summer to produce children so it will make you more hungry, as said before normally we don’t have a weight loss problem, we have a weight loss maintenance problem and these are some of the reasons, so what once was an energy deficit where we’re losing weight and we’re burning 2,500 calories and we’re only taking in 2,000 calories well when we equate for all of the adaptations  and increased hunger, we soon get an energy balance where we’re no longer losing weight.