Diet Detective: Not Losing Weight But Eating Less Than 900 Calories!

not losing weight

I wanted to share with you a member that we recently worked with on why they were not losing weight BUT seeming to gain weight… even on 900 calories.

Let’s see if you can figure out why they are not losing weight.

Some background here…

  • Female – early 40’s
  • 5’6″ weight in the lower 190’s
  • No known hormonal irregularities or medications that would promote weight gain or inhibit weight loss
  • Works about 50 hours a week
  • Works out 3-4 days a week with a combination of strength and cardio
  • No movement limitations

When we started working with her, she told us that she hardly ate, but no matter what, she was not losing weight. If anything was gaining weight, she thought maybe it was muscle.

So we had her track her cals for 7 days (including one weekend), AND we took her weight at the start and end of the tracking, having her step on the scale on day 1 and day 7. At the end of 7 days, her weight stayed about the exact same at 193 on day 1 and day 7. She was right; she was not losing weight.

She was averaging less than 1000 cals a day but, on Saturday, would have a ‘cheat’ meal of Mexican food and margaritas. (This was about a 1900 cal meal) Despite the weekend going out to eat, even I would think she should be losing weight on such a low way of eating, so we dug deeper, and her average day of eating looked like this:

Breakfast: Coffee with creamer
Mid-morning: Two 100-cal snack packs (cookies)
Lunch: 1/2 Jimmy John’s chicken sandwich
Dinner: 2 servings of veggie straws + 1/2 an avocado

When I read that, I immediately put the pieces together.

So, what do you think is happening?

Take a minute to think about it and scroll down for the answer.
(Hint: It’s not because she wasn’t eating enough calories, but you’re close!)
















Answer Why She’s Not Losing Weight: She was eating TOO many calories.

Now, before you go all WTH and freak out thinking she has to eat even less, read on because there are layers to this answer here.

Why She’s Not Losing Weight Layer 1: Tracking

When I had her track for 7 days, I even admitted that she should be losing weight, but when nothing happened, and I took a look at her eating, I knew there the math didn’t add up.

What you saw above, with her eating, was a snapshot of what she was currently eating, not what got her to the 190s. Physiologically, it’s impossible for someone to eat less than 1000 cals a day and gain 40+ lbs (which is what she wanted to lose).

Side note: Yes, some rare medical conditions can cause a person to gain or maintain a higher weight on a lower-cal diet, but her doctor ruled that out with blood and hormone testing. She was medically ok.

When I saw what she was eating, we sat down and dug even deeper into her eating as far back as she can remember, and we continued her tracking past the 7 days up to 30 days. Come to find out; she only ate this way for 1-2 weeks out of the month, not every single week of the month.

Other days/weeks, she was averaging about 2500-2800 calorie days. So at the end of the month (not just a week), her daily average over the course of a month was closer to 2200 cals, not 900, and those 2200 cals were great for maintaining her weight but not losing.

7 days of tracking is a starting point to give us (the coaches at RTC) an idea of what you are eating, but to get a really accurate picture of what you are eating, we will have a person track for 4-6 weeks longer for some.

Why She’s Not Losing Weight Layer 2: Nutrients

When I looked at her eating for the initial 7 days, she was VERY undernourished. Not eating enough of the good stuff (protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc.) and without the proper nutrients (fuel) it makes fat loss SOOOOO much harder.

Side note: Whenever you hear a person say you’re “not eating enough calories,” typically, this is what they mean. Not enough of the good calories (protein, vegetables, starches), they aren’t referring to crap calories such as sugar and processed foods. 

Getting in the proper amount of nutrients is the game-changer for fat loss and muscle gain. I can’t stress this enough.

Why She’s Not Losing Weight Layer 3: Inflammation

Her body was INFLAMMED; you could see it clear as day.

Now, an inflamed body is something a lot of people don’t pay enough attention to. An inflamed body is hard to describe, but think of it this way… the skin feels ‘thick’. The stomach, or gut, feels bloated, like it’s sticking out. You look or feel like you are holding onto water; your cheeks seem puffy. Overall, you look puffy and define that you are gone.

If you’ve ever got out to a restaurant and wake up the following day feeling ‘bigger and looking watered down’, that CAN BE an example of inflammation.

Many, many things cause a body to become bloated, water-downed, or inflamed, but in her case, it was most noticeable after her Mexican cheat meal, which makes sense. The meal was highly processed high sodium, plus sugary alcoholic drinks. For many, this will leave them feeling bloated and inflamed the next day.

In her case, this would last for almost a week until her next cheat meal, so by the time she lost all the bloat and inflammation from the previous cheat meal, she added it back on with the next cheat meal.

What Did We Do?

Honestly, there was so much going on here that we just scraped her current way of eating and rebuilt a new plan from the ground up.

She had bad habits; she knew it, going from half-starving one week to overeating the next that we needed to break the pattern.

Side note: typically, at RTC, we try to work with a person’s current schedule and eating to find a balanced diet that works for them, but there are other cases when it’s just better to start from ground zero.

I’m not going to give her a specific diet, but here we had her eating four whole-food meals a day (nothing processed). Three of those meals had veggies, 3 of those meals had potatoes (keep her feeling full), and all of those meals had a lean protein source (ground beef, steak, turkey, eggs, etc.)

We told her she would have to eat this way for three weeks, no alcohol, no cheat meals, nothing. We needed to press the reset button on her habits so we could start new ones after three weeks; we would reassess and decide where to go from there.

This would not be easy for her; doing a complete reset NEVER is because food is more habit/routine than anything.

The Result?

She lost 9lbs in 3 weeks. Went from 192 (at that time) to 183. She was noticeably less inflamed; her skin looked thinner, her cheeks smaller, her stomach flatter. This mainly was junk weight of water, waste, and inflammation, but some could have been fat; regardless, that junk weight still needed to come off.

This created so much momentum for her that she adopted this new way of eating as her new normal after a few months and dropped 31lbs in 5 months.

Side note: Something interesting happened. After three weeks, we told her she could have a cheat meal, and she went to her usual Mexican restaurant and had her usual meal. The next day she woke up sick, and the scale went up by 4lbs to 187. I told her that was to be expected due to the massive intake of food AND the kind of food her body wasn’t used to consuming anymore; it was NOT fat but water, waste, and inflammation. Afterward, she said it was not worth it to eat that, and instead, she makes much better decisions when she goes out to eat. 

What to Take Away

This is more common than you think, and you may have been here at one point in time or are there now. You MAY be eating very little during the day, during the week, or even a few weeks, but if you are not losing weight, the calories are being made up elsewhere, and they are usually not the good kind of calories.

If you are there, there is NOTHING wrong with you; you’re not broken. I know you’re trying, and it will be ok!

Get with a professional, press the reset button, and trust their process. As long as you don’t stop, you’ll get there. Promise 🙂

In Health,
P.S. And if you’re looking for something more tailored to your goals, we’re here to help. You can take a look at our Personal Training Programs HERE or click the Get Started button below to book a free chat with our expert coaches!
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