top of page

Common Roadblocks to Fat Loss

It's hard to know which trendy new diet or workout program you should follow or which new food rule you should adopt.

I talk to people everyday who are jumping on the latest bandwagon, only to fall off shortly after.

People who have "tried everything," yet nothing worked. Too much too soon, too little emphasis on making small, simple adjustments to nutrition, workout programming, and lifestyle practices.

Let's clear up some misinformation about fat loss, and perhaps help you no longer make some of these common roadblocks.

Common Roadblock #1: Killing yourself doing cardio to lose weight.

When most people start on a fat loss journey, they do two things:

  1. They cut their calories.

  2. They hit the gym to spend an hour on a piece of cardio equipment to "burn calories."

This is not the most effective approach. But, why?

Cardio makes you hungrier. We try to cut calories by burning them off with cardio, but that cardio is actually just making you hungrier. You burn calories DURING the cardio session, but only during that period of time. And, we typically underestimate calories burned vs. calories consumed.

["Cardio" includes the obvious activities like running and using an elliptical machine. It also includes circuit and HIIT training and classes. Tons of value and benefit to these activities, but they're not always the most effective for fat loss, specifically.]

We've all been there. We come home from a sweat session and go straight to the kitchen and binge eat all of the calories and carbs you just burned. That cardio session is no longer providing a calorie burn effect (it's still providing other benefits, just not the ones we think). In this scenario, you probably won't see any fat loss results from that cardio pattern.

The worst case scenario is that we actually "succeed" in using our "willpower" to fight against our hunger. We eat less than your body burns, so we end up losing weight. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, our bodies are too smart for that, and after a couple of weeks of losing weight, fat loss will stall.

The human body adapts. It becomes more efficient with the amount of calories being consumed and starts getting rid of muscle. Muscle is very energy-expensive, but it also helps boost metabolism. The more muscle we have, the faster our metabolism. As such, muscle is definitely something we want to preserve, not lose.

So, here we are, now with a slower metabolism. What does this mean? It means that while we are eating the same number of calories and doing the same workout routines we were doing before, our fat loss has completely stalled.

Our only option now is to do even more cardio and/or eat even less in order to continue seeing progress. By now, it should be obvious how that continues to play out long-term.

Furthermore, once we start eating "normally" or back off on the cardio, we start gaining weight. You can see how this sets us up for a lifetime of yo-yo dieting. Not only that, but it also sets us up for a lifetime of hormonal issues, slow libido, lackluster energy, brain fog, skin issues, digestive problems, etc.

The human body does not love nor thrive in this yo-yo life. It needs (and is always trying to implement) stability.

So what is a more sustainable approach?

Lift weights. Focus on traditional strength training: lifting weights with ample rest between sets and sessions.

Muscle increases metabolism, meaning the more muscle we have, the more calories our bodies burn at rest... doing nothing!

Instead of focusing on burning calories, focus on building muscle. This makes fat loss less negative, more effortless, and way more sustainable long-term. Having more muscle actually allows us to eat more while also continuing to lose fat.

Common Roadblock #2: Not Eating Enough

Most "diet plans" put women on about 1,200 calories per day. This is too little fuel for an adult body's needs.

On average, 1,200 calories per day is what it takes to maintain the weight of a very small woman (if she were to lay in bed all day and do nothing). Add in her movement throughout the day, her walks, her chores, plus any additional exercise. We're likely looking at another 700 calories a day she is burning.

What do you think feeding this body 1,200 calories per day for a length of time will lead to? Her body will become more efficient and start burning fewer calories at rest. How does it do that? It rids itself of that metabolically-expensive muscle and moving less, in general. This is why energy tanks during "diets."

Our bodies are really smart and will adapt fairly quickly.

Yes, to lose weight, one must be in a calorie deficit. However, if we create a deficit by eating 1,200 calories per day and our bodies adapt - where do we go from there? Eating even less??

This is the diet cycle. It will starve us or make us say "screw it" and binge eat all the pizza, Doritos, and cookies in the world.

Guess what happens if we go back to eating "normally" or back to what we were eating before we drastically cut our calories? We gain all the weight back, plus some. Our metabolism is even slower now, so the same amount of food we were previously consuming now causes us to gain weight.

So, what is a more sustainable approach?

If we are eating a very low number of calories to maintain our weight, we must slowly increase our calories over a period of time, while also lifting weights. This will shuttle those extra calories into building muscle, which will help increase our metabolism.

Common Roadblock #3: Continuing to Follow Cookie-Cutter Diet Programs

How many times have you Googled ("researched") weight loss plans and downloaded the latest "Get Fit and Drop 10 Pounds in 7 Days Meal Plan?"

Maybe we download the meal plan and try it for a week or two. Either we don't lose any weight (because it's too much food for some people) or we lose too much (because it's not enough food for some people)... which only slow down our metabolism.

Cookie cutter programs don't work.

How is the meal plan for everyone? How does one cookie cutter meal plan know how many calories your body (or my body, or any body) needs to lose weight? How does it know how active someone is? How does it know if someone has gut issues or hormonal imbalances affecting caloric output?

It doesn't know, therefore it can't be a universal strategy.

Not to mention, these plans are not sustainable. Who wants to follow a recipe for every single meal for the rest of his/her life? Not me.

These types of plans don't teach us anything about nutrition or what foods are best for our particular bodies, so we are left with being "on" the plan or "off" the plan, leading to diet mentality and feeling like a failure if we can't follow it forever.

Listen, you are not a failure. These plans are. They are unsustainable and have no consideration for your busy, active lifestyle. If you have to spend 3 hours in the kitchen cooking every day, you're setting yourself up for failure!

So, what is a more sustainable approach?

Listen to our bodies... but also be educated about it. Educate yourself on healthy eating and the health impacts of certain foods. It's not just about intuitive eating - a light framework is important.

Keep a food journal and start noting which foods make you feel good and which foods don't. Focus on foods that are satiating and energizing and don't cause adverse symptoms like fatigue, bloating, cravings, etc.

Do focus on being more prepared and plan for meals.

Common Roadblock #4: Not Getting Enough Micronutrients to Support Digestion, Thyroid, and Overall Health

Evidence-based coaches will tell you that fat loss is only about calories in and calories out.

Holistic coaches will tell you calories don't matter.

Which one is it?

As a personal trainer and a functional, integrative coach, I say both.

It is about calories in an calories out, but the calories "out" part of this equation is quite complex.

If our digestive system isn't functioning properly, we are not going to be able to break down food well, and our bodies won't be able to use those nutrients to build muscle and keep our metabolism robust.

If our thyroid is underactive or our hormones are imbalanced, our metabolism will be affected. We are also more likely to choose calorie and carbohydrate-rich foods, which might make fat loss challenging.

So, what is a more sustainable approach?

Focus on nutrient-dense foods to support our metabolism.

Take the focus off of calories and macros and instead focus on eating nutrient-dense foods. Enjoy the process of trying new things or feeling better eating more of the foods you know make you feel better!

Fat loss shouldn't literally be the bane of existence. It shouldn't CREATE stress. It should be doable, delicious, and make us feel better, not worse.


Are you interested in implementing healthier habits in your daily life? I'd love to help support you. Book a free consult or check out the options below. Let's get fit and nourished together at The Whole Plate!

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page