If you’re eating healthily and exercising, it can be incredibly frustrating not to have the number on the scale go down.
But simple changes, from making sure you eat enough protein to avoiding sugary drinks, can help you lose weight.
Here, dietitian Dr. Duane Mellor reveals some of the obstacles that may be preventing you from shedding those pounds.
It can be frustrating if your weight loss plateaus, but simple switches can help you lose weight, and making sure you’re eating enough at mealtimes is one of them, according to dietitians.
You’re not eating enough protein
Focusing only on dieting can hinder your weight loss.
It’s important to vary the scales to get plenty of protein.
That’s because eating foods high in macronutrients — such as chicken, fish and chickpeas — can help control portion sizes.
‘Not eating enough protein can affect how filling your meals are,’ says Dwayne Mellor, a registered dietitian at Aston University in Birmingham.
Making sure to stick to protein-rich foods like lean meats, beans, peas, and lentils, especially those high in fiber, can keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Dr Mellor added: ‘Although there isn’t a strong link between eating more filling foods and weight maintenance, as part of a healthy dietary plan it can help you to be more in control of your food choices and be better able to maintain your weight. ‘
Foods high in protein are more filling and satisfying than foods low in macronutrients. That means eating enough chicken, fish and chickpeas will help you control your portions
But it’s not just the quantity of meat and lentils you eat – its quality matters too.
Dr Mellor explains that highly processed foods, such as takeaways, microwave meals and fruit-flavoured yoghurts, are ‘easy to digest and contain calories’.
He adds that these foods are ‘highly desirable and less able to keep you feeling full.’
So eating these items can make it difficult to resist snacking between meals and lose weight successfully.
Your diet is too strict
It may seem logical to assume that a strict meal plan is the key to weight loss.
But experts say reducing your calorie intake too much can make losing pounds a bigger struggle.
One reason is that not eating enough can make you feel too tired to exercise.
Dr Mellor said: ‘It’s thought that reducing your intake and calorie intake too much can reduce the amount of involuntary activity which means weight loss can be somewhat slower.’
Eating too few calories can cause dieters to lose more muscle than fat.
To lose weight safely and sustainably, the NHS recommends cutting 500 calories a day – around 1,500 for women and 2,000 for men – to lose 1lb (0.45kg) a week.
Experts say that if you cut your calorie intake too far, you may find yourself struggling to lose pounds. One reason is that not eating enough can make you feel too tired to exercise
Some crash diets recommend eating as few as 800 calories per day, which experts warn usually leads to long-term weight gain.
However, there are some exceptions.
Dr Mellor said: ‘For some people with type 2 diabetes who want to try and manage their diabetes, a medically supervised low energy diet can be an effective treatment option.’
Earlier this year, the NHS revealed plans to roll out a soup and shake diet, which would see people with type 2 diabetes consume 800 calories a day for up to five months. Trial results show it keeps patients in remission for at least five years.
But according to Dr. Mellor, cutting only moderate calories is a more sustainable way to lose weight.
He said: ‘Don’t be too strict about how you change your diet, as it can be difficult to follow, and try to be as active as possible to maintain vital lean tissue and muscle in your body.’
You are drinking your calories
Even if dieters exercise hard and eat healthily, progress can be blunted if they drink too many sugary drinks.
They can also trigger a major sugar crash – which can cause a feeling of hunger even after a recent meal.
Dr Mellor said: ‘It’s not necessarily the ratio of carbohydrates, protein and fat that can influence weight loss, ultimately it’s the dietary pattern that enables someone to eat healthily and reduce their energy intake in a sustainable and cost-effective way.
‘However, if you have a sugary drink, as we don’t recognize the energy from the drink as food, it can take up more of our energy.’
He recommends switching to water or unsweetened beverages to control energy intake.
Dr. Mellor emphasizes that making long-term changes that are manageable is the best way to manage your weight.
She said: ‘If someone is trying to manage their weight, it’s important to try and look at a healthy diet that you can enjoy in the long term.
‘It is better not to focus on weight and to consider how we try to improve our health, where any change in weight is a side effect for people living with overweight rather than the main and only goal.’
What should a balanced diet look like?
According to the NHS, meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains.
Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Count all fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables
Foods based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains
30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and a large baked potato with skin.
¿ Choose low-fat and low-sugar options with some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks)
¿ Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily)
¿ Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in moderation
Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
¿Adults should have 6 grams of salt a day and 20 grams of saturated fat for women or 30 grams for men.
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide