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I Don’t Eat a Lot but I Still Can’t Lose Weight

Kim: Welcome back to the Fitness Simplified Podcast. I’m your host, Kim Schlag. On today’s episode I’m going to go through four reasons why you feel like you don’t eat much, but you still can’t lose weight. 
[00:00:17] That’s what we’re hitting today. I also want to talk about why there’s this idea that you feel you shouldn’t be eating much in the first place.
[00:00:26] Let’s go.
[00:00:27] “I don’t eat much, but I still can’t lose weight.” 
[00:00:37] I hear that a lot, particularly from women. And the first thing I want to address here today is: why do you feel you shouldn’t be eating a lot? 
[00:00:49] There is a definite idea out there that you should be eating as little as possible, especially if your goal is to lose weight.
[00:00:57] This framework isn’t so useful, though. In fact, it’s often counterproductive. My goal with my clients is to have them eat as much as they can while still losing weight at a rate that makes sense. And we’ll talk more as we go here about how to make that happen. But I just wanted to put a little bug in your ear that the goal isn’t to eat as little as possible.
[00:01:21] Okay, today’s topic: Four Reasons Why — and this is in air quotes — You Don’t Eat Much, But You Can’t Lose Weight. 
[00:01:31] Reason #1: you’re eating mostly highly processed foods. 
[00:01:36] So, fast food, “junk food.” And so, while you have a little amount of food, it doesn’t satisfy you or keep you full. It is still a lot of calories. Does that make sense?
[00:01:49] Let me help you picture what that might look like: 
[00:01:52] A McDonald’s cheeseburger and medium fries, which by the way, I freaking love the taste of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries, so delicious, and that doesn’t feel like a lot of food. If you can picture the size of a McDonald’s cheeseburger and a medium fry, it doesn’t feel like a lot of food. I could eat that so fast, still want more, and not be full — it’s also 660 calories. 
[00:02:15] Okay, now I want you to picture this meal instead. This is also right around 660 calories: 5 ounces of grilled chicken — so that’s a pretty big piece of chicken, it’s going to be bigger than the palm of your hand — 3/4 of a cup of rice, a huge side salad with lettuce, tomato, onion, cucumber, radish, avocado, with a couple of tablespoons of tasty dressing, and then a banana.
[00:02:40] All of that is about the same number of calories as the McDonald’s meal, but it has considerably more volume. So you could eat this meal and have the sensation of “I’m satisfied” and register that you had eaten quite a bit of food when actually you had the exact same number of calories as if you had had the McDonald’s cheeseburger and medium fries. Volume eating is a fantastic strategy to manage hunger.
[00:03:09] Remember, it’s total calories that matter for weight loss, not total volume of food. So, you can eat lower calorie, but still higher volume. This happens when the majority of your diet is vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, and whole grains. 
[00:03:27] Notice that all of that is nutrient dense, minimally processed food. So, if 80%-90% of your diet is made up of those, then you will be able to have a lot of volume to your diet. 
[00:03:41] So take home points here: your volume might be low while your calories are high. That’s that McDonald’s meal. Volume’s low, it doesn’t feel like a lot of food, but your calories are up there. This gives you the perception that you don’t eat much, when in fact you are eating at maintenance or in a surplus. 
[00:03:58] Now how would we know that you’re eating at least at maintenance? Because you’re not losing weight. You’re not making any progress. So even though you’re like, “it doesn’t feel like a lot of food,” you’re still, at least at maintenance if you’re not losing weight.
[00:04:09] So focus instead on total calories, not quantity of food. 
[00:04:16] So take home point #2 for this one is: minimally processed, nutrient dense foods are your friend when it comes to maximizing the calorie-volume ratio. 
[00:04:29] All right, moving on to reason #2 why you feel like you don’t eat much, but you can’t lose weight: liquid calories.
[00:04:37] Liquid calories. 
[00:04:39] Your food might be spot on when it comes to calories. What you eat for breakfast, what you eat for lunch, what you eat for dinner, what you eat for snacks, but you could be racking up the calories with your drinks. The main culprits here, soda — not diet soda. It literally has zero calories. Do not believe anyone who tells you diet soda is bad for fat loss. That’s nonsense. It has zero calories. 
[00:05:03] So, coffee that’s actually a dessert is another big culprit here, not just regular, straight up coffee, but those big dessert kinds of coffees, the ones that easily top 400 plus calories. 
[00:05:14] Alcohol. It has calories and they count. 
[00:05:18] Now it’s easy to gloss over these liquid calories in your mind. They don’t fill you up at all, but they still have a calorie impact. 
[00:05:26] Take home message here: track your calories, even if they’re from liquid. 
[00:05:31] So track those liquid calories. 
[00:05:33] Take home message #two: swap out some drinks with calories for zero calorie drinks. 
[00:05:40] You don’t have to get rid of all of your drinks that have calories, but swap some out if you’re struggling to maintain your deficit otherwise. 
[00:05:47] Take home point #3 for this one: make a bright line for how many alcoholic beverages you’re going to have on a night when you’re drinking and then stick with it. 
[00:05:57] Now, if you don’t know what the term “bright line” means, I use this term a lot. It simply is a rule that you give yourself, a boundary that you give yourself that you follow. Like, “this is what I will do. This is what I won’t do.” It’s a term I learned from my friend
and mentor Jordan Syatt and they work really well when you decide these things ahead of time and you draw this line in the sand of, “this is what I do, and this is what I don’t do.”

[00:06:22] And so when you do this for alcoholic beverages, you know, like, “okay, this is the number of drinks I have. I don’t go past that.” It can really help to manage the total calories. 
[00:06:34] All right, reason #3 why you feel you don’t eat much, but you still can’t lose weight: you actually do eat very little…during the week, but you make up that deficit and then some by how you eat on the weekend.
[00:06:50] Yes, it is possible and actually even common to be in a deficit Monday through Friday afternoon, and then eat enough on the weekend to put you at maintenance. 
[00:07:02] This keeps you spinning your wheels, which is super frustrating because it’s a lot of work to maintain a deficit Monday through Friday, right? So, a few take home action points here: 
[00:07:11] Get a hold on your weekend eating. 
[00:07:14] Part of this is mental. You might think of weekends differently. Things like, “this is my time to relax. I don’t want to track my food when I’m relaxing.” “I can’t have fun without lots of food and drinks.” I want you to rewrite those stories, push back on those thoughts. Is it really true that you can’t relax and have fun without everything revolving around food and/or drinking?
[00:07:40] Question #2 to think about with this: if that’s how you’ve set up your life and it’s not supporting your goal, what can you do to change that? 
[00:07:49] You don’t have to just accept that that’s true — and maybe that is true in your life. I think for a lot of people it’s not true, they’ve just kind of built it up like that. But for those of you that it is true, like, “no, really this is what we do. We just eat and drink all weekend long.” If that is how you have set up your life and it is not supporting your goal, what can you do to change that? Give that some serious thought. 
[00:08:10] One thing I like to have my clients remind themselves is, “I eat the same on Saturday as I do on Tuesday.”
[00:08:17] This, of course, means that you could have a slice of pizza on a Tuesday night, just like you can eat broccoli on a Saturday. If weight loss is the goal, you can make any food work, just not all in the same day. So, use nutritional compromises. Think: what do you want most? How will you fit that into your day’s calories while still keeping protein high and getting plenty of micronutrients?
[00:08:46] All right. Finally, reason #4, why you feel like you don’t eat that much, but you aren’t losing weight: amnesia, food amnesia. 
[00:08:56] You don’t notice all of the picking — the little licks and nibbles you take throughout the day. And so, you log your expected, let’s say 1600 calories — which is just an example — you sub in your mind whatever your calories are. 
[00:09:10] You log your expected 1600 calories when in actuality you’ve eaten 1850 calories, but 250 of those are invisible to you. And that is so easy to do — a handful of nuts here, a leftover dino nugget as you cleared the table, a sip of your husband’s iced tea, a few tastes of dinner as you’re prepping, licking the spoon after you dip your kiddos ice cream and boom, 1850 calories when you only register, both mentally and in your tracking app, 1600 calories. 
[00:09:46] So, take home steps here, two bright lines for you: 
[00:09:50] Bright line #1: I don’t eat other people’s food. Period. I don’t eat it. If it’s not my food, I don’t eat it. 
[00:09:58] Bright line #2: I eat all food off of a plate or out of a bowl.
[00:10:03] If you want some ice cream, scoop yourself some out into a bowl, enjoy every last bite and then account for it. Don’t take little nibbles as you’re dipping your kids ice cream. If you want to chicken nugget, put some chicken nuggets on your plate, eat them, enjoy them, and count for them. Don’t just take little nibbles as you’re clearing the table.
[00:10:23] Okay there, you have it: four reasons why you feel like you don’t eat much, but you still can’t lose weight. And most importantly, how to address them. 
[00:10:33] I hope this helps and I really want you to remember that the goal isn’t to eat as little as possible. Yes, you have to keep your total calories in check if fat loss is the goal, but you can and should strive to eat plenty of food while you do that, okay? And really to make that happen, focus on those minimally processed foods.
[00:11:08] Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified Podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational. 
[00:11:19] If you enjoyed it, if you found value in it, it would mean so much to me if you would go ahead and leave a rating and review on whatever platform you are listening to this on. It really does help to get this podcast to other people.
[00:11:34] Thanks so much.