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Why Is Your Weight Loss Slow?

0:00:03.7 Kim Schlag: Welcome to Episode 90 of the Fitness Simplified podcast. I’m your host, Kim Schlag. On today’s episode, we’re gonna chat about slow weight loss. Why is it moving so slowly for you? What even is slow? Proper expectations here are super important, and of course we’re gonna talk about what to do to speed it up if that’s the appropriate course of action. Ready? Let’s go.

0:00:31.1 Kim Schlag: Hello, Hello. You may or may not know but I have spent over three months incredibly ill, battling pneumonia and some serious complications from that pneumonia. I was, for all intents and purposes, bedridden. The simplest of tasks would leave me out of breath and utterly exhausted, and I gained over 20 pounds during my illness. Three and a half weeks ago, I started a cut, so a calorie deficit and I’ve lost six pounds, 10 inches and a jean size in that time. As I have shared about this on Instagram and on TikTok, I’ve gotten a lot of, “Why isn’t it that fast for me? Why is my weight loss so slow? How can I speed it up to that speed?” So, that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. I want you to know that I am on the top end of the range of reasonable expectations for sustainable weight loss. I’m averaging about two pounds per week, which is the top end of the range. Down at the other end of sustainable weight loss, reasonable expectations is a half a pound per week. Anywhere from half a pound to two pounds per week is incredible progress. Which means, if I was only down one and a half pounds right now, that would still be fantastic progress. And more of my clients than not are averaging around that one pound or half pound mark.

0:02:03.7 Kim Schlag: It is not uncommon, it is incredibly common, and if you stick with it you can make incredible progress. I have clients who do that for three, four, five, six plus months, and they look like completely different people. So remember, half a pound to two pounds per week is incredible progress, do not discount that half-pound point. So, the first question I want you to answer, if you think that your weight loss is slow, is, “Are my expectations reasonable?” If you’re on that scale of an average of a half a pound to two pounds per week, you are making good progress. The next question to ask is, “Are you using more than one measure of progress?” Note that I told you how many inches I lost as well as the clothing fit change, I lost a jean size. Relying on the scale alone can be demoralizing. Let’s look at the total picture. Are you losing inches? Do you see visible changes in the mirror? Do you see changes in pictures as you put them side by side? Are your clothes looser? Okay. Look at those other factors, don’t just use the scale. Especially if you’re a person who is lean looking to get leaner, if you’re looking to lose your last five, six pounds, the scale might not actually move very much and you might see changes more in the realm of inches, fit of clothes and how you actually look as you are losing fat and building muscle. The scale is not everything.

0:03:35.2 Kim Schlag: Alright, I also want you to remember that slow is relative. I want you to get really clear on this. Your weight loss feels slow compared to what? The headlines of the magazine at the grocery store? You know like, “Karen lost 50 pounds in a month just eating potatoes.” No. What about ads, right? Or do you feel slow compared to these ads that say, “Lose 20 pounds in the next month,” you know these crash diets. Is it slow compared to all of those Biggest Loser episodes stored in your brain? Those weekly wins where they would be down 12, 13, 15 pounds? I know all of that sounds very appealing. Some of it frankly is smoke and mirrors. Those magazine headlines, they’re not even real. They’re not real. And the Biggest Loser, so much of that was manipulating water weight. Yes, they were losing some fat, but for real a lot of it was water weight. I have watched my own son do this, I actually did it as a powerlifter a time or two, which was dumb. The level I was competing at, I did not need to be cutting water, but I did it. And I watched my son do it for years, he was a high school wrestler, and in weight class sports, it is part of the game.

0:04:48.5 Kim Schlag: As a senior, he was wrestling in the 106 weight class, but he actually sat at around 115 to 119 pounds. And twice a week, twice a week, he would manipulate his weight to make weight at 106 pounds. Okay, take that in. You are not a wrestler, at least I don’t think you are. You are way more interested in how you look and how you feel, than in just what number you can make the scale say, right? You’re not interested in manipulating the scale. As much as you want to see that scale go down, if the choice was you can make that say a number that’s way lower but you look the same and you fit the same in your clothes, is that what you want? It’s not what any of us want. Now, speaking of how you look. Extreme weight loss at a very fast pace can leave you looking quite different than you might picture in your mind. When weight is lost at too steep of a deficit, especially without optimal protein and strength training, you’ll be losing a significant amount of muscle. This will result in a look that is not toned, it is not defined, it is not fit, and you’re smaller, but you’re also a softer version of yourself. That’s what weight loss when it’s rapid can really look like.

0:06:07.2 Kim Schlag: Muscle loss is also a contributing factor to weight… It would be great if I can say this. Weight regain. You’ll have to maintain on lower calories than you might expect to stay the same weight. All of this to say is, extremely faster isn’t always better. Faster isn’t always better. At some point it actually is worse. So, given all of this, where do you stand now with the idea that your weight loss is too slow? You might be realizing that you’re actually in a good spot. With some adjusted expectations, you’re good to go. Amazing, great. If that’s not you and you’re either not losing at least that half a pound per week, or you’re just on the slower side of that and you would like to see either inches or pounds or clothing fitting better, sooner, let’s tackle that now. Here’s the real deal, faster results require a higher level of consistency with your nutrition, that’s the secret. It is a higher degree of consistency with your nutrition plan. You do not need to slash your calories lower, in fact that might backfire by making you less consistent. You just need to be more consistent with the calories you have set.

0:07:23.5 Kim Schlag: Now, this all assumes that you have set your deficit reasonably in the first place. If you’re not sure about that, if you’re really not sure that the calories you’re working towards are reasonable for you, is it too steep of a deficit? Is it not steep enough? If you’re not sure, sign up for my free five day fat loss crash course, and I’ll take you through setting up your nutrition step by step. You can find the sign up for that in both my IG bio, so look at my Instagram bio, the link is there and on my website. If you go to kimschlagfitness.com, there is a tab that says, “Free five day fat loss crash course,” you can sign up there. Okay. So, once you’re sure of your calories, you need to be more consistent and more accurate with them if you are not losing at a rate that is acceptable to you. Remember, we’re not looking for more than two pounds a week, if you’re looking for more than that’s… You’re overshooting. But if you’re looking for that half a pound to two pounds per week, you’re gonna need to be more consistent and more accurate. How can you do that? Just saying that doesn’t make it, right? If you’re like, “Oh, I just need to be more consistent.” Let’s actually give you some practical steps to take to make that happen. Number one, pre-plan and pre-log your meals the day before. Now, I beat this drum a lot. If you hear me say this a lot and you’re like, “You’re always saying that.” I’m saying it ’cause it freaking works. It works.

0:08:48.0 Kim Schlag: The night before, log your entire day of food for the next day, down to the gram in MyFitnessPal or Lose It! It will not take long. It will take you five minutes max. Now, to get in the habit of doing that I want you to try something called Habit Stacking. What you do is you’re going to choose a habit that you do some time in the evening, that you do every evening, and you’re going to attach pre-logging your food to that habit. In that way you will be able to sustain this. You will be able to remember it, it will become a new habit for you. So, here are some examples. Every night after dinner you put your dishes into the dishwasher, you start the dishwasher, you pull out your app and you pre-log your food then. So, it’s load dishwasher, shut it, turn it on, track. That’s one possibility. Another possibility is, maybe every evening you take an after dinner walk. You go out, you take your walk, you come back in, immediately upon coming back in, phone comes out, you track. You pre-log your food for the next day.

0:09:58.3 Kim Schlag: Brushing your teeth is another really great option. You brush your teeth, you rinse your mouth, you put your toothbrush away, and literally right there in the bathroom, don’t like wander out into the hall or something, you might get distracted. Toothbrush goes into the toothbrush holder, phone comes out, you pre-log your food for the next day. Look for a habit that you do every night. To make Habit Stacking work, you need to choose a habit you already have in place at the frequency with which you would like to do the new habit. So, choose something you literally do everyday and attach pre-logging your food to that. That will be the cue, that will be the trigger for this new habit of pre-logging your food. Okay, the reason it works so well is you had it all figured out right then. You wanna fit in some steak, you’ll fit it in then, you wanna fit in a piece of cake, you’ll fit it in then. You make those choices at a time where the food is not in front of you and you’re not in a rush. You have the moments right then to make your nutrition work, to hit your calories and hit your protein. That is my number one piece of advice on how to be more consistent.

0:11:00.3 Kim Schlag: Secondly, use a food scale. It will only add a few minutes to your day and pay massive dividends. If weight loss is too slow, a food scale is your best tool for speeding it up. It is your best tool. Stop eyeballing your food. Weigh everything you eat that isn’t a leafy green or isn’t an… If it’s an individual pre-portioned thing, like if it’s a protein bar with a scannable label, go ahead and just scan that, it’s gonna be the same. But if it’s not that and it’s not a leafy green, weigh it. So yes, I’m saying, like you should weigh your apple, you should weigh your peas. This is not a lifelong decision, this is for this brief period of your deficit, which we’re gonna make sure has an end point, okay? This is going to ensure that you are incredibly accurate with the calories you are eating.

0:11:53.3 Kim Schlag: Next, stop the LBTs, those licks, bites and tastes are eating up your deficit. Your deficit should only be 250-500 calories less than your maintenance, and you know how easy it is to eat just up, a couple of hundred calories up, right? Can you think about that? So, this is like, okay, in the morning, half an egg or waffle here, then a few sips of ice tea there, a couple of bites at dinner as you’re cooking it, right? Who does that? A couple of bites at dinner, a handful of nuts as you’re in the pantry or a handful of chocolate chips. Boom, you’re there. You’re at 250, you’re even at 500. Give yourself a bright line to stop those licks, bites and tastes. Here’s the bright line I want you to consider giving yourself. I eat all of my food seated and plated. Seated and plated. There goes licks, bites and taste. ‘Cause if you’re gonna make a decision that you really do want Johnny’s half of leftover waffle, what that means is you’re gonna pick it up off the counter where he left it, you’re gonna put it on a plate and you’re gonna sit down and eat it.

0:12:57.2 Kim Schlag: Now, how many of us are gonna actually choose to eat that half a cold waffle, if that’s what we’re doing? It becomes very conscious, right? Same thing with those chocolate chips in the pantry. You’re in the pantry and you went in there to get a dinner ingredient and all of sudden you’re opening up the bag of chocolate chips. If you have to make the decision to come and get your plate and you know we’re gonna be using a food scale, weigh them out. Boom, sit down. How many of us are gonna do that? You’re way less likely to do it. And that’s what really helps, it’s that awareness factor. So, I’m not saying you can’t have chocolate chips and you can’t have the half a waffle, be very conscious of the choices that you’re making.

0:13:32.3 Kim Schlag: Next tip I’m gonna give you is to rein in your night-time snacking. Staying in a deficit all day but over indulging at night is killing your progress. Several strategies can work here depending on you as an individual, one will would might work better than the other, you can try them all out and see what works best for you. One option is planning in a night-time snack. That works really well for a lot of people. I have one client who for a really long stretch of time planned in Halo Top every night, and it kept her on track. She knew she was getting her Halo Top and she enjoyed it, and she didn’t overindulge with other foods at night. Portion control is important here, right? We don’t want to bring out the whole bag of chips. If you have a single size portion or you weigh out your portion, put it in a bowl, put the bag away and then go sit down. So, planning in an evening snack is one alternative. Other people, that just doesn’t work, at all. They overeat at night if they do that. So, another alternative is giving yourself a bright line, no eating after dinner. I am choosing to not eat after dinner.

0:14:36.8 Kim Schlag: If you’re gonna do that, set your environment up for success. Don’t hang out in the kitchen. And then swap out routines that have historically tied to snacking for you, for a time. It doesn’t have to be forever but till you break that habit loop of, I sit on the sofa, I turn on the TV, I eat the popcorn. ‘Cause sitting on the sofa and turning on the TV without the popcorn, is gonna be more difficult for you, you’re still gonna want that popcorn. If you could try a new routine for a while after dinner, I talk to my family and then I go up to my bedroom and I read my book for… That’s one possibility of a new routine. You can have lots of different new routines. The kids and I hang out in the play room now, we don’t hang out with the TV. Lots of new routines. And again, I’m not saying you have to give up your sofa and TV forever, switch it up a little bit and then once that habit loop is broken, you can go back to the sofa and TV if that’s what you want to do. So, set your night-time up for success. Don’t just be like, “Okay, no more night-time snacking for me.” Come up with new routines that are gonna work to keep that in place.

0:15:40.1 Kim Schlag: Alright, the next place to look to be more consistent is managing your weekends. Lots that can be said here, I’m gonna give you a couple of things. The first thing I want you to do is to really kind of take in and understand the impact weekend overeating has on slowing your weight loss. You need 80% consistency to get a really good rate of progress. To get the rate of progress I’m working on right now that I told you about, I’ve been at 90% or above consistency. 80% is a really good goal to shoot for and you can get good steady progress. 80% consistency on a weekend means this. Listen to this picture. Out of every four weeks, 28 days, you need to hit your target at least 23 of those days, okay? So, that’s only five days out of every four weeks that you can be over at all. How many weekend days are there in a month? In a weekend, if we’re only talking Saturdays and Sundays, that’s eight. That’s eight days. So, there’s more weekend days than days you could possibly be over to hit 80%. Add in Friday nights, there’s 12. There’s 12 weekend days. So, if you went over every Friday and either Saturday or Sunday, you are over or under I should say. You are under the 80% consistency you need to see a good rate of progress.

0:17:04.4 Kim Schlag: So, do you see the importance of staying on plan over the weekend? And as I said, for the rate that I’ve been getting at this two pounds, I have been over 90% consistency. 90% consistency means out of every month, every four weeks, every 28 days, you are not over your top end calories more than three days in a month. More than three days. So, that’s not even once every weekend. I want you to really let that percolate, okay? Once a person really understands the impact their weekend overeating is having on slowing their weight loss, it can do a lot to fuel that. “Okay, well, now what do I do? How do I get my weekends in order?” Here’s a couple of things you can do. The main thing you can do is planning ahead. I was just chatting with a client this week, I was coaching her through her weekend struggles. When I asked her, “Okay, what is different about the weekends?” Because she was frankly killing it on the weekdays. She thought about it and said, “It’s planning. I plan my weekdays, I plan what I’m gonna eat, how I’m gonna eat it, and then I try to wing it on the weekends.”

0:18:05.1 Kim Schlag: It’s a form of relaxing for her. It was really relaxing, that pressure that ladies, we all know it. [chuckle] What’s for dinner? What’s for dinner? Everybody always wants to know what’s for dinner. And that would ease that strictness to kinda just go with the flow, but it was keeping her stuck. Planning ahead here is actually freedom. You can make ordering a pizza in, work within your calories. You can make stuffing for a burger work within your calories. You need to plan ahead for that for the weekend, to make it fit, you will need to do that. And we’ll talk about ways to make things fit here in just a second. You, going along with that, you should always include food that you enjoy, whether it’s the weekend or whether it’s a weekday, you should be enjoying your food. Don’t eat stuff that you just tolerate.

0:18:51.5 Kim Schlag: Look, we all have to eat vegetables whether you like them or not, I will say, just tolerating your vegetables is A-okay in my book. You don’t have to love them. You should make them in as pleasant a form as possible, but if you’re just not a person who’s, “Yay, I love vegetables,” that’s okay. But otherwise, you should make your meals really tasty. They should be more than tolerable. They should include foods you love and they should include fun foods. To do that you will use nutritional compromises. In the last three weeks, I have worked in… As I’ve lost all this weight, I have worked in sweet tarts, I have worked in sugar cookies, and I’ve worked in French toast. Regular French toast, not anything like high-protein French toast, I’m talking like a white bread French toast.

0:19:32.3 Kim Schlag: I’m actually right now, I’m really in the mood, I told my kids last night, “I’m really in the mood for a big bowl of Lucky Charms.” So, I’m gonna make that happen in the next day or two. When I say nutritional compromises, here’s what I mean. You can have any food you want in a calorie deficit, you just can’t have them all at the same time. You make compromises. Take the sugar cookie I had the other day. It was one of those Target sugar cookies. Have you had those? They’re kind of puffy, they have frosting on them. I have to say I’m not a person… I don’t even like sugar cookies usually. I do not like sugar cookies, I’ve never been interested in sugar cookies. My kids, they were just crazy about those… They love those cookies and so a couple of years ago I tried one and I was like, “Oh wait. Oh wait, these are really good. So, I really like these. Wow, they’re good.” To make that fit the other day, what I did was cut the avocado out from my salad, and I made this plan the night before. We had bought the cookies for Valentine’s Day, and there were still a bunch left and so I decided I want one of those. So, what I had done is I decided to take out the avocados, so no avocado on my salad. Salad is still gonna be good, just no avocado. I reduced the amount of bananas and berries in my lunch shake and I cut out the rice cake that I was gonna have with my snack. It wasn’t so hard. It was not so hard.

0:20:46.7 Kim Schlag: I will say I originally wanted to have two cookies, but what I would have had to cut out would have made the rest of the day less satisfying than I was willing to do. I didn’t want to swap out my oatmeal bake that I love for breakfast. I could have swapped that out and had an Almond, but I didn’t wanna do that. And I didn’t… And I wasn’t about to… I can’t cut out the protein from all of my meals. I need the protein in there, right? ‘Cause I wanna sustain my muscle. So, I wasn’t going to make some more drastic changes that I would have needed to, to have two cookies. So, I decided to be satisfied with one. And that’s what I mean by nutritional compromises. And the good thing is you call all the shots, no one dictates for you what to eat and what not to eat.

0:21:31.5 Kim Schlag: You might have different things that are important to you on different days. You know on another day, I might make a completely different choice. I might think, “You know what, I want three cookies. I want three.” So you know what, I’m not gonna have my shake that I love. I’m not gonna have that and no milk. What I’m gonna do is have a veggie omelette and I have a salad for dinner, but now I’m also gonna have a salad for lunch instead of the shake, I’m gonna have the salad with a tuna, I’m gonna have the veggie omelette. Boom! I now have enough calories freed up for three cookies. That might be a choice I make another day. You always get to make these choices and that is very empowering. You get to make what compromises you want. Always keep in mind that 80/20 rule. We want 80% of your food to be healthy nourishing food, and 20% of the food can be the more fun, less nutrient-dense type foods, and also always keep in mind your total calories. I’m not talking about going over my calories with cookies, I’m talking about… These were still days I was in my calories, and I’m also not talking about slashing protein. Whatever your protein goal is, you wanna still hit that. You can make things work in those parameters.

0:22:35.3 Kim Schlag: Even though we were chatting right now about weekends, this concept that I just explained to you applies for every single day across the week, every day. Tuesday, Saturday, whenever you can make these nutritional compromises work. And the more you can make eating on a Saturday look like eating on a Tuesday, the more successful you’re gonna be. And that means on Tuesday, you can have ice cream, just like you could on a Saturday. Okay, last tip for managing weekend eating. Purposely plan non-food, fun and relaxation. If the weekend fun and relaxation is all about food, your choices quickly become abstain from fun or overindulge on food, right? Or there’s temptation to overindulge, it’s just gonna be ever present. I choose choice C, which is planning non-food fun. Have things to look forward to that aren’t food-based. Lots of ideas here, a hike, a bike ride, shopping at the mall, a cool project you’ve been trying to complete around the house, a book you’ve been wanting to curl up with, sledding with the family, a game night, volleyball in the backyard, a museum or historical site you’ve never visited, kayaking, the possibilities are endless. Really plan in non-food fun.

0:23:55.4 Kim Schlag: We want you to look forward to the weekend, we want it to feel different, right? You want that. You want that, “Ah, it’s Friday, I have something fun to look forward to,” you feel like… You don’t want it to be like this dull two days you’re getting through, and if everything or on the other hand, a very stressful event of like, “Oh my gosh, I had to wait not go through all the food events of the weekend.” So, let’s have you plan one, two, several non-food fun events into your weekend. Okay, the last piece of advice I want to give you about speeding up weight loss, of course, within the reasonable range that I gave you, is having an end date to your current deficit phase. Not one tied to an amount of weight loss, okay? As in, “I’ll take a maintenance break when I’ve lost 10 pounds,” so not like that. Or whatever number you wanna insert there.

0:24:44.1 Kim Schlag: I don’t want you to say, “I will take a break when I have lost X pounds or fit in X jeans or X number of inches, No. I want you to tie it to a date. As in, “I will take a maintenance break in X number of months or weeks.” Do you see the difference there? I personally have committed to a cut for four months. If at the end of four months I’m where I want to be, amazing, and I might be. If I’m not, I will take a few weeks or months, I will decide at the time how long I want to take, for a dedicated maintenance period so that I am mentally ready to laser-focus again. I am laser-focused on this weight loss right now, and I know that in… Now it’s three months time, almost three months, I’m three and a half weeks in, I’m gonna be having this maintenance break. That helps me to keep that focus. If it makes you nervous to think about maintenance, ’cause you’re worried about weight regain, I want you to remember, maintenance is not a surplus.

0:25:46.9 Kim Schlag: I think a lot of women have two gears. Either I’m losing weight or I’m gaining weight. I’m losing weight or I’m gaining weight. We need to find that middle space. That middle space is maintenance. The scale will always bounce around. Whether you’re in a deficit or in maintenance or in a surplus, the scale will always bounce around. It is just like that. Our bodies are made up so much of water and so many things can influence the amount of water in our bodies at any one time and that’s why the scale bounces around so much. So, even in maintenance, the scale will bounce around. It will be in the same two to five pounds range. So don’t expect the scale, once that you’re in the maintenance, it says 135, 135, 135, 135, and something’s wrong if it goes up to 137. That’s not how it looks. What you’re looking for is you want it to trend around those same pounds. So, if this person is 135, we want the trend to stay around 135. Maybe some days it’s 134. Maybe some days it’s 136, 137, 138, 132, but we want it to trend, the overall trend should be straight across. It won’t be trending upwards.

0:26:52.3 Kim Schlag: If it is trending upwards, you’re not in maintenance. You’re in a surplus. There’s no need to fear maintenance. The key to making sure you’re in maintenance and not a surplus is to still keep up your good habits. It’s not a free for all. You’re not just eating all the things. That’s not maintenance. That’s back to that toggle switch of, “I’m losing weight or I’m not.” So, keep up your good habits. Food seated and plated, protein in every meal, veggies at every meal, 80/20 rule, keep tracking your calories, so that you know how much you’re eating. This planned break helps you to focus. You know that in X weeks or in X months, fitting in meals out more frequently will be possible, getting in more drinks will be possible, or some cake will be easier. You’ll be able to do all these things more frequently, because you’ll have more calories to work with, and that helps you maintain that laser focus. Alright, ladies, I hope that this has helped. If you have any questions about this or anything else, you can always email me. You can shoot me an email at kim@kimschlagfitness.com. Hit me up with any questions about this. If you’re wondering, “Isn’t my weight loss really slow, is this normal?” Always hit me up and we’ll talk you through it. Thanks so much for being here today.

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0:28:17.6 Kim Schlag: Thank you 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.

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. Thanks so much.