"I eat pretty clean" or "I eat pretty healthy."
The famous words that follow my questions regarding people's eating habits at Elevate St. Pete.
Our trainers take your nutrition very seriously so we talk about it, a lot.
During your goal setting session, we discovered that you are sitting over 35% body fat and are lacking adequate muscle mass.
So you're thinking to yourself "What the heck!? I eat pretty well. I eat healthy foods. My diet isn't THAT bad. What gives?"
It's not your fault... you probably just don't know! So let's get straight to it.
The 4 most common reasons you're not losing weight or hitting your goals, despite you eating clean or eating healthy.
1 - "Eating Clean" or "Eating Healthy" is subjective - it means different things to different people. There is no real definition.
2 - You're not tracking your calories.
3 - You're over-estimating your activity level and the calories you burn in a day.
4 - You're not measuring accurately.
Let's look at these 4 reasons in a little more detail - there are other factors that contribute to your success (or lack there of) but we will focus on these common ones.
"Eating Clean" or "Eating Healthy" is subjective.
These labels are left to interpretation of the user. How do you qualify a food as healthy or clean? And why?
Our bodies all process food and nutrients differently. So eating a banana can be perfectly healthy for one person and be extremely detrimental for someone who has a fructose allergy... Get my point?
Does low fat mean a food is healthy? Does high fat mean healthy? What about low carb? High carb? Will eggs kill you?
What about Keto - is it inflammatory or anti-inflammatory? Because I can show you studies that support BOTH.
What if the food has a label with more than 5 ingredients - does that make it "dirty?" Someone, somewhere determined that 5 ingredients or less made a food healthier. Why? I have no idea.
If we call a muffin a Paleo Muffin because it's made with coconut flour and coconut sugar, does that make it superior, cleaner or healthier? That depends on who you ask. Also, I'm pretty positive cavemen didn't make baked goods :)
The point is there is no definition for a healthy diet because that looks different for every BODY. The foods (and the amount of those foods) that will positively serve you can be completely different than your spouse, friend, co-worker or family member.
You're not tracking your calories.
Quantity is just as important at quality. Nutrient density is important - we want your foods to be full of essential vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. But eating the right amount (aka calories) of food for your needs is vital to your success.
You can over and under-eat high quality foods.
The amount of calories you consume will be the NUMBER ONE factor when it comes to losing or gaining weight. Period.
Calories COUNT - regardless if you count them ;) So if you want to see a change on the scale, a change in body fat and muscle mass - you have to manage your calories.
Low carb and Keto diets are successful for people because they control calories by removing an entire macronutrient group (carbs)
Low fat diets are successful for people because they control calories by removing an entire macronutrient group (fats)
Paleo diets are successful for people because they control calories by focusing on nutrient-dense, satiating foods.
Intermittent fasting diets are successful for people because they control calories by reducing the amount of time you get to eat.
You're over-estimating your activity level and the calories you burn in a day.
When determining how many calories you should consume each day to lose weight, your activity level (exercise activity and non-exercise activity) plays a huge factor into this number.
Most people over-estimate their activity level.
They're making assumptions about their exercise frequency - some weeks they exercise once or twice per week, some weeks they exercise 5 times per week. But they calculated their calorie needs based on them exercising 5 times per week. It's very inconsistent and they fail to make the food adjustments accordingly.
They're making assumptions about their non-exercise activity level. Much like the "I eat pretty healthy" statement, most people say "I'm pretty active." Yet they sit at their desk all day but for a few breaks to the bathroom and lunch. They sit in their car on their commutes... and then they walk their dog for 1/2 of a mile. This is very sedentary. I would argue that your non-exercise activity level has a greater influence on your calorie needs than your exercise (for general population, not athletes).
Calorie trackers through FitBits, Whoops, Garmins, etc are very inaccurate. The technology we have as wearables are pretty accurate for tracking heart rate but they are still very erroneous when it comes to calories burned - anywhere between 25%-90% off!!! That's a huge problem if you're using that data to determine how much food you need eat. Metabolisms (the amount of calories you burn) are very unique to the individual and is far to complex for your wearable or treadmill to calculate.
You're not measuring accurately.
Let's say we have determined the correct amount of calories you need to consume to reach your goal. The application of that calorie goal can be tricky.
People are not great at accurately (and consistently!) tracking everything they consume in a day.
A few extra bites here, your child's leftover chicken tender, some extra oil to cook with, eyeballing this, estimating that, forgetting to track the drinks you consume, the sauces and condiments you add to your food, etc.
I have had many conversations with women like this "I've been eating about 1,000 calories per day for months and I'm not losing weight." In my mind, I know this is highly unlikely to eat that little of food and to not lose any weight. They're simply unaware of the extra calories they're consuming.
Unless you're being fed by a metabolic lab where all variables are controlled, you're probably eating more than you think. This is not an intentional lie or exaggeration - most people don't track their intake as precisely as they claim. It's a skill you can learn with the help of a coach.
One of the best pieces of advice and tools I can recommend you use right away is to journal and document for at least a week.
I recommend writing down every single thing you eat & drink, your sleep, your steps, your bodyweight each morning after you go to the bathroom, your stress levels, your exercise, how these things differ on weekdays to weekends, etc.
These are some (not all) of the factors we consider when guiding people on their nutrition and eating habits.
Everyone's needs are different - we all have different goals, metabolisms, body composition, activity levels, exercise routines, lifestyles, schedules, stressors, diet history, food sensitivities, hormones and much more.
Don't get overwhelmed with trying to figure all of this out on your own. We can help! Transformation is what we do best at Elevate.
Take advantage of our free consult so we can discuss your struggles and get you on the right path. We'll make this the last program you'll ever have to start.
-Nicole Race, Owner