Why is it so Hard to Lose Weight? (Even When You're Overly Determined)
Let’s start with a simple question — why is it so hard to lose weight?
Millions of people make resolutions to lose weight — resolutions that usually fizzle around the new year.
And some of you reading this have already started Googling around for a weight loss program, figuring that any problem is easier to solve if you throw some money at it.
But as any other serious person who wants to lose weight, you probably have a low tolerance for BS. So one thing you’ll find out, for instance, most weight loss programs have a failure rate of 97% over the long term.
And one question brings everything into perspective:
Why does weight loss appear impossible — even when the world’s spending a fortune trying to get lean?
Reason #1: Nearly Everyone Assumes the Basics and Focus on Miniature
It is not because the whole population is lazy.
It is not because people don’t have enough money to eat healthy, either.
And it is not because the eat-less-and-burn-more-calories approach has a problem, no.
It is because nearly everyone assumes the basics and focus on miniatures. And every person in the weight loss world is giving you incomplete information.
You can’t even get a straightforward answer to basic questions like:
- Should you go to the trouble of joining a formal weight loss program or start one yourself?
- Which weight loss approach works–for nearly everyone? What should you start with?
- What are the medical conditions that make weight loss so hard?
It is infuriating, but listen:
When it comes to weight loss, 99.99% of people should know only one thing:
Eat less and move more. Only elite athletes need to do more.
But instead of accepting these simple truths and work on them, people love to focus on miniatures. You’ll hear:
“Don’t eat before you go to bed because fat doesn’t burn efficiently when you‘re sleeping.”
“If you eat mostly protein, you can lose lots of weight quickly.”
“Eating grapefruit in the morning speeds up your metabolism.”
Maybe, they’re correct, or they’re not. But that’s isn’t the point. The point is people love to debate miniature. Then they end up confused, and weight loss starts to feel like swimming upstream.
The Painful Truth About Going from Fat to Thin
And let’s get this straight:
The number of people who go from fat to thin and stay there statistically round down to zero.
Every study says so. No study says otherwise. None.
None here means that 5+ years of weight loss are obscenely rare that they don’t appear in the chart. Studies can’t even find enough of such people to put in their research.
But that guy or girl exists. We all know the famous examples. However, it is a rare freak situation.
And no matter what. No matter your approach. No matter where you come from. One thing is for certain:
Weight loss is a caloric deficit.
Unless you have a genetic disorder, ovarian cyst, thyroid problem, or any other medical-induced weight gain, you can’t fight the math. If you burn more calories than you eat, there’s no way you can be fat.
But you know what the big problem is?
Most people assume this simple fact, so they spend months or even years following a pathway with zero chance of succeeding in the long term. Eventually, they give up or start over, but, again, they invest months or even years following weight-loss strategies that don`t work.
It is not because they are dumb. It is not because they are lazy.
It is because they overlook the basics.
It isn’t about being a calories-counting nerd (though it isn’t wrong). Instead, it is about taking the calories knowledge with you in every food you take.
It means you won’t exercise yourself to death only to undo your hard work by going for a sandwich that hides 500+ calories under the healthy-claiming package.
It means you won’t spend the rest of your life on an extreme diet that deprives you of essential nutrients and hard to maintain.
And more importantly, it means learning to get into the habit of tracking calories in and calories out to help you consciously think of the consequences of your decisions, instead of making imaginary bargains every time you want a snack or want to make excuses about exercising.
Is any of this easy? Simple? Fast?
Hell no. Building a body that radiates power and vitality can be the most difficult thing you‘ll ever do in your life.
But it is doable — not through sheer luck or genius way, but by learning to condition your mind in a way few people do.
And this begs the second reason why many people struggle with weight loss.
Reason #2: Forgetting that Weight loss is Energy Deficit
Most people say calorie counting doesn’t work.
Weight loss is a caloric deficit.
The only problem, though?
It takes a lot of will power to write and sustain the correct deficit. But if you want to lose weight consistently, it is a high time you draft one.
For that reason, we’re going to break down the concept of the calorie to the core.
A Calorie is a unit of energy.
1 pound of fat = 3500 calories
To lose 1 pound of fat, you have to build a caloric deficit of 3500.
And dieting and exercising are the only ways to create a calorie deficit.
So this begs the question:
How much calories do you need?
What's Your Daily Caloric Need?
The number of calories you need depends on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). And that’s what we’re going to calculate right now.
So, dust off your calculator, pull out your pen, and let’s stamp out the guesswork in determining the number of calories you require.
And if calculation gets your adrenaline pumping, click here to generate your numbers automatically. Then skip to the how-to-create-sustainable-caloric-deficit part. I’ll be waiting for you.
On the flip side, if you’d prefer to generate your numbers manually, let’s start right away.
We’ll use the Harris Benedict’s Equation, which has two parts:
- The first part determines the number of calories you burn daily to support your body weight and sustain your body function when doing nothing all day–your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
- And the second part determines the energy you use in your daily activity.
The BMR Equation
Men, here’s your equation to complete:
Your BMR = 66.5 +(13.5 × Weight in Kgs) + (5.003 × height in cm) – (6.755 × age in years)
Women, here’s your equation:
Your BMR = 65.51 + (9.563 × Weight in Kgs ) + (1.850 × Height in cm) – (4.64 × Age in Years )
That’s it. Now you know your BMR. Let’s calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) based on your daily activity.
The Total Daily Energy Expenditure Equation
Your estimate Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is:
BMR × 1.2 (if you’re Sedentary/ do no exercise/ do desk job)
BMR × 1.375 (If you do a Light activity/ light exercise/ sports 1-3 time a week )
BMR × 1.55 ( If you do Moderate activity, or Sports 6-7 times a week)
BMR × 1.725 (If you’re very active–do hard exercise every day/ exercise 2 times a day.)
BMR × 2.25 If you’re Extra Active (Hard exercise 2 times a day or practice for a marathon or triathlon
How to Create a Sustainable Caloric Deficit
Now that you know the amount of energy to support your life and daily activities, you’ll need to create a sustainable caloric deficit that gets you a consistent weight loss.
When starting, maintain a below-20% calories deficit.
The truth, however, is:
Many people ignore maintaining a sustainable calorie deficit and create a bigger and not-easy-to-maintain deficit. Then their approach flops, and they start to think weight loss is unattainable.
It is a pitfall. And to avoid it, start it small. For instance, if your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) = 2500 calories, the best deficit would be:
80% of 2500 calories = 2000 calories
Reason #3: Looking For a Silver-Bullet Diet for Weight loss
Diet is like a cheat code for weight loss. Select it properly, and you can transform a dull, lifeless way of life into a body that generates power and vitality.
What’s surprising though:
There is no silver-bullet diet to lose weight.
But some foods are super calories-dense that you eat them, you immediately start to get fat. On the flip side, there are lean and nutritious dishes.
To lose weight, you have to consume fewer calories than you spend — and that goes beyond eating less.
It is more about changing the diet to eat more healthily instead of just eating less. It is more about identifying the useless calories you’re eating and adjusting to the correct substitutes.
And that’s not easy by no means.
But don’t get fooled, going on diet is the foolhardy measure to lose weight. So you’d want the right approach to diet.
Split Your Diet Across Macro Nutrients
Restricting calorie intake is only one piece of the puzzle.
To solve the other piece of the puzzle, you’d need to split your calories across the macronutrients:
- And fats
1 gram carbohydrate = 4 calories
1 gram protein = 4 calories
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
But here is a follow-up question:
If one gram of protein and carbohydrates have the same calories, why is protein better in weight loss?
The answer is simple.
Your body burns about 20%-30% of calories in protein during digestion, thus, for every gram, you’ll have an average of 3 calories.
And all in all, you need all the three macronutrients for proper functionality.
- Protein — to promotes muscle repair, recovery, and growth. But more importantly, protein fires up the consumption of energy and increases satiety.
- Carbohydrate — to fuel you during your exercise and replenishes your muscle glycogen. What’s more — and this is interesting — carbohydrate is the ONLY source of energy to the brain and red blood cells. A no-carb diet cannot be a solution for consistent weight loss.
- Healthy Fat — nourishes your body and support hormonal functions. But essentially, fat is crucial for brain operation and maintaining cell structure.
Reason #4: Not Understanding How Exercise Works in Weight Loss
Let’s start with a simple question:
What does exercise has got to do with weight loss?
A lot. Physical exercise is an excellent weight loss supplement. And it has two things to do with weight loss:
- It increases your cardiac output
- And it enhances muscle’s ability to extract calories and make use of nutrients from your bloodstream (boost metabolism)
And even though all exercises work when you stick to them, not all exercises are similar.
So let’s scrape a little deeper to shed more light into this.
Aerobic Exercise: The Starter Weight Loss Exercise
What's Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise is a workout you do while breathing normally — you don’t hold back your breath.
It is any type of cardiovascular conditioning — a state in which your respiratory system can supply oxygen to your body parts, and in turn, improves your skeletal muscle’s ability to utilize oxygen.
Building a powerful aerobic system is invaluable because, aerobic fitness presents maximal muscular strength. And that’s what nearly everyone gets it wrong.
Why Aerobic Exercise? (if You Want to Lose Weight)
There are plenty of reasons to start with aerobic exercises. Including:
- Aerobic exercise involves large muscles that extract significant amounts of calories from your body.
- It is a less-intense exercise, therefore, allows time for your body to extract energy from stored fats in your body. For that reason, you’ll lose weight in the form of fats and not muscles.
- Training your aerobic system boosts the number of mitochondria cells in your muscles in response to the increased demand for energy by your muscle cells. In turn, your large muscles will start to vascularize to ensure an efficient supply of oxygen and nutrient.
- What’s more, you can do aerobic exercise for long without getting fatigued quickly
Anaerobic Exercise: How to lose Weight Even When At Rest
On the other end of workout, there is anaerobic exercise.
It is a workout you do past your normal breathing rhythm because it is pretty intense.
But there is one catch.
Anaerobic exercise isn’t for anyone starting a weight loss journey.
Why Anaerobic Exercise is Unsuitable for Beginners
- First, anaerobic workouts engage small muscle, meaning the calories it burns during the exercise is very little to encourage people to keep going. (But when you fully develop, anaerobic workouts burn calories even when not exercising. We‘ll talk about that in a few minutes.)
- Secondly, the exercise’s primary source of energy is the contracting muscle. Meaning you`ll not be burning calories from stored fats — you’ll not lose weight in the form of fat loss.
- What’s more, the exercise is pretty intense for a beginner, and you can`t do it for long. Many people get fatigued even before burning a considerable amount of calories.
That’s why you’ll hear a person saying, “I’ve been going to the gym, but I haven’t lost a pound.”
Here is what usually happens:
At the gym, most people exercise in an anaerobic state. They quickly get tired and go eating, thinking that they’ve burnt a considerable amount of calories.
In the real sense, they just got fatigued but burnt a few calories. So they end up with small or no-calorie deficit to allow them to lose weight.
There is a smart way to go about exercising for weight loss.
Start exclusively with aerobic exercise (preferably the one you enjoy) to build a stable aerobic capacity.
Then add several anaerobic workouts later.
It frustrates seeing people working their ass off, sweating like a fish out of water, thinking that their undeniable hard effort will promote weight loss.
It is sad to see people performing at high intensity for prolonged durations, without realizing they are risking to inevitably lose their ability to burn fat as a primary fuel source. The human body can’t breakdown and convert stored fat to energy quickly enough to support the activity intensity above 70% maximum heart rate.
Fortunately, you now know. You know how to reward yourself with a consistent weight loss from exercise.
Bonus Way to Lose Weight
Bonus 1: Boost Your NEAT
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is anything that increases your energy expenditure (burn more calories) but isn’t exercise in particular.
For example, playing with your kids, carrying a shopping bag rather than a trolley, dancing to music rather than listening passively, taking stairs rather than lifts, and walking to your work can boost your energy expenditure. Changing your daily habit so that you move more or force your body to work a little harder subconsciously increase your body energy expenditure and thus promote a more significant calorie deficit.
And it is easy to think that these activities can’t bring any difference.
But even if your NEAT only increase the calorie deficit with 50-100 calories a day, that is still 350 -700 calories a week and brings you closer to your desired body weight.
It is the small daily habit that adds up, saving you the need for weight loss worry.
Why Is It So Hard to Lose Weight — In Summary
Money, time, current responsibility, past commitment — there are a gazillion obstacles standing in your way. The idea of dealing with all those things, of overcoming them, of finally getting into a position where you can get into a body shape that you always dream about — it seems nearly impossible. Not as distant as stars, perhaps, but it would certainly be like walking on the moon.
The good news?
While overcoming obstacles isn’t easy, it is possible.
But you have to take that first, scary step and open your eyes to a world where weight loss is possible.
And then you’ll realize you have everything — and I mean everything — you need to shred those extra fats off.
Right freaking now.
Now it is Your Turn
Now I’d like to turn it over to you.
Why is weight loss so hard from your perspective?
As a Chemical Analyst and a Health Content Writer, Oketch Joe uses both his academic and professional knowledge to break the scientific concepts into easy-to-read content to help people understand how they relate with their bodies.