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Why aren’t the scales moving?

It’s frustrating when you’re doing all you can and the scales refuse to budge. There are lots of factors that contribute to this, so let's consider some of them.


Are you being entirely honest with yourself?  

On occasion, you’ll eat things and not register it. It happens to us all: a couple of biscuits at work or a handful of nuts at your desk. Other times, you’ll fudge the numbers or make inaccurate guesses. These things happen, but if they happen too often, you’ll end up eating hundreds more calories than you might realise.

How can I see the true picture?  

Plan and track. Plan your menu, daily or weekly, so you know you’re getting a variety of nutrients from different food groups. This also helps you look forward to eating. Logging your food can help to stop you forgetting anything and help you make choices as you go about your day.  

Track everything, even the extras

Little extras, like the milk in your morning coffee, the ketchup with your scrambled egg, all contain calories. Take a look at the following extras of an average day that might seem too insignificant to log:   

  • 4 x cups milky tea with 100ml semi-skimmed milk in each = 200cals  
  • 1 x tablespoon almonds with breakfast = 50cals  
  • 1 x portion ketchup with lunch = 19cals  
  • 1 x tablespoon olive oil to cook dinner = 118cals  
  • 1 x tablespoon Caesar dressing = 80cals  

Total 467cals  

It’s easy to see how it can add up. Do similar over a week and that can total over 3000cals, the same amount as ¾ lb fat.  

Binge eating   

And not necessarily junk food either. Many famous eating plans have promoted the concept of ‘free’ foods, advising you can eat them freely. This isn’t helpful when ‘free’ foods aren’t calorie free. To avoid bingeing on food of any type: 

  • Become aware of the calorific value of foods you’re eating and the recommended portion sizes too  
  • Plan and schedule foods into your menu to avoid bingeing  
  • Eat regularly to keep blood sugar (glucose) levels steady and stop you getting ravenously hungry.  

Eating out a lot  

Having a night off from the kitchen is a treat we all enjoy. But when you’re not in charge of the preparation or cooking of your food, it can become difficult to keep track of calories, especially if you do it a lot.

Top tips:   

  • Try to avoid oily, creamy or deep-fried options  
  • Ask for dressing on the side and add a little to taste  
  • Choose lean proteins, wholegrains and plenty of veg/salad   

You’re drinking calories too  

Carbonated soft drinks, flavoured water, energy drinks, hot chocolate, smoothies. They all contain significant calories that are easily forgotten. Read product labels and opt for sugar-free versions when you can. Alternatively, stick to water and indulge in the odd sugar laden drink and log it.  

Drinking too much alcohol  

By law, alcoholic drinks don’t have to include nutritional information on their labels. Added to that, we often consume alcohol at pubs and bars and have no clue what calories our drinks contain.  

The Royal Society for Public Health states that 80% of people either don’t know or vastly underestimate the number of calories in a glass of wine, with 60% also not able to accurately guess the number of calories in a pint of lager either.   

We can help ourselves by using Drinkaware’s unit and calorie calculator to understand and plan our alcohol consumption. Lower-calorie alcoholic beverages include spirits with diet mixers. Alternating alcoholic drinks with diet soft drinks or water will also help to cut calories.  

Unrealistic expectations   

What losing 1lb of fat looks and feels like to one person will be different to another. If you’ve lots to lose, it’s common to shift a fair few pounds in the first few weeks and then weight loss will slow.  

The scales are a great tool to see weight loss, but our weight can be affected by a variety of factors such as menstruating. Whether or not the scales are budging, it’s a good idea to have other ways of checking in with your goals.  

Don’t forget, if you’re exercising too, your body composition will be changing. Muscle is dense and takes up less space than fat but it’s heavy. This may mean the scales break even, even though you’ve lost body fat. As well as the scales, try this: 

  • Progress pictures. We get it, it’s not a very comfortable thing having your picture taken in your underwear or swimwear. But you don’t have to show your pictures to anyone if you don’t want to, and they’re a great visual aid to keep you motivated.  
  • Clothing. Non-stretch, tailored pieces work well as do shirts and blouses. Maybe pick an item you want to get into and watch as it gets easier week by week, or keep trying on an item you wore regularly and enjoy feeling it getting too loose.  

No matter whether you’ve started for the first or tenth time, be proud that you’re making changes for your health. You’ll reap the rewards over time, so be patient and stick with it.  

Weight loss requires a long-term commitment. Sometimes life can derail your intentions, accept it then get back on track. You’re in this for the long game and if you keep chipping away, you’ll get to your goal in a timeframe that’s right for you. 

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