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‘I don’t eat a lot ... why can’t I lose weight?’

Having trouble losing weight even though you don’t think you eat too much? Make sure you’re not mindlessly snacking, as doing so can easily add hundreds more calories to your diet.
Having trouble losing weight even though you don’t think you eat too much? Make sure you’re not mindlessly snacking, as doing so can easily add hundreds more calories to your diet. Special to The Telegraph

Among the most common complaints I hear from individuals struggling with losing excess fat is one that goes something like this:

“I don’t even eat that much. I eat maybe one or two meals a day. Why in the world can’t I lose weight?”

I understand this question, because we usually assume that when someone desires to lose weight, appetite control is the issue. Perhaps if the person simply learns to push the plate away, weight loss will be relatively effortless.

Yes, I agree that self-control of the appetite is often part of the solution. However, it isn’t always that simple.

I want to outline a few reasons that I believe individuals struggle with losing fat even when they feel they don’t eat much. Let’s start with the ‘A’ word: Adaptation.

Our bodies are masters at physiologically adapting to the environments and circumstances that they are in. It’s why bodybuilders have the bulky muscles that they have, and why swimmers are known for having broad shoulders. Our bodies adapt to whatever we do to them over time.

So if you struggle with extra fat, you can know that your current habits are the culprit. Your activity level and eating patterns are such that your physical body is the way it currently is.

Another reason for the fat loss struggle is what I will term “phantom” calories. In other words, you think you’re consuming fewer calories than you actually are.

Let’s illustrate how this can happen. Say an individual eats two meals a day. At face value, it appears that if you only eat twice a day, it would be pretty difficult to overdo it calorie-wise. But if this individual eats two very large meals, it is possible to do so, especially if the person is relatively inactive.

The other question to ask is whether the person is a snacker. Sometimes, we think only of the times that we sit down to eat a meal, while discounting the times that we visit the snack bar or get a handful of nuts. Trust me, that adds up. In today’s culture where many of us work in front of computers, it’s too easy for us to mindlessly snack while working, and you might be consuming hundreds of extra calories each day without knowing it.

The third reason people struggle with losing weight is related to the type of food they’re eating. For example, if you drink lots of sweet drinks or snack on nuts all day, you’re consuming tons of calories.

But it’s not just about the calories. Certain types of food affect your insides in such a way that you store more fat. If you have a carbohydrate-based diet filled with breads, pastries, cereals and potatoes, your blood sugar is constantly being spiked, which leads to more insulin secretion by your pancreas, and consequentially, more fat storage.

I could go further with this, but the main thing I hope you understand if you’re trying to lose weight is that there is a legitimate, and solvable, reason for your struggle. Hopefully some of what I’ve described helps you pinpoint your reason.

Peach County resident Shawn McClendon is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and owner of the health/fitness blog YourHealthAtTheCrossroads.com. Contact him at shawn@yourhealthatthecrossroads.com.

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