Why Your Diet is Holding Back Your Weight Loss Meal Plan
Weight loss is a tricky balance, which often follows a similar path for many people: begin your diet → start to see results → weight loss stalls.
What went wrong? You have kept up your healthy eating habits and have been participating in your normal physical activity schedule, yet you hit a plateau with your weight loss.
You are not alone in the phenomenon, and this halt in weight loss is a common occurrence in people who are actively trying to lose weight. There are a few known reasons as to why people hit a weight loss plateau, and one of them involves diet. A weight loss meal plan will look different for every individual, and if you’ve hit a roadblock with your health goals, it may be time to take a step back and assess your current food intake. We are diving into some of the main factors to consider to get your weight loss journey back on track.
You’re Not in Caloric Deficit
One of the main factors that influences weight loss is the balance of calories you consume with how many calories you expend. Calorie expenditure can come from things like working out and walking, but it’s important to remember that generally being alive (i.e. breathing, all your internal body systems working) is a huge use of calories.
The term calorie deficit means that the amount of calories you consume is less than the amount you use. When you’re not in calorie deficit (calories in > calories out), this can put a stop to your weight loss - or even make you gain weight if you’re eating more calories that your body needs.
If you recently adopted a new eating pattern or started working out to lose weight, your body and metabolism will be changing - and that includes your calorie needs. The amount of calories you were eating in the beginning may not be matched to your current needs.
While calorie counting on a daily basis isn’t for everyone, it can be helpful to take a look at one day of eating, or even one meal, and see where you stand with calories. You may be surprised by how many calories you are consuming, and this may be an indicator that your current weight loss meal plan isn’t serving you the way it should.
You Don’t Have the Right Weight Loss Meal Plan for Your Needs
The type of meal plan or diet you subscribe to can have a huge impact on your weight loss and health goals. There isn’t one right answer as to which diet you should be on, or what the “best” foods to eat are. The right meal plan for weight loss is going to be individual to your needs.
How do you find the “right” meal plan? You can do a ton of research online, but ultimately we advise speaking to a professional. Your doctor or a registered dietitian is a great place to start your weight loss journey, and they will be able to guide you to the correct meal plan for weight loss. Once you have these resources, a meal planning service can be a valuable asset to help you stay on track. Try our quick quiz to find out what your customized meal plan could look like.
You’re Consuming Healthy, Yet High-Calorie Foods
It sounds counterintuitive, but consuming certain health foods may be undoinging your weight loss meal plan. Many nutrient-dense foods are actually loaded with calories; and even though they are “healthy,” they can still contribute to weight gain.
If you’ve hit a roadblock in your weight loss, it might be helpful to assess your diet for certain high-calorie health foods. Here are some common ones:
- Nuts and seeds, including nut butters and chia seeds
- Smoothies and juices
- Protein powder
- Healthy fats, like coconut and olive oil
- Dark chocolate
- Red wine
- Dried fruits, including raisins and dates
- Granola, including varieties with no added sugar
Don’t fret - we are not suggesting you remove these foods! They provide a host of essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that contribute to overall health. Instead, look at the quantities you are consuming them in. When trying to lose weight, moderation is key, so be conscious of portion size when you’re consuming these higher calorie foods.
You’re Consuming Hidden Calories
The food we eat is not always as simple as it should be. Specifically, when it comes to highly-processed foods like sauces, beverages, and even bread, there can be many ingredients you would never expect to be in there - like added sugar! When we refer to “hidden calories,” we’re talking about foods that may not register as contributing to your overall caloric intake, but still contribute a significant amount.
Here is a list of common food items that contain a surprising amount of additional calories:
- Pasta sauce: Additional calories come from added sugar
- Salad dressing: Many store-bought dressings contain oil and added sugar
- Bread: Almost all commercially produced bread in the U.S. contains added sugars or syrups
- Beverages: Sodas, juices, lattes, and even kombucha can be loaded with added sugar. Check out these easy swaps to drink better!
- Alcohol: Beer, wine, and liquor are all calorie-dense, as the chemical compound for alcohol contains nine calories per gram
To avoid consuming too much energy-dense food, always check the ingredients list and nutrition facts panel, and be mindful of portions. Preparing food at home will also reduce your intake of unnecessary ingredients that may be present in store-bought equivalents (e.g. added sugars).
You Eat Well During the Week and Splurge on the Weekends
The term “cheat day” is often thrown around when people are on a diet, and while it’s fine to have a day off from your usual weight loss meal plan, the extent of the “cheat” may be setting you back on your health goals.
So how much can you splurge, and will this affect your weight loss goals? Unfortunately, it’s not a simple answer and it will be dependent on your body and metabolism. A general rule of thumb with weight loss is calories in should be less than calories out (remember the calorie deficit we discussed above). So, if you’re planning on having a cheat day, feel free to mix up the foods you consume but try and keep it within your usual energy consumption.
Planning your meals - including cheat days - in advance can help you stay on track with your weight loss meal plan. A custom meal planning service that lets you schedule your meals and takes into account personal plans like cheat days, events with friends, and travel can be a great investment to help you stay on track.
Your journey to better health and weight loss is going to be unlike anyone else’s, because the reality is: there’s only one you. Everyone's body reacts differently, and while weight loss meal plans may work seamlessly for some, it is normal to hit a few challenges along the way.
Throughout the process it can be useful to check-in with yourself and assess how you are feeling and how you are tracking toward your goals. If you need help, reach out to a health professional like a registered dietitian who will be able to identify where you may be going wrong. For the ups and downs of everyday life, a meal planning service can be a useful tool to help you eat according to your dietary requirements and take the work out of ideating healthy, better-for-you meals.