Here’s the scenario: you’ve been soooo good. You haven’t cheated on your diet, you’ve been exercising your tail off, you’re consistently logging all your meals in MyFitnessPal, and you even turned down your favorite dessert at dinner last night. You expected to drop at least a few pounds since the last time you stepped on the scale, but… The numbers haven’t budged. What gives?
If this annoying story line sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone. We’ve uncovered the top 5 sneaky reasons that could explain why you’re simply not hitting your goal weight.
You’re not counting “extras” A dish usually isn’t served plain or alone. Normally, it’s served with dressings, sauces or dips that you need to take into account—not to mention how it was cooked, which Jackie London, M.S., R.D.N, says is most overlooked. “You have to consider cooking methods when logging food,” says London. “Was your entree sauteed in butter? Is there cream in the sauce that you just entered into MyFitnessPal as ‘tomato sauce’?” It’s important to be as specific as possible. Don’t skip over the dressing on your salad, or forget that your chicken is covered in creamy alfredo. “Those calories add up,” says London. “And interestingly, it tends to be these higher calorie or more calorie dense items that are often overlooked.”
You’re misjudging portion sizes Remember if you’re eating lean meat, one serving is about the size of a deck of cards. If you’re eating a sushi roll, the calories are likely for a six-piece serving, not eight or ten. Make sure you’re aware of just how much you’re taking in. “This is easier, of course, when you’re preparing meals at home and can measure everything out,” London says. Try cutting back the number of meals you’re eating out or immediately box up half of your restaurant meal for the next day.
You’re not logging foods right away Logging your meal after you eat it eliminates the attention to detail. You might forget to add the cheese you had on your salad, or that small side roll that came with it. “Accuracy is what makes a food journal work,” London says. “By not writing it down while it’s happening, you lose the accountability factor, which makes your goal harder to achieve.” Logging your dinner before you eat it might help you notice that the cookie from earlier actually pushed you over your calorie target for the day, so you’ll be less inclined to reach for a second helping.
You’re not counting the liquid calories If you’re quenching thirst during the day while on the go, or sipping mindlessly as an accompaniment to your meal, you may not be counting all those liquid calories. And there’s a laundry list of culprits: “Coffee beverages, wine, beer, cocktails, juices, sports drinks, et cetera, et cetera,” London says, noting how easy they are to forget. “Just because you can’t remember it, doesn’t mean you didn’t drink it.” As soon as you do, log it!
You’re overestimating your activity level To figure out the number of calories you should be consuming daily, you need to determine how many calories your body is going to burn in 24 hours. MyFitnessPal will calculate this for you using your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), but you still have to appropriately choose your activity level—something most casual exercisers tend to get wrong. “We often perceive our intensity as being much more difficult than what it actually takes to create a calorie-deficit for the day,” London says. If you’re not losing the weight you want, you may have incorrectly guessed your activity level. You may not be up and about during the day as much as you thought, or your workouts aren’t as high-intensity as you assume. Try recalibrating your activity level in MyFitnessPal: on the web, go into settings and select “Update diet/fitness profile;” and in the app, select “Goals” from the main menu.
Confession time: Are you guilty of these little logging slip ups? How do you keep yourself on track?
Jenna Birch is a health and lifestyle writer. She has written for many web and print publications, including Marie Claire, Runner’s World, mom.me and WomansDay.com. As a nutrition and fitness junkie, she’s a lifelong athlete, major college sports fan and developing yogi—but still can’t resist the allure of an occasional chocolate lava cake. (Everything in moderation, right?) For more, visit her at jennabirch.com or follow her on Twitter.