What To Do If Your Fat Loss Stalls

Note: If you have not read last week's article, I highly recommend doing so before moving forward. I talked about how to determine if your fat loss has actually stalled and I will be elaborating further on a couple of my points from last week.

Eliminating "False" Stalls

Fat Loss And Muscle Gain

If you've started lifting weights within the last year, you will be gaining muscle. In extreme cases, the scale weight may even go up while you are dieting. Take waist measurements around the navel weekly on the same day and same time of day. As long as your waist measurements are going down, you are losing fat.


If you're noticing that your weight on the scale goes up and down a lot, my first recommendation (assuming you're already tracking your intake) would be to track your sodium for a few days. When you consume a lot of sodium, larger-than-normal amounts of sodium (and water) enter your cells. It takes time for your cells to pump the excess out and return back to normal.

While this excess sodium and water are in your cells, you'll appear puffier and the scale may go up. Restaurant food, canned food, and deli meat are all packed with sodium. Pick a sodium intake target, stick to it, and your fluctuations should be greatly reduced.

Cortisol, Leptin, and Refeeding

Last week I explained, as we diet for long periods of time, our cortisol (a stress hormone) levels go up, which leads to water retention. Try having a refeed day (a day where you have a set amount more Calories than your normal dieting day). A 20% Calorie increase, with those Calories coming primarily from carbs is a good rule of thumb. When having a refeed day, I also recommend including a food you normally aren't able to fit into your Calories.

The reason I choose carbs is that a chunk of those carbs will be stored in the muscle as glycogen (fuel). If you have them come from fat, any excess Calories will be stored as body fat. If Cortisol is the culprit, it is likely you will drop some water weight and wake up lighter the next morning. 

Refeeding also affects a hormone named Leptin. Leptin is a hormone that plays a large role in hunger levels, metabolic rate, and other important bodily functions. Refeeds can help delay metabolic adaption (your body slowing down your metabolism so you don't starve to death). While the research on refeeds and leptin is still somewhat lacking[1], it seems that refeeding for the purpose of maintaining metabolism doesn't become super important until you are at around 10% body fat for men and 15% for women.

Dealing With Actual Stalls

Are You Actually In A Deficit?

You've done the math, planned out your diet, and you're in a 500 Calorie daily deficit... on paper at least. You should be losing 1 pound/week but the scale isn't moving. What's the deal? If this is the case, there's a good chance you aren't tracking correctly. From my experience, here are a few ways to end up with Calories that you didn't account for. 


If you're not actually tracking, you have no way of knowing how many Calories you're consuming. As it turns out, most people are actually pretty bad at estimating their intake. One study stated that on average, the group under-reported their Calorie intake by an average of 47%. [2] Just so you can wrap your head around this, if you estimate that you are eating 2000 Calories, you're probably actually eating closer to 2940 Calories.

As a side note, don't assume just because you are eating "clean" foods, you're automatically going to lose weight. Food selection has very little to do with weight loss. In fact, Mark Haub, professor of human nutrition at Kansas State, followed a diet consisting of Little Debbie snack cakes, chips, and protein shakes for two months and lost 27 Pounds! You may think that his health must have suffered during the process but this was not the case. His LDL and triglycerides decreased and his HDL increased. [3]

Weekend Binging 

This falls under the category of guessing but deserves its own section. Many people think the weekends aren't enough to set them back on their diet, but they most certainly can and often completely nullify people's dieting efforts from earlier in the week. In a previous article, I talked about how a night out with your friends can easily add up to thousands of extra Calories.

Let's say Monday-Friday, you build up a deficit of 2500 Calories, then you go out with your friends and/or family on Saturday night and consume 3000 extra Calories that day. In one night, you've not only completely canceled out your diet progress for the week, you've actually set yourself back further than when you started the week.

Eating Out Too Often

I've already mentioned eating out in regards to possible water retention, but this should be an even bigger concern.  When eating out, the chef isn't measuring his ingredients for you. That's not his job. He only cares about getting you the tastiest meal possible so you come back and buy more food. If he uses an extra couple tablespoons of oil when cooking your food, boom 240 extra Calories that weren't listed on the menu, erasing half of the 500 Calorie deficit you think you're in.

I'm not saying you can't eat out. I am saying you shouldn't eat out often. (This will also save you a bunch of money. You're welcome.) When you do eat out, add a 25% buffer to the Calories listed on the menu. Example: If the Menu says 500 Calories, you log 625 (500*1.25).

Bite Stealing

If you go into the kitchen and take just one bite of cake, peanut butter, ice cream, etc., those Calories still count. This may not seem like a big deal but it can add up to several hundred Calories you aren't accounting for. 


The best and easiest thing you can possibly do for tracking is to decide what you are going to eat for the day and track it beforehand. There are several benefits to this. You don't have to worry about what you want to eat because you've already decided, which can be a big time saver. It's a lot easier to stick to the plan when you actually have a plan.

Here's the main one for the purposes of this discussion. Remember when I said on average people underestimate the Calories they eat by 47%? A large portion of that was from people forgetting to report foods they ate earlier in the day. Log what you eat before, or as soon as, you eat.

Bad Measuring

Let's say you eat a cup of oats. One cup of Bob's Red Mill oats contains 380 Calories. You stick your measuring cup down into the bag and scoop out one cup, cupping your hand over top to hold all the oats in as you drag the cup up the side of the bag. You've just packed the cup, which is mistake #1. You then notice you've rounded the cup a bit but "it's fine". That's mistake #2. You log that you had 380 Calories, which you can probably tell by this point, is very far from the truth.

When measuring solid foods, the volume measurement on the back of the label is an estimate based on the weight measurement that is next to it in parentheses. When you eat a cup of oats, the label assumes your cup contains 96g of oats, but because of the two mistakes above, your cup actually contains 144g. This means instead of eating 380 Calories, you ate 570, which is 190 Calories you didn't account for.

If you've gone through this list and are positive you are tracking correctly, I have some strategies that I will share with you next week so make sure to put in your email below to become a Treadaway Training Insider and get notifications each time I post a new blog entry or video!

Thank you so much for reading. If you liked this article, please share it with your friends on Facebook. It helps us out more than you know. As always, God bless you AND your family and I'll see you next week!

[1] Pratly, R.E., Nicolson, M., Bogardus, C, Ravussin, E. (1997) Plasma leptin responses to fasting in Pima Indians., American Journal of Physiology, 273(3 Pt 1):E644-9. PubMed PMID: 
[2] Lichtman, S.W., Pisarska, K., Berman, E.R., ... Heymsfield, S.B. (1992) Discrepancy between Self-Reported and Actual Caloric Intake and Exercise in Obese Subjects, The New England Journal of Medicine, 327, 1893-1898 DOI: 10.1056/NEJM199212313272701