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I Eat Less Calories, Why Don't I Lose Weight?

By Barrett Barlowe ; Updated July 18, 2017

Losing weight is not easy. You typically gain weight slowly over time, but losing it slowly is frustrating. When all you want to do is get rid of the excess and get on with your life, each day dieting takes its toll on your self-esteem and will power. Setting reasonable and achievable goals helps yiou to avoid getting discouraged when you fail to live up to unrealistic expectations, the Mayo Clinic advises.

Calories and Weight

Calories are a measure of energy provided by food. Many different theories about weight loss and foods that speed weight loss exist, but no one type of food or product alone causes lasting and safe weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, when you ingest more calories in food than you burn off in a day over time, you gain weight. When you burn off more calories than the calories you eat in a day, you lose weight over time.


You might think that you reduced calorie intake, but you might miscalculate the number of calories you actually eat every day. Breaking down all the foods you eat and writing down everything on a list forces you to be honest with yourself. At the end of the day, when you realize that the extra soda or bag of peanuts you ate took you over your calorie limit for the day, you know what to avoid the next day. The Mayo Clinic features lists of low calorie foods that help to fill you up and keep you satisfied, and the American Heart Association website has weight control menu suggestions.

Radical Calorie Reduction

According to the Mayo Clinic, when you reduce calorie intake too severely, your body shuts its metabolism down in reaction to a perceived threat. You reduce calorie intake dramatically thinking that eating much less speeds weight loss, but ironically, low calorie diets sometimes stall weight loss altogether. Keeping metabolism humming along is important to keep weight loss on a steady pace. Apart from derailing diets, so-called starvation diets force the body to turn to lean muscle mass for energy. You end up metabolizing or converting muscle in the absence of adequate food supply. Lower muscle mass further lowers metabolism and the unhealthy cycle continues.

Exercise and Dieting

Exercise helps to keep your metabolism levels up while you diet. Weight lifting or weight bearing exercise in particular helps to build up your lean muscle mass. Muscle mass needs more calories to sustain it, so your metabolism increases accordingly. You do not need to cut back calories radically to succeed in dieting. Figure out roughly how many calories you need in a day by visiting online sites such as the Mayo Clinic or the MyPyramid sites and checking out their daily calorie needs calculators. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Mayo Clinic recommend cutting no more than 500 calories off the number of calories you need to sustain a particular weight. That adds up to a 3,500 calories per week deficit, or the equivalent of one lb of weight lost.


Ask a health specialist about any sudden weight loss or weight gain. Also check with a doctor before starting on a diet if you have any existing health conditions or concerns. You might not lose weight in the first few weeks of a diet, so try to be patient. Usually, if you make sure you eat the correct type and amount of food and exercise regularly, weight comes off gradually and safely.

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