The Reason You Aren’t Losing Weight

This week I had planned to write a post about various things preventing people from losing weight. I intended to cover things like prescription drugs, lack of sleep, and measuring portions, but then I came across this meme on Instagram and realized I believe this is the single greatest problem, if not THE problem, for 99% of folks trying to lose weight:

I can’t tell you how many people talk to me about what they do during the week to keep their diets in check. Sometimes people sound like they’re on the right track, if you discount the myriad complaints about the taste of vegetables, and how they just can’t give up their Diet Coke.

But I still hear some of the most ridiculous shit. For instance, women tell me all the time that they’re going to cut out coffee creamers, convinced that black coffee is the ticket to weight loss, and never mind those cocktails they had at happy hour last night. Others tell me that they’ve eaten nothing but green beans for breakfast every day this week. (What?) Still others proudly rattle off the list of what they eat in a day, neglecting to notice that their diet is made up of woefully unbalanced macronutrients.

So I ask a few more questions. One question in particular, actually.

What did you eat last weekend?

This is usually met with nervous blinking and scrambling for excuses. They were super busy on Saturday so had to just stop and grab something. Their significant other wanted to go out to dinner. They stuck to their diet, they just shared a bottle of wine or a few beers during the game on Sunday. Well, with some chips and dip, but that’s no big deal, they ate healthy all week.

Facepalm 2.png

People think that “cheat meals” are okay and aren’t going to stall their progress. If your goal is weight loss, understand that your average cheat meal is going to undo the progress you’ve made all week. I don’t give a damn if it’s a “scheduled” cheat meal; calories are calories.

Let me break this down for you.

Personally, I love a good Mexican restaurant. No insult intended as it’s a favorite, but I used the nutritional information from On the Border for this example.

Let’s start with the all-time favorite margarita. The average restaurant mix will run you somewhere between 350 and 750 calories, so let’s split the difference and call it 550.


Margarita 550 calories


Then the chips and queso. The serving size for tortilla chips is seven. SEVEN CHIPS, PEOPLE. Does anyone go to a restaurant and eat seven chips? I think most of us quadruple that number while we’re waiting for our orders to be taken, but I’ll be generous and say we just double it to 14. And of course we treat ourselves to a little queso and guac, right? Let’s say it’s date night and you only end up plowing through half of the dips. Because we share with those we love.


Margarita 550 calories
Chips (14) 280 calories
Queso and Guac (half) 245 calories


Now for the entrée, assuming you’ve left any room. I like quesadillas. Love them, actually. Meat, cheese, fried flour. Yes, please. And those suckers always come with a side of beans.


Margarita 550 calories
Chips (14) 280 calories
Queso and Guac (half) 245 calories
Steak quesadilla 590 calories
Refried beans 290 calories
Total 1955 calories


Let’s call that Friday night. Maybe you can’t eat it all so you take some home and reheat leftovers on Saturday. And let’s say Saturday you decide to eat at home, but split a bottle of wine over Netflix. One glass of wine (and a proper glass is 5 oz., for those like me who indulge in the “house pour”) runs 125 calories. Say you actually follow appropriate measurements and have three glasses of wine. That’s another 375 calories.



And who can resist a morning sweet on a Sunday? Pick your poison. Pancakes? Waffles? Muffins? Cinnamon rolls? Or just a quick swing past the local donut shop? On average, a glazed donut is 350 calories. Maybe sweets aren’t your thing and you prefer to treat yourself to a Starbucks. The result is the same. If you’re someone who still thinks of your latte as “just a coffee” and you double down, you’re looking at about 700 calories between your donut and coffee.


Margarita 550 calories
Chips (14) 280 calories
Queso and Guac (half) 245 calories
Steak quesadilla 590 calories
Refried beans 290 calories
Wine 375 calories
Donut 350 calories
Latte 350 calories
Total 3030 calories


Here’s the part people refuse to understand. Let’s look at the graphic first and then walk through it. Stick with me, there are more numbers.


Sun Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Daily Avg.
Solid Week 1700 1700 1700 1700 1700 1700 1700 1700
Week w. Cheat Meal 2200 1700 1700 1700 1700 2955 2075 2004


Let’s use the daily average of 2000 calories as an example. In this table we’re comparing a person who has set themselves a caloric deficit of 300 calories per day to lose weight, so their goal is to consume 1700. (Truthfully, I believe numbers below that amount are dangerous and set you up for a binge, but that’s a topic for another day.) In a consistent week of consuming 1700 calories each day, your daily average is 1700 and you’ve maintained your deficit for a full week.

In a week with the cheat treats described above, it’s a very different picture. The goal is still 1700 calories per day. Let’s say you don’t eat your normal breakfast on Sunday and you substitute the donut and the latte. I’d say you save about 200 calories by skipping your usual meal, but you’re still consuming 700 on the donut and the latte, so that gets you to 2200 (1700 – 200 + 700 = 2200). Monday through Thursday you’re on point. Friday night we’re out for Mexican, so again let’s assume you only consume 1000 calories throughout the rest of the day, getting you to a total of 2955 calories with your “scheduled cheat meal”. And Saturday you’re pretty good again but can’t resist that bottle of vino.

That last column is the one that matters.

During a week with cheat meals, your DAILY AVERAGE is back up to your maintenance caloric intake of 2000 calories a day. The cheats have undone your deficit, so week after you week you are maintaining your weight.

For the vast majority of people who struggle with weight loss, this is the problem.

And it all comes down to excuses.

You don’t need to go out for Mexican on date night. You can have a healthy meal at home that’s in line with your goals. Linger over your plate and light some candles. Enjoy conversation and don’t rush to get dishes done, lunches packed, and kids to bed for the next day. Send the kids to a friend’s or babysitter’s.

I get wanting to unwind with some wine or a cocktail. I do. And I’ll be honest with you, one or two glasses of wine isn’t going to kill you. BUT, let me reiterate:  A glass of wine is five ounces. That’ll run you about 125 calories. Personally, I don’t see the point. Unless you’re a connoisseur, you’re probably sipping that $8 bottle you picked up at the grocery store, and I promise your taste buds and your waistline don’t need it while you’re trying to lose weight.

Break the habit of the Sunday morning sweets. Make flavorful omelets with loads of veggies. Make some coffee at home, throw it in a to-go mug, and take a brisk walk with loved ones. Food is a part of so many social customs and habits that it’s easy to forget that you can change that up. Sunday morning relaxation doesn’t have to come part and parcel with cinnamon rolls.

Get really honest with yourself this week. Are you making progress toward your goals? If not, why not? What can you change so that your actions are taking you in the direction you want to go?


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