Why You Can’t Stay in a Calorie Deficit: 10 Reasons (With Solutions)


Do you feel like a calorie deficit is never going to work? Are you stuck and wondering why you can’t stay in a calorie deficit that you calculated for yourself?

The main reason you are having a difficult time staying in a calorie deficit is because you are being too restrictive. Your mindset also plays a major role in having success in a calorie deficit.

Let’s discuss.

Why You Can’t Stay in a Calorie Deficit

1. You’re Being Too Restrictive

If you are restricting the amount of calories you are consuming to an unhealthy amount, you will not have success. You only need a calorie deficit of 200-300 calories per day to lose body fat.

If you are in a 500 calorie deficit for example, and you feel this is not allowing you to enjoy food and you are starving, try increasing the calories.

If you continue to lose weight, this is great! While it may take some more time, it will still be just as effective.

Try increasing the volume of food you eat as well. Consuming vegetables with high water content is a great idea, because this will allow you to feel fuller for much longer.

Examples of high volume vegetables with high water content are:

  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes

Once you start including more of these high volume vegetables, you will see they will hold you over for longer in between meals.

Also, create illusions with your food. Use smaller plates and bowls to place your food into, so you create the illusion of having a lot more food to consume than you actually do.

Related Post: Is a 700 Calorie Deficit Too Much?

2. You have a Bad Mindset

If you start a calorie deficit thinking it is a “diet” that is going to be super restrictive and hard, you will likely not be able to maintain it.

Also, if you start a calorie deficit believing you will not be able to eat any foods you love, you will have a hard chance of sticking to it as well.

Switch up your mindset a bit. Instead of thinking about all the foods you “can’t” have, focus on all of the foods you “can” have by just better tracking the calorie contents of them and working them into your daily allocation.

You can still eat your favorite foods, just in moderation. There is no need to deprive yourself.

3. You Lack Motivation

If you lack motivation, you might have a hard time adhering to a calorie deficit.

Find what motivates you. Why did you start this journey in the first place?

This might be setting a goal to fit into that special outfit for an upcoming event, or it could be as simple as looking in the mirror and not liking what you see.

Your goal might also be to decrease your cholesterol levels. Whatever the reason you started a calorie deficit is, write it down. Look at your reason daily.

Find your “why” for wanting to lose weight and stick to it. Write it down somewhere and refer back to it when you need motivation.

4. You Have a Lack of Support

If you have a lack of support from others, it may be hard to make progress as you have no one cheering you on.

Find a support group, whether that is online or in person. This will help you stay accountable and motivated to reach your goals.

Explain your new goals of losing weight to your friends or family. See if any of them want to join in with you.

If you have a partner, discuss it with them as well. Make your goals known and seek a buddy to tag along with you on your journey if you can.

5. You Are Not Enjoying The Foods You Love

If you simply do not like any of the food you are eating, and are just eating it because you feel it is “healthy,” this is not going to get you very far.

You have to enjoy the foods you are eating. If you do not like a certain food, don’t eat it!

A calorie deficit is not about eating foods you hate. I wish this myth would disappear forever. You CAN eat practically whatever you want in a calorie deficit, as long as you are accounting for the calories that come from that food.

If you want to enjoy a donut or a couple pieces of pizza, you can do this! There is no reason why you cannot.

As long as you are staying within a caloric deficit, you can eat the foods you really love to eat.

6. You’re Not Consuming Enough Protein

If you are not tracking how much protein you eat, you should consider starting.

Protein is such a vitally important macronutrient.

Protein is responsible for muscle growth and preservation but it also helps with satiety. This means consuming protein can help you feel full for longer.

This is because it takes longer for the body to digest protein and it also reduces your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin.

Make sure you are getting in enough protein each day. A good rule of thumb is to consume at least 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight if you are trying to lose weight.

You can even consume more than this if you want to, up to 1.5 grams per pound if you can get it in if you are someone who strength trains.

Related Post: Can You Grow Glutes in a Calorie Deficit?

7. You’re Not Consuming Enough Water

Consuming enough water is also important.

When you consume water, it takes up space in the stomach. This will help you feel full for longer.

Water is also necessary for proper metabolism function and to keep your energy levels up.

A good rule of thumb is to consume at least 8 cups of water per day. You can even drink more than this if you want to.

A good idea is to set a goal for yourself to consume more water daily. Start tracking your water intake by aiming for a specific goal every day or fill a giant jug and try to consume it every day.

When you increase water intake, you may also notice smoother and softer skin as well.

If you have a medical condition that prevents you from drinking too much water, remember to speak to your doctor first before increasing water intake.

8. You’re Over Obsessing on Calorie Counting

When you are first beginning a calorie deficit, calorie tracking is important because it allows you to find that sweet spot for fat burn.

However, if you start to become too obsessive with counting calories, this can start to be a bad thing.

You may find yourself becoming anxious and stressed over hitting your calorie goals every day.

If this happens, it is time to take a step back and reassess things. Calorie tracking is important but it should not be the only thing you focus on.

If you find yourself becoming calorie crazy, it may be a better idea to simply start tracking portion sizes. Try this for awhile and if you are having success, you may be able to stop focusing on calorie counting completely.

Make sure you are still enjoying your life and the foods you eat.

Calorie tracking is a tool to help you lose weight but it should not take over your life.

9. You’re Comparing Yourself To Others

It is easy to use other people and their bodies as a source of motivation. But it is not possible for everyone’s bodies to look the same.

Some people are naturally skinny and have a hard time gaining weight. Others are the opposite and have to work hard to lose weight.

And then there are those in between people who can pretty much eat whatever they want and not gain or lose much weight.

Comparing your body to others is not going to do you any good in the long run if you are giving up on your goals because you do not achieve their look over time.

You should realize that all of us are unique and have our own qualities. What you may hate on your body, someone else might actually admire and want for themselves.

You should not be trying to look like someone else, but rather be a healthier version of YOU.

10. You have Hit a Plateau

Plateaus happen, and it is due to our bodies becoming more efficient through metabolic adaptation.

The body is very good at adapting to change and when you lose weight, it will try to hold on to the fat at this point because it simply does not feel it needs to let it go. It wants to maintain it’s current bodyweight.

As you lose weight, your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories you burn per day just by existing will decrease, because the body requires less energy from calories to function as there is less mass overall to maintain.

An easy fix? A simple decrease in calories. I don’t mean by much. Maybe 100-150 calories less consumed per day can burst through this phase.

If you find yourself hitting a wall and seeing no further fat loss, it is easy to quit. But, quitting is the ultimate worst thing you can do.

All you need to do to break through a plateau is give it more time, or make some simple changes.

That is why it is important to keep challenging your body by changing up your workouts and diets.

If you find yourself at a standstill, do not give up and think you are doing something wrong.

Instead, reassess things and make some adjustments. Some simple adjustments you can make to break through a fat loss plateau are:

  • Walking more throughout the day
  • Doing bodyweight exercises or strength training
  • Reducing calories ever so slightly (100 calories per day)

By implementing these simple changes, it is possible to put your body back into fat burning more and bust through any plateau. You just need to move more if you can.

More movement=more calories burned. You can never go wrong by moving more. The body was designed to move.

You always should keep your body guessing.

Why Is It So Hard To Stay Within a Calorie Deficit?

A calorie deficit is hard because it can be a drastic change that the body is not used to.

It can be difficult going from eating an excess amount of calories and not even thinking about it, to having to track everything you eat and making sure you are in a deficit.

It is a complete change in lifestyle and it can be difficult to stick with at first. After awhile, it does become easier but it definitely takes time, effort, and dedication on your part.

Another reason a calorie deficit is hard to maintain is because of hunger.

When you are in a calorie deficit, it is completely normal to feel hungry at first. This is because your body is not accustomed to the changes you are making yet.

As you progress and your body has time to adjust to new changes, a calorie deficit will become a part of habit, and you will no longer find it as challenging as you once did.

How Do I know If I am Even In a Calorie Deficit?

The main way you will first realize you are in a calorie deficit is a slight amount of hunger.

Knowing you are in an effective calorie deficit can take a bit of trial and error but when you first begin a deficit of calories, a feeling of increased hunger is completely normal.

You may need to make changes at first because everyone has a different amount of calories that they utilize on a daily basis as part of their basal metabolic rate or BMR.

No one is the same, and your calorie deficit will need to be customized to you.

What you should do is keep tracking your progress. Check for changes to your weight or body measurements week after week. If you are gaining weight over time or your measurements around your hips, thighs, or abdomen are increasing, you know you are not in a caloric deficit.

How Can I Control Hunger on a Calorie Deficit?

Hunger is one of the major reasons most individuals are not able to stay in a calorie deficit past a few weeks or even shorter amounts of time.

Like we discussed, a slight amount of hunger is normal at first until your body becomes used to the decreased amount of calories you are providing it.

Some easy ways to avoid hunger and to help you feel full are to:

  • Eat more protein
  • Include fiber rich foods
  • Drink plenty of water before meals and throughout the day
  • Consume healthy low calorie snacks
  • Be more active and redirect your mind off of food

If you find yourself obsessing over food and when you will consume your calories, simply take your mind off of it by going for a walk or finding something to keep you busy and productive.

If you are sitting on the sofa just thinking about food and what you will eat, you might find that doing something else such as taking a walk or doing laundry will get your mind off of this.

The mind is quite easy to redirect if we do something else with our time instead of over-analyzing food.

In Summary

It will be nearly impossible to stay in or maintain a calorie deficit if you are being overly restrictive and making bad choices when it comes to what you are eating.

A calorie deficit does not have to be hard and it does not have to feel so negative.

You CAN enjoy foods you love and still lose weight. Just make sure you are accurately tracking the calories from that food. Yes, this means you can eat ice cream, pizza, donuts, cake, or whatever else makes you happy.

As long as you are in a calorie deficit when eating these foods, you will still lose body fat!

If you are having issues with feeling hungry when you start your calorie deficit, try to increase the amount of volume in the stomach through high water content foods or simply try to take your mind of of food.

Related Post: Eat Whatever You Want in a Calorie Deficit