So you've figured out your calories and macros, but then after losing a few pounds, the weight loss suddenly stops.

There has been no progress on the scale for a few days, and you might even appear to look slightly fatter in the mirror.

What's going on there? You know you've been on point with your calories and macros, following the intake that puts you in a deficit but there are no results?

The Theory of Squishy Fat

One theory regarding the appearance of “soft” or so-called squishy fat is that when fat deposits are burned off, the empty space is temporarily replaced with water.

I first learned about this concept from Lyle McDonald's blog post Of Whooshes and Squishy Fat

This can be extremely demoralizing for those who are not familiar with the concept. And it can lead to very poor decisions.

Oftentimes, people jump to conclusions and cut calories further or add more exercise.

This, in return, increases stress (which is already higher due to dieting).

And that increased stress then leads to more water retention further masking progress for even longer.

After a while, even the most dedicated people give up because they think there's no hope.

So what can you do about this?


Aside from cultivating patience which you're going to need a lot of anyway as you're going through your fat loss journey, there are a few tips I can give you to help you deal with this situation.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to diagnose if the plateau is caused by water retention as it's hard to see in the mirror.

Here's what you can do:

As you're hitting your calories based on your estimated deficit you'll probably have 2 conditions:

  1. There was a sudden stop in weight loss, according to the scale. Your average weight was dropping every week, and then it suddenly stopped.
  2. A gradual reduction in weight loss over the course of a few weeks.

Condition #1 is most likely water retention, and it's important not to panic when this happens. A lot of times, it just takes a few more days or 1-2 weeks until the scale shows progress.

The most important thing here is to trust the process. Since you're tracking the calories and you're sure that your deficit is in place, it's very likely water retention masking the scale number.

Water retention can also be caused by many factors, especially short-term ones. It can be caused by different foods in your diet, sudden elevations in cortisol due to stress, or other life factors.

Cutting calories further at this point wouldn't be a good idea as you will dump the water eventually.

It's not uncommon to see people who have been stalled for 2-3 weeks wake up 4-6 pounds lighter overnight just by being patient.

Other solutions:
– Try high carb refeeds
– Diet Break to Maintenance
– Destress
– Catch up on sleep. One of the many reasons to get enough sleep is to reduce chronic stress, which, increases water retention.

Thanks for reading!

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