When you’re tracking calories to lose weight and you aren’t seeing the scales go down, it can feel like you are doing all this work for no reward, leading to frustration and confusion around where you are going wrong.
Why aren’t you losing weight eating 1800 calories a day? There are a number of factors that may contribute to you not losing weight on 1800 calories, like underreporting the food you’re eating, not calculating your deficit calorie intake correctly, the accuracy of your tracking habits, stress, poor sleep, length of your diet phase, or even underlying health issues.
Despite these many reasons why you’re not losing weight, there are also many strategies and reflections you can employ to understand where you are going wrong and what you can do to fix it.
In this article I’ll discuss:
- The reasons you’re not losing weight eating 1800 calories per day
- Steps to take if you’re not losing weight eating 1800 calories a day
- Realistic results you can expect from eating 1800 calories a day
5 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1800 Calories Per Day
The most common reasons you are likely to not lose weight eating 1800 calories a day include:
- Underreporting on what food and drink you’re consuming
- Not calculating your deficit calorie intake correctly
- Inaccurate calorie tracking habits
- Stressors impacting your body
- Underlying medical issues
These factors often trip people up when trying to lose weight so whether you think you are doing them right or wrong, it is still important to check in with yourself and understand if you’re going wrong somewhere.
1. Under Reporting on What Food and Drink You’re Consuming
Research has overwhelmingly shown that people underestimate how much food and drink they’re having. In fact, one study, in particular, showed that participants underreported their calorie intake by 2000 calories per day.
Underreporting does not occur because people are lying to themselves or others about their intake, but reflective of how difficult it is to track calorie consumption accurately.
So if you’re not losing weight on 1800 calories per day it is entirely possible that what you think is an 1800 calorie day could be significantly higher.
Behaviors that could contribute to you underreporting or underestimating your calorie consumption are:
- Grazing or mindless eating or picking at food throughout the day
- Inaccurate measuring and weighing of foods
- Inconsistent tracking
- Only tracking calorie intake Monday to Friday
- Logging unverified foods in your tracking app
2. Not Calculating Your Deficit Calorie Intake Correctly
To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit, that is to consume fewer calories than you expend. Simply put, if you aren’t losing weight on 1800 calories, then you may not be in a calorie deficit.
To determine the appropriate calorie deficit you need for weight loss, you first need to know the number of calories your body needs to maintain its weight, for example, 2500 calories.
From there you reduce your calorie intake, which for most people is 10-30% reduction to create a calorie deficit. By consistently eating in that calorie deficit for a sustained period of time, should then result in weight loss.
To determine your maintenance calories there are 4 key pillars to base your calculation off:
- Your basal metabolic rate (BMR): the number of calories your body burns by existing. You can calculate your BMR using our BMR calculator.
- The thermic effect of food (TEF): the number of calories burned through consuming and digesting food.
- The thermic effect of activity (TEA): the number of calories you burn through exercise.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): is the calories you burn through unintentional movements or activity.
If you’ve been eating 1800 calories, thinking you’re in a calorie deficit, without having considered those 4 factors then it’s highly likely you have not calculated your maintenance and deficit calories accurately. Consequently, you won’t be losing weight.
- Learn more about calculating your maintenance calories in this article.
3. Inaccurate Tracking Habits
Most things you consume will have some kind of caloric value and when you’re trying to lose weight you need to capture the entirety of your calorie intake, to the best of your ability.
If you aren’t accurately tracking what you are consuming because of poor habits or a lack of understanding of how to track, then this is likely skewing your perception of how much you are consuming.
Tracking habits that could result in tracking inaccuracy are:
- Not tracking your drinks
- Not tracking cooking oils, sauces, or condiments
- Not weighing your food
- Confusing raw weight and cooked weight
- Using unverified or generic food varieties in your tracking app
- Not double-checking the nutritional panel on a product when you barcode scan it into your tracking ap
- Not tracking your calorie intake and guessing or assuming it instead
- Grazing on little bits of food throughout the day
- Licking the utensils clean of your favorite spread or baking batter
If you’re doing one or more of these behaviors regularly then they will have an impact on your calorie consumption.
Remember: (1) Your calorie tracking app is only as accurate as its user; and, (2) just because your app says you consumed 1800 calories, doesn’t mean you did.
- Related Article: Do Macros Matter For Weight Loss?
4. Stressors Impacting Your Body
While your body is able to handle certain levels of stress, chronic and severe stress can have psychological and emotional impacts on your body, which could impede your ability to lose weight, even when eating 1800 calories and being in a calorie deficit.
Your body can experience stress in various ways:
- Through dieting for significant periods of time
- Through poor sleep and lack of sleep routine
- Through work, family, financial and personal circumstances
When your body experiences stress a number of things may happen to affect your body’s ability to lose weight. These might include:
- You stress eat to help cope which if done often and excessively will result in your eating in excess of your calorie targets.
- You crave and consume high sugar and high-fat food because they release a pleasure hormone giving you momentary relief from feeling the stress. Consuming food of this variety regularly may cause you to eat over your calorie targets.
- Your body releases higher cortisol levels, which is a hormone in your body that makes you retain fat, your body’s natural response to protect itself.
- You lose your routine, which causes your eating timing and amounts to be erratic resulting in your metabolism slowing down and your body holding on to its fat stores due to uncertainty of when it will receive its next calories.
If you’re confident your tracking is on point, but you haven’t accounted for any stress you’re experiencing in your life, then this may be something to reflect on. Adding dieting stress while experiencing stress in other parts of your life, is a sure-fire way to limit your success.
5. Underlying Medical Issues
There are some medical conditions that may affect your ability to lose weight. These include illnesses like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Hyperthyroidism, Cushing Syndrome, syndromes that impact insulin resistance, and chronic stress and depression.
These conditions as well as others can affect weight loss in various ways like because of hormonal imbalance, slowed metabolism, and even emotional eating. These physiological and psychological impacts prevent the body from operating optimally, including its ability to burn calories and lose weight.
When you are suffering from a medical condition and trying to lose weight, regardless of whether or not you are eating 1800 calories a day and in a calorie deficit, you might not yield the result you’re chasing.
It is important to understand how your medical condition interferes with your weight goals so you should consult with your doctor to assist you with safe strategies to support your goal.
- Related Article: Can You Undereat & Not Lose Weight? Yes, Here’s Why
Strategies To Use If You’re Not Losing Weight Eating 1800 Calories Per Day
If you’re finding that you’re not losing weight eating 1800 calories a day, there are a number of steps you can take to help yourself and realize the results you’re after.
Try one or more of the following strategies to help your weight loss journey.
1. Confirm Your Calorie Needs
One of the best things you can do when you’re not getting the expected results through your calorie tracking is to double-check your calorie needs. Eating 1800 calories doesn’t guarantee weight loss for everyone.
To calculate your calorie needs follow this formula:
- Determine your BMR.
- For men use this: 66+(13.7 x weight in kg)+(5 x height in cm)-(6 x age)
- For women use this: 655+(9.6 x weight in kg)+(1.7 x height in cm)-(4.7 x age)
- Determine your activity level, by selecting one of the following (when in doubt, underestimate)
- Sedentary = 1.2
- Lightly active = 1.375
- Moderately active = 1.55
- Very active = 1.725
- Extra active = 1.9
- Determine your TEA. Do this by:
- Multiplying you BMR by your activity level
- Finally, calculate your TEF. Do this by:
- Multiplying your TEA by 10%
- Add that figure to your TEA to confirm your maintenance calorie needs.
Once you know your maintenance calories, reduce it by 10 to 30% depending on your performance needs, the likelihood of adherence, and timeframe to achieve your goal.
That figure is your calorie deficit and tracking your calorie intake to that figure consistently, over time should result in weight loss.
2. Don’t Rely on Scales To Determine if Your Fat Loss Phase Is Successful
Scales aren’t the only indicator of success when you are trying to lose weight. Additionally, they can also be unreliable as the sole determinant of success.
In circumstances where you are weight training and also trying to lose weight, you may find your body composition changes. That being where your weight stays the same but perhaps you increase your muscle mass and decrease your fat. Scales would not show these changes but monitoring your body measurements would.
Scales are an excellent data point to monitor when trying to lose weight, but your daily scale weight is sensitive to many variables causing daily spikes and dips because of:
- What you have eaten
- When you have eaten
- How you have exercised
- Alcohol consumption
- Medications you’re taking
- Bowel movements you have (or haven’t) had
To combat these unavoidable variables, when monitoring your scale weight, take an average of your weigh-ins across the week.
A minimum of 3 weight ins should give you a good average, and that is the figure you should then track over time.
If your average weekly scale weight is trending down, you have a good indication that your caloric intake is in line with your weight loss goals.
3. Change the Calorie Goal You Are Tracking Towards
If you are someone that is susceptible to underreporting and you don’t want to change how you’re tracking, then you could adjust the calorie goal in your tracking app to account for the variability in your underreporting.
For example, if you are tracking to 1800 calories, a figure based on your calculations is likely to give you a weight loss result, but you aren’t seeing a reduction in your weight, it is entirely possible you are underreporting or not tracking accurately.
So, if you don’t want to change your habits, an easier way around this is to reduce the number of calories you are tracking in your app. Using this example you could reduce from 1800 calories to 1500 calories to account for your tracking anomalies.
4. Take a Diet Break
This is an important strategy for chronic dieters – stop dieting for a period of time.
Give yourself and your body a break from the stress of trying to lose weight constantly because constant dieting in a deficit is likely to be counterproductive to your goals.
5. Develop a Sleep Routine
Your sleep habits are intrinsically connected to your nutrition and your nutrition habits are connected to your sleep habits. Good sleep and an established sleep routine could be the difference between you achieving your weight loss goals.
If you’re worried about your sleep habits, try these tips:
- Aim for a regular sleep schedule
- Create a sleep routine or things you do to get ready for bed
- Give yourself time to relax before bed
- Limit screen time before bed
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night
6. Decrease Calories
Decreasing your calorie intake is an option available to you when 1800 calories is giving you weight loss results.
It may be appropriate to do this in instances where 1800 calories isn’t a deficit or enough or a deficit to influence weight loss in the body.
Be guided by your calorie intake calculations when determining whether this option is appropriate.
7. Increase Energy Expenditure
Increasing your calorie expenditure may help create more of a calorie deficit because by expending more calories. You can increase your energy expenditure through:
- Incorporating structured exercises like weight training or cardio
- Exercising longer or more frequently
- Increasing your daily step count.
Paying attention to your activity level by increasing your step count is a really underutilized resource. So when looking to increase your energy expenditure as part of your dieting goals, this is a great lever to consider.
Realistic Results You Can Expect From Eating 1800 Calories Per Day
The results you can expect from eating 1800 calories per day are contingent on the following:
- Your sex
- Your age, height, weight, and activity
- Dieting history
- Any medical conditions you have
Your daily calorie needs will vary depending on whether you are male or female. Dietary Guidelines estimate calorie needs for:
- Men – are between 2000 to 3000 calories daily; and
- Women – are between 1600 to 2400 calories daily.
Depending on where you sit as a male or female and the degree of deficit, if any, eating 1800 calories creates, will influence whether you experience weight loss.
For example, a woman whose calorie intake is 2400 daily, eating 1800 calories is within the usual 10-30% calorie reduction to create a suitable deficit, which would theoretically result in weight loss. On the other hand, this may be too low for a man whose daily calorie needs are around 3000 as it may cause too much stress on the body, resulting in negative side effects.
Your Age, Height, Weight & Activity Level
As well as your sex, your weight, height, and age will also play a factor in determining your caloric needs or where you fall within the average calorie estimates for men and women.
The factors help determine with more specificity what your caloric needs are. While weight loss is based on science, there is some art to it as well. You can never know with absolute certainty what your body’s caloric needs are but the more individualized your calculations are the more likely you are to achieve the results you’re after.
If you have spent sustained periods of time in calorie deficits constantly striving for and achieving weight loss, this will affect your basal metabolic rate (BMR) in two ways:
- Your maintenance calories will decrease as you weigh less. This is because your body’s energy or calories required to function, change.
- You may experience metabolic adaptation. This is where your body will adapt to long-term dieting by learning to function on fewer calories.
So while your calorie calculations may be theoretically correct to achieve weight loss if you have been consistently trying to lose weight without break, you may have altered your BMR, so you won’t experience the expected weight loss results through an 1800 calorie per day diet.
Any Medical Conditions You Have
Medical conditions can interfere with your weight loss goals. So, if you have an illness or think you have an illness, it is important to work with a medical professional on whether 1800 calories is the appropriate calories deficit target for you.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can You Lose Weight Eating 1800 Calories a day?
1800 calories isn’t going to be enough of a calorie deficit for all adults to lose weight because your size, age, and daily activity will dictate what you need to base your calorie deficit off. Ultimately, you need to consume fewer calories than your daily calorie expenditure to lose weight and this isn’t going to be 1800 for everyone.
When you’re trying to lose weight on your own the biggest thing that will get in the way is your own level of accountability. You might have all the answers and strategies or know how to get them, but keeping yourself accountable and honest against the goal you have, over a sustained period of time, is extremely difficult.
That fact is true whether you are experienced in nutrition or completely new in developing your understanding. This is why having a support group or nutrition coach to assist you will increase your chances of long-term success.
If you’re struggling and need help, reach out to one of our coaches here who can help you put some strategies into action.
Lichtman SW, Pisarska K, Berman ER, Pestone M, Dowling H, Offenbacher E, Weisel H, Heshka S, Matthews DE, Heymsfield SB. Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. N Engl J Med. 1992 Dec 31;327(27):1893-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199212313272701. PMID: 1454084.
About The Author
Steph Catalucci is an online nutrition coach from Australia, working with clients all over the world. Her passion for nutrition was born through wanting to treat her body better, for health and performance. She is a strong advocate for understanding nutrition to develop informed nutritional habits that go beyond just food. Steph leverages a decade of her own nutritional experience to help people make sense of the noise and carve a path forward with their nutrition, supporting clients with whatever body composition goal they have. When not coaching or writing, you’ll find her training for her next powerlifting competition.
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