Why Does Fat Loss Stall? Talking Metabolic Adaptation + Plateaus

I talk a lot about fat loss - because that’s what I get asked about a lot. Given I’ve had my own successful fat loss transformation I have quite a bit to say on the topic. I remember when I first started I didn’t really know what a calorie was, or HOW to lose fat/ what the actual fat loss process in the body was. Now after years of personal experience, coaching clients to success and educating myself around the topic, I know a hell of a lot more.

How do we lose fat?

My transformation from 2017 - stage in 2018

My transformation from 2017 - stage in 2018

First things first - how do we lose fat? In order to lose fat, we need to be expending more energy than we’re consuming. Meaning we need to exert more energy through exercise/ daily activity than food consumed. This is called being in a caloric deficit.

There are a few different ways to be in a caloric deficit, and this will also depend on the individual. If you’re brand new to training, just weight lifting alone ‘newbie gains’ from resistance training and increased energy output can create enough of a deficit to warrant fat loss. But for the novice trainer, a better approach is weight training and eating in a caloric deficit (less food than required to maintain our current body weight).

Why do we stop losing fat?

Ok, so now we know the basics of how to lose fat - what happens if we’re doing this, sticking to our caloric deficit, training hard and we stop losing fat? You have just experienced the activation of your bodies defence system. Our metabolism slows to prevent starvation, hunger increases and we become better at storing fat rather than burning it. What was once a caloric deficit for us, has now became the calories our body neither loses nor gains weight on. We need to create another deficit - either by increasing energy output (training, steps, physical activity), or eat less food.

The best way to monitor this is through girth measurements, body fat measurement, photos and/ or scale weight so we know when we need to implement certain protocols.

When our metabolism adapts, we see a decrease in our BMR (rate of energy expenditure), a decrease in our NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis aka incidental movement like steps, fidgeting etc) as well as negative adaptations to key fat loss hormones such as leptin (tells us when we’re full), ghrelin (tells us when we’re hungry) and thryoid function.

The best approach for fat loss in my opinion

This is why a progressive approach to a long term fat loss goal is key. Start with being in the smallest deficit possible on the highest calories possible doing the smallest amount of exercise and movement possible. As your metabolism adapts you can either increase training, or decrease calories slightly as well as implementing diet breaks (bringing calories back up to initial maintenance calories through increased carb intake for a minimum of 3 days to mitigate the negative adaptations that occur from eating in a deficit).

When we plateau is when a lot of people lose motivation and tend to over-eat or reduce training and movement. Rather than doing less which is going to do the opposite to your results, this is when it’s more important to stay consistent and break through the plateau by making a change. Don’t sabotage your hard earned results, be smart about it and continue to achieve what you set out to by understanding how our body responds to what we’re doing to it.

Healing my gut - Low FODMAP life

If you’ve followed my journey for a while, you’ll know I’ve struggled with gut health for some time now. Basically since I had some routine surgery for endometriosis result in the perforation of my bowel in 2010/2011 (more on that here), my digestion has never been 100%. I’ve worked for years to fix this and get it to an optimal place, and whilst some things have worked, it’s still not perfect - so the quest continues! This time, I’m trying the Low FODMAP diet, I’m going to be sharing what I’ve learned, if it helps my gut and how exactly I’m doing this with my calories and macros!

Low FODMAP food

What symptoms should I look out for?

Poor digestion can include a number of symptoms. Bloating, loose stools, gas, changes to bowel movements, constipation, burping, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, brain fog, food intolerances and probably a lot more! I suffer from the first two, which makes me feel like I’m not actually absorbing any of the nutrients from the amazing food I’m eating.

What’s Low FODMAP?

FODMAPs are found in many foods and are short-chain carbohydrates (or sugars) that our gut is unable to properly absorb creating IBS like symptoms listed above.

Fermentable: Gases produced by the gut bacteria fermenting undigested carbs

Oligosaccharides: Fructans and GOS commonly found in garlic, wheat, onions and more

Disaccharides: Lactose found in dairy products

Monosaccharides: Fructose found in fruits + corn syrups

And Polyols: Sorbitol + Mannitol from some fruits, vegetables + artificial sweeteners

The idea of the Low FODMAP diet is to eliminate foods high in these FODMAPs, and after a period of time (2-6 weeks) re-introducing 1 FODMAP at a time to figure out which groups + foods trigger your symptoms the most. Everyone will respond differently to each group, there may be some foods within the group that don’t trigger you and others that do - it’s a whole lot of trial and error!

A day on my plate:

I’ve had to change things up because my diet consisted of large quantities of vegetables, which are the main offenders (as well as fruits) when it comes to foods high in FODMAPs. I’ve also had to adhere to my daily calorie and macro goals, so it’s been an interesting switch - there are some foods that you can eat unlimited, some you can eat up to a certain amount of and others you have to avoid entirely. I’ve been using the Monash University FODMAP Diet app as they’ve got a boss Food Guide of the foods you can have and in what quantities. Here’s an example with rough quantities of what I might eat in a day:


  • 50g rolled oats

  • 100g strawberries

  • 50g almond milk

  • 10g chia seeds

  • 12g powdered peanut butter

  • 100g egg whites

  • 100g strawberries

  • 10g peanut butter


  • Almond milk cappuccino


  • Wild salmon

  • 75g broccoli

  • 80g pineapple

  • 100g red pepper

  • 75g green beans

  • 200g pumpkin

  • 100g basmati rice

  • 20g organic ketchup


  • Steak

  • 300g white potatoes

  • 65g zucchini

  • 10g butter

  • 45g broccolini


  • 40g rolled oats

  • 50ml almond milk

  • 100g strawberries

  • 10g peanut butter

As you can see, there aren’t heaps of different things i’m using - I rotate these foods every day, the only things I might add are different proteins (White fish, chicken, turkey etc), but the above is essentially what I’m working with each day. I find it really hard to stick to a diet if it’s boring, so herbs, spices and butter have been saving my taste buds and helping me stay on track!

How’s your gut going?

So far I’ve noticed a small change - I’m still getting bloated but not as frequently, my stools are harder more regularly but still not all the time, I have days where it feels like it’s done absolutely nothing, and days where it’s feeling on track. It’s a long term game though - so sticking to it consistently is key. I had a week in Melbourne where I went a little off track (at my sisters hens it was harder to stick to Low FODMAP eating out) so I have been at it for about 2.5 weeks so far. Once my symptoms reduce more, I’ll be re-introducing groups one at a time in small quantities.

Important to note: we shouldn’t stick to a Low FODMAP diet forever, a maximum of 12 weeks is ok, but make sure you’re re-introducing these foods (other than anything you know has a really bad reaction with you).

I’ll check in again once I’ve finished the elimination phase and start on the re-introduction phase! Hope this helped! :)

Soph xx

Wanting to build some lean muscle and shred fat alongside your FODMAP diet? Check out my 8 Week Lean Out programs - gym OR home based available :) x


As some of you may be unaware, I’m currently 2 weeks deep into a mini cut (short period aggressive fat loss phase) to shed some fat gained from my rebound post competition (WBFF Bikini Competition October 2018). In the spirit of sharing every step of the way as I promised to you all over on my Instagram I want to share with you how I optimise my fat loss results through my training systems.

This weeks YouTube!

This weeks YouTube!

Last week on my YouTube I covered how to calculate your BMR, TDEE & PAL (a bunch of fancy abbreviations for figuring out your baseline calories to ensure you’re eating in a caloric deficit). This week, let’s get our heads around training for fat loss (head to my YT if you’d rather listen to me talk about it than read it here). The goal of training for fat loss is to drive up the mobilisation of fatty acids out of where it’s stored in our body through cortisol and adrenaline which increases our calorie expenditure creating an optimal environment for fat loss.

There are different strength qualities that are used when programming for clients depending on their goals. A strength program will look different to a fat loss program which will look different to a program with the goal being hypertrophy. These strength qualities are:

  1. Relative strength 1-5 reps

  2. Functional Hypertrophy 4-8 reps

  3. Hypertrophy 8-20 reps

  4. Strength Endurance (fat loss) 10-20+ reps

Don’t get too stuck with the strength qualities, I’ve lost fat eating in a calorie deficit whilst working in the relative strength - functional hypertrophy strength qualities. Something I’ve recently learned is that you CAN still get strong if you’re working in higher rep ranges (strength endurance). There are a lot of studies out there that prove a certain rep range, rest period and time under tension will achieve certain adaptations in the body. To avoid confusion we’re going to focus on hypertrophy and strength endurance strength qualities. When it comes to fat loss, it’s not just about how many reps you’re doing, the factors I consider are:

  • Number and type of sets (superset, tri-set, giant set)

  • Number of exercises

  • Time under tension (TUT) through tempo, reps + sets

  • Rest periods

  • Progressive overload

* For fat loss, I like to program anywhere from 20-40 sets total

* 6-8 exercises

* Around 1-3 seconds per rep with a moderate speed (tempo)

* 6-30 reps

* Insufficient rest periods to fatigue muscle fibres, preventing full recovery to create more metabolic damage (10-180 seconds)

* Ensuring you’re increasing your weights on at least the A series each week for hypertrophy adaptations (increasing the size of the muscle), as the more muscle mass we have the more optimal our bodies are for fat loss according to studies.

I like to program more exercises as a full body workout for my fat loss clients, as this is an incredibly effective way to mobilise our fat from its storage with a better chance to oxidise (use fat as fuel).

In terms of exercise selection, using bigger compound movements such as squats (all variations), deadlifts, leg press etc.. will allow us to move more weight, recruit more muscle fibres + energy, so I like to start with these for the A and B series, and then finish with more metabolic work/ isolated movements to jack up the heart rate!

Hopefully this has give you a deeper understanding to how/ what and why we should be programming for fat loss. Personally when I understand the science behind why I’m doing something, it pushes me harder and forces me to use my time more effectively.

These are some of the guidelines I use for my programs (see below), along with cardio and step periodisation. Don’t forget, the biggest key to any fat loss goal, is ensuring you'r nutrition is on point and that you’re eating in a caloric deficit! Nutrition programs available too ;)

Thanks for reading, now go get yo sweat on! X

The Reset Diet: Why, How + WHAT

Hey fam,

I’ve been chatting a bit about doing a ‘Reset Diet’ over on my Instagram (@sophactivelife) so I’ve put together the diet I’ll be following to reset my body post Christmas + New Year and I want YOU to follow along with me. But first, I want to talk a little bit about nutrition and explain my reasons for Resetting.


Our food is primarily made up of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats) which I talk about a lot, and the importance of knowing how much of each you’re getting in your daily diet. Our food is also comprised of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which play a huge role in our body when it comes to our health! Without the micronutrients, our bodies cannot convert the macro’s consumed into energy - ever heard of the saying ‘you are what you eat’?… try ‘you are what you digest, absorb and assimilate’. For this reason, it’s vital to be choosing foods that are abundant in micronutrients that make you feel good! Remember, someone may feel fantastic eating broccoli, another person may have an intolerance. Broccoli is considered a ‘healthy’ food with plenty of micronutrients, however if it makes you feel crap, then avoid it and choose something else!

What you want to be including in your diet as per the Reset Diet I’ve provided are a lot of vegetables, meat, fresh fruit, herbs, spices and whole grains (which sadly didn’t get a gig this time around as we’re also focussing on reducing inflammation and water retention).

sophie allen abs

On that note, this Reset isn’t about losing heaps of fat, shredding, starving yourself or ‘detoxing’, it’s about making healthy choices that make us FEEL energised. Starting our day on the right foot, getting enough sleep and recovery, fuelling our body with whole foods so we can crush our day and most importantly getting off on the right foot to smash 2019 after what might have been an over-indulgent Christmas and New Year period. Reducing carb intake will help with any inflammation and water retention that can occur from eating processed foods, alcohol and poor sleep. Sufficient protein will help us feel full and increase satiety levels and getting enough good fats in will help with keeping our hormones happy.

Other than the health benefits, there are also mental benefits that come from Resetting. I find when I don’t have short term goals, I don’t feel like I’m working towards anything and lose track. This is my first challenge of the year, and once I get into the routine of eating whole foods again I get the ball rolling and continuing on becomes much easier. People love a New Year resolution, because it’s a fresh start! Same goes for your nutrition. We get a fresh start, we feel good, we’re more likely to stick to it, start seeing results (whether that’s fat loss, improved energy, better sleep, better workouts, bigger muscles - you name it). Consider yourself RESET!

Sounds pretty good right? Are you ready to Reset? Let’s do dis!

The Reset Diet will give you an insight into how I like to program nutrition for my clients. Check out my Training and Nutrition Bundles below for gym OR home trainers and join my squad today! More products available here.

Love Soph xx

Why Your Calorie Deficit is no Longer Working

Eat in a calorie deficit (less calories than you're burning in a day) and you'll lose fat forever right? Not always the case! If you've been eating in a calorie deficit with your goal being fat loss for a while (anywhere from a few months onwards) then there's every chance your metabolism has adapted so well, to the point in which you're no longer able to lose fat. Sure you may have successfully lost a lot or a little fat, but your body cannot sustain this for too long.

Read More

9 Reasons You're Not Losing Fat

You're eating well and training hard but you don't feel like your clothes are getting any looser, or that number on the scale just won't move, sound familiar? I've totally been there. It was one of the most frustrating places I sat - I was training 3 times a week with a personal trainer absolutely smashing my training consistently and eating so clean, but for some reason I wasn't seeing any changes in my body. 

Read More