8 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight
Sometimes, people can diet and work out and track their calories and do everything right—but still not lose weight. I can’t begin to tell you how often members, friends and even acquaintances ask me why they’re not losing weight despite doing X, Y or Z. It’s one of the most common questions I get as a trainer. Sometimes, the answer isn’t that easy to come by.
But usually, when someone seems to be doing the right things but not making progress, a list of possible problems runs through my head. These are the most common scenarios I tend to see that stop people from getting results—and they could be the culprits for your weight woes, too.
So here are a few cold, hard truths about why you’re not losing weight.
You’re eating back all the calories you burn.
When you work out, you’re burning extra calories. That’s why exercise is so important in the weight-loss equation. But a lot of people overestimate how much they burn—and even use the “I exercised today” excuse to later overeat, overdrink (think alcohol) or overindulge. How many times have you faced a food temptation and thought, “Well, I worked out today, so it’s OK this time.” Or even, “I’ll have this now, but work out extra hard tomorrow to burn it off.” If that sounds all-too-familiar, this is one major reason why you’re not losing weight. For the exercise to help you lose, you can’t re-eat all those extra calories you burned. And in most cases, we overestimate how many calories we actually burned and underestimate how manycalories we’re actually eating, which means using that 3-mile walk (240 calories burned) to justify that restaurant meal (1,000+ calories, anyone?) leaves you in a worse position than if you may realize: at a calorie surplus.
The Takeaway: Exercise can help you lose when you’re really using it to burn extra calories, not as a reason to eat more.
You’re relying on exercise alone to do the trick.
Yes, exercising can help you lose weight (and it has so many other health benefits) because it helps you create that calorie deficit needs to drop body fat. But here’s the truth: Exercise alone will not help you lose weight. For emphasis, I’ll say it again. If you are relying on exercise alone to lose weight, you are fighting an uphill battle. Here’s why.
Exercise burns calories, but not as much as people think. When you consider how many calories you burn in a day, exercise burns very little. And it takes a lot of time and effort to burn even a few calories. A full hour of intense exercise may only burn 400-500 calories for a lot of people. On the flipside, it’s easy to eat hundreds or thousands of calories in even a few minutes. But it would take hours of exercise to offset those calories. If you are not changing your diet and reducing your calorie intake, exercise alone probably won’t help you much. As they say, “you can’t out-train a bad diet.” No amount of exercise can make up for a poor or high-calorie diet. You’ve got to have both (calorie reduction through diet and exercise) for optimal weight-loss results.
The Takeaway: The best way to lose weight is to cut back on what you eat and increase your burn through exercise—not one of the other.
You’re not eating as healthfully as you think.
We know that Americans and others who eat a Western-style diet have a lot of health problems—and weight problems. The vast majority of people are overweight these days. Yet research shows that the vast majority of people also think they eat healthfully and consider eating healthy a priority. Are you as confused about that as I am? Clearly, we are not eating that well if we continue to see steady increases in heart disease, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity.
Here’s the thing: We all think we eat pretty well. Even people who eat a pretty bad diet don’t think it’s that bad. No one really wants to admit that their diet might be pretty unhealthy. We all think we’re probably doing better than others. This is especially true if you compare your diet to what you see your friends, family or co-workers eat and consider your choices to be “better.” Whether that’s actually true or not, the truth is that the vast majority of people could (and probably should) improve their diets immensely.
The Takeaway: If you’re not meeting basic guidelines for a healthy diet(which involves way more than just counting calories alone) and/or you don’t actually track your food/nutrition to see how it all adds up in black and white, don’t make assumptions about how “good” you really do eat. Research confirms that people underestimate the quantity of food they eat, so read labels and measure.
You’re doing the wrong kinds of exercise.
If you are exercising regularly, you’re already doing a very important thing toimprove your health. But when it comes to exercising for weight loss, there’s a lot of confusion out there. One day you hear that strength training is the best way to lose weight. The next day you’re told to focus on cardio—but not just any cardio, intervals. Then you hear it has to be high intensity intervals or Tabata training. What gives?
The truth is that all types of exercise will burn calories, which can help with weightloss. But when it comes to losing weight, it’s all about burning calories. And in most cases, cardio is the calorie-burning king. Strength training is important, too (for many reasons), such as reducing the amount of muscle loss that occurs during weight loss, but it’s typically not a major calorie burner. So if you are relying almost exclusively on strength training as your weight-loss strategy, it could backfire.
The Takeaway: The best exercise plan emphasizes cardio for calorie burning, but still includes strength training to preserve lean muscle. Both are important; neither option can do everything.
You’re not being consistent enough.
When you’re struggling to lose those final 5-10 pounds or to overcome a plateau, consistency in your efforts is even more important. A lot of people stick to strict diet and fitness programs for days or weeks at a time, but their habits simply aren’t consistent for long enough. Ever eat “perfectly” and exercise “religiously” for a whole week, only to step on the scale that weekend to see that you haven’t lost an ounce? “What’s the point!” you may think as you go on an all-out eating fest and skip the gym for a couple days. Maybe you don’t even make it a few days “on track,” but rather you eat right for one day, then fall of the wagon the next.
Or perhaps you do feel pretty consistent in your habits, but the occasional slice of birthday cake or drinks with friends happens more often than just occasionally. Eating that restaurant dessert that’s 4-5 times a standard serving size (and packed more sugar and fat than seems physically possible) doesn’t really count as moderation, even if it’s the only sweet treat you’ve had all week. Moderationneeds to apply not just to the frequency of treats or rest days, but the amount, too. Practice portion control—so that you don’t go overboard and set yourself back.
The Takeaway: Eat right and exercise as consistently as possible and apply both moderation and portion control when it comes to indulging.
You’re not measuring the right things.
A lot of people complain that they’re not seeing the scale move, even though they are losing inches and clothing sizes. Despite these obvious signs that they’re getting leaner, they still want to see the scale change.
If you are noticing other improvements in your body shape or size, you are losing fat. The scale might not always reflect that you’ve lose weight—but ultimately it is the shape of your body and the amount of lean muscle vs. body fat you have that shows you’re making progress.
The Takeaway: Don’t just rely on the scale to measure your weight loss. That number won’t really tell you everything you need to know.
You don’t need to lose weight.
If you are at a healthy BMI or a body fat percentage in the healthy range, you probably don’t need to lose weight for any health or medical reasons. Still, you may want to lose some pounds for vanity’s sake, or even to improve your athletic performance. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to lose weight when you’re already at an acceptable weight. But, when you only have only a little body fat to lose, it can be extremely challenging for some people.
Your body is usually content to be right where it is, weight-wise. For many, their body has sort of settled in to what it feels like is a good, natural weight—which may not be your ideal weight in your head. It’s certainly possible to drop your body fat percentage and get leaner, but it will often take even more dedication—and time—than it will for someone who has a lot of weight to lose. For some, it may involve dieting or exercising to extremes rather than a moderate amount. But with diligence and some experimentation, you can get there—especially if you follow the other tips outlined here (consistency being #1).
The Takeaway: When you have less fat to lose, the road may be harder and longer; consistency is key!
You have an underlying issue.
When all else fails and you’ve truly adhered to your program—and all the advice here—and you’re still not losing weight, you may secretly wish you had some kind of underlying medical problem that would explain it—a slow thyroid, some kind of hormonal disorder, or something that popping a pill could fix and then magically help melt away the pounds. While it is true that people with certain medical issues or on certain medications can have trouble losing weight, most people struggle with losing it because they struggle with consistently burning more calories than they eat. The only way to do it is to track, measure and weigh your food honestly and accurately, and burn excess calories through increased physical activity.
The Takeaway: If you’ve truly tried everything discussed here and more—and simply aren’t making progress—it would not hurt to check in with your medical provider to see if any underlying issues are at play.
An Exerciser’s Guide to Skin Care
Can Workouts Cause Breakouts?
— By Erin Whitehead, SparkPeople Contributor
There’s no disputing the fact that exercise is good for the human body. So it stands to reason that exercise would also benefit the body’s largest organ: its skin. But does working up a sweat actually do anything good for your skin—or make you more prone to breakouts?
Exercise and Acne: Is There a Connection?
While your heart, lungs, muscles and bones arguably gain the most benefit from exercise, the positives of leading an active life aren’t a stranger to your skin. In fact, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), exercise increases blood flow to the surface of your skin and brings oxygen and nutrients to your whole body—skin included.
Then there’s the other benefit of exercise: sweating. Sweat is made mostly of water, with small amounts of ammonia, urea, salts and sugar. When you sweat, these impurities are flushed from your skin. But what does that mean for people who are prone to acne? It might help, but it doesn’t necessarily hurt, say the experts at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado (CHC). Sweat in itself neither fights acne nor causes it; but the increased blood flow, unclogging of pores from sweating, and stress reduction that result from exercise may all benefit the acne sufferer, says the CHC.
While working out can be beneficial to your overall skin health, you’ll want to avoid doing anything to exacerbate existing skin problems or cause irritation. Avoid wearing clothing that rubs against your skin during exercise, and if you wear a helmet, hat, sunglasses or other protective equipment while you move, clean it often as these sweaty surfaces can collect dirt and oil that can be transferred to your skin.
Exercising or not, you should always avoid touching your face to prevent blemishes and clogged pores. Be especially aware of this when you’re working out. Touching your face can transfer oil and bacteria (which thrive in moist, humid environments like the gym) to the skin, leading to possible acne flare-ups. If you need to wipe excess sweat, blot your skin with a clean, dry towel and avoid rubbing or wiping the skin with your hands, shirt or towel.
For those with longer hair, wearing hair back and keeping your hair or bangs off of your face can prevent additional dirt and oil from clogging your pores. Plus, a ponytail can keep you from touching your face and hairline if your hair frequently gets in the way. When it comes to makeup, most makeup on the market is noncomedogenic—so it shouldn’t clog pores even if you wear it while working out. Keep in mind, too, that over-washing your face can lead to irritation, so a pre- and post-workout wash may be too much for your skin. Your best bet may be to go to the gym sans makeup and wait until after your workout to apply it. Get more post-workout beauty tips.
Other Dermatological Drawbacks
While it seems odd to point out the negative aspects of exercise, there are a few issues to be aware of when it comes to skin health. These drawbacks don’t outweigh the many benefits of exercise, but knowing the potential for problems will help you avoid them.
The biggest drawback, particularly for athletes and gym-goers, is the possibility of contracting a skin condition. Outbreaks of ringworm, herpes, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are highly contagious among both athletes and average exercisers, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Physical contact, shared facilities and equipment, and poor hygiene all contribute to the incidence of MRSA. Athletes and exercisers should also watch out for ringworm and athlete’s foot, two fungal infections that are easily spread by close contact. The AAD advises that after working out or competing, athletes should shower immediately and make sure they wear flip-flops not only in the shower, but also when walking around in the locker room. This advice holds true for casual exercisers using communal locker rooms and showers at health clubs, too.
In addition to these conditions, working out can negatively affect those with chronic skin conditions as well. For people who have rosacea—a skin condition characterized by flare-ups of flushing and persistent redness, bumps and pimples—any activity that causes flushing or overheating of the face can spark a rosacea flare-up, according to the National Rosacea Society. Managing your workout can reduce the incidence of flare-ups, and the NRS recommends working out during the cooler parts of the day, working out in more frequent but shorter intervals and drinking cold fluids. Lower-intensity exercises and water exercise may also help.
The positive effects of exercise far outweigh the negatives, so check out these tips to keep your skin at its best when fitness is part of your lifestyle.
7 Skincare Tips for Exercisers
- Protect your skin from sun exposure. Wear sunglasses, a hat and other protective clothing when exercising outdoors. Sunscreen is the unbreakable rule. If you’re going to be working out in the great outdoors, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen liberally to sun-exposed skin, even when it’s cloudy. The AAD recommends reapplying every two hours and after swimming and sweating, so if you’re working up a sweat, be generous with the sun block. For exercisers, look for “sport” sunscreens that are designed to stay put even when you sweat.
- Cleanse gently. To prevent acne flare-ups and scars, gently clean your skin with a mild cleanser twice a day (morning and night) and after heavy exercise.
- Avoid tight clothing. Tight clothing that rubs sensitive and acne-prone areas can irritate and aggravate preexisting conditions. Wear lightweight, breathable and unrestrictive clothing and change out of it soon after a tough workout.
- Wear flip-flops. Don’t walk barefoot through the gym or locker room. Wearing flip-flops to shower can protect your skin from fungal infections.
- Wash your hands. To avoid spreading germs, wipe equipment down before and after use and wash your hands after you work out.
- Avoid touching your face. Touching your skin increases the risk of clogging your pores with bacteria and oils, especially if your hands are already picking up bacteria and germs from touching workout equipment.
- Hydrate. Drink plenty of H20 to replace water lost during workouts. Proper hydration will keep your entire body functioning properly.
Even though some experts aren’t sure whether exercise helps specific conditions like acne, most do agree that working up a sweat will benefit the skin as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Go get that healthy glow the best way possible—by getting your sweat on!
Ditch the Dimples
Zap fat with cardio, and chances are, you’ll lessen the look of cellulite. Add this magical move (which builds lean muscle to in your butt and thighs) to your workouts and your lower body will be ready for its bikini reveal!
To maximize the lunge’s dimple-diminishing capabilities, watch your form: Never let your knees creep past your toes, and be sure to press the heel of your front foot into the floor and squeeze your glutes throughout. Do three sets of 12 to 20 reps of lunges on each leg, three or four times a week. In as little as one month, you’ll see improvement!
10 Surprisingly Healthy Packaged Foods
You’ve probably heard this advice before: For a healthy grocery trip, shop the perimeter of the store. Avoiding the middle aisles is a good tactic to help you make great choices and pick the most nutritious foods, but if you stick to this advice completely you’ll be missing out on some of the nutritious items that do come in packages. These packaged foods—not to be confused with “processed” foods—can give you some great nutrients and make meal planning easier, saving you precious time.
You can feel good about buying some boxed, canned and jarred items when you’re equipped with the right information. Understanding what you’re looking for is the first step to healthy choices within the supermarket aisles.
Here’s a list of the healthiest convenience foods you can buy from the center of the grocery store.
Though dried beans are cheaper than canned, they can take a lot of time to cook. Canned beans pack an impressive amount of fiber and protein and can be a quick addition to many meals. Pinto, kidney, cannellini (white kidney), black, Great Northern—name any bean, they’re all great sources of nutrition for your body. When you’re choosing your beans, look for ones without added salt or seasoning. Before using your beans, drain and rinse them in a colander when you’re ready to cook. This will help wash added sodium down the drain—40% of the sodium to be exact.
Oats and Flaxseed
Prepare to have a heart-healthy breakfast by combining old-fashioned oats and ground flaxseed, both found packaged in either cartons or bags. One cup of cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed will give you 8 grams of much needed fiber, as well as a dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which each protect the heart. Choose old-fashioned oats over quick oats or instant oatmeal to ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of fiber without added salt and sugar.
These can be nearly as nutritious as fresh and are conveniently prewashed and chopped. To ensure you’re getting the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals available, use the vegetables within a few weeks as some nutrients may begin to degrade over time. Also, steam or microwave your veggies rather than boiling them to make sure you’re not losing water-soluble vitamins. Grab some edamame for a nutrient-packed snack, heat up some chopped broccoli as a side dish or combine a stir-fry mix with shrimp in a shallow pan and heat with a bit of olive or canola oil.
When it comes to meeting your daily fruit requirement, you can’t beat frozen. Many frozen berries do not have added sugar, but some do. Double check that the ingredients list contains berries to make sure you’re not getting extra calories from refined sugars. Then, add them to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or make a smoothie.
This one can be tricky, as not every granola bar is good for you. Shop carefully and read labels to pick out the healthiest option. Be cautious not to fall into an advertising trap! Flip the products over and check out the ingredients. Some of the healthiest bars will be found near the products made for athletes or in the “natural foods” section. Brands that use dates as their main sweetener can give you a good amount of fiber. Some of these higher quality bars do have more calories. Consider splitting one in half for a small snack or share it with a friend.
Soup that comes in a can or carton can be a healthy choice if you shop carefully. Many are packed with plenty of fat and added sodium, but some brands are lighter in both. A non-condensed, organic soup made with real vegetables is going to be the healthiest option. These are sometimes found in cans near the condensed soups but are also packaged in boxes in a separate section. Watch out for high sodium soups and read labels for serving size. Most people eat a whole can of soup as one serving, only to discover that what they thought was a healthy option actually contained 2.5 to 3 times the calories, fat and sodium!
Breakfast cereal can be a toss-up. Either you’re eating an overdose of sugar or you’re getting a good amount of fiber and vitamins. Pick the right cereal, and you’ll be supporting your heart and intestinal health with each bite. Look for at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and keep in mind the amount of added sugar. There isn’t an established limit to an amount of sugar to stay under, but if you aim for about 5 grams or less, you’re usually grabbing a healthy cereal.You can add even more fiber by mixing in some plain bran cereal with your favorite lightly sweetened cereal.
For a boxed fare that is both versatile and nutrient packed, pick up brown rice on your next grocery trip. This fiber-rich grain is a great side for nearly any meat, bean, and vegetable—or combination of all three! Try it with kidney beans, diced tomatoes and cilantro, or top it with shrimp, streamed carrots and broccoli with your favorite low-sodium sauce. Learn more about the benefits of whole grains and how to cook them.
Tuna Fish Packed in Water
When it comes to getting a bang for your buck out of canned food, this is almost as good as it gets. This convenient food is high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, and also gives you a good amount of vitamins D and B-12, too. Top a bed of greens with tuna, veggies, fruit and nuts or scoop it onto whole wheat pita, crackers or bread for a healthy combo on-the-go.
This tangy concoction found in the dairy aisle can be a great snack or breakfast staple. There are so many options you could go cross-eyed looking at the cooler full of colorful packages! Many brands are advertising “natural” products that do not have artificial colors or sweeteners, but what you choose should depend on your own preferences and nutritional goals. Make sure you check the label for calories to ensure you meet your daily goal.
Perform your best : )
To perform your best, repeat a phrase like “Let’s go” in your head. These confidence-building cues help people improve workout performance, research suggests.