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How Often Should You Exercise per Week to Lose Weight?

Would you like to know how often you have to exercise to lose weight? OK, I can give you some general tips on how often you have to work out per week. An individual and goal-oriented plan will help you to achieve lasting results.

What is the optimal amount of exercise per week?

The right number of sessions per week differs from individual to individual and largely depends on many factors relating to your body and your training. For instance, beginners will, of course, train less often than regular fitness buffs. Another factor concerns the type of workouts you do. Workouts mainly consisting of cardiovascular training to improve your endurance like cycling, swimming, walking, jogging, indoor rowing and indoor cross-training have to be seen differently than strength training with your own body weight or free weights for the purpose of building muscle. All these factors are important and have to be considered before giving any reasonable training suggestions. The hardest thing for me as a personal trainer is to come up with the best custom training plan for each of my clients.

How to reduce your weight effectively

If you want to shed pounds, you need to incorporate the following principles into your training plan, your workouts and how you perform the exercises:

  • Step out of your comfort zone, and don’t give your body the chance to get used to a routine. Mix up the intensity, duration and volume of your workouts by changing the distance, number of sets and repetitions. Vary the frequency of exercises, and work intervals into your cardio sessions. Shoot for more efficiency in your cardiovascular training by including bodyweight training. adidas Training is a great way to combine your strength and cardio training.
  • Incorporate a specific strength training session with free weights into your weekly training plan. To keep it simple: The more muscle you have in terms of your total body mass, the more calories you burn per workout.
  • The three pillars of training, sleep and nutrition form the basis for reaching your ideal weight in a steady and lasting way. You have to consider and optimize each and every aspect.
  • One very important rule that everyone should follow regardless of fitness level is “Never skip a rest day!” Make sure to take a break from all fitness activities at least once a week.

When I work with my clients, my tips and suggestions concerning how often to exercise mainly depend on the individual factors and aspects discussed above:

  • In general, three to five workouts per week (or in other words, three to five hours of physical exercise) tend to produce good results.
  • Beginners, as well as more advanced athletes, will see the biggest benefits if they work out three to four times a week.
  • The main thing is that you schedule a rest day between the different sessions.
  • You should take at least one day off after two consecutive days of strength training.

As I see it, a healthy balance of strength and cardio training is the most effective and efficient way to not only lose weight, but to reach and maintain a sound level of fitness.

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How many days a week should i work out to lose weight and body fat?

When you start going to the gym, it’s natural to want to see results immediately. You’ll want to build muscle and reduce body fat fast, and many people start training almost every day in the mindset that the more they do, the faster they will see results. It doesn’t take long to realise that this way of thinking is wrong however, as the importance of recovery starts to show.

Before long, your body becomes exhausted. This is totally counterproductive, and leads to workouts that consist of below-par performance. At the same time, though, space out your workouts too much and you won’t keep up your achievements. There’s a happy medium in there somewhere, but naturally, it’s not always easy to find.

How many times a week should I work out?

Most people weight train according to some kind of body-part split routine. They will allocate a day to biceps and back, then another to triceps and chest, before eventually targeting every core group of the body.

Others will divide their time between workout type, switching from cardio to strength, or high-intensity to low-intensity cardio.

However you go about it, you’ll find that there’s no right or wrong answer to “how long should you spend in the gym to lose weight”. This will depend on what your goals are, and what point you’re at in your fitness journey.

That said, there are some clear do’s and don’ts. It’s never a good idea to go from 0 – 100, working out every single day, if you’re only just starting out. Similarly, no matter what your goals, you’re probably going to see very little progress from one workout per week. Also, grueling workouts of 90 minutes or more aren’t really good for anyone – this time would be much better split into more shorter but more frequent sessions.

If you’re a relative beginner, wanting to see some good progress, a happy medium might be something like 2 or 3 days cardio, 2 or 3 days strength, with 2 rest days each week whatever combination of those you choose.

Another common question is “how long should I work out to lose body fat”. In that area, the answer is a lot clearer. Your sessions will want to be varied between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on activity.

Most importantly of all though, the routine you choose will need to be one that suits your lifestyle, and therefore one that you can keep up.

How long does it take to see results from the gym?

How you progress will depend on how many hours of exercise per week you’re doing, but even then, everybody is different. Many people report seeing results very suddenly, followed by what seems to be a “plateau”, so don’t be worried if this occurs.

If you’re not getting the results you want, there are a number of possible causes. You may not be working out enough, or to a high enough intensity. Alternatively, you may not be getting enough rest, or it might be time to change up your routine. Getting some advice from a personal trainer should help guide you.

It’s not all about what happens in the gym though. How well you’re eating and sleeping has a big impact.

What’s is a good gym routine for beginners?

There are plenty of fat burning exercises which are easy to follow, especially if you are a beginner. Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, it’s important that you see them through and remain consistent, otherwise it’s unlikely that you will see any meaningful results.

If you’re looking for a simple gym routine that works and is easy to follow, why not consider the following workouts:

  1. Burpees (10-12 reps)

Equipment: no equipment required

Burpees are one of the most effective exercises out there. They require zero equipment and minimal instruction, but if you push yourself hard enough you will start seeing the difference. We recommend warming up before you start, with a few minutes cardio and some stretches.

  1. Mountain climbers (10-12 reps)

Equipment: no equipment required

Mountain climbers work a whole host of muscle groups at once, while training your balance, agility and coordination. They’ll help continue those gains in your arms, back, core and legs. They’re quite intensive, so will certainly get your heart pumping, burning plenty of calories in the process.

  1. Dumbbell squat press (10-12 reps)

Equipment: a dumbbell, kettlebell or weights plate

Dumbbell squat presses are a particularly effective form of squat. Squats in general are excellent for toning your lower body and working a combination of muscle groups, including the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings. They produce great results for your overall fitness too, and are easily adjustable to suit all abilities. In this variant of the exercise, a weight is held against the chest to provide additional resistance to the movement.

  1. Kettlebell swings (10-12 reps)

Equipment: a kettlebell

Kettlebell swings are a superb way of burning calories. In fact, you could burn as much as 400 calories in 20 minutes with this exercise. The intensity should work wonders for your aerobic capacity. Not to mention, kettlebell swings work almost all corners of the body; including muscles in your legs, core, back and shoulders.

Repeat this 2 to 5 times.

If you’re looking for expert advice on fitness and nutrition, come and speak with one of our personal trainers. Visit today or find a gym near you and start your new fitness journey with PureGym!

How Often Should You Work Out?

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How many times have you joined a gym or committed to an exercise plan to lose weight, only to back out after a few weeks because you have no idea how often you should work out?

If your answer is “too many to count,” you’re not alone. Knowing how many days you should exercise can be confusing. This is especially so if the amount of time you’re putting in doesn’t match up with your goals.

So, whether your goal is to sweat it out on the treadmill more often to lose a few pounds or to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting in order to gain muscle, the following tips can help you hit your target sooner and with greater success.

How often should you work out for weight loss?

Knowing how often you should strength train and do cardiovascular exercise to lose weight depends on how quickly you want to see results.

The general recommendation is to lose no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. That said, many people seek programs that are designed for faster weight loss.

In the simplest of terms, you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. Dieting has proven to be an effective method of losing weight, but in order to maintain weight loss, you need to exercise.

How much weight you lose depends on the amount of exercise you’re willing to commit to and how closely you stick to your diet. If you really want to see results reflected on the scale and continue to make progress over time, you need to commit to working out at least four to five days per week.

But remember, you’ll build up to this. To start, you might only want to do two or three days per week and slowly work your way up to five days. Plan your workouts to include a combination of:

  • cardio
  • strength training
  • core work
  • stretching

For maximum results, a workout program should consist of cardiovascular and strength training exercise. When you lift weights, you increase your lean muscle mass. This allows you to increase your metabolism and burn calories at a higher rate, even when you’re not working out.

Cardiovascular exercise isn’t just essential in maintaining good heart health. Cardio exercise can:

  • burn calories
  • boost your mood
  • decrease stress

Cardiovascular exercise

Generally, aim to do either:

  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity at least five days per week (150 minutes per week)
  • at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days per week (75 minutes per week)

If you want to lose weight, consider two days of moderate activity and two days of vigorous aerobic activity or high-intensity-interval-training (HIIT).

Strength training

Aim for two to three days per week of strength training. Include full-body workouts that focus on compound exercises. These are moves that work multiple muscles at a time. Examples include:

  • squats with a shoulder press
  • deadlift with a bent-over row
  • lunges with a lateral raise
  • pushups and plank with a one-arm row

Other key exercises to include in your strength training program include:

  • squats
  • lunges
  • planks
  • pushups
  • straight leg deadlifts
  • bench-presses
  • pushup dips
  • overhead presses
  • pullups
  • dumbbell rows
  • planks
  • exercise ball crunches

To get the most out of your weight loss workouts, make sure you’re following these guidelines:

  • Vary the intensity of your workouts. Include both HIIT and moderate-intensity exercises.
  • Perform different methods of cardio in a week, like running on the treadmill, biking, and swimming.
  • Use circuit training when lifting weights to keep your calorie burn high. Circuit training involves doing a series of exercises, one after the other, with no rest between each exercise. At the end of the series of exercises, you typically rest for a set period (30 to 60 seconds) and repeat the circuit two or three more times.
  • Take at least two days of rest each week.

How often should you work out for muscle gain?

Finding the right balance of cardio exercise and strength training is key when it comes to putting on lean muscle. Do too much, and you risk overtraining and losing your hard-earned muscle. On the other hand, if you don’t up the intensity and put the time in, your muscle gains will be minimal.

Stick to two to three days of cardio per week. Focus on shorter, higher-intensity sessions, such as 25 minutes of HIIT.

Strength training

You need to be hitting the weights at least three days per week. The research says that at the very least, training a minimum of two days per week is needed to maximize muscle growth. How you structure your workouts and the amount of days you devote to strength training depends on your current fitness level.

Here are some basics of strength training to keep in mind, plus an example workout.

Consider this schedule, depending on your training level:

Training level Days of training
Beginner 2 to 3 days per week of strength training (full-body each session)
Intermediate 3 to 4 days per week of strength training (split up workout by body part or upper/lower body)
Advanced 4 to 5 days per week of strength training (an advanced exerciser might structure their week with three days on, one day off)

If four days of strength training feels right, consider splitting your week up into upper (arms, chest, and abs) and lower (legs) body segments. For example:

Day Body segment
Monday upper body
Tuesday lower body
Wednesday rest or cardio
Thursday upper body
Friday lower body
Saturday rest or cardio
Sunday rest or cardio

If you’re not gaining muscle as quickly as you like, you might be facing the dreaded plateau. When you train the same body parts with the same exercises and amount of weight over an extended period of time, there’s a good chance your body will stop responding.

In order to get back to a muscle-building phase, you need to change things up. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Add weight to your lifts.
  • Swap out your current exercises for a fresh set.
  • Change the number of sets and reps you’re performing. By varying the rep range, you combine lighter and heavier loads to elicit greater increases in strength and muscle size. For example, a heavy day will consist of three to five reps, a moderate day will have 8 to 12 reps, and a light day will be 15 to 20 reps.

When it comes to adding muscle to your frame, you need to make sure you’re giving your body plenty of time to rest between strength training sessions. Doing the same amount of exercise day after day can inhibit recovery and cause you to lose muscle over time.

If the idea of taking a day or two off each week is hard for you to manage, consider treating these days as active rest. Do a gentle yoga class or spend extra time stretching.

The takeaway

Cardiovascular exercise and strength training both play a significant role in targeting weight loss and increasing muscle size. Finding the right balance of the two will depend on your individual goals, how quickly you want to achieve them, and the amount of time you can commit to exercising.

Why you’re exercising and not losing weight

It’s more than just eating less and moving more. Anthony Warner, aka the Angry Chef, shares some surprising truths about fat and fitness that could change the way you see weight loss for good

If how fat we are is determined by the difference between how many calories we eat and how many we burn, then surely actively burning more should make us lose weight. Strangely, this does not always seem to be the case, but we probably all intuitively understand the reason why. Exercise is a really good way of building up an appetite, and whenever we have been active, we usually end up eating more. And although this might have an element of psychology to it, with many of us feeling we deserve a treat after going to the gym, it is also very much controlled by our hormones.

Many experiments have shown that after we exercise we are driven to eat more if we have free access to food. Experiments on military cadets have shown that these increases largely occur around two days after significant exercise, suggesting that it is not entirely due to the effect of a post-workout treat. Although the mechanisms are not entirely clear, our muscles produce a hormone called interleukin-6 during exercise, and this has a role in regulating our appetite. And in experiments where rats are trained to run on tiny rodent treadmills, the gene that codes for leptin has been shown to be downregulated after their exertions, suggesting that this powerful hormone is also involved in post-exercise appetite control. These sorts of processes help to ensure that no weight is lost in response to any increases in activity. Our bodies really don’t like losing weight and will powerfully respond to any changes in the environment that might make this happen.

Although the mechanisms of this regulation are probably many and varied, the control they exert is extremely precise. It seems that the number of extra calories taken on after exercise closely matches the amount expended, particularly for people engaging in high levels. This would suggest that without accurate calorie control and the ability to resist hunger over several days, exercise is not a good strategy for weight loss, though that doesn’t mean it’s not good for your health.

Even though appetite control after exercise is extremely accurate, unfortunately it does not return the favour when we overeat. As most of us will know, physical activity does not go up after a huge takeaway, even when observed over long timescales. So when we eat too much, our bodies are likely to ensure that any excess calories are stored, rather than encouraging us to run around and burn them off.

To make things worse, Ancel Keys’ Minnesota starvation experiments showed that when calorie intake is reduced, physical activity decreases. This is just one of the irresistible effects of our hunger hormones. So when we eat less, we will be naturally inclined to run a little slower, take a sneaky shortcut, drive rather than walk, or give a little less on the football pitch. As usual, our body fights weight loss in any way it can. And the less you eat, the harder it will fight.

Perhaps worst of all, when we decrease our physical activity, we do not seem to compensate by dropping our calorie intake. So if you are currently exercising regularly and suddenly stop for some reason, your appetite and habits will cause you to eat the same number of calories that you always have. When this happens, most of the excess you take in will be stored as fat. When regular runners cut their distance down for a period of time, they quickly gain weight. And even when they return to running their original distances, the extra pounds often fail to shift. This is one of the reasons why many professional boxers end up going to seed so quickly after retiring – it is an unavoidable consequence of our biology.

So, if you’re looking for immediate effects, the depressing truth about exercise is this:

  • If you are fat, exercising will not automatically cause weight loss, because you will have a strong urge to eat more.

  • If you eat too much, your body will have no urge to burn off the extra calories.

  • If you eat too little, you will automatically start to move less to prevent weight loss.

  • If you exercise regularly, you’d better not stop, because if you do you’ll end up getting fat.

MORE GLOSS: The Angry Chef – “Free-from is not the same as healthy”

CALORIES OUT

Anyone who has ever run on a treadmill will know another depressing truth about exercise. Even when it really hurts, it does not burn off that much energy. Depending on your weight and speed, a half hour run will probably burn 300–400 calories. And yet a 48-gram Snickers bar contains around 250 calories. So it does not take much delicious, convenient snacking to completely negate any impact of that hard-fought run, especially when the calorie compensation occurs over days rather than hours. This has led many, including the low carbohydrate diet advocates Aseem Malhotra and Tim Noakes, to claim that ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’.

But in reality, things are not quite so simple. Dr David Nunan is a senior research fellow at Oxford University who studies the role of physical activity in the prevention of lifestyle-related health conditions. He told me:

“You do have to do a lot of movement to use up 500 calories, and the headline grabber is that there is no benefit of exercise. Studies show that twenty minutes of daily exercise has no effect on visceral fat, but most of these are based on a version of walking. The studies look at levels of exercise that are within reach for people, but generally it is not enough. The conclusion from these studies should be ‘regular people are unlikely to lose weight with a typical amount of a common type of exercise’. And that’s if folk actually did the exercise they said they did. Supervised studies work better because it’s more likely the exercise will actually get done but the reality is that getting people who have never exercised before to do enough, or hard enough, consistently, is difficult to say the least. But even the little exercise they do can be of some benefit. The majority of studies show that when it comes to weight loss, diet and exercise beats diet alone. It’s just that diet has a bigger effect.”

This view might seem at odds with the evidence that we eat more to compensate for extra calories burned during exercise. But this is perhaps because we only think about weight gain in terms of calories in and out. When it comes to exercise, although it might not help us get thin in the short term, there is good evidence that over longer periods, it can make a huge difference.

There are many potential reasons why this might be the case. Exercise programmes have been shown to modify long-term regulation of appetite hormones, helping to increase perceived fullness after meals and making weight maintenance much easier. There is a suggestion that increasing physical activity might be one of the few things that can help to alter our bodies’ set point weight downwards, so hugely increasing the chance that long-term weight maintenance might be possible. If this is true, engagement in regular exercise could help free people from the misery of constant dietary failure and the endless cycle of yo-yo dieting.

For this reason alone, dismissing the role of exercise when it comes to weight loss, or claiming that ‘you can’t outrun a bad diet’, is a dangerous and thoroughly irresponsible message. It will only encourage people to abandon exercise as futile, pushing them to engage in more and more restrictive diets.

Because exercise has little effect on initial weight loss, its importance is frequently overlooked. But the truth is, almost anyone can lose weight in the short term. That is the easy part and only requires people to eat a bit less for a while. It is keeping any lost weight from returning that is so difficult, and exercise seems to be the one thing that can narrow your odds.

Dismissing the importance of exercise is also likely to exclude people from one of the most powerful and effective lifestyle interventions that we know of. Exercise has many extraordinary benefits beyond its effect on the body’s set point weight. It can reduce the odds of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and can improve many aspects of mental health, including some that increase the risk of obesity.

When people exercise while dieting, it improves their body composition, with more muscle and less fat under the skin. It also seems that exercise is better at reducing visceral fat than diet. Visceral fat is thought to be a much more powerful predictor of morbidity than BMI.

MORE GLOSS: Why stress might be giving you visceral fat

This all suggests that although the effect of exercise on immediate weight loss might be limited, it is actually far better than diet at improving our health. And for all of the many benefits, evidence seems to indicate that the more exercise people can manage, the greater and more positive the changes they are likely to see. And for those with the most severe cases of obesity, it actually seems that the benefits of exercise can be even greater, reducing many of the risks of excess weight.

Weight is seen as the only measure of health, when in reality it is a poor indicator

Because of the way we confuse fatness, physical appearance and wellness, exercise is too often dismissed. Weight is seen as the only measure of health, when in reality it is a poor indicator. And so exercise is frequently cast as a pointless waste of time. When dieters see that it has no immediate effect on the scales, they assume it is not helping. In our obsession with shifting pounds, we are ignoring one of the most important things we can do to improve our health.

There’s just one problem. When it comes to exercise, we’re really shit at doing it.

THE EXERCISE PROBLEM

Weight management guidelines often suggest that people who need to lose large amounts should engage in around sixty minutes of exercise daily. But studies have shown that the number of obese people who actually manage to achieve that as part of a weight management programme is virtually zero. It appears that the recommendations are impossible for any real-life human being to achieve, which might lead us to question their usefulness.

Of course, you may think that fat people just need willpower. But can it really be the case that every single one of them is too weak-willed to comply? If you are thin, do you really consider every fat person you have met to have less willpower than you do?

Presuming we can safely reject the idea that all fat people are lazy, this lack of compliance might indicate that something else must be going on. Could it be that the same hormone pathways that drive people to overeat also reduce their ability to perform significant exercise in a long-term, sustainable way?

It certainly seems that this is, at least in part, the case. Obesity and sedentary behaviour are strongly and consistently linked. Remember how powerful the hormonal drivers are, nearly impossible to resist in the long term. These pathways do not just drive appetite, they also regulate every aspect of our energy expenditure, a significant part of which is exercise. Perhaps obese people have an inbuilt disadvantage when it comes to getting moving, the power of which the rest of us cannot imagine. And maybe the success of those people who manage to exercise and keep the weight off is because they have weaker hormonal drivers. Perhaps the ability to exercise is an effect experienced by people who find weight loss easier, rather than a cause of them being able to do so.

In reality, these effects are thought to be bi-directional, and likely to vary between individuals. So for some people, exercise will help them lose weight more easily. But others will be naturally more inclined to lose weight, while also finding exercise easier to maintain.

And there are other reasons why overweight people might struggle to exercise. Gyms, dance classes, running tracks, football pitches and tennis courts are often places where fat people are not made to feel comfortable or welcome. In researching for this book I collected many stories about weight discrimination. Some of the most unpleasant and depressing were connected to exercise and activity. I heard about people being openly laughed at and abused while running or cycling. Grown men reduced to tears, hiding in fear of looking ridiculous in newly purchased sports gear. Confident and high-achieving women told me how they were terrified of walking into a gym class, hiding away in their car for an hour before returning home in shame.

MORE GLOSS: 9 ways to overcome your fitness fears

LAST WORD

Exercise has extraordinary benefits. It can be a source of real pleasure and greatly enrich our lives.

If you move your body regularly and get pleasure from it, be happy you have found that space. It has more benefits than anything else we can do in our lives and is a million times healthier than any restrictive weight loss diet.

But we must also try to accept that exercise will not be for everyone. Some will never be able to find a type of physical activity they can enjoy or maintain. Willpower alone will not keep you at the gym, and if you cannot find pleasure in movement, then it is unlikely you will last at it for long. For others, the stigma and traumatic associations will be too powerful, and it will not be worth the stress that these create. Injuries or disability might make all but the most tentative movement dangerous and painful.

So although I would strongly encourage everyone to get as much movement into their lives as they can, I appreciate that for some this will not be possible. We all need to try to lead the best lives we can, and no one should be made to feel guilty about things they cannot do. Because although a lack of exercise might cause you some problems down the line, I guarantee that feeling guilty about it will fuck you up twice as quickly.

An edited extract from The Truth About Fat by Anthony Warner published by Oneworld Publications from £7.99. Buy your copy here.

Follow Anthony on Twitter at @One_Angry_Chef.

Working Out and Not Losing Weight? Here’s Why

You put in work at the gym daily and eat clean—but the number on the scale still refuses to move.

This can be infuriating if you’re trying to lose weight. However, the combination of consistent workouts and a healthy diet isn’t necessarily the golden ticket to weight loss.

Here are five common reasons you’re not losing weight, despite eating right and exercising all the time.

You’re super stressed.

When you’re anxious or overwhelmed, it’s easy to put your workout on the backburner in favor of delicious carbs or a glass of wine. Emotional eating isn’t in your head, either.

Research shows that when you’re regularly stressed, your brain sends messages to your adrenal glands, which produce hormones that trigger a fight-or-flight response.

They also release cortisol, which increases appetite and stores extra fat in the body. See the research on boosting your metabolism here.

Stress also negatively impacts your workouts, leading to decreased performance, slower recovery, and a higher risk of injury. Additionally, if you’re stressed about trying to lose weight, you might put yourself at an even greater disadvantage.

“When you are constantly jumping on the scale every five minutes to see if you lost weight, you will be surprised that it can fluctuate,” says Aaptiv trainer Jaime McFaden.

Instead, find ways to relax on a daily basis, or trade your high-intensity workouts for something a little more chill, like practicing yoga or mindfulness. Aaptiv has yoga and meditation classes you can take today in the app!

You pushed yourself too hard, too fast.

Remember that time you swore you were going to get in shape, so you went running every day for a week and then injured yourself? We’ve all been there.

The impulse is well-intended: you want to see progress, so you assume more is more. However, pushing yourself too hard, too fast, won’t actually help you reach your goals sooner.

“Recognize everyone is different, and weight loss will most likely happen more slowly than you’d like,” says Aaptiv trainer Jennifer Giamo. “But, slow and steady is more sustainable than dropping pounds too fast and then watching the weight come right back on.”

Candice Cunningham, Aaptiv trainer and fitness coach, suggests monitoring progress in small ways to stay motivated.

“Pay attention to progress in other areas, like inches lost or how well your clothes are fitting—not just the scale. Pay attention to how strong you feel. Maybe you weren’t able to do one push-up a month ago, and now you can do six. Or maybe you changed your diet, and you’re now off medication as a result,” she says.

Your diet is completely out of whack.

“Abs are made in the kitchen,” right? Well, unfortunately, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. These are foods you want to avoid.

“Take a hard look at your nutrition: the amount of food you are consuming and the type of food,” notes Giamo. “Is it nutrient-dense? A poor diet can easily sabotage much of your efforts in the gym,” she says.

Likewise, too much sodium or not enough water can also lead to weight retention, adds McFaden. Eat enough protein for energy and muscle building, and stay hydrated before, during and after each workout.

Finally, you may think about cutting foods out of your diet or slimming down portion sizes in an attempt to lose weight. Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase likes to remind people to eat enough calories—because food is fuel.

She struggled with weight loss, due to issues with her metabolism, hormone levels, and thyroid, all because she was constantly working out, but not properly fueling her body. “Although I was eating all the right nutrient-dense, whole foods,” she says, “I was not eating enough.”

You always do the exact same workout.

“Our bodies will plateau,” says Cunningham. “Running at 5.5 mph a month ago might have been a struggle, and made you burn more calories and fat because you were working harder. But, we adapt, so once that pace becomes easy, that will no longer be the case. It’s the same thing with weights or even high-intensity workouts. Doing the same thing for an extended period of time will only get you so far, then you have to adjust either the weight, the speed, the reps, the timing the tempo,” she recommends.

Also, be sure you’re moving enough. It’s tempting to think that a quick 20-minute workout each day is enough to counteract the effects of sitting for eight hours, but that’s not enough.

You’ll want to at least meet the recommended national requirements for adults: at least 75-150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardio and strength building workouts, twice weekly.

A better option? Keep your body moving and guessing. Even though cardio is excellent for overall health, only doing cardio will ultimately diminish lean muscle mass. Mix up a strength training routine with HIIT and core strength moves for a full-body muscle tone and higher fat burn.

Need a switch up in workouts? Check out the workouts we have going on in the Aaptiv app today.

You’re exhausted.

“I can’t stress this one enough: If you’re sleep-deprived, rest is more important than your workout,” advises McFaden. Add regular rest days into your exercise routine, and make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye every night.

Above all, try to take good care of this one body you have. “Exercise is a fraction of a healthy lifestyle,” says Chase.

“If you’re not seeing a change in weight, look at the bigger picture. What are you eating and how much? Are you doing any low-impact or stress-reducing exercises, such as yoga, pilates, meditation or walking? Typically, if you’re not seeing a change in weight or inches,” she adds, “there’s some sort of imbalance that requires a change, elsewhere.”

Before we go on this journey of diets and nutrition and science, let’s sit down, have some hot apple cider, and let me quickly tell you about my life. I’m here writing because over the last 2 years, my life has totally changed.

Aakanksha Joshi

I learned I was allergic to dairy and eggs about 2 years ago and immediately had to change my diet or else I’d be going downhill real quick. I was super bummed for a while, but then I started doing research about diets, nutrition, and exercise, and found that I LOVE talking about it. Now I’m an Exercise Science major at the College of Charleston. That’s how much I love this stuff.

Since then, I’ve lost about 50 pounds. Losing weight and dieting isn’t has hard as it seems. I lost 50 pounds in about 9 months. And I want that for you, too.

What Should You Give Up?

You’ve heard it before. Maybe you’ve said it before. Something along the lines of “This diet sucks,” “It isn’t working,” or “I haven’t lost any weight.” I hear it all the time. But a lot of people don’t realize exactly what’s going on with their diet. So I’ll try to explain.

Caroline Ingalls

Let’s say you’ve been wanting to cut down on fats. Fats seem like a pretty easy thing to avoid. No more greasy food, maybe you start drinking skim milk, and you ditch your morning donut for a banana (great alternative btw).

You’ve been doing this for a week and nothing. You give it another few weeks. Still nothing. “What gives?!” As rage and anger fill your face and smoke bellows out of your ears, I’ll explain what’s going on inside your body.

There are two main things you have to consider while you diet: What you are eating in place of what you gave up and how much energy you expend throughout the day.

Caitlin Shoemaker

You can totally give up eating fats in your diet but still gain weight in fat. Let’s say (or lettuce say) that whenever you crave a donut (or whatever), you eat a piece of bread with jelly on it or a bunch of crackers. It’s filling. Essentially, what you just ate were carbs, or carbohydrates.

Carbohy-whats?

Alex Frank

Carbs are great for quick energy. That’s why you hear about cross country runners eating a bunch of spaghetti the night before a big race, also known as “carb-loading” (this actually doesn’t work like a lot of people would think but that’s for another day).

Some professional cyclists, for instance, will eat about 4,000 calories (smoothie or juice form) the morning before a long distance race. WHOA. 4000 calories. You’re probably thinking, “That’s more than you need to eat in a day,” which is exactly my point.

4,000 calories is WAAAAAY more than you need to eat in a day. So what’s the difference between a professional cyclist or a cross country runner and an average college student? I think you know the answer. College students have hardly any time to go to the gym and burn 4,000 calories every day.

Denise Uy

College students burn an average of anywhere between 1,800 and 2,600 calories a day depending on how active they are. It’s different for everyone. Genetics are a big factor on how many calories you burn at rest.

A student who takes the bus to class will burn less calories than a student who walks or rides a bike to class. So, if you decide to eat crackers to fill you up instead of a high-fat snack but you don’t use up the calories you put in, those carbs will get stored as fat.

Now, there’s a bunch of science behind this and everything else in the universe but here’s what you need to know — calories in = calories out.

What About Protein During Weight Loss?

Malia Budd

Here’s a big thing that gets on my nerves. You’ll see people in the gym that are trying to lose weight but are drinking a milkshake called SUPERMAX WHEY PROTEIN with KICK YOUR WORKOUT IN THE ASS written underneath the title. Those people aren’t helping themselves.

They’re giving their body more calories than it can burn. Those protein shakes can have up to 300 calories in the powder mix alone. Add in another 200 calories in the 2% milk this person mixed it in and you’ve got yourself a rather large meal.

These protein shakes are great for building a ton of muscle. But you have to put the work in to reap the benefits of that much protein. And it’s a ton of work.

While protein is really important, if you’re just starting to lose weight and not building a ton of muscle, stick to water and an electrolyte mix if you absolutely need it.

Counting Calories Isn’t Just For Your Mom

Claire Rosenkilde

You can eat 2,000 calories of salad every day for the rest of your life, but if you don’t get your butt off of the couch, you’re not going to lose any weight. You can eat 2,000 calories of fat but go ride your bike for 8 hours and burn 4,000 calories, and you’ll lose weight.

But don’t eat nothing but fats. Please don’t do that. All the macronutrients are important (proteins, lipids/fats, and carbs/sugars). Protein for muscles and energy (and a bunch of other things), carbs and fats for quick energy and sustainable energy, respectively. The stuff you learned in high school health class should be coming back into your mind.

It may seem simple but it can be pretty tough to keep a good diet going. Whether it’s a no-fat diet, no-carb diet, or a no-happiness diet, you have to be mindful of how many calories you actually use on a day to day scale.

Plus, macronutrient diets are a hard thing to count. I would recommend starting a diet by eliminating a certain type of food (i.e. dairy, oils, red meats, etc) and then go from there. There’s a really cool app you can get called MyFitnessPal that can count your calories for you, determine how many you burn in a day (with exercise AND resting) and a whole lot of other things.

So, let’s recap. Calories in = calories out, unused carbs = fat, and exercise is a big part of dieting.

Easy Things You Can Do

Beth LeValley

If you’re at the cafeteria, only grab one plate of food and drink 2 glasses of water a plate. It will fill you up and give your stomach time to tell your brain it’s full. Weight loss is 20% exercise and 80% diet. Not the other way around.

Going to class? Leave your dorm or your house a little earlier and take a walk there. Or ride your bike there. Riding your bike to a class that is 10-15 minutes away can burn up to 100 calories (depending on how fast you go). If you’ve been sitting down and studying/looking at Facebook on your phone at the library for a long time, ask someone to watch your stuff and take a quick stroll around the block. Get some fresh air. Pet a dog. Meet a new friend. Boom. Extra calories burned.

Exercise LESS To Lose MORE Weight

Do you bust your tail at the gym day in and day out, yet you can’t shed a pound? (Or maybe you’re even gaining!) I know too many people who follow restrictive diets, depriving their body of what it needs, all while putting it through hell at the gym. I can relate. I used to do this, too. The thing is, it’s not worth it…and weight loss doesn’t work that way!

Why exercise alone won’t cut it:

For years we’ve been told, “burn more calories than you take in and you’ll lose weight!”, so it’s no wonder we spend hours upon hours running or “ellipticaling” to burn as many calories as we can. Yet, to this day, there hasn’t been a single study showing that exercise alone causes significant weight loss (and certainly not sustainable weight loss). There’s so much more to it than that.

One of the main reasons burning tons of calories through exercise can still result in not losing a single pound is because of an important thing you don’t hear about very often from weight loss experts or the media. It’s called inflammation. Too much exercise can cause inflammation in your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is an abundance of inflammation happening that your body isn’t getting a break from. This would explain not only your inability to lose weight—as your body is constantly fighting fires inside of you—but it’s also why you can actually gain weight from exercising too much—because of all the compounding inflammation.

I learned this the hard way when I started running marathons. When I continued to gain weight while adding miles to my daily runs, I discovered it was due to the inflammation my long durations of cardiovascular activity was causing in my body. The same is true for all of the people you see at the gym on the elliptical machine for upwards of an hour —they’re giving themselves gold stars when they are actually doing more harm than good.

Here’s what happens: Essentially, inflammation drains your metabolism because your body is focused on healing. “Chronic cardio,” (as it is referred to), can also increase your body’s production of cortisol—your stress hormone—setting you up for weight gain by raising blood sugar levels and triggering the release of insulin, your fat-storing hormone.

Five things you can start doing TODAY to start losing weight:

  1. Start skipping the gym. Giving up the daily gym grind doesn’t necessarily mean you need to completely stop exercising. All it means is cutting back in order to allow your body to heal, and then gradually adding in different types of workouts. The right types of exercise can be incredibly beneficial for boosting metabolism, so the takeaway here is that not all types of exercise are created equal. It’s the chronic, repetitive, daily endurance activity that is counterproductive and inflammatory. A healthy first step is taking a break from intense workouts for a few weeks, and embrace yoga, pilates, and lower intensity exercises. After a couple weeks of this, I recommend adding in short bursts of activity at high intensity intervals, a few times a week, to support your metabolism. See point # 2! And check out this blog post to learn what I do for my workouts, why I do them, and how they have evolved. (There are some MAJOR mindset knowledge bombs here!)
  2. Start incorporating HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Intensity is more important than frequency. This may be the simplest metabolism-boosting switch that you can make: changing from the long, slow, boring, hamster-wheel workouts to shorter bursts of high intensity intervals with rest days in-between to properly recover! This type of exercise gives your metabolism a jump-start without causing stress (inflammation) in the body. High intensity interval workouts are alternating short periods of intense exercise with recovery periods. It’s as simple as doing some exercise and then resting. These high intensity interval training workouts are the kind that really turbocharge your metabolism, and as a bonus: they don’t require great lengths of time…also awesome! For your intervals, you can mix it up by including sets of both cardiovascular activity and resistance (strength) training to keep your heart pumping and your muscles strong, too. Jumping jacks, mountain climbers and running up and down the stairs count for cardio, and squats, pushups and lunges are more strength training exercises. Burpees and squat jumps are both! What I personally recommend (and do) is that you set your stopwatch for 30 seconds. Do sets of the exercises I just outlined, and any other moves you love for 30 seconds and then take a 30-second break in between sets. The break is to allow your body to rest so that you can push yourself hard again, but not so long that it fully recovers between sets. You can do 20 seconds on and 40 seconds off, or 15 seconds on and a 45-second break, especially when you first start this regimen, or when you’re beginning to feel tired, like toward the end of your workout. You can start with just a few minutes of this and work your way up to 10 or 15 minutes at a time, based on how your body feels. I suggest starting with three to five minutes of this interval workout a few days a week, and you can work your way up to ten or fifteen minutes a few times a week. This type of workout can be done at home without going to a gym, and when the weather is nice, you can do the same type of thing outside—30-second intervals, alternating between running and walking—or skipping if you’re adventurous!
  3. Make it a point to REST! If you’ve been over exercising, then in order for you to lose weight, it’s going to be critical for you to take a break from overdoing it and allow your body a chance to rest and heal. If you are putting in long hours of endurance activity every day and don’t give yourself a break, how do you expect your body to recover? Every time your body is inflamed, it focuses on healing that inflammation as its top priority. Not weight loss. Not energy. Not happiness. Just healing. All exercise can produce an inflammatory response and a slowed metabolism if you’re doing too much, so make your workouts harder (not longer), and not more frequent. Make sure you are well rested so that you can do harder workouts, albeit shorter ones. Exercising in this way supports your metabolism the most without promoting inflammation. Just like it’s downright mean to restrict your body of the nutrients it needs (like fat or calories), subjecting your body to a constant state of inflammation is dishonoring it, too. Give your body periods of rest and recovery, and listen to it rather than doing things to it that it doesn’t like.
  4. Supplement! Once I changed my exercise regimen, along with the addition of quality vitamins that I hadn’t been taking up to that point, I started losing weight. Twenty pounds came off effortlessly. Long story short: Supplements were a key factor that changed everything for me, and I still make it a priority to take these every single day. (Grab my FREE guide on supplement recommendations for exercise HERE.) The longer story is that poor quality, unregulated supplements—the ones you find on store shelves—could actually be causing inflammation and a slower recovery time, taking you further from your goals instead of helping you! This is something I learned the hard way, and a lot of our clients have unfortunately suffered in the past from these, too. There is a mystery combination of unknown ingredients and additives in products on store shelves that we, as consumers, aren’t even privy to. All of that junk is harmful for your body! It deadens metabolism, increases inflammation, packs on the pounds and generally causes more harm than good. That said, high quality supplements are extremely effective when it comes to healing and weight loss. I recommend either taking high-quality pharmaceutical grade supplements that are regulated, like the VeroVive™ line or none at all. I also created a free guide for you with my specific nutrient and supplement recommendations for workouts. (you can save, download, and print it!)
  5. Find your Balance. A big takeaway about exercise is, like most things, it’s really all about balance. Personally, now I eat more calories and fat than ever before, I’m exercising far less, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I don’t tell you that to brag, but because I used to believe getting in shape was 50%exercise + 50%nutrition, and now I know nutrition matters much more. As you shift away from long workouts, it’s a wise idea to invest that extra time into planning and prepping your meals and snacks to bring you closer to your weight goals. Abs really are made in the kitchen—it’s a saying that has stuck around for good reason. In fact, at an initial client appointment, it isn’t rare for us to ask them to spend less time at the gym and more time making healthy food a priority, instead of trying to “burn off” junky stuff they eat when they’re in a hurry. You can be torching calories left and right doing grueling workouts at the gym, but consuming excessive amounts of processed carbohydrates ultimately inhibits your ability to access and burn stored body fat. You can’t just “burn off” the inflammatory foods you’re eating. It doesn’t work that way. The first step is to eat in PFC balance (more healthy fat and protein along with your carbs!).

Are you jumping for joy?!

This is great news! You’re getting your life back! And losing weight in the process!

To conclude, focus on intensity more than frequency and round it out with adequate rest, quality supplementation and PFC balanced eating and your body will thank you by letting go of those excess pounds. Honor your body and your body will honor you!

For more, I wrote an entire chapter on exercise in my #1 international bestselling book, Why Am I Still Fat? The Hidden Keys to Unlocking That Stubborn Weight Loss.

In the book you’ll also find thirteen more weight loss keys that I bet no one has told you about, and you’ll get detailed guides that go along with each one, including my Guide to Healthy Exercise! Grab it here!

‘I’m exercising, why am I not losing weight?’

It is one of the most frustrating complaints of clients who are actively trying to lose weight – they are eating well and exercising regularly yet still the scales refuse to budge. So if you are hitting the gym without any real results, here are the most common reasons that you are not getting the changes on the scales you are looking for.

You are not moving enough

While exercise raises heart rate and increases the number of calories we burn each day, the harsh reality is if you spend much of the day sitting, even when you do go to the gym, you are unlikely to be burning significant amounts of body fat. Unfortunately, exercise does not compensate for sedentary lifestyles which see us spend 10-12 hours a day sitting as we work, commute and relax in front of the television at night. This means if weight loss is your goal, you need to be clocking up at least 10000 steps each day as well as exercising at least 3-4 times each week.

You are doing the same workout

The body is very good at becoming efficient at what it does regularly which means if you do the same workout or run the same path every time you exercise, over time you will burn fewer and fewer calories doing it. This means if you want to exercise for maximal calorie burn, you need to mix up your workouts. The more you change things up, do different things and challenge your body in different ways, the more calories you are likely to burn over time.

The fad-free guide to weight loss

The fad-free guide to weight loss

You are not exercising at the right intensity

The goal of any exercise or workout is to challenge the muscle cells to burn fuel more efficiently, and as such your heart rate and how hard you are breathing is a relatively good indicator of whether you are working out at a reasonable intensity. This means if you are spending time in the gym but barely breaking a sweat, or can continue a normal conversation for the entire duration of your workout, you are not training hard enough. Mix up your sessions by including some interval training; add hills or sprints if you run regularly or invest in a few sessions with a trainer to help teach you how to push your training limits.

You are eating more because you exercise

The virtuous feeling that often accompanies a tough workout is also the thing that can drive us to treat ourselves with extra foods we would not usually eat simply because we have been ‘good’ and gone to the gym. If your goal is weight loss, you will not need to eat more because you are training, rather you will need to make sure your food choices are filling with plenty of protein, salad and vegetables. Especially when you consider that a couple of chocolate biscuits contain more calories than the ones you have burnt in your workout.

You are not doing the right type of exercise

Everybody is different and as such not all workouts suit all people. For example some people get great results from weight training, while others find it bulks them up. Some people can lose weight with plenty of walking, while others need to be running. If you regular routine is not working for you, it may be time to try something new because it nothing changes, nothing changes.

You’ve been working out a ton and are convinced this is going to be the week that the number on the scale is finally where you want it to be. And then…nope. Womp womp.

Put away that sad trombone—with a few simple changes to your normal routine, you can finally start to see results. In fact, changing it up is basically the secret sauce for making progress—whether you want to lose weight or just get strong AF.

“Your body adapts to your workout, so it’s important to tweak your normal routine so you continue to get the most out of it,” explains Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S. and founder of TS Fitness in New York City. Here, some of his favorite ways to switch up your workout if your goal is weight loss.

1. Warm up (but really tho)

If you jump into your workout without prepping your body first, well, you’re a normal human being. But you won’t be able to perform as optimally (read: burn as many calories), says Tamir—that’s why it’s crucial to begin with a good warmup. “Start with a couple mobility moves, like hip-opener drills, ankle drills, leg swings, and neck nods,” recommends Tamir. “All of these will help get the synovial fluid—the fluid inside of your joints—moving, which will help with your mobility overall.” He also recommends paying some attention to your glutes, which are the biggest muscle in your body—and should be activated before any workout for max results. His activation moves of choice: single-leg bridges, lateral band walks, and deadbugs. “If you do just a couple of these moves before you begin, your workout will be much more effective.”

2. Work interval training into your cardio routine

“Interval training helps you burn more calories than you do when you’re exercising in a steady state,” explains Tamir. So if you’re a treadmill junkie, sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 30—and keep alternating that routine. You can try a similar technique on a bike or an elliptical—basically while doing any form of cardio. “You’ll be working harder when you’re going faster, which will spike your heart rate, and ultimately help you get more from your workout overall,” says Tamir.

3. Focus on compound movements

Many of the machines at the gym target one specific muscle group, but if you’re focused on weight loss, your best bet for weight training is to opt for moves that use multiple muscle groups at once. “An example of this would be a squat versus a leg-extension machine,” explains Tamir. “You’re using more muscles overall, which ultimately means you’ll end up burning more calories.”

4. Lift more weight

Because—you guessed it—you’ll end up burning more calories.“For your upper body, try increasing the weight you’re using by 5 to 10 percent each week,” says Tamir. “And for your lower body, increase the weight by 10 to 15 percent each week.”

So if you’re lifting 10 pounds, try increasing the weight by about about a pound for your upper body, and about two pounds for your lower body (depending on the weights you have; it doesn’t have to be exact).

And if you currently do only bodyweight stuff, start using weights. “The key is to choose a weight where you’ll still be able to do your moves with clean form.” (Because going too big and getting injured definitely won’t help you get in better shape.)

5. Refuel and rehydrate

“If you don’t do this, your body won’t get the optimal muscle gain from your workout, which will limit the amount of calories you burn in the long run,” says Tami. In addition to drinking lots of water, he recommends having protein post-workout—something like chocolate milk is great.

Annie Daly Annie Daly is an NYC-based freelance travel and wellness journalist, and the author of the forthcoming book Destination Wellness, about various healthy living philosophies from around the world.

You’ve been working out and trying to eat healthy, but the pounds still aren’t coming off. And it’s frustrating.

First off, know that you’re not alone. Plenty of people struggle with losing weight, often at various points throughout their weight loss transformation. Just because you’re not losing the weight you want, doesn’t mean that you can’t.

Often, all you need to do is make a few minor adjustments to your current approach to weight loss. Thankfully, there are lots of little changes you can make to get on the right track.

Here are 10 of the most surprising things that might be holding back your weight loss.

Fix them and watch the numbers on the scale fall.

1. You’re following a diet and exercise plan that isn’t tailored for you.

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Everybody is different: that’s the message Bruce Y. Lee, the executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins University, wants to send when it comes to weight loss.

“There’s been a lot of fad dieting and fad exercise programs,” Lee says. The reason that a single diet plan and the same exercise routine don’t work for everybody is that we all live different lives in unique bodies that have their own needs.

“You have to tailor what you do to yourself,” he says. Instead of following a specific diet or exercise plan, don’t be afraid to try lots of different things to find what works for you.

2. Eating healthy foods and healthy portions needs to take a front seat.

Noel Hendrickson

Weight loss isn’t just about working out: It’s also about what you eat. But many people still don’t pay enough attention to food and portion size, Lee says.

You won’t have much success sustainably losing weight without getting your diet under control, for two reasons.

First, without the proper fuel, even getting into the gym or out on the road is hard. You’ll drag.

Second, diet and exercise are both factors shaping weight loss, Lee says, and trying to figure out which one is more important is “sort of like asking ‘which is more important, your arm or your leg?’” That means you should pay as much attention to what you’re eating as you do to how you’re working out, which may mean investing more time in meal planning.

Intimidated? To start with, he suggests keeping a food diary and writing down everything you eat for a couple of weeks. Then figure out where you can trim unnecessary calories from your regular diet, as well as unnecessary dollars from credit card bill. “Eating healthy has gotten expensive,” Lee says. This method will help you figure out how to make your money count.

3. You’re only exercising at the gym.

Oliver Rossi

Sure, your time at the gym is helpful in losing weight, and we’ve got tips to help you make the most of it. But the exercise outside the gym—and the mindset that goes with it—that will help you make long term changes to lose weight and keep it off. When it comes to exercise, Lee says, “if you can’t keep doing it, it’s not going to work.”

That doesn’t mean stop going to the gym—it just means you may need to change your mindset a bit. Your day-to-day life has plenty of opportunities for meaningful exercise, like taking the stairs, walking instead of driving, or adding half an hour of vigorous playtime with your kids to your daily schedule.

Taken all together, these activities help ensure that even if you don’t make it to the gym quite as often as you mean to, you can still do things that make a long-term difference in your fitness and weight.

4. The number on the scale is moving—but slowly.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Many people who lose weight don’t keep it off: Take the oft-cited example of ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants. When you lose weight, your body’s resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn just by living) slows down. When contestants on the show lost large amounts of weight—an average of 100 pounds—over seven months, their RMRs decreased significantly.

That means they had to work harder than they previously would have had to just to keep the weight off. Researchers who followed up with 14 of those contestants six years after they left the show found that their resting metabolic weights had remained low, which contributed to them gaining back some of the weight they had lost. The key to sustainable weight loss is time, not giant scales and reality television. “What you have to do is retrain your body slowly,” Lee says.

Unfortunately, there’s no single thing that will make you lose weight. The good thing is that your weight loss goal might help you make your whole life better. “It’s more about lifestyle and long term changes,” says Aaron Roseberry, a biologist at Georgia State University who studies obesity and eating.

5. You’ve hit a weight loss plateau.

Dave G Kelly

Plateaus happen: it’s all in how you handle them.

Be patient, and don’t give up on your goals, because slow and steady is the key to sustainable weight loss. “What you have to do is retrain your body slowly,” Lee says.

If you see your weight on the scale not going down for a while, that may mean it’s time to reassess how you’re approaching diet and exercise and see if there’s something you need to tweak. Check out our list of the most common reasons people plateau for some ideas.

Still bummed? There are other indicators that you’re getting healthier you can look to for motivation, like waist size. Abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, surrounds your internal organs and is the most unhealthy kind of weight to carry, Roseberry says.

Keep track of your waist measurement and how your belly looks: even if you’re not losing overall weight quickly, you’ll be able to measure a loss in belly fat as you get healthier.

6. You need more sleep.

PhotoAlto/Katarina Sundelin

Sleep is essential, both for mental acuity and to help your body recover from working out, but it can be hard to get enough good sleep. Besides making time for that 7 to 8 hours of shuteye, ensure you’re getting quality sleep by evaluating your sleep environment and looking at your habits for things that could be decreasing sleep quality. If you need a little extra, try folding in a nap. Oh, and don’t hit snooze. It won’t help.

7. You need to think about mental health.

Maskot

“Mental health can affect in a multitude of ways,” Lee says. From stress, which can change your hormones, to depression, which can cause someone to withdraw from others and not take care of themselves, these unseen factors can have huge effect.

If you’re having trouble losing weight, maybe it’s time to look at the things in your life that may be impacting your mental health and evaluate how you can address them. For some people, that might mean seeing your doctor or seeking out a therapist.

Know that you’re not alone, and that you are doing what’s best for you by considering your mental health.

8. You need to see your doctor.

Tetra Images

In some cases, underlying conditions that your doctor can treat or help you manage may be the reason why you’re not losing weight. Head to your doctor (with that food diary in hand, preferably) and see if they can help you figure it out.

Medications you’re on may also be affecting your weight loss, such as antibiotics, says Lee. You can stop in at your local pharmacy and ask if they can help you evaluate what you’re taking and if it might be holding you back.

9. Where you live and work is making it hard.

mickyteam

If the only place near your work to grab lunch is the Wendy’s, chances are you’ll lunch a the Wendy’s—at least more than you would if you had other choices. If the nearest grocery store to your house doesn’t have a lot of healthy options, you’ll probably buy and eat fewer health foods.

A common mistake people make in thinking about weight is to believe it’s all on you, Lee says. He suggests taking a systems approach to weight loss: In order to figure out why you’re not losing weight, look at the systems around you that make you keep it on.

Once you’ve assessed your environment, you can figure out how to optimize the things in it that you can control. Whether that means folding in a lunchtime walk at work because your neighborhood isn’t easy to walk in during the evening, packing your lunch rather than eating out, or starting to eat breakfast, small changes can make a huge difference.

Unsure what to look at? Three factors affect weight, Lee says: diet, physical activity, and metabolism. Chances are you can make some changes in your life to affect all three. But don’t be too hard on yourself: “We’re so outcomes-focused,” Lee says. “And there’s only so much you can control.”

10. You need a little help from your friends.

Sara Monika

The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. When it comes to habit changes, Lee says the people who participate in those habits with you can also help you change them. If you and the guys meet regularly for wing night, try mixing it up with a healthier option, or better yet, hit the courts for a game of pick-up basketball. Enlisting your friends to help you lose weight might also help them get started on a healthier path.

And they like to dance together too!

Sarah, however, has decided that she wants to get in better shape, so she makes some tweaks to her diet, begins drinking more water, and adds some more resistance training to her exercise routine.​

Sarah busts her butt while Sally doesn’t do anything different at all, and after 4 weeks, both girls weigh…143 pounds.

(Sarah is upset, while Sally thinks this is funny… Sally can be a little insensitive!)

But hold on, Sally…

Sarah’s waist measurement is now 32 inches, and further testing shows that she has recompositioned her body by adding 5 pounds of muscle and shedding 5 pounds of fat!

This seemingly tiny change in Sarah’s body means that her resting metabolic rate has increased by roughly 250 calories per day (because a pound of muscle burns somewhere between 30-60 calories per day). This means that she will burn about 250 calories more than Sally each and every day simply because her body is made up of less fat and more lean tissue.

Question: Who do you think will be able to lose weight easier in the future?

(Hint: it’s not Sally)

The same is true for you.

Losing inches, but not weight indicates that your body is changing in composition. This is huge progress and will lead to even greater progress in the future because of the positive change your metabolism is undergoing.

Well done!

#3. If You’re Losing Inches, But Not the Weight You Want to Lose, It’s Time to Work Smarter

At this point, I know what you might be thinking:

“I get it Dave. What the scale says isn’t the whole story, but I still want to lose weight.”​

Honestly, I do understand. Even if you logically know that your scale weight isn’t the best indicator of your progress, it still would feel really good to see that number drop. So what’s the solution?

First and foremost, I want to strongly encourage you NOT to do what you’re already doing, but at a more frenetic pace.

I see this a lot.

Jenny starts eating “healthier” (in brackets because this can mean many different things to different people) and exercising for a few weeks. Her scale weight doesn’t ​change, so she concludes that she must not be trying hard enough. She needs to deprive herself more in the kitchen and punish herself more in the gym.

I’m sure you can guess how well this will work out. Don’t do this.​

Instead, I challenge you to try something different. Try something, no matter how insignificant it might seem, that you’ve never tried before.

Here are my 3 favourite suggestions:​

a) Get Photo Evidence

I’m not doubting you. I don’t think you’re lying to me. But, I do know that most people have very little idea as to what they actually eat on a daily basis.

This can become even more of a problem if you’ve recently increased the amount of exercise you’re doing. Research has shown that nearly 50% of people who take their exercise up a notch​ end up facing more food cravings, particularly for sweet or fatty foods, than those whose exercise stayed the same.

​The result can be unintentional overeating.

Exercising not losing weight

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