I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves this same question after starting an exercise program. You do really well, until you weigh yourself. The number on the scale hasn’t changed, leading to frustration and doubt that exercise is really beneficial. You can’t see results, so how effective could it be? This frustration is a common occurrence.
The following are 10 common reasons why we don’t lose weight immediately after beginning an exercise program:
- Not exercising enough: An important thing to understand about exercise and weight loss is that you have to work hard if you want to change the shape of your body. This means balancing moderate to vigorous intensity cardio exercise with challenging strength training workouts. For weight loss, five cardio workouts each week for at least 30 minutes is necessary. Challenging yourself with harder workouts or interval training is the best way to burn more calories and avoid hitting a plateau. For your health, it is also recommended that you lift weights at least two days per week.
- Not getting enough sleep: Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, though experts aren’t exactly sure why. Some studies have shown that losing sleep makes you feel hungry, even if you’re not; causing you to eat more. Sleep deprivation may affect the secretion of cortisol, one of the hormones that helps regulate appetite. Make sleep a priority by trying to get to bed at the same time each night, shooting for about eight hours. Having some bedtime rituals such as a hot bath or some time writing down your worries can help you unwind before bed.
- Stress: Stress and lack of weight loss or weight gain go hand in hand. Being under constant stress also increases cortisol secretion. Dealing with stress can be as simple as taking a few minutes a day to relax, scheduling a massage or cutting down on work hours. You can also train yourself in stress management techniques to help reduce stress throughout the day.
- Eating too much: This may seem obvious, but unless you’re tracking your calories each day, you may be eating more than you think. Portion control is a BIG culprit, especially with restaurants providing enough food in one meal to feed several people. When eating out, ask them to box up half of your meal before they bring it to the table. At home, use a smaller plate and wait 15 minutes before going back for seconds. If you’re really serious about losing weight, you need to get serious about your eating. Start by keeping a detailed food journal for one week, without changing any of your eating habits. Be specific. You can use online tools, such as My Pyramid, to analyze your diet. This will show how many calories you tend to eat each day and if your diet is lacking in any areas.
- Not being consistent: For exercise to work, you have to do it on a regular basis. Once your body adapts to your program, you need to change it to keep your body challenged. If you skip too many workouts, it’s almost like starting over every time. Sticking with exercise starts with finding a program you enjoy and that fits in with your lifestyle, goals and needs. That means being realistic about what you’ll really accomplish each week rather than going by what you think you should be doing.
- Splurge on weekends: Having some treats now and then is fine, but the trick is to plan your indulgences so that you can have some fun while staying on track with your weight loss goals. Try these tips for a healthy weekend:
- Avoid a free-for-all weekend. Choose one or two treats to enjoy.
- Avoid rewarding yourself with food. If you’ve been eating healthy all week, it’s natural to want to reward yourself. Instead of food, reward yourself with a calorie-free treat; a trip to the movies, a massage or a new pair of shoes.
- Keep moving. If you like to rest on the weekends, why not make your rests more active? Spend time taking a long walk with your family or tossing a football in the backyard.
- Haven’t given yourself enough time: In order to lose weight, you have to create an energy deficit. This is done by eating less and burning more energy. While calorie intake is measurable, the calories you burn with exercise often come down to things we can’t measure such as how hard you’re working and your fitness level. Give your body time to respond to what you’re doing. It may be weeks or months before you see significant changes so don’t be overly concerned if you’re not seeing results after only a few weeks. During this time, focus on how exercise makes you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you sleep better? Do you have less stress? Has your blood pressure decreased? These are all noticeable changes that indicate exercise is having positive effects.
- Hit a plateau: Almost everyone reaches a weight loss plateau at some point. As your body adapts to your workouts, it becomes more efficient and, therefore, doesn’t expend as many calories doing it. You may find that after your initial weight loss, your progress will slow down and eventually stop. Some common reasons for plateaus include:
- Repeating workouts. Make sure you’re changing parts of your program every 4-6 weeks.
- Not eating enough calories. If your body doesn’t have enough fuel to sustain your level of activity, you can stop losing weight because you won’t have enough energy necessary to reach intensities needed for weight loss.
- Overtraining. If you exercise too much, the body will respond by decreasing the amount of calories you burn during the day.
- Don’t need to lose weight: Despite what you hear on the news or read in popular magazines, not all of us need to lose weight. In fact, many of us have unrealistic ideas of what a healthy weight and body shape is. We all have different shapes and, though we can make changes to our bodies, we can only improve the bodies we have.
Take away all the reasons you want to lose weight that have anything to do with how you look. Now, look at what’s left. Are there any other reasons why you need to lose weight? Are you at risk for medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease? Is your BMI in an unhealthy range? If you’re at risk, losing weight may be important for staying healthy. But, if you’re very close to your goal and can’t seem to get rid of those last few pounds, ask yourself if you really need to lose them. Would it be possible to be happy at your current weight?
- Body Composition Changes: One of the biggest changes taking place during training is in your body composition. As you train, your body composition will become more lean. Fat loss will occur as muscle mass will increase. Because muscle is more dense than fat, it is possible that when you gain more muscle your weight will not change. It may even increase. This is not cause for alarm! Just remember that you are getting stronger and losing fat, though it may not show up as pounds on the scale.
WHY SANTA SHOULD DIET
Lots of children left milk and cookies out for Santa this Christmas. Next year he may want to consider having Mrs. Claus pack a healthy snack instead in order to watch his waistline.
Learn more here.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED IF MY CHILD GETS SICK OFTEN?
It’s the time of year when your child get sick over and over, and you start to wonder if they’ll ever be healthy again. They start to sniffle, and you get into the habit of bundling them up to try and keep the sickness away. But contrary to popular beliefs, we don’t get sick because the weather’s too cold or because we’re not wearing the right amount of appropriate seasonal clothing. Dr. Cindy Gellner talks about when, why, and how children get colds and other winter infections. She’ll also discuss when you should worry if sneezing and coughing becomes too frequent.
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For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.