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So, you’ve started a new exercise plan and cleaned up your diet. You’re working your butt off doing both strength training and cardio conditioning 5 -6 times per week. You’re eating healthfully and following your diet to the letter – whether that means a strict 1400 calories per day or sticking to 5 – 6 small meals daily of lean protein, whole grain carbs and produce. You’re also feeling a lot better! You’ve got more energy and you can feel yourself getting stronger. Everything is perfect, except you haven’t lost a pound. You know you’ve got weight to lose – so what gives? Why is it not coming off??
The lack of concrete ‘proof’ that your efforts are being fruitful can be demotivating and downright depressing. There are a myriad of reasons why the scale may not be budging and it can be totally bewildering to wade your way through to figure out what’s actually going on with YOUR body. The most important piece of advice is not to get down on yourself and not to give up. Figuring out the answer to this problem will take some patience and experimentation!
Here are some possible reasons why the weight not be coming off. Investigate your behaviors with an open mind and without judgment. Consider the top 3 reasons that might be true for you, and address them one by one giving each a few weeks to see if there is any difference.
1) Do you sit too long?
Studies show that when you sit for just a few hours at a time, your body stops making a fat-inhibiting enzyme called lipase. This may the problem for those of us who work at a desk and are active ONLY during our 1 hour of exercise per day. The fix is to get up and move as often as possible throughout the day, ideally once per hour. Just standing and stretching every hour can boost your metabolism by 13%, says the The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. At work, make excuses to walk whenever you can, including on breaks and in lieu of emailing a co-worker who’s just a few cubes away. See if you can teach yourself to fidget – tap your foot or sit on an exercise ball at your desk and bounce lightly or move slowly back and forth. Fidgeters are shown to burn an additional 350 calories per day – that’s a potential 3 lbs of weight loss per month.
Studies show that people who sleep less than 5 hours per night are more likely to be overweight. This is because lack of sleep can put your body into a carbohydrate and fat craving survival mode. When you’re underslept your body feels like it needs more energy and sends you out to look for it – in the form of food. The amount of shut-eye you need to be healthy varies from person to person. You may find your body needs as much as 8 – 9 hours of sleep per night! If you’re looking to lose weight, don’t skimp on sleep!
3) Is it possible you’re eating more calories than you think?
When we’re starting out with a new diet plan, we can sometimes experience ‘calorie creep’ after the first few weeks. Unless we’re religiously measuring our food every single day, our concept portion sizes can creep upward as time goes on. This is particularly true if we’re exercising hard! The additional activity makes our bodies crave extra calories, and our brains may subconsciously trick us into dishing out slightly larger portions over time. If you suspect this may be the case, keep a nutrition journal for about a week. After the end of the week, go back and figure calorie counts. If you find it’s more calories that you thought, it’s a great time to do a reset on your concept of portion sizes.
4) Is it possible you’re eating TOO LITTLE?
If you’re sticking with only about 1200 – 1400 calories per day or less, or if you’re only eating twice per day, you may need to make some changes. This is particularly true if you’re working out hard! Cutting calories too much or eating too infrequently can actually slow your metabolism and prevent weight loss. When you aren’t giving your body enough fuel, or it doesn’t have a steady supply of fuel throughout the day, your metabolism can go into survival mode. Since it doesn’t know when its next fuel might be coming, your body will stop burning fat for fuel and save calories for later – pretty much preventing weight loss!
Are you doing a lot of strength training? Noticing changes in your strength, muscle tone and the way your clothes fit, but not seeing the scale budge? You’re likely replacing pounds of body fat with pounds of muscle. Many person trainers say not to pay so much attention to the scale, especially if it’s demotivating for you. Instead, take your measurements once per month, have your body fat tested by a professional or use fitness tests to determine your progress.
6) Have you just hit a plateau?
Already lost some weight, but now nothing for a few weeks? Been doing the same workouts for a while? It’s possible you’re body’s gotten used to your routine and hit a plateau. It can be helpful to switch up your routine so that your body and muscles stay challenged. If you’ve already lost some weight, you’ll need to do more or harder activity to burn the same amount of calories in a workout as you did before you lost the weight. Are you doing a lot of cardio and not so much strength training? Remember that muscle burns additional calories, even at rest, so you’re doing yourself a favor by increasing muscle mass. If you’re already doing a weight lifting routine, consider upping the weight you use, even if that means you can’t complete your reps for a while. This will challenge your body, cause your heart rate to increase more during the exercise and spark additional muscle growth.
7) Is there a medical issue?
If you’re feeling certain that the answer is not diet, sleep or exercise related, there’s a possibility that your failure to lose weight could be the result of a medical condition. Some possibilities include hormonal issues, depression, age-related hormonal changes or medications. This article from WedMD covers the specifics on what medical conditions and drugs could cause weight loss to stall. If you suspect any of these issues, consult a Dr and request he or she do a battery of tests.
Even though the scale’s not moving, the most important thing is not to give up! Losing weight, especially if you want to keep it off, takes time and patience. Resolve to never give up on yourself and focus on the positive changes you FEEL in your body. It’s important to choose a flexible nutrition and fitness plan, and be flexible with yourself. We designed our Athlean-XX for Women nutrition and fitness plan to have built-in flexibility from the get-go. The fitness program can be done at home OR at the gym. For the nutrition portion of the program, you can follow our 12 weeks of set meals, pick and choose the ones you like, or make up your own meals based on our lists of recommended foods!
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