“I’m working out several times a week. I cut back my food intake. But I’m not losing weight. What’s going on?”
The main element of weight loss is a word that we are all familiar with: calories. It’s a game of balance; you must have more calories burned than calories taken in. The problem is that most of us overestimate how many we burn and underestimate how many we consume. That 8 minute jog? That only burned enough to cover one bite of that candy bar. Did you eat the whole thing? Better run for at least 30 minutes.
The absolute best way to figure out what’s going on with your weight loss is to thoroughly analyze your calories in and out. Keep a log for at least a week, writing down as much as you can about everything you eat and every time you move. Write down how much you eat for each meal, but don’t forget all of those bites that you snuck while preparing dinner or that piece of candy you grabbed at the bank, and please don’t ignore the liquid calories. We lose track of the juice, soda, smoothie and other drink calories. A single beverage could be several hundred calories!
After you have your calories together, it’s time to look over your calories out. During the same week, write down specific details about all of your exercise. If you walk/jog/run, make note of your speed and whether it was flat or hilly, on the treadmill or outside. Same with other forms of cardio. You do not burn the same number of calories in a slow 10 minutes as you do a fast 10. Get as specific as you can. And don’t forget the fun things, too! Did you play Just Dance on the Wii for 20 minutes? That counts! Did you climb 10 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator? Log it!
There are calorie calculators online that you can use for free to help add up all of your exercising and eating. For the best analysis, talk to a nutritionists and/or fitness professional for help. They will be very proud of you for keeping a log!
Sometimes though, the calories make a deficit (more out than in) and you still don’t feel your body changing. If that’s the case, it’s time to look past quantity and move on to quality. How healthy are the foods that you are eating? Are they providing all of the nutrients that you need? How efficient are the exercises that you are doing? Is your heart pumping?
Take a look at the foods that you ate during the week. Did you eat as many whole foods (unprocessed foods from the Earth such as fruits and vegetables) as you thought you did? Did you eat more processed foods than you thought? Calories are not equal across the board: 100 calories from plant-based foods will be naturally cholesterol free, low in fat or only contain good fats (i.e. avocado), high in fiber to keep you feeling full and regular and have a lot of easily absorbed vitamins. 100 calories delivered to your door? Quite the opposite.
Now look at your fitness. Are you including intervals? If not, that’s your first mistake. Intervals = weightloss. Interval training involves bursts of high-intensity exercise alternated with low activity “rest” periods (but don’t sit down and take a nap!) to get your heart rate up and then let it come back down. Your body has to really work to elevate your heart rate, and it like to get through the tough job by burning fat.
Next improvement area? Your weight training. If you’re asking what I mean by “weight training” … I’ve found your problem! If you lift weights while standing perfectly still, you’re on the right track … but are more likely to become a bodybuilder than a long and lean swimmer. Building muscle is absolutely crucial to losing weight since the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns while resting. The key to using weights for weight loss, however, is once again the magic fat-burning body function: your heart rate. Focus in on moves that both challenge your muscles with weights and get your heart pumping.
NEXT UP: 5 quick changes that you can make to help your body figure out that you are asking it to drop a few pounds.