Losing weight isn’t always easy, and it’s frustrating when you aren’t making your goals. Sometimes your body fights back when you lose weight. You may lose a lot of weight at first, but your weight loss may slow down or completely stop after a while. Even when you think you’re doing everything right, you still may not see the results you want. From a lack of sleep to health issues, there are a lot of factors that impact weight loss. It may be time to rethink your weight loss strategy.
1. You're Not Exercising
The one thing that's so hard about exercise and weight loss is this — it's hard to burn enough calories with exercise to make a serious dent in your weight. In fact, the workouts that are most effective for weight loss are the hardest ones — high-intensity interval training or metabolic conditioning.
If you're a veteran exerciser, you might enjoy torturous workouts on a regular basis, but if you're not, you may find any amount of exercise hard to accomplish. Unfortunately, that may end up hurting your weight loss efforts. So, how much exercise do you need and how can you fit it in? Use the tips below to make the most out of your exercise time.
For weight loss, you need to do at least five days of cardio at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes, but it usually takes more than that to really burn calories. Your best bet? Interval training two to three days each week and more moderate workouts the other days. By alternating high-intensity segments with recovery, you'll burn more calories and build endurance more quickly. You'll also get a great afterburn. You don't have to be an experienced exerciser to try interval training.
Strength training is incredibly important for weight loss, but some people stick with cardio because they like it, it burns a lot of calories in one fell swoop and they don't want to get bulky. But muscle is much more active than fat, so the more you build the more weight you lose over the long term.
Your best bet with weight training is circuit training. By doing an exercise, one right after the other, you keep your heart rate up and burn more calories. It also makes the workout a little more exciting so you're not bored. If you're a beginner, start with a basic cardio and strength circuit. Do a couple circuit workouts along with your cardio and you'll start to see some results.
Note: Many people don't lift enough weight to really challenge their muscles.
2. You're Not Getting Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, though experts aren't exactly sure why. In her article, “Sleep More to Lose Weight,” Mary Shomon discusses a recent study that found that women who slept five hours a night were more likely to gain weight than women who slept seven hours a night.
The reasons? Some studies have shown that losing sleep could affect your metabolism by making you feel hungry even if you're not. Sleep deprivation may affect the secretion of cortisol, one of the hormones that regulates appetite. There's also a theory that we move around less when we don't get enough sleep, which means we burn less calories.
Getting enough sleep is crucial if you're trying to lose weight, not just because of how it affects you physically, but mentally as well. Sleep deprivation makes you cranky, confused and can even make you feel depressed or angry. Make sleep a priority by trying to get to bed at the same time each night, shooting for about eight hours if you can manage it. Having some bedtime rituals such as a hot bath or writing down your worries can help you unwind before bed. You can also try power napping, which can be a great way to reduce stress and increase your productivity.
3. You're Too Stressed Out
Stress and weight gain (or lack of weight loss) go hand in hand. Though you may not be aware of it, being under constant stress can increase production of cortisol, a hormone which can cause an increase in appetite as well as extra fat storage around the abdominal region — a big no-no since abdominal fat is linked to diabetes, high cholesterol and other health problems.
Dealing with stress can be as simple as taking a few minutes each day to relax, scheduling a massage as often as you can or cutting down on work hours and increasing play time.
4. You're 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 one culprit, especially with restaurants providing enough food in one meal to feed several people.
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 as specific as possible, measuring when you can, looking up your calorie and nutrient content and adding up your calories for each day. You'll be surprised how those calories can sneak in when you're not keeping track.
Something else to think about is metabolism, which can drop as you get older if you don't preserve your muscle mass. Some estimates show that muscle mass declines about 4% each decade from age 25 to 50. If you're still eating the same number of calories as your metabolism drops, your weight may creep up over time. Start exercising and lifting weights now to keep your metabolism in check.
5. You're Not Consistent With Your Exercise and Healthy Eating
If you find your workouts are hit-or-miss and that you give in to temptation a bit too easily, your weight loss may hit the skids. For exercise to work, you have to do it on a regular basis. Once your body adapts to your program, you then need to change it to keep your body challenged. If you skip too many workouts, it's almost like starting all 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.
6. You Blow It On The Weekends
Having some treats now and then is fine, but if you find you do very well during the week only to eat yourself silly on the weekends, you may be hurting your weight loss goals. To lose one pound of fat in one week, you would need to cut 500 calories with diet and exercise for seven days. If you only follow that for five days then eat way over your limit for two more days, you're taking two steps forward and one step back. 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. Instead, choose one or two treats to enjoy and continue eating healthy the rest of the time.
- Avoid rewarding yourself with food. If you've been eating healthy all week, it's natural to want to reward yourself with a yummy treat. That kind of thinking can set you back (much like a smoker who rewards himself for staying smoke-free with a cigarette). Instead of food, reward yourself with a calorie-free treat like 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.
7. You Haven't Given Yourself Enough Time to See Results
While experts generally recommend losing one to two pounds a week, most of us probably don't get that close. Remember, to lose one pound you have to create a 500-calorie deficit every day for a week. It's fairly easy to cut calories from food since you can keep track by reading labels and measuring. The problem comes in when trying to determine how many calories you're burning with exercise. You can use a calorie calculator, but that's often overestimated.
How many calories you burn with exercise often comes down to things we can't measure such as how hard you're working and your fitness level. Add to that the fact that there are many factors that affect weight loss which, again, can't always be measured or accounted for with the tools we have to track progress. In that sense, your body may be making changes that can't yet be measured with a scale or a tape measure.
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 freak out if you're not seeing results after only a few weeks. Be patient. Taking it one day at a time will allow you to enjoy the journey instead of focusing on the destination.
8. You Have a Medical Condition
Some medical conditions and medications can contribute to weight gain. While not everyone will find this to be true, it's important to explore every avenue if you're genuinely following an exercise program and a clean diet and still not losing weight. One condition known to affect weight is thyroid disease. A thyroid deficiency can cause a decrease in metabolism and may lead to weight gain.
There are a number of drugs that may have weight gain as a side effect for some people. Some common ones include hormonal medications for birth control or menopause, oral steroids, some anti-depressants, diabetes medications and anti-psychotic medications.
You should get a diagnosis from a professional to determine whether your weight problems are medically-related.
9. You've Hit a Plateau
Almost everyone reaches a weight-loss plateau at some point. As your body adapts to your workouts, it becomes more efficient at it and 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:
- Doing the same workouts over and over. Your body needs to be challenged to progress, so make sure you're changing some part of your program every four to six weeks.
- Not eating enough calories. If your body doesn't have enough fuel to sustain your level of activity, you can actually stop losing weight.
- Overtraining. If you exercise too much, the body sometimes responds by decreasing the amount of calories you burn during the rest of your day.
Learn more about whether you've hit a plateau by keeping an exercise calendar and tracking your workouts, how often you change them and whether you're working too hard or need to boost your intensity.
10. You 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 constitutes a healthy weight and body shape. We all have different shapes and, though we can make changes to our bodies, we can only improve on the bodies we have, not turn them into someone else's body.
I have a challenge for you — 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 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? Are you within your ideal weight 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?