Why can’t I lose weight, why haven’t I been losing weight, why are the numbers on the scale not going down?
To lose weight you can do a couple of things, eat less or exercise more so that you burn more calories than you consume. If you are doing one or other of these things then you should be losing weight. I would recommend burning more calories than you consume as the best way to lose weight in conjunction with eating a healthy balanced diet.
The estimated average daily calorie requirement is 2000 for women and 2500 for men, this is just an estimate and will depend on your age, weight, height, body composition and levels of activity.
A healthy amount of weight to lose is approx 1-2 pound per week. If you are looking to lose weight this is what you should be aiming for but, yes there is a but, is it really weight you want to lose or, more likely, is it fat that you want to lose? Losing weight does not necessarily mean you are losing fat, you could be losing a small amount of fat but losing lean mass as well, which is not something you want to do.
Here are some reasons why you might not be losing weight:
1. You are exercising more but also eating more as the exercise is making you ravenous or maybe you feel like you can eat more because you are now exercising.
It is quite normal to think OK I am now exercising so I can eat that biscuit and it’s fine as I will work it off tomorrow etc but this may not be the case as what if you were eating too much before you were exercising.
Keep a food diary for a typical week (so don’t be on your best behaviour as it wont be a true representation of what you would normally be eating) and write down in it everything you eat and drink. You need to include absolutely everything as sometime people are unaware of exactly how many calories they are consuming. If you have only 1 small square of chocolate or 1 biscuit still write it down. At the end of the week you can add up the calories and divide it by 7 to get your daily average intake.
Another good way of stopping temptation is to note how many calories are in whatever your favourite treat is and then hop on the treadmill, elliptical, cycle etc and see how long it takes for you to burn that many calories. Now knowing how much work it takes to burn off you may think twice about temptation as you will have to burn those calories off on top of your normal work out.
2. You are using scales to judge your weight loss
Scales are the most popular way for people to judge if they are losing weight. I have seen it many times people saying they want to lose ??lbs (insert any number) and then they hop on the scales every week (in some cases every day) and get disheartened when they don’t see the results they want.
If you are not seeing a difference in the scales it could be for various reasons, maybe you are losing fat and putting on muscle (discussed further under umber 7 below). Or maybe you have reached a plateau (see number 3 below).
The best way to measure your progress is to take your body measurements, so hips, waist and chest measurements (if you want to take other measurements such as biceps, thighs, calves etc then do so as well) these will give a true indication of how your body is changing. The scales may not change much but you will know if you are losing weight by the drop in cm/inches around your body. Also have your body fat percentage measured, this can be done by a personal trainer, fitness professional using bio impedance machines or callipers or by using the weight and bio impedance machines in pharmacies and some other stores, the machines usually give a print out of your weight, height and also ahs an option for you can get your body fat % which involves holding the handles on the side of the machine. Once you have your body fat % you can then use this to decide a goal, i.e. how much body fat % you want to lose instead of how much weight you want to lose..
3. You have been following the same exercise plan for months
Maybe you have reached a plateau, this happens. Whether it’s the last few pounds you are trying to lose or if you still have a way to go if you haven’t changed your exercises then you can come to a standstill. Your body gets used to what you do, when you begin something new you get results as you shock your body you challenge it and it reacts, now once you have challenged your body it will start to adapt, it will start to become used to what you are doing. This is why you need to constantly challenge your body, your muscles etc. Similar to your brain if you don’t challenge your brain you don’t learn any more you stay at the same level of intelligence.
So keep your body guessing, this can be done by mixing up your routine, change your exercises, either by doing them in a different order or by doing a different exercise altogether (one that still works the same muscle group).
If you are jooging or running and doing it at a steady pace then add some high intensity intervals. So whislt working at your normal pace add in a minute of running or 30 seconds sprinting then go back to your normal pace then up the intensity again, keep alternating.
Other ways of challenging your body is to increase either the weight, reps or sets this will depend on your goals i.e. the number of sets and reps you do depend on if you are trying to increase strength, muscle size (hypertrophy), endurance or if you are just working on maintenance. If you keep your reps and sets the same then you should increase the weight as your body will get used to the weight and it will become easier and easier. The weight needs to be heavy enough that the last rep you do is the last one you can do, so you wouldn’t be able to do one more, not without losing your form.
Ladies, lifting weights will not give you huge bulging muscles, you do not have enough testosterone for this to happen, so don’t be worried about lifting heavy weights or working towards hypertrophy. Remember the more muscle mass you have the faster your metabolism and the more fat you can burn whilst doing nothing.
4. You have gone on a strict diet
If you have gone on a diet you could be preventing yourself from losing weight. Your body may be fighting back. In order to lose weight you need to eat and have a healthy and balanced diet. Your body needs calories (energy) to function, breathing, digesting food, your heart beating and many other automatic processes all uses energy to do it. If you start reducing your calories your body goes into starvation mode, it slows down your metabolism and starts holding on to everything you eat and stores it all to use as energy. If you are not eating enough calories your body will not use just fat as energy but also lean tissue. It is a lot harder to put on muscle than fat. Plus as soon as you start eating “normally” again, which you will have to do as diets are not designed to be long term, you will put the weight back on very fast and it will go back to all the areas you had fat before. This is because fat cells can never disappear, they can shrink (which is what happens when you lose fat), grow (when you put fat on) and increase in number (when you put on more weight than before) but once created they don’t leave.
5. You don’t get enough sleep
If you are getting less than 8 hours sleep per night then this can be affecting your weight loss. You will find that if you don’t have enough sleep the following day you may be craving more carbs and sugars in order to give you energy. Lack of sleep can slow down your metabolism so you also wont be burning off as many calories as you would if you had your full 8 hours.
6. You have started using the free weights/weight machines
Firstly this is great and everyone should be including strength training in their workouts. Strength training increases your muscles mass. Your muscles mass is what give you nice toned legs, arms, abs etc and your muscles will be firmer and you will be stronger. In fact the more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolism will be so you will be burning more fat even when you are doing nothing. Now the difference is most people think of weight loss in terms of how much they weigh on the scales when in reality you should be looking at losing fat. If you lot 1lb of fat but gained 1lb of muscle you will see no difference on the scales but you will see a difference in your body measurements and fat %. This is because muscle is much more dense than fat, it takes up a lot less room in the body So out with the fat, that’s taking up a lot of room and causing bulges in places you don’t want, and in return add some densely packed muscle which will give you a lean and toned body.
Just in case you are reading this without reading number 3 I just want to repeat that ladies lifting weights, even heavy ones, will not get big bulging muscles (we don’t have the testosterone!).
7. You watch what you eat during the week but then weekends are time for you to indulge
So you are exercising and eating healthily all week but on the weekend maybe you end up going out more with friends or family, you go out for drinks or dinner. Or maybe it’s a time when you have pizza and a few sodas etc. There is nothing wrong with having a day off from your healthy eating but you still need to be aware of the amount of calories you are consuming. Don’t deny yourself life’s pleasures but remember you either have to factor in the amount of calories into your daily number, remember that it is the quality of food that makes a difference don’t go mad and pig out on processed foods, if you want pizza or burgers why not try making them from scratch. Or if you do like to indulge on the weekend do it for one day and factor in the extra calories into your weekly work outs that way you can spread them across the week.