By: Dr. Phoenyx Austin
For the past few weeks you’ve been trying to exercise more, eat healthy, and overall you think you’ve been doing pretty well. Until you hop on the bathroom scale and discover that you haven’t lost any weight! And now panic sets in: Good Lord, I’ve got 2 months to get into that two-piece! Why aren’t I losing any weight?!
Now first off, I want you to calm down girl because what you’re experiencing is pretty common. And you do still have time to make it into that two-piece- I promise! We just have to figure out what you’re doing wrong and tighten things up. Here are 3 common reasons why you can’t lose weight:
Reason #1: You’re eating back all the calories you burn
When you want to lose weight, you’ll need to focus on creating a calorie deficit- which is basically an imbalance between the calories you’re eating and the calories you’re burning off. More calories out than calories in creates a calorie deficit. And sustaining this calorie deficit consistently over an extended period of time is what leads to weight loss.
Now let’s say you want to lose weight- say, one pound a week. Because one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, it stands to reason that you should create a calorie deficit of approximately 3,500 calories per week (or a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day) to lose one pound per week. OK, so now that you know this, you confidently start your diet and exercise routine. For the first few days or weeks, you’re on top of things and keeping track of your calories in versus calories out. But then something happens. One day you hit the gym and then you use the ‘I exercised today’ excuse to overeat later in the day. Then another day you overeat and say something like, “I’ll just work out extra hard tomorrow to burn it off." Then another day you make another excuse for overeating. And now guess what you’ve done? You’ve decreased your calorie deficit. And this is why you’re not losing weight. Because you’re eating (or even drinking) back all the calories you’ve burned. So the takeaway is this: Don’t fall into the trap of overeating because you’ve exercised (or plan to exercise later). Believe me, I know how easy it can be to rationalize having that extra bit of food after Zumba class, but don’t do it ladies. Remember exercise can help you lose weight, but not when you’re eating back all the calories you’ve burned.
Reason #2: You’re eating too much sugar and refined carbs
I have a weight loss motto and that motto is this:
You can’t ‘out-exercise’ a crappy diet
That said, one reason why I strongly advise keeping a food journal is because people have this incredible knack for totally underestimating the junk they eat. Plus, people like to delude themselves into believing that exercise will make up for poor food choices. But that’s just not how it works. Truth is, all calories are not created equal and all foods don’t affect our bodies in the same way. Take a diet that is high in sugar and refined carbs for example. Let’s say you’ve worked the numbers so you’re able to create a calorie deficit while still allowing yourself the pleasure of eating a diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbs like soda, white bread, white rice, and pasta. Sweet! Now you don’t have to give up your goodies, and since exercising too, everything should work out. Except when you go to weigh yourself after a few weeks of this “awesome” diet, you notice that you still haven’t lost any weight- or maybe even gained weight! Huh?! What gives?!
Here’s what gives: A diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbs works to promote a condition called hyperinsulinemia- which is just the medical term for high insulin release due to too much sugar in the blood. And hyperinsulinemia prevents weight loss because it makes it harder for our body to burn fat. In fact, hyperinsulinemia puts your body in a state where it’s constantly wanting to store fat! Yeah, how do you like that? So going back to my earlier point, this is precisely why I say that exercise should not be used to make up for a bad diet. You have to exercise and you have to eat a diet that’s rich in whole foods, such as the Paleo Diet. And furthermore, if you want to help put your body in a state where it wants to burn fat and not constantly store it, you’re going to have to cut back on the sugars and refined carbs.
Reason #3: You’re not lifting weights
Now the last point I wanted to touch on is the importance of mixing in a bit of weightlifting with cardio, because it’s pretty much a given that when the average woman wants to lose weight, she’ll most likely put all her energy into things like the treadmill or elliptical. But here’s the thing about cardio: While cardio is good for burning calories, it doesn’t discriminate in the type of weight that’s lost. Meaning, cardio will burn muscle tissue as well as fat. So yeah, when you do lots of cardio you’ll lose weight, but you’ll also lose muscle mass. And less muscle mass will lead to a lower basal metabolic rate, which will lead to less fat burning potential over time, which ultimately means it’ll be harder to lose weight as you get older. This is one of the very reasons why it’s usually so much easier for men to lose weight than women- even as they age. It comes down to 2 things: 1) men naturally have more muscle mass than us, and 2) men focus on lifting weights and building more muscle (which helps improve their basal metabolic rate). So now that you know the fellas’ little secret, just make sure to also throw in a bit of strength training when you workout too. Do this and you’ll be approaching weight loss the super smart way: by using cardio for immediate calorie burning, and by using strength training to preserve and build lean muscle that’ll help you to continue burning more calories throughout the day.
Dr. Phoenyx Austin is a physician, author, and creator of the fitness blog, DrPhoenyx.com. Check out Dr. Phoenyx’s awesome natural hair care book
If You Love It, It Will Grow - available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes. And don’t forget to say hello to the Doc on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!