“I’m exercising but I’m not losing any weight ... I don’t understand!”
This is a common complaint I get and that many people are plagued with. As a dietitian, I see it time and time again, and during my personal training days this was an everyday issue that eventually translates into frustration and behavior resistance.
So what’s going on here? The most logical answer is that you’re not in calorie deficit. Often times patients will exercise but may not cut back enough on calories or they overcompensate for the exercise by overeating and drinking. This over-eating may be because the exercise has stimulated your hunger (yes, exercise does make you hungry) or because you are rewarding yourself for the behavior of exercise (I went to the gym so I deserve to have that piece of cake). Or maybe after that bout of exercise you stop at Starbucks for that Frappuccino (240 calories for original grande) that you oh-so-deserve, or to replenish your thirst you drank a 20-ounce Gatorade (125 calories per 20 fluid ounces).
What happens here is that the calories you burned from exercising were lost when you consumed those extra calories, putting you in calorie balance. So how do you overcome this?
Keep a food journal. Become accountable for what, when, why and how much you are eating. Gain awareness of your eating behaviors and take control of what you choose to eat. Plan your meals. If you exercise at the gym in the evening, don’t ruin it by going out for a high-calorie restaurant meal afterwards.
Focus on moving more. Just because you exercised, you shouldn’t take that as an excuse to lie on the couch for the rest of the day. The more you move, the more calories you burn. Just parking your car farther away and taking the stairs all add up to make a difference of more calories burned.
In short, it’s what you put in your mouth and the amount of calories that you burn that will equal weight loss. Exercise by itself is not going to get you there.
--Beth St.Louis, MS, RD, LDN
Martin Memorial Center for Health and Healing