It’s a brand new year and you’ve been hitting the gym hard. You’ve improved your diet and even hired a personal trainer. Despite all your hard work, you’ve noticed that instead of losing weight as intended, you’ve gained weight.
So, what gives?
It’s no doubt that you feel frustrated, and you can feel your motivation dwindling. But don’t throw in the towel just yet. A lack of quantifiable results can happen for many reasons. First and foremost, you must remember that there are many factors that can affect your weight: exercise, how and what you eat, hormones, genetics, stress, metabolism, and inadequate sleep, to name a few.
Before you go blaming your genetics, it’s important to review some of the most common reasons why people go wrong. It could be any combination of these factors that are making you feel like you’re not getting the results that you’ve been working so hard for.
Often due to life’s unpredictability, it can be difficult to maintain consistency with one’s workouts.
If you’ve been unable to stay on track with your intended workouts, try to make some changes to your schedule so that you can prioritize exercise more. If making it to the gym itself is the issue, try planning to do some of your workouts from home instead. If that’s not possible, be sure to adjust your caloric intake to match your decreased activity levels.
Before you go blaming your genetics, it’s important to review some of the most common reasons why people go wrong.
Inaccurate caloric tracking
Logging your food intake with an app can be an important tool for weight loss. However, it can be very easy to miscalculate. Don’t assume your portion sizes by eyeballing things. Weigh your foods for best accuracy. That extra “tablespoonful” of peanut butter, the cream in your coffee, packing a measuring cup too tightly with pasta or rice, the amount of oil you’re cooking with—not tracking these things accurately can lead to hundreds of extra calories from what you intended. Always input your recipes and log the specific brands of foods that you eat. A slice of bread could be 50 calories,
or it could be 150 calories—be specific and accurate.
Too focused on the scale
The scale isn’t always the best unit of measurement for fat loss, especially when it comes to individuals who already have a low body weight to begin with. Make sure you are also noting how your clothes fit as it could be that you’ve lost inches but not weight. It doesn’t mean you’re not making strides toward your goals, it just means that your body composition is changing: more muscle and less excess fat. Exercise also puts stress on your muscle fibres. This causes micro tears and mild inflammation which may also cause the scale to go up after you’ve started exercising.
Not being NEAT enough
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. You burn these calories throughout the day from all the other physical activities you do outside of the gym. For many of us, we are seated so much throughout the day at our desks that we don’t get enough NEAT. Simple things like taking the stairs at work, parking your car further away at the grocery store, and doing yard and housework can all help increase your NEAT. Find ways to move more throughout the day that don’t involve exercise to help improve your overall calorie burn.
Not maximizing your gym efforts
Be honest with yourself. Is it possible that you have become a little too comfortable with your exercise routine? To get the most out of your workouts, it’s important to find new ways to challenge yourself. This can be done by adding in a few more reps or sets, adding more weight, switching up your usual cardio routine to a different machine and increasing the intensity, or even switching up your workout routine entirely. Challenging yourself to new forms of exercise can significantly increase your caloric expenditure, which will help you succeed in your weight loss goals.
Your body is stressed
Both a lack of sleep and high cortisol levels from stress can lead to weight gain. Practice good sleep hygiene by beginning a bedtime routine about 30 minutes before you sleep without using any electronic devices to help you mentally prepare for bedtime. Use mindfulness and meditation techniques to help bring your nervous system back to a more relaxed state to help bring your stress levels down. Reducing your stress will also help with mindless nighttime eating which is often associated with feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
While we’re all eager to see quick results on the scale, it’s important to always maintain a basic level of physical activity for your physical and mental health. Don’t ignore all the incredible invisible benefits that exercise has to offer.
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Photography by David Dworkind
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