Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

After being in the fitness industry for well over a decade, I have seen many people join a facility and attempt to accomplish whatever goal they set out to do.  More often than not this is losing weight.  Weight loss is the number one goal of new members joining a fitness facility, with the statistic being about 70% of members trying to accomplish it.  How many of them actually succeed is another picture entirely.  We have all seen the television shows like “The Biggest Loser” or similar shows where people lose dozens of pounds in a short time and think that we can do the same.  I’ll reveal some truths about those shows in another article, but to begin with I’m going to give you the simplest, most effective way to lose weight and keep it off for the rest of your life:

Exercise a little bit more.  Eat a little bit smarter.

That’s it.  No fad diets, no supplements and no tricks.  It really is that easy.  However, since I’m sure a lot of readers are scratching their heads right now I’ll break it down in terms of numbers that are easy to follow.

In order to lose about 30 pounds over a period of time, a person needs to burn an additional 105,000 calories.  Generally this is best accomplished by both adding exercise into the equation and also creating a caloric deficit through your diet because if you try to do only one or the other, it creates a lot more difficulty, as the math will show.  To lose this 30 pounds at the rate of 1 pound per week (taking 7 months total to take the weight off) you need to lose 3500 calories per week, or 500 per day.  In order to burn 500 calories per day exercising, the average 175 pound female or 250 pound male needs to exercise approximately 45 minutes – every day.  This isn’t realistic for most of us.  Or, you can eat 500 calories less per day and accomplish the same goal.  However, in my experience most of us aren’t eating enough calories daily anyway, so removing 500 calories from our diet daily isn’t realistic either.  I have actually had clients eat an additional 500 calories a day and begin to lose weight, because their burning mechanisms were so shut down it took that much to fire them back up again.  Also, there is more and more evidence coming through research that calorie intake isn’t the contributor to weight gain or loss that we thought it was – hormones have a huge amount to do with it.

However, if you take 250 calories per day  – which is 45 minutes 3-4 times per week – through exercise and 250 per day through your diet then all of a sudden 1 pound per week will begin to come off.  This is basic physiology, but then there is the key that most people neglect:

The exercise has to be more than you were previously doing already, and you need to have a proper baseline established for your caloric intake first and subtract from there.

Nutrition is the most important part of any weight loss equation, so the first step for any weight loss client of mine is to make sure they are eating a consistent amount of calories every day.  If someone averages 1500 calories six out of seven days during the week and then one day on the weekend goes out and eats 3000, their body will simply store that extra surplus because it’s energy demands only account for 1500 calories used per day.  If this same person ate 3000 calories daily on a regular basis, it wouldn’t be a problem because the body would use it.  Establishing a baseline amount is very important, and then sticking to it is even more so.  There are many free tools for tracking this online, and it takes about five minutes a day.  The big key here is consistency.  Once you have that baseline established and can stick to it, then you can decrease the calories per day.  Believe it or not, most people don’t eat enough.  As a general starting point, multiply your goal weight (what you want to weigh) times ten.  This will tell you the amount you will need – at that weight – just to live, breathe and walk.  Exercise adds another element to that, but in order to keep it simple you can begin there.  Just to give you an example, my daily caloric intake as a 36-year-old male at currently 176 pounds is 2600 calories a day – and I’m losing weight.  This amount would be double many of my female clients’ intakes that are trying to lose weight.

Now what about the exercise side?  It accounts for the other side of the coin, but also brings about other benefits like a healthy heart, joint strength and even looking good with less clothing on.  Again, the key here is to figure out what you are already doing, and then add in an extra 250 calories per day, or 500 every other day which is about 45 minutes of exercise.  For example, if I walk my dog at a moderate pace every morning for 30 minutes and that’s it, I need to add in another 45 minutes every other day and it will take care of that side of the coin.  I’m a huge advocate of strength training over cardio, especially for beginners, but it is important to simply find something you like, that fits in your weekly schedule and that you can burn at least 500 calories an hour doing.  But here’s where most people don’t follow through: consistency.  They will do extra exercise for a couple of days, or a week or two but never go through a long term point of change.  I’m talking about six months to a year where they add in 3-4 workouts a week.  This gives you the required calorie burn in order to actually make a significant change.

Obviously there are finer details, but this is a good place to start.  Get consistent, make a change on a regular basis in both your nutrition and exercise programs, and the weight will start to come off.  It really is just that simple.  Why complicate something that isn’t?

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