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I’m working out and not losing weight. What am I doing wrong?

Exercise is only one lifestyle factor that contributes to our ability to lose weight.
Losing weight can take time — and you are more likely to maintain weight loss if it is accomplished in a slow, steady way.
Losing weight can take time — and you are more likely to maintain weight loss if it is accomplished in a slow, steady way.Tetra Images / Getty Images

As a personal trainer and weight-loss coach, I am constantly answering health and fitness questions from my clients, on social media and in our Start TODAY Facebook group. In this column, I address some of the most common questions and roadblocks that trip people up on their journey to establish a health and fitness routine. 

I’ve been working out for a while, why am I not losing any weight?

If you’re frustrated or worried that you’re doing something wrong because you’ve been working out and haven’t lost any weight, you’re not alone. Many of my clients become discouraged when they don’t see the scale start to move after committing to a workout plan. In fact, I’ve seen some people in our Start TODAY Facebook community feeling down about not seeing weight-loss results even though they’ve been fully committed to our monthly workout plans.

It’s important to remember that weight loss can take time — and you are more likely to maintain weight loss if it is accomplished in a slow, steady way. Seeing the scale tick down takes patience. Luckily, it is far from the only sign that your exercise routine is working! That’s why I encourage people to look for “non-scale victories” to measure their progress, rather than focusing on the number on the scale. Some of these things include: feeling more energized, sleeping better, your clothes fitting looser, a better mood, feeling less stressed and feeling more motivated to workout.

It’s also important to note that while exercising is beneficial for weight loss, it’s only one lifestyle factor that contributes to our ability to lose weight. Losing weight does require more than just movement. If your diet, sleep and stress levels are out of whack, these can be contributing factors to why the scale isn't budging. Look at your routine and see if one of these things may be hindering your progress:

Your workouts are too intense — or not intense enough

Be honest with yourself about how challenging your workouts are. Could you be pushing yourself a bit more? I encourage people to feel that they pushed themselves to their max effort at least three times during a 20-minute workout — this may mean needing to catch your breath during a cardio workout or feeling your muscles burn and fatigue during a strength workout. You can also try adding some variety to your workout routine. The body begins to adapt when you perform the same movements over and over. Switching up your routine can keep the body guessing and help prevent a plateau. If you are a walker, consider adding a few days of strength training to your routine. If you love boxing, alternate sessions with yoga or Pilates. 

On the flip side, sometimes you need to take a break from intense workouts. Are you overexerting yourself during exercise? Pushing yourself too hard can backfire. Make sure you’re scheduling adequate recovery time with rest days where you do some low-impact movement like walking, biking or yoga. Or consider mixing it up altogether and trying a slower, lower-impact form of exercise (this doesn’t mean lower intensity!). It wasn’t until I started a Pilates routine that I saw major changes in my body!

You’re not getting enough sleep

Are you getting those critical hours of shuteye at night or do you wake up feeling groggy and fatigued? Sleep has a huge impact on weight loss, especially as we get older. Giving your body enough rest is important for muscle recovery and digestion and can even reduce the amount you eat during the day. Believe it or not, I tell clients that if they have to choose between a workout or getting enough sleep — choose sleep!

You’re eating the wrong things

Your diet play a huge role in losing weight. You can’t out exercise a bad diet. Are you not eating enough fruits and veggies? Are you constantly giving in to cravings for sweets or fattening foods? If you know that your diet could use a cleanup, this is where you should focus your attention. Eating protein every few hours to stabilize your blood-sugar levels will help cut down on cravings and boost the metabolism. Eating a diet rich in greens like spinach and kale, and healthy fats like nuts, seeds and olive oil, can help reduce inflammation and increase fat loss, ultimately supporting your weight-loss goals.

You’re stressed

Elevated levels of cortisol — the stress hormone — can cause the body to hold on to excess weight, specifically around the midsection. Learning stress-reduction habits, like meditation, afternoon stretch breaks, walks around the neighborhood and short breathing exercises can help lower cortisol levels and are an important tool in your arsenal when it comes to losing weight.

Your taking certain medications (or other medical reasons)

Check with your doctor to see if any medications that you’re currently taking could be hindering your weight loss. It’s also important to get annual bloodwork to make sure your vitamin B and D levels, along with your thyroid levels and other markers, are within the normal range. There are many deficiencies and conditions that can affect our weight. So, scheduling a full check up with your doctor is a great way to get a sense of where your overall health stands.