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Not Losing Weight on a Low-Calorie Diet

by
author image Dr. Thomas L. Halton
Dr. Thomas L. Halton has been a nutrition researcher since 2004. He authored “The Weight Loss Triad” and has been published in the "New England Journal of Medicine." His research has been featured on CNN, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Time Magazine. Dr. Halton graduated from Harvard University with a doctorate in nutrition.
Not Losing Weight on a Low-Calorie Diet
An unhappy woman standing on a scale Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Although eating less is a fundamental weight loss strategy, it is not the entire story. Over thousands of years, the human body has developed complex defense mechanisms to weight loss that stem from our ancestors’ early experiences with food scarcity and famine. To lose weight and keep it off over a long time, take a more comprehensive approach to losing weight. Give your attention to physical activity and lifestyle factors, as well as making changes in your diet.

Cardiovascular Exercise

If weight loss is your goal, then it's essential that you burn calories through cardiovascular exercise. Research now indicates that to lose weight, you must do a lot more cardio than originally thought. An example of this research comes from The National Weight Control Registry, which is made up of a large cohort of men and women who have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. Ninety percent of the subjects in the registry average 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per day. If you've only been getting 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, boosting it to 60 minutes a day could help you lose weight. Always speak to your doctor before starting or increasing the amount of cardio you do regularly.

Resistance Training

As a natural part of the aging process, the human body begins to lose muscle mass at around age 25. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, and burns more calories than fat does. Lifting weights 2 to 3 times per week might help prevent loss of muscle tissue, and might also add muscle tissue, thereby increasing your metabolic rate. Focus on one exercise during each session for each of your body’s major muscle groups: abs, legs, chest, back, shoulders, as well as the biceps and triceps. If you are not sure how to proceed, consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to design a program for you. Those who are trying to lose weight often ignore resistance training, but it is an absolutely essential component of long-term weight loss.

Sleep Is Key

Recent research shows sleep is very important for those looking to lose weight, according to an investigation published in 2006 in the "American Journal of Epidemiology." Additionally, researchers in Harvard University’s Nurses’ Health Cohort found that women who slept 5 hours per night had a 32 percent higher risk of gaining 32 pounds, compared to women who slept 7 hours per night, in results determined in more than 16 years of follow up. Sleep deprivation may negatively affect leptin and ghrelin levels, which are two hormones that influence metabolism and hunger. Shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

Recording Food Intake

Look at how low-calorie your diet really is, because it's easy to underestimate your food consumption. Hidden sources of calories include beverages, dressings, sauces and snacks, and your 1,500-calorie diet may be quite a bit higher. The only way to know is to keep a written record of your food intake. Recording the foods and the amounts of what you consume will give you an honest look at your diet, and will provide a measure of accountability. Food logging can be an important tool to help you make lasting changes to your diet and, ultimately, your weight.

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