Working Out and Eating Right But Not Losing Weight

Eating right and working out requires sacrificing your time and some of life's simple pleasures. When you don't see results on the scale, you may be tempted to throw it over for snacks and computer games. Don't despair. There may be adjustments you can make that will lead to weight loss, but even if you never lose a pound, a proper diet and exercise provide other benefits that could lead to a longer, healthier and even happier life.

Adding muscle can add pounds. (Image: Arne Trautmann/iStock/Getty Images)

Defining a Healthy Lifestyle

Make sure you know what "eating right" and "working out" means. A good diet involves more than eliminating snack foods. A chicken breast with the skin on has empty calories from saturated fats. Websites like the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPlate.gov can help you calculate your daily calorie requirements. You should consume servings from all the major food groups each day: protein, dairy, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Keep saturated fats, like those in meats, to 10 percent or less of your intake and overall fat to 35 percent or less. Read labels to check for trans fats in surprising places, like some low-fat salad dressings. While intense resistance training can help with weight loss, you generally need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of intense cardio each week for good health and more to lose weight.

The Numbers Game

Even if you consume the right foods, avoid the bad ones and get in some cardio each week, you won't lose weight unless your combination of diet and exercise creates a calorie deficit. You need to burn approximately 3,500 more calories than you take in to lose one pound of fat. Determine how many calories you can cut without sacrificing nutrition, as well as how you can increase the time or intensity of your cardio exercise to burn more calories to arrive at the deficit you need. For example, according to Harvard Health Publications, walking at 3.5 mph will burn about 240 calories per hour for a 125-pound individual. Working out on an elliptical for the same amount of time burns 540 calories.

Muscle Versus Fat

A healthy exercise program includes at least two non-consecutive days of resistance training all your major muscles -- chest, upper and lower back, shoulders, arms, legs and abs -- in addition to cardio. Muscle is more dense than fat, meaning that at equal volume, muscle will actually weigh more. When you gain major muscle while losing fat, it's not unusual for your weight on the scale to stay the same or even increase. That's why weight is not as significant as your fat-to-lean tissue ratio. If you're creating a calorie deficit but not losing weight, consider having a trained professional test your body fat.

The Weighting Game

If you're creating the necessary calorie deficit and still don't feel like you're losing weight, you may not be giving it enough time. A healthy rate for weight loss is only one to two pounds per week, requiring a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. Due to differences in scales and normal weight fluctuations throughout the day, your weight loss for the first couple of weeks may not even register. Individuals will also tend to lose at different rates. Give your program about four to eight weeks. If after that time you don't see any perceptible weight loss, consider consulting your physician or a nutritionist.

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