Here’s the scenario. You’ve started going to the gym, working with a new trainer, or bought a fancy DVD workout that’s supposed to get you ripped in 90 days. You’ve been consistent in putting in the workouts, you feel a lot stronger, you have a lot more energy, but the pounds that you were hoping to lose haven’t come off. You ask yourself, “Why am I not losing weight?” Now what do you do?
I’m Not Losing Weight!
There could be a number of things going on here, so let’s take a look at your options and figure out what is going to get you past this plateau and onto the next level of your fitness journey.
Should You Stick With Your Fitness Program?
The first thing to consider is how long you’ve been at your current fitness program. Nothing in life happens as quickly as we’d like it to, including losing weight, toning up, and being awesome. If you’re following a good program, or have a good trainer, trust in the plan that’s been put together for you. Depending on a couple of factors that we’ll explore below, you might just need to give your fitness program some time.
How long should I commit to a fitness program?
A good length of time to commit to a fitness program is 9 to 12 weeks. This is enough time to develop muscle tone, increase your metabolism, and begin seeing some kind of results.
In this time frame, you should generally notice the following:
- The first thing that you will notice when starting a new fitness program, particularly if you have not been doing any exercise and are completely deconditioned, is that you will feel better immediately. The first thing you notice beginning week 1 is an improved mood, and elevated energy levels.
- In the first several weeks, if you have weight to lose, you might lose 5-10 pounds.
- In weeks 4-9 you might notice a reduction in weight loss. It’s possible that you might even gain a few pounds during this period. I’ll explain this more thoroughly below.
- In weeks 9-12, provided you’ve been consistent with your workouts, and that you’ve got a handle on your nutrition, you should notice that you are leaning out.
Maybe that time frame is not quite working out for you. Let’s take a look at a couple of factors that might be influencing this.
Are You Replacing Fat With Muscle?
Have you ever heard that old saying that muscle weighs more than fat? Let me tell you right away that is not entirely true. A pound of fat weighs 16 ounces, just as a pound of muscle weights 16 ounces.
No one states that muscle weighs more than fat in order to mislead you. I’m sure that I’m probably guilty of saying it at some point too. What is meant, and what is true, is that muscle has less volume than fat. So a pound of fat takes up a lot more space than a pound of muscle.
As you progress through your fitness program, be aware that loss of fat might be replaced with gains in muscle, and you might notice no difference on the scale. It’s even possible that you put on a little weight.
I’m not a big proponent of using weight as an indicator of fitness, but I get that you might be concerned with this. Don’t freak out, particularly if you are in the 4-9 week phase of a new program as I mentioned above.
Do You Need To Change Your Nutrition?
Hopefully, since you’ve been at your new program, you’ve also been more mindful about what you’ve been putting into your body. If you eat badly, you might not notice any physiological changes despite an increase in physical activity.
Provided that you’ve given your fitness program a fair amount of time, and you’ve considered that you might be mitigating fat loss with muscle gain, there is the nutrition factor to look at next.
The nutrition can be as daunting and challenging as starting a new workout program can be. Take things in stride, and don’t be discouraged if it takes some trial and error to pinpoint what works for you. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Start a food journal. You won’t have to do this forever, unless you want to, but this is a really important step in getting your nutrition under control. You might think that you’re eating relatively well, but if you skip this step, you will never know with any certainty.
- Develop a nutrition plan, not a diet! If your entire way of eating needs restructuring, don’t be afraid to take baby steps. I only support ways of eating that you can continue for the rest of your life. If you’re considering the latest fad diet, take a step back and reconsider. Teach yourself to eat in a way that is sustainable without damage to your body.
- Understand that everyone has problem areas. Be realistic and reasonable with your goals, and know that weight loss is a process that takes time.
Be committed, and be consistent, but know that doing it safely and sustainably is the best way to prevent binging or giving up.
One last thing… a little extra cardio never hurts either. I have a short 20 minute workout that is perfect for adding a little extra cardio to your routine! Consider joining all the others who subscribe to my newsletter, and get fitness tips and information, as well as new workouts delivered right to their inboxes.
Do you have a personal weight loss story? What worked, what didn’t? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!