We are in the midst of what fitness professionals call the “resolution period,” an annual four-month period (January through April) when the #1 national health goal is weight loss.
However, at this point, the truth may already be dawning: your workout isn't burning off much fat. Why not?
In March, outdoor physical activity often remains limited while you continue to struggle with the lingering effects of what the holidays and a long winter have done to your health and fitness level. So, perhaps you have joined thousands of other Americans in flocking to a local gym or fitness centers.
Now, after working out for a couple months, you may be asking: "Why am I not losing weight?" It's time for a reality check about exercise.
Address your overall nutrition and calorie intake
Body weight is controlled much (much, much, much) more by how we eat than how we exercise. My personal, professional opinion: weight control is 70% nutrition and 30% exercise. Yes, exercise is an integral component to successful long term weight control and has tremendous metabolic impact. However, you may be trying to lose weight but not even realize you're eating 3,000, 4,000 or possibly 5,000 calories per day when your body only requires 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day.
Yearn It, Earn It, Burn It
Are you having trouble avoiding delicious desserts, tasty snacks or other pitfall foods? One trick that works for me is what I call, "Yearn It, Earn It, Burn It."
If I yearn for something, like a piece of chocolate cake, I ask myself what I did today to earn it. Did I eat according to my plan today, yesterday, or even this week? If I can honestly say I earned it, then I ask myself how am I going to burn it? If I am not willing or able to burn it through exercise, I cannot eat it today. “Yearn It, Earn It Burn It” works for me every time. ~ Kathy Wise, Mercy Wellness Director
Get a grip on actual calorie burn when you exercise
Also, if you feel like you're putting in the work but don't see much progress over a three to nine-month period, it may also be because, in addition to caloric intake, you don't fully understand how many calories are burned in a good, balanced exercise session.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, if you burn 300 – 400 calories during 30 -40 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardiovascular exercise and 20 minutes of strength/core training, you have performed a quality exercise session.
Do you know how fast the average person can eat 300-400 calories? About two minutes.
If you've looked at expenditure charts for exercise and physical activity, you may be surprised. For example, skipping rope for 20 minutes uses 245 calories. That's a relatively difficult thing to do for the average exerciser. So, let's look at something a little easier. Walking at a relatively fast pace (4.5 mph) for 20 minutes burns only 100 calories.
What do these examples tell us about human energy metabolism ? It is very, very, very energy efficient. We can do tremendous amounts of physical work with very few calories. So, the next time you look at a plate of food or read the nutrition label on a product, think in terms of how much work you will have to do to burn those calories. Make your eating motto, "Less Is More."
Try a dietary consult
Finally, contact your physician and request a referral for a one-hour dietary consult – a face-to-face meeting with a registered dietician who can evaluate your health history as it relates to your body weight and give you a medically sound dietary plan that accounts for body size, exercise and your overall nutritional needs.
Create a seasonal exercise plan
However, is it wise to make weight loss the primary motivation for beginning or maintaining a structured, in-door exercise program? If that's the only reason you work out, you're missing the point – along with all the significant, positive physiological changes that begin to occur within just two or three days of consistent exercise.
Instead, you need a seasonal fitness plan that keeps you active all year round. It will help you avoid winter hibernation and the yo-yo weight loss and gain (which usually leads to increasing weight year after year).
11 reasons to exercise even if you aren't losing weight:
- Reduce the risk for coronary artery disease, the no. 1 killer of men and women in America, by affecting every single risk factor for the positive. Lack of exercise is a primary risk factor for coronary artery disease.
- Help reduce and control high blood pressure, which leads to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improve each component of your lipid profile including decreased LDL (bad cholesterol), increased HDL (good cholesterol), and decreased triglycerides (a form of fat that also circulates in the blood).
- Contribute to smoking cessation, managing depression, and overall mood state due to its effect on serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain.
- Stimulate and regulate the body’s metabolic control of blood sugar levels to prevent diabetes type ll.
- May help prevent early dementia disorders and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Increase physical work capacity to make activities of daily living easier and safer.
- Mitigate the effects of damaging hormones released during the body’s “fight or flight” stress response when under psychological or physiological duress.
- Improve the depth and length of sleep cycles. Poor sleep quality and insomnia are associated with chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, and depression.
- May reduce the risk of certain forms of cancer including breast, colon and prostate.
- Develop and maintain muscle mass and prevent the onset of sarcopenia (frailty) in the aging process.
Weight loss may or may not be a by-product of beginning consistent exercise. If you begin exercising consistently (3-5 times weekly) but continue to eat at least one more calorie than you expend in daily activity, you won't lose an ounce of weight. However, you will begin to experience the many other benefits. So, keep moving!
Do you live in the Canton, Ohio, area and need some expert advice on the best workout for you? Contact Mercy Health & Fitness. Our team of exercise specialists can help you find an exercise routine that matches your health and goals.