If you run a mile, you'll burn 100 calories. If you run three miles, you'll burn 300. You can carry that logic the the Nth degree, if you want, and in theory, if you exercised often enough, you should have absolutely no problem losing weight, right? But sometimes your body has a mind - and plan - of its own. And for some people it may seem like regardless of how much exercising they do, they can't lose weight (or even gain).
Why is this? Why do some people exercise for what seems like a day and lean up, while others sweat their tales off for months on end and never see the scale budge...or worse, nudge up?
Are you exercising and still gaining weight?
Exercise is amazing. It's a homeopathic antidepressant. It helps to lower blood pressure. It helps to tone up our body, too! And, in fairness, some people do lose weight.
But it's not a panacea. In other words, exercise is not the holy grail of weight loss.
Back in the '80s, large-scale marathons became a thing. Novice joggers were hopping off the couch for the first time, training for a couple of months, then running 26.2 miles. It's a wonderful achievement - and a great hobby. But over the years, the collective weight of amateur runners gained, and quite a bit.
I used to coach runners - both men and women. I noticed that the men would typically lose a little weight (usually fat), and the women would stay at the same weight or even gain a few pounds by the time their race came around.
Why does this happen? Why do some people, often women, stay at the same weight or sometimes gain weight, after beginning an exercise program.
A couple of things could be going on:
Problem #1: hormones
If you constantly experience high levels of stress (and who doesn't from time to time?) your cortisol levels could be elevated. If your cortisol levels are elevated for too long, insulin comes into play. When insulin comes into play, your body will store fat via its amazing built in fight or flight system called your sympathetic nervous system.
Less high intensity cardio training and more restorative exercise + some good strength training. You need a good plan to achieve this.
Problem #2: food
This was noticeable all those years ago when I coached runners. I noticed that the smaller-framed women who began marathon training, hoping to lose weight, simply ate too much after their runs. It's important to eat, but you don't necessarily need to feast after a 45-minute workout. Far too many people who exercise regularly think it's carte blanche in the kitchen.
Without a doubt, simply eating too much is the reason most people who are exercising can't lose weight. Even though exercise burns calories, it doesn't burn as many as you think. Sitting down to a big weekend brunch after a long morning workout is probably too much food for the average person.
If shedding weight is your goal, don't eat extra food. Eating a reasonable amount of whole foods throughout the day should be plenty! If you're working out more than 90 minutes at a time, or have blood sugar stability problems, there are certainly exceptions, but what you need is a plan that is easy for you to commit to, easy for you to follow, easy to stay motivated with. I'm a fan of easy! Oh, and it should also make you happy!
Don't do too much high intensity cardio if you're stressed and don't overcompensate with food when you do exercise.
Problem #3: Muscle weight
Muscle is really not a problem. It's good to gain muscle and lose fat. The only truly superficial consequence of this is that you may not see the scale drop quite as fast. You've probably heard a million times that muscle weighs more than fat. Well, it's true. If you started exercising and noticed that the scale isn't moving, it could be that your body is still losing fat, but gaining muscle at the same time.
This is a good thing!
Measure yourself! It's as simple as that. Pull out a measuring tape, or buy one for a couple of bucks and measure your waistline, your hips and your chest. As little as 1/2 inch a week is remarkable progress!
Bottom line: Exercise is good. We all should exercise. But abs are made in the kitchen!
Need more structure? Connect with me for a free 15-minute consultation to talk about your goals and to learn about my private coaching. Find a time here.