“I’m Exercising…So Why Can’t I Lose Weight!?”

Written by: on Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
woman running

You run, therefore you should be losing weight. Not true! There's much more to the weight-loss story than that.

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???

Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?

For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight-loss efforts.

woman standing on a scale

Even if you're an athlete, you cannot eat anything you want and expect to still lose weight.

MYTH You must exercise in order to lose body fat. 

TRUTH To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by 1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or 2) eating fewer calories. Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint “I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated “I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.”

Adding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and—as a result—they saw no changes in body fatness. The bottom line: creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed? Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

woman running in race

Just because you're in training for a race doesn't mean you earned those chocolate chip cookies!

MYTH If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away. 

TRUTH Wishful thinking. If you’re an endurance athlete who complains:“For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin,” take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day, found another study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.

TRUTH Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56 to 78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62 percent less active the rest of their day, according to research published in the American Journal of Physiology. Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

woman doing a lunge stretch

Four workouts a week with cardio, strength (and a bit of stretching) might be better for weight control than six workouts a week.

MYTH You should exercise six days a week to lose weight. 

TRUTH Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. Another study—published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise—with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day. Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

man and woman running together outdoors

Woman will always lose weight at a slower pace than guys...it's just the way we're built.

MYTH Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.

TRUTH Not always. In a 16-month study looking at exercise for weight loss—and published in the Archives of Internal Medicine—the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise. In another study, published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at New York’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit. No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line

If you’re exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

Copyright©Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

 

 

 

 

“How to overcome a frustrating weight-loss plateau”: Weight-Loss Diary

Written by: on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Consistency is key to successI don’t know if I believe this anymore, but I will act as if I do. My dietary transgressions are small—or at least they are to me. But they are apparently substantial enough that my scale does not move.

How is it possible???

I eat mostly right.

I exercise often.

Shouldn’t I see at least something?  But this week, my scale has not moved. Still 204. Last week I spent 200 minutes doing cardio. 200 minutes! How many calories is that? Must be thousands. Sunday, I did 80 minutes on the elliptical. That alone was 1,200 calories. Don’t you have to burn 3,600 calories to lose a pound?

How can this be? Well, rather than getting completely and utterly frustrated (and believe me, I am just about there), I decided to do a little research and here’s what I discovered:

1) Weight-loss plateaus happen to everyone who’s ever tried to lose weight. They are not just happening to me (as I thought). They occur because, as we lose weight, the metabolism slows down. That means that…get this…I’m burning FEWER calories than I did when I was heavier doing the EXACT SAME ACTIVITIES! The reason: the body is achieving a state of equilibrium. Great. *$#@! Insert a string of profanities here!

2) Once you reach a plateau, things have to be changed up—or no more progress will be made. This means, that despite all the hard effort I’m putting in, all the exercise, all the eating right…I still have to do more. To lose more weight, I need to cut my calories further and/or increase the amount of exercise I’m doing. If I still with what I’m doing now, I will stay the same weight…just as I have been doing.

3) You have to cut 200 more calories a day. This is what seems to be the typical recommendation to start; don’t go overboard with calorie cutting (and never say diet!), but it seems that I have to cut just a bit more.

4) Do even more exercise! I find this hard to believe—and find it harder to fathom how I’ll fit any more exercise into my day, but this is what all the experts say. Some recommend not doing any additional “formal” exercise, but just to add more walking, moving, etc every day to burn more calories.

I must admit, I do feel defeated sometimes, but just hearing that I’m not the only person who has experienced a plateau makes me feel a bit better. But it seems I just have more work to do.

Have you ever experienced a plateau? Can you please share with me what worked (or what is working for you)? I need all the advice and support possible to get me through this! Write to me at melissa@valerielatona.com.

 

Amazing Success Story: How This Doctor Lost 120 Pounds!

Written by: on Monday, April 2nd, 2012
Brenda Wahler before shot for valerielatona.comBrenda Wahlers is an internal medicine doctor with four kids (including a set of triplets!). The fact that she juggles a busy career as a doctor with not only four kids…but triplets!…is amazing to me. But when I found out that she lost 120 pounds after having her kids—and took up running races—I’m even more impressed!
Brenda Wahlers Before Picture for valerielatona.com

BEFORE: Brenda at 280 pounds

Brenda Wahlers after picture for valerielatona.com

AFTER: Brenda at 160 pounds

Here, her super-inspiring tips on how to take charge of your life—and drop weight too!
1. Surround yourself with active, healthy people. “I never came close to achieving my goals until I stopped spending my time with people who drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, and had a deep love for processed, fried, sugary foods. Now I spend time with people who inspire me by their hard work and self discipline to remain strong, active and healthy. It makes all the difference in the world.”
2. Keep it simple…..”To take off extra weight, the calories that you take in have to be less than the calories you expend throughout your day. What that means: Eat less and exercise more. I know that sounds like a big “duh” statement but it is THE concept behind all weight loss. It’s pure science – embrace it.”
3. Wake up! “Wake yourself up to the fact that you have one shot at this life. It took me until I was 35 to have that realization. If you want to be healthy only you can make it happen. No program, pill or doctor can do it for you. Educate yourself and DO IT. If you can really embrace the idea of changing your life you WILL make it happen.”
4. Stop obsessing about weight loss. “Eat right, be active, and the weight will take care of itself.”
5. Be committed to yourself and to your goals. “When I gained a pound I would be so mad and disappointed. The difference comes in how you handle that disappointment. Instead of giving up, use that energy to work harder. I had a three-month plateau that about drove me crazy. I just pushed through, stayed on track, and knew that if I could stay committed I could not fail. Patience is not a strong suit of any person who wants to lose weight (at least sure not one of mine!), but this process needs to become less about weight loss and more about taking control of your life.”

“A Pound of Fat…Gone—No Liposuction Necessary!” Weight Loss Diary

Written by: on Monday, March 19th, 2012

1 pound of fat is 3,500 caloriesLost a pound baby!  Down 4 total from my new initiative with My Fitness Pal. I had that infuriating blip of going up 3 pounds in one week. Today I am 204 pounds. My lowest with my continual effort was 203. I put 7 pounds back on last fall/winter and it has taken me this long to get it back off! But now I am ONLY 1 pound away from my lowest and ONLY 5 pounds away from being UNDER 200 for the first time in 8 years.

And I will get there.  I WILL!

I am on 1,400 calories a day to lose 1½ pounds a week. My sister, a personal trainer, says that is too low, not enough calories. Today I just found out that I will have access to a nutritionist to help me succeed! I can’t believe the good fortune of that! I can’t wait to see what suggestions she has for me!

I find it a little difficult, even at 42 years old, to take advice from my older sister.  My older, fit, trim, in shape sister.

Do your health a favor: DON’T keep this stuff in your home

Written by: on Saturday, March 10th, 2012
PIllsbury Vanilla Easy Frost Frosting

Don't keep this stuff in the house if you're watching your weight!

 

When I discovered Pillsbury’s Easy Frost Frosting in a Can, I was excited (that was the mom side of me). Now I could frost cupcakes or cookies for school parties in minutes with zero hassle and mess. It tastes really good and it comes in holiday colors (e.g. pink for Valentine’s Day) as well as chocolate, cream cheese, and vanilla—which are available every day.

BUT (and this is healthy side of me) the ingredient list reads like a long list of nutrition don’ts (including trans fats); if you go to the Pillsbury site to look up the nutritional information, it’s noticeably absent (that’s a sure sign that there’s nothing good in it).

It also has 150 calories for two tablespoons. I don’t know anyone who’s going to measure out two tablespoons, which means you’ll squeeze on more frosting than usual because it’s so easy. And that means more calories.

This is dangerous when it comes to snacking at home: leftover frosting should be thrown out immediately. I made the mistake of keeping it—and then when I had a craving for something sweet, I squeezed on a bit to a cookie…and then a bit more…and then a bit more on another cookie. And while I was talking on the phone (never talk while you snack, I should know this!), I squeezed some on to a spoon and ate that. WHAT THE HECK WAS I DOING???!!!

I must have taken in at least an additional 500 calories in just frosting alone. It’s dangerous to have this stuff in your home—for your health and your waistline. A better bet: make frosting the traditional way—from scratch. That way, you know the ingredients you’re putting into your—and your kids’ bodies—and you’re less likely to have it around after you need it.

3 new snacking rules for weight loss

Written by: on Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
woman caught snacking

Resolve to ditch your bad snacking habits—and the pounds will start coming off!

I’m not sure about you, but lately I’ve found myself nibbling quite a bit. For starters, there are the kids’ lunches, which I make the night before—a few Goldfish before I put them in my daughter’s lunchbox, a spoonful of peanut butter before I swipe it on my son’s slice of bread…and it doesn’t stop there. Well, my four-year-old left her half-eaten (but still good!, as I told myself) bagel on her plate this morning—and I had to have a bite (well, maybe if I’m being honest here, it was three).

Nibbling is definitely not okay! If I was to add up the calorie tab (which I typically don’t…I mean, really, who does??) on just the snacking I do while I’m standing up, it would come to: Goldfish, Cheddar (70 calories); peanut butter, one tablespoon (about 94 calories); one quarter bagel, with cream cheese (about 120 calories)—so that’s 284 calories, not including other nibbles and meals (which are so easy to forget when you’re doing it mindlessly as I am).

Honesty is also typically lacking in the case of stand-up snacking, as I call it­—as is a reliable memory. Most of us aren’t as honest about what  (or how much) we actually eat. And each bite counts here as it all adds up over time.

I’m already trying to lose an extra 20 pounds in baby weight—so I’m not sure why I think I can afford to eat these extra (and completely unnecessary) calories.  So I’m putting new 2012 rules into effect; these will work for anyone struggling with a case of too much snacking like I am:

1) NO SNACKING unless I’m eating off a plate AND sitting down at the table. This is a good rule for anyone keeping tabs on his/her weight—and ensures that eating is a purposeful and satisfying ritual, not a mindless or nervous habit. If you’re making the effort to do this, you must really be hungry (avoiding the on-the-way-out-the-door nibbling…and extra calories). It’s not easy, but I’m committed. (I’m sure that I’ll have a few slip-ups every now and then, but key thing is to just try and try again until it becomes a habit). Just think, if I continue at this rate, I’ll put on a pound every 12 days—and about 30 pounds over the course of a year!

2) EAT PROPER MEALS. When I’m nibbling, I find myself skipping lunch (who needs the extra calories? I think to myself). But skipping meals is one of the worst habits to get into because it sets you up for hunger later on—and more snacking. Eat a proper meal (always with protein and a few carbs) and you’ll be satisfied—and have the willpower to not nibble later on.

3) SKIP SUGARY SNACKS. Empty carbs (think: cookies, cake, candy, and any processed sweets) do absolutely nothing for you; in fact, they set up you for an energy spike—and then a crash. I know why I’m reaching for these quick fixes: I haven’t gotten enough sleep lately (thanks to a newborn’s frequent night wakings). Sleep is CRITICAL for willpower—and keeping your metabolism stoked for weight loss. But 7 to 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep every night, plus protein-plus-carb snacks (apple with peanut butter, a few almonds with half a banana, yogurt with a tiny bit of granola…) sets anyone up for consistent energy throughout the day and long-term success at weight loss.

So right now, as the mid-afternoon energy slump is starting to take hold, I’m having an apple with peanut butter and a giant class of water (too little—and your body will think you’re hungry when you’re not).

Do you have strategies for coping with snacking? Share them! I’d love to know what they are.

 

Interesting piece! I’ve always…

Written by: on Thursday, June 9th, 2011

slice of chocolate cakeInteresting piece! I’ve always wondered this! Does Posting Calories Really Change How People Eat? http://huff.to/kwObtc via @huffingtonpost