6 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight
More Reasons Why You're Not Losing WeightYou Sit at a Desk All Day
I log a solid hour of exercise almost every day, but outside of that, my time is mostly spent sitting in front of a computer. Much to my dismay, research finds that dedicated workouts simply can't compensate for being sedentary the rest of the time. According to one University of Missouri-Columbia study, sitting for just a few hours causes your body to stop making a fat-inhibiting enzyme called lipase. Getting up and walking for just two minutes during each of those hours burns an additional 59 calories a day, according to recent research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Experts recommend setting a timer on the computer to remind you to move every hour, but what's helped me is the Fitbit One ($100, fitbit.com). I keep this activity tracker clipped to my bra 24-7, and I won't go to bed until I've logged 10,000 steps a day. To accomplish that, I heed some of those recommendations we've all heard a million times ("Take the stairs instead of the elevator," "Park far away from the mall"). I even jog in place while brushing my teeth and watching TV. At first my husband and son laughed their skinny little butts off at me, but now seeing me hopping around the living room strikes them as normal. Walks are part of my family's evening routine, and "How many steps do you have now?" has become the new "Are we there yet?" I've even given Fitbits to friends and family as gifts so we can see who takes the most steps. Move-more mission: accomplished.Your Numbers Are Off
I've always considered myself a math whiz, so I assumed that I had the whole calories-in, calories-out formula down pat. Here's how I determined how many I should eat a day: I got my basal metabolic rate (BMR, or the amount of calories I need to maintain my weight) using the online calculator at fitnessmagazine.com/weight-loss/bmr, and I entered "moderate" for my activity level, because I exercise regularly. That gave me about 2,400 calories a day. Then I added whatever calories I burn during my workouts (usually about 500), according to my heart-rate monitor. That meant I could eat almost 3,000 calories a day without gaining a pound (or nearly 2,500 a day to lose a pound a week). Sure, it seemed high, but I had used a calculator. It had to be right!
Not so fast, Coulter says. "The BMR calculator already factors in the calories you burn with your workouts, so you shouldn't add them in again," she explains. Math club membership revoked! All this time I had thought my daily needs were 500 calories higher than they really were. No wonder I'd been maintaining instead of losing.
I know, I know. How can an exercise routine make you gain? For starters, people tend to eat more when they work out, either because they feel they've earned it or because they're overestimating how much they've burned -- or both. "This is especially true in the early stages of a fitness program, when your body is getting used to the decrease in calories consumed and the increase in calories burned," Finger says. (Read: You're freaking hungry.)
But here's the real shocker: Working out can make you retain water. "To ensure that you don't get dehydrated, the plasma in your bloodstream will store an extra two to four pounds of water," explains Michele S. Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. "You'll always carry that extra water unless you become inactive; it's not fat or muscle, but simply superhydration. It's a good thing." It's also a good thing to keep chugging H2O, which can, counterintuitively, help minimize additional water retention. So I'll take Olson's advice and stay active, well-hydrated...and off the scale.You're a Stress Case
I'm a lot like the lab rats -- and humans -- who turn to comfort food and pack on pounds when they're under duress. "The stress hormone cortisol triggers the fight-or-flight response, which is an appetite stimulant," Dr. Smith says. "In addition, it steps up the production of a certain brain chemical, neuropeptide Y, which increases cravings for carbohydrates."
Even when I don't give in to cravings, stress can stall my slim-down. "Too much cortisol slows metabolism," Dr. Smith says. "Even worse, excessive stress causes fat to be stored in the abdominal area, where weight is harder to lose." Ugh! I can practically feel my belly expanding every time I have a meltdown over something, including my weight-loss efforts.
Luckily, a lot of the things I'm doing to whittle my middle should also ease my angst. "Exercise reduces stress," Dr. Smith notes. "Balanced, nutritious meals can repair the damage that stress does to the body, and a social support network also helps." So my team of Fitbit-wearing friends and fam is helping me beat belly bloat in more ways than one.
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