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Client Question: I have been working out pretty religiously but I haven’t lost any weight on the scale. How can I be guaranteed to get the scale to go down this month?
Gina’s Answer: It is common that people will not lose weight even when they add exercise to their lives. The fact is, weight loss is 80% diet and only 20% workouts for most people. One reason is that oftentimes your body gains muscle tissue with exercise, which can make your weight go up. However, also exercise burns calories, which usually leads to fat loss and your weight going down. The net effect from exercise is often that your scale weight will stay very close to the same--but your body will be smaller and more toned, with more muscle and less fat.
The reason you don’t lose a ton of weight just from adding exercise is because fat stores A LOT of energy…each lousy pound contains over 3,500 calories worth of energy. This means that you have to burn 3,500 calories MORE THAN YOU CONSUME to lose a pound of fat. That represents about 35 miles of walking or running--and this also assumes that you are not eating more because you think, “I have exercised, so I have earned it” which is a common attitude. You cannot treat yourself to more food just because you worked out and expect to lose weight. Eating more just negates the calorie burn of the extra exercise as far as weight loss is concerned.
Therefore, the easiest way to lose weight is to rely on proper diet, NOT exercise, although adding exercise to the equation certainly tips the scales in your favor (literally!). See, exercise is one of the best ways there is to prevent weight GAIN, but diet is by far the superior way to LOSE weight.
So what should you do if you would like to lose weight this month? Well, if you are exercising, that is great, it will only help you. Exercise will burn extra calories and generally keeps you appetite under better control. Working out also motivates you to eat better and be more aware of your body in general. This means you are less likely to harm your body by overeating or eating junk food. However, you still need to reduce your calorie intake, and the simplier the method you use to accomplish this, the better. Reducing your calorie intake will depend on a comparison to what you are doing now to what you have been doing when you failed to lose weight. All of these suggestions are assuming that they represent a change in your diet.