Though exercising can be a great way to shave off calories, sweating for the sole purpose of losing weight could backfire.
And though you've probably heard that shedding pounds is as simple as calories in versus calories out, a lot of factors—like how often you’re working out and what your diet looks like—can affect how much you're eating, says Samantha Cassetty, R.D.
In case you're unsure of where you're going wrong, we've created a handy-dandy flow chart to help you figure out why the pounds aren't dropping and how to get back on track:
As you can see, most people go wrong in one of three areas: workouts, eating habits, or diet strategy, says Cassetty. Here's what you need to know about each potential pitfall:
As we mentioned earlier, your workout routine can impact your calorie intake. Though exercising can be a great way to shave off calories, sweating for the sole purpose of losing weight could backfire, says Cassetty.
That's because going hard at the gym can leave you with an increased appetite, she says. And though you might not notice it, your portion sizes may grow too, which can stall weight loss or even lead to weight gain.
Ideally, you should be getting in some sort of physical exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes, says Cassetty.
Remember, vary your intensity level throughout the week to avoid burnout and/or an increased appetite.
What we eat and how often we eat can often be the result of our emotional state, says Cassetty. Think: stress eating after a bad day at work or drowning your sorrows in a pint of ice cream (or bottle of wine) post-breakup.
How much we eat can also be controlled by our social lives, i.e. happy hours and birthday parties. “Plus, food is enjoyable—it tastes good—and we encounter it everywhere," says Cassetty.
So instead of using food as a crutch when you're feeling crummy, reach out to a friend to talk through something that's bothering you or find a better way to relax after a hot mess of a day (bubble baths can help!).
If you find that food is the sole focus of a social gathering, definitely feel free to indulge. Just be mindful of when you're actually satisfied so you don't go overboard.
A night out with nachos and beer isn't going to wreck your life, says Cassetty. But if that's a daily habit, you probably need to rethink your options.
Check out some of the weirdest weight-loss trends through history:
Weight-loss shortcuts like cutting out alcohol, dairy, carbs, or any food group, usually end in regaining whatever weight you lost, says Cassetty.
Instead of totally dropping white pasta and ice cream, try to strike a balance between occasional indulgence foods and learning to love nutritious ingredients.
Remember, healthy is not synonymous with flavorless. “When it comes to weight loss, I like to start with the enjoyment factor. Find recipes, seasonings, and cooking tricks to make low-calorie, healthy foods—like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, quality fish, meat, and poultry—taste amazing.”