When it comes to losing and keeping off weight, the combination of diet and exercise is supposed to be the answer that unlocks your dieting goals. However, if you’ve been eating fewer calories and working out but have yet to see any progress with losing weight, you may start to wonder why this tried and true strategy isn’t working for you.
The hard truth is that dieting and exercise aren’t always enough to help you lose weight unless done correctly. To help get your weight loss plan back on track, here are a few facts about diet and exercise you may not know.
Exercise is Only Part of a Weight-Loss Strategy
If you’re trying to successfully lose weight, there’s no way to circumvent the number of calories you ingest versus the number you burn off. If you maintain a diet that’s high in calories and rich in fatty foods that offer little nutritional value, you can’t expect exercise alone to help you lose weight.
The average person needs around 2,000 calories a day depending on how active a lifestyle he or she leads. If your diet contains 2,500 calories a day, for example, working out for 30 minutes a day, three times a week won’t help you burn off enough calories to make a noticeable difference in how much you weigh.
Nutritional experts all agree that it’s easier to cut calories from a bloated diet than to burn those calories off through exercise, so your first step to losing weight should be to trim down the number of calories you consume daily. If you cut your calories to 2,000 a day and still work out for 30 minutes, three times a week, you’ll start seeing actual progress with losing weight.
While you can successfully lose weight without cutting calories, you’ll need to increase the amount of time you work out to compensate for the additional calories you consume.
Successful Weight Loss Plans Include Diet and Exercise
To successfully lose and keep off weight, you need to make long-term lifestyle changes that include eating better and exercising more. Crash diets that require you to cut carbs, eat only grapefruit, or survive by drinking miracle elixirs can offer immediate results, but require you to essentially starve yourself to achieve weight loss. Once you finish a quick fix weight loss program and return to your normal dieting habits, you’ll rapidly regain any lost weight and probably gain a few additional pounds as a result of reducing your body’s ability to effectively burn calories.
Research has found that individuals who diet will eventually regain weight if they don’t stay physically active. In addition to providing you with more energy, an exercise program will also increase your body’s ability to metabolize calories. This makes any cuts you make to your daily calorie intake even more effective, as your body will start doing more with less.
So when you’re considering any type of weight-loss strategy, keep in mind that it needs to involve both diet and exercise, not one or the other.
Splurging can Sabotage Your Diet
By following your diet and sticking with an exercise routine, you might feel inclined to reward yourself with the occasional treat. After all, you did just spend an hour at the gym, or only had a light salad for lunch, right? However, by splurging on the extra scoop of ice cream, a glass of wine, or a second plate of food, you could be unintentionally sabotaging your diet.
Studies have shown that the average person overestimates the amount of physical activity they engage in by 30 percent, and the underestimate their food consumption by 30 percent. This inequity means that most people eat more calories than they think, while also burning off much fewer than they expect from working out.
Accurately measuring the number of calories you burned off during a workout can be very difficult. And while you might think it easier to gauge how many calories you eat throughout the day, it’s surprisingly difficult to keep track of every cup of coffee with cream and sugar, a handful of pretzels, piece of candy, or even stick of gum you indulge in during the day.
So while you might think you have room to splurge after spending an hour on the treadmill and eating a 500 calorie lunch, the only way to ensure you don’t sabotage your diet is to skip the treats.
Don’t Rely on Machines to Count Calories
It’s easy to overestimate how many calories you burn off from working out when the stationary bike, treadmill, or nautical machine provides you with a handy digital readout of what all that sweating has just netted you. However, while calorie counters can give you a rough estimate of how much you burn off working out, they can vary quite a bit depending on the individual person.
Additionally, seeing the number of calories you burned off while on a treadmill can also provide you with a false sense of how many extra calories you’ve taken care of by exercising. For example, while you might burn 250 calories by spending 45 minutes exercising, you don’t lose those calories in a vacuum. If you spent those same 45 minutes playing your kids or sitting at your desk at work, you’d still burn off around 70 calories during that same period. So that 40 minutes on the bike didn’t net you an additional 250 calories burned off, the number would actually be closer to 180 instead.