Gained weight while dieting

Contents

Why Am I Gaining Weight on a Diet?

#1. You’re eating too much (and might not know it)

Whether you’ve just started a weight loss program or you’ve been on a weight loss journey for a while, life happens. Maybe you were too exhausted after a long day at work to prepare a healthy meal, so you grabbed some fast food on the way home instead. Or you went out to eat with your friends and the menu options were less than stellar (hello, bottomless bread basket!). Whatever the case may be, scenarios like this pop up from time to time that can be difficult to navigate when you’re on a diet.

If you’re eating out frequently, “portion distortion” — being served more than the recommended serving size (and possibly eating more than you intend to) — could be impacting your weight loss efforts. Also, takeout meals usually have more fat and calories in a standard dish due to how the food is prepared (think: fried food).

The problem with “portion distortion” is that you may order a meal and think, “Great, here’s one portion.” But remember: a portion size is the amount you decide to eat, while a serving size is the measured amount that is recommended for consumption. A serving size also represents quantities on a nutrition facts label. Most restaurants often prepare meals that may have two or even three servings in one portion. And it’s hard to recognize because portion sizes have become so inflated over recent years. In fact, the average size of most meals from fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants has grown by as much as 138% since the 1970s.1

Because of how standard U.S. food portion sizes have grown, it’s important to familiarize yourself with proper portion sizes and pay attention to how much food you’re eating. One way to do this is to focus on filling your plate with non-starchy vegetables first and then selecting a protein and carbohydrate source to balance your meal. MyPlate is an excellent resource that follows Dietary Guidelines to divide your plate by food group as well as provides visual cues so you know exactly how much to put on your plate. Or, use this visual portion infographic to help guide your portion sizes. Not watching your portion sizes could be one of the reasons why you are gaining weight while dieting.

Another way to monitor your portions is through mindful eating. Taking the time to notice your hunger cues and stop when you feel satisfied, not completely full, may help you avoid overeating. Part of mindful eating is enjoying the textures, smells and tastes of your food by slowing down and savoring each bite. By taking your time, you’re giving your body the time it needs to communicate to your brain feelings of fullness.

Need some more tips to eat healthily when dining out? Check out this helpful guide.

#2. You’re not eating enough

You may be thinking wait — not eating enough can make me gain weight? Turns out, it can, especially if you’re reaching for the wrong kinds of foods.

Skipping meals can cause you to get extremely hungry and stray from your planned healthy meals and snacks. So you may be tempted to grab whatever is nearby to satisfy your hunger — including foods that are high in fat and sugar that don’t support your weight loss goals.

One way to avoid this from happening is to make sure your body is properly nourished by preparing healthy snacks to eat throughout the day. Eating snacks cannot only help you manage your hunger, but healthy snacks may also help prevent eating large quantities of food later on. However, snacking doesn’t mean you should grab the potato chips and cookies. You’ll want to opt for low-calorie, nutrient-rich options that will not only give you energy but will nourish your body and support your weight loss goals.

Which snacks are healthiest? Here are a few things to look for when choosing your next snack. First, opt for something that is nutrient-rich (the quality of your snacks matter!) — a few of our favorites include veggies and a tablespoon of hummus, a piece of fruit like a small apple or a handful of berries. Next, choose a snack with fiber, which can help fill you up.2 Air-popped popcorn, a pear, a cup of carrots, baked broccoli and other non-starchy vegetables are all great options. In addition, it is important to make sure your snack has adequate protein. For example, nuts are a great choice when eaten in moderation; they are high in fiber, protein and healthy fat. Other healthy options include non-fat plain Greek yogurt, reduced fat cheese, edamame and avocado.

Just remember to keep an eye on your portion sizes! This will help you stay on track with your weight loss goals, so that you can avoid gaining weight on a diet.

Here’s how smart snacking may boost your weight loss. Plus 9 healthy snack ideas!

#3. You’re consuming too much sodium

Your body is comprised of mostly water and can sometimes hold onto excess water. If you’ve consumed too much salt — whether it’s from using the table salt at dinner or from eating unhealthy processed foods (like salty chips) — your body can retain water to help maintain a chemical balance.

For women, your menstrual cycle may lead your body to retain enough water to show up on the scale. Sodium can aggravate the issue, so keep a close eye on your salt intake and make sure you are properly hydrated (Use these 10 tips to start drinking more water every day).

If you find yourself gaining weight while dieting, you may want to take a look at your sodium intake. This includes not only using less salt at the table, but also reducing your intake of certain high-sodium foods like baked goods, certain lunch meats (think: sausages, hot dogs and cold cuts), salted nuts and greasy potato chips. Check the labels when buying a product, and you might be surprised to find how much sodium is in everyday foods.

So, what should you eat instead? Good alternatives include fresh and frozen meat, fresh or frozen vegetables (instead of canned), unsalted nuts or low-sodium nut butter. Eating more whole foods in their natural state or those you prepare yourself is a great way to avoid too much salt.

In addition to cutting down on sodium, you might also want to try increasing your intake of foods rich in potassium, which may help to alleviate water retention.3 Some foods rich in these nutrients include leafy greens, whole grains, avocados and tomatoes.

Monitoring your food intake and drinking plenty of water may help you get back on track with your weight loss goals if you’ve been consuming too much sodium.

#4. You’re building muscle

Prior to starting your weight loss journey, did you follow a regular exercise program? If not, consider it! Working out could help you lose some body fat and gain muscle. By incorporating strength and cardiovascular exercise into your routine, research suggests that you may experience increased fat loss as well as weight loss.4 While a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same, muscle occupies less space, so it could cause the number on the scale to stall even though your body composition is changing.

One sign that this could be true for you: Your weight holds steady or goes up a pound, but your clothes keep getting looser. That’s why it’s important to not only monitor your weight but also your measurements to get the entire picture!

Developing lean muscle is not only healthy — having more muscle will slightly increase how many calories you burn, even when you’re at rest.5 Research from The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that women who completed an hour-long strength training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than those who didn’t use weights.6

But there are health benefits beyond weight loss and toned muscles that strength training can deliver: Research suggests that muscle strengthening exercises may improve your blood sugar control, improve your heart health, improve your balance and even help prevent osteoporosis.7

Picking exercises you enjoy can help you get lean while also getting stronger. Some good choices include running, high-intensity interval training, swimming, lifting weights, rowing, Pilates, and more. Not sure where to start? Check out these 6 tips to start a strength training routine.

In the long run — having more muscle will support your weight loss efforts and actually may prevent you from gaining weight on a diet.

#5. You’re drinking unhealthy drinks

When people decide to make a lifestyle change, they often think about how to eat healthier and exercise more, but they tend to forget about what they are drinking. However, it is important to pay attention to the beverages you are consuming because plenty of drinks can be unhealthy and loaded with calories that can derail your weight loss goals.

For starters, most of us know that drinks like soda are laden with sugar and can cause weight gain. But energy drinks and juices can also be culprits. These drinks should be limited or consumed in moderation, not with every meal. Alcohol is another drink that many people forget is filled with calories. You might think you’re cutting calories at happy hour by having two glasses of red wine instead of opting for a high-calorie mixed cocktail, but those two drinks still add approximately 300 additional calories to your day.8 That’s the same as if you had snacked on three small chocolate chip cookies!9

Instead of relying on sweetened drinks or beverages, stick to water or soda water. Not only is it calorie-free, but it can also help fill you up10 and keep you energized. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least eight 8-ounce cups of water a day. Everyone’s water consumption needs vary — so it’s important to take into account your activity level, the climate and your thirst. If you’re craving something sweet, add a splash of lemon or lime juice to give your water a little more flavor.

#6. You’re not getting enough sleep

It might seem like your sleep habits have nothing to do with your weight, but there is a link between the two and lack of sleep could be the reason you’re gaining weight while dieting. Feeling tired isn’t the only side effect of sleeplessness. When you don’t sleep well, your body can crave junk food rather than the healthy meal you had planned. Research suggests that getting less than five hours a night could increase appetite and have a negative impact on your metabolism.11

To avoid messing with your body’s hormones and consuming foods that will not serve your health needs, you’ll want to make sure you get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between 26-64 years old should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.12

#7. You’re too stressed

Had another stressful day at work? While small stressors are common in everyday life, experiencing constant stress isn’t beneficial for your health. In fact, chronic stress may be one of the reasons you’re gaining weight on a diet. Why? For starters, people often turn to unhealthy foods when they’re stressed. Cortisol, the hormone that is naturally released during stressful situations to help fight inflammation, may cause strong cravings for high-fat, sugary foods. What’s more, research has linked long-term levels of elevated cortisol to obesity.13

Combat stress-induced weight gain by having some go-to stress-relieving hobbies like exercising, spending time with family and friends, doing yoga, working on a craft or reading. Turn to these activities instead of heading to the pantry for some healthy stress relief.

#8. You’re getting older

Your age is another factor when it comes to gaining weight on a diet. Unfortunately, as you age, your metabolism is not as efficient and you can start to burn fewer calories.14 Additionally, women who have reached menopause often experience weight gain.

Just because you’re getting older, doesn’t mean you’re stuck at an unhealthy weight forever. Healthy eating and exercise can help fight against unwanted weight gain. Take a careful look at your diet and see if there is anything you are doing that may be contributing to weight gain. For example, do you find yourself snacking late at night? What about eating too much sugar? By pinpointing any unhealthy behaviors, you may be able to get back on track and reverse unwanted weight gain.

Learn more about diet changes to make at age 40 and beyond.

#9. You’re not exercising enough

Even though eating healthily by consuming plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole-grains is the key to reaching your weight loss goals — if you’re not getting up and moving, you might not see the weight loss you desire. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.15 Additionally, the CDC recommends that you aim to incorporate at least two days a week of strength training activity. (New to exercise? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Exercise.)

Physical activity does more than help you burn calories: It can also benefit your mental health and motivate you to make healthier choices in other areas of your life.16 If you’re just getting started with exercise, you don’t have to jump right into a CrossFit class. Start with a simple walking and stretching routine. Or if you love dancing, take a class at your local dance studio. It’s a great way to get moving, have fun, and do something you love. Plus, it can be a fun and healthy activity to do with friends instead of happy hour or going out to eat.

There are a lot of factors when it comes to weight loss and weight gain, but the healthier your lifestyle habits are, the better results you’ll see. We hope we’ve given you some insight into why you may be gaining weight while dieting. Hopefully, these tips will get you back on the right track and moving toward your weight loss goals!

Need some help reaching your weight loss goals? Connect with a Jenny Craig weight loss consultant and discuss your goals!

Elisa Hoffman

Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.

Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple

Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN

Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.

Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)

Quote

This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.

Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.

This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.

Rewind three-and-a-half months to January. You’ve woken up, feeling the after effects of last night’s celebration, and resolved to make a change in the new year. The goal? To lose weight. Fast forward to today. You’ve cut out the fast food, revamped your diet and committed to an exercise routine. But the numbers on the scale haven’t budged at all. What gives?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve been there. For most of my young adult life, I weighed in just under the average for my age and height. Then, when I turned 25 I started taking an anxiety medication that catapulted the scale upwards a full 45 pounds — despite not having changed my diet or exercise routine. While I definitely have been hard on myself over the eight months since the weight gain, I took it upon myself to re-up my gym membership, sign up for ClassPass to give myself some variety and make more conscious food choices.

Over the first few months, I saw a couple pounds drop off, but in the last four months I’ve seen next to nothing. Not seeing those numbers steadily decline despite feeling like I had been sacrificing my favorite foods and spare time to log hours at the gym, was definitely discouraging. So much so that I became less motivated with my pursuit, almost wanting to throw in the towel. What was the point of putting in hours of hard work multiple times a week if I had nothing to show for it?

I know I’m not alone in the never-ending cycle of hard work, lack of results and discouragement and frustration. To get to the bottom of it, I consulted Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of “Read it Before You Eat It — Taking You from Label to Table,” about mistakes people make that hinder weight-loss progress. Get ready for a reality check — and a sigh of relief.

Weight Loss Mistake #1: You’re not eating enough

Knowing that eating too many calories likely led to your unwanted weight gain, it may seem like a good idea to cut back — been there, done that — but you should think again. “Very-low-calorie diets may create a quick initial weight loss, but when hunger, boredom or life circumstances get in the way, these unrealistic plans can become too hard to stick to,” Taub-Dix says. “This could lead to that familiar diet/binge cycle of eating, causing someone to feel badly about themselves for failing instead of being their own cheerleader to help them achieve their desire to look and feel their best.” Sound familiar? I, for one, have struggled with this a lot ever since I first saw my weight flare up. I’d meticulously log all my calories and count my macros, and begin to restrict myself from eating more calories once I’d reached the magic number, despite how hungry I felt. Like clockwork, I would inevitably come home late one night and end up binging, ordering all my favorite Italian dishes from my neighborhood pizzeria — enough to feed multiple people — and eating it almost entirely on my own.

With this experience in mind, Taub-Dix explains that when you really cut back on calories, your body thinks you’re in trouble, urging it into starvation mode, and it slows down a lot of the functions that are necessary to burn calories — including your thyroid, metabolism and blood pressure. What’s more, as a woman, it can make your period irregular, which can affect your hormones and lead to weight gain. And at the end of the day, the battle of the binge is a hard one to win.

Weight Loss Mistake #2: You’re Relying on ‘Avoid’ Lists

We have enough decisions to make each and every day; so many of us resort to relying on “avoid” lists to take the guesswork out of which foods we can and can’t eat. Taub-Dix explains that while a lengthy “avoid” list may seem like clear guidance at the start of a diet, it can lead to resentment and misinformation. I’ve tried adhering to more of these lists than I can count, thinking it won’t be so bad cutting out only carbs or avoiding fried foods. But I end up finding it more difficult than ever. It leads me to seek comfort in other unhealthy foods, while giving myself false praise for having successfully avoided the one food I deemed “off limits” even though I’m still not eating ideally. Knowing that I needed to find balance, I tapped Taub-Dix for her advice.

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“Foods that may need to be limited when one is trying to drop a few pounds is not the same as complete avoidance,” she says. And this includes labeling your favorite indulgences as off limits. “Instead of cutting out foods you enjoy, try watching your portion sizes or save richer foods for special occasions,” Taub-Dix says. “You shouldn’t punish yourself by cutting out foods you enjoy just because you’d like to lose weight …enjoying delicious food is one of the pleasures in life.”

To find a healthy balance, Taub-Dix recommends evaluating what it is you’re eating and when you’re eating it. She explains that by being aware of unnecessary eating — like when you’re not truly hungry, but grab a handful of candy at a meeting because it’s sitting in front of you — you’ll be able to be more thoughtful about what you eat and take the time to really enjoy those treats. “If you want chocolate, don’t grab some random piece from your coworker’s desk,” Taub-Dix says. “Go buy your favorite kind, don’t inhale it in one big bite, and take your time with the eating experience so that it won’t feel as fleeting, and you won’t crave it quite as much.”

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Weight Loss Mistake #3: You’re Cutting Out Entire Food Groups

“Any diet that wants you to eliminate carbs, protein or fat is one that you should walk away from,” Taub-Dix says. “Your body needs a certain amount of nutrients, including all of the above plus the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that comes along with those foods.”

I have fallen prey to the idea that I should cut carbs altogether far too many times. While I’ve seen some success from highly limiting them, when I ended up in the hospital after fainting from dehydration and malnutrition, I learned that cutting them out completely simply doesn’t work for me. Now, this doesn’t mean you can carbo-load either. Taub-Dix says that, while determining a set percentage of macronutrients is highly subjective, it’s a good idea to start with 50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat, and adjust from there. As for where to get those macronutrients for ideal weight loss, Taub-Dix points us in the direction of whole grains, lean meats and seafood for protein, and avocado and nuts for fats. Most of all, you want to look for foods that aren’t highly processed — the more natural, the better.

Weight Loss Mistake #5: Your Diet Has Become Too Monotonous

Once you’ve seen some progress with your routine, you may stick to the exact same meal prep day-in and-day out in hopes of continuing to see the same results. For some, the structure may prove successful, but sometimes monotony leads to complacency, leading your weight loss to plateau. “Sometimes plateaus occur when you eat the same foods in the same amounts every day,” Taub-Dix says. She explains that this happens because when you first start a diet that’s far different than your norm, it almost shocks your body. So, as you adjust to your new diet, your body no longer reacts with the same type of weight loss. But, she stresses, “a plateau (especially after already losing weight) is not necessarily a bad thing — being stable (as opposed to yo-yo dieting) should be applauded.”

Calorie Counter

looks like you don’t have a lot to lose, so it may be that your intense exercise is causing your muscles to hold onto some water.
I was reading this on another thread, you might find it helpful:
Article taken from:

Sorry admins if this is too long but I found the orginal format hard to read.
By Dan Falkenberg
Here’s a question I hear all the time, and to be honest, even though I know why it happens, it can still be disheartening to see your client so disappointed because after a few weeks of working out very hard, he hasn’t lost any weight but has actually gained weight instead! This may have even happened to you and left you standing on the scale with a confused look on your face. I think this is a big contributor to why so many people aren’t successful at weight loss programs. Sure, some are just plain lazy and don’t exercise with enough intensity, but some become so discouraged with the scales that they simply just give up. Whatever you do, don’t give up! Here’s why.
I hope by now that we all know that losing fat takes time and effort. For many, simply hopping onto a treadmill and walking for 20 to 30 minutes isn’t going to cut it; for a very small number of people yes, but for many no. Most of us have to have a very structured and intense program to be successful at dropping the fat.
Here’s the first step to success. Are you ready? Ignore the scale. Here’s the first step to success. Are you ready? Ignore the scale. That’s right. Don’t even step onto a scale for the first month of your exercise program. I know it’ll be hard, but don’t do it. I know some of you are scale addicts; well, consider this Day 1 of your scale detox program. Remember, a successful “weight” loss program is based on the number of lbs. of fat burned off, not the number of overall lbs. burned off. This is why you see programs out there that guarantee 6 lbs. lost in 6 days. You know what they’re guaranteeing? They’re guaranteeing an eventual 6-10, or more, lbs. being put back on.
The “yo-yo” effect, I’m sure a lot of you have heard of it before. The “yo-yo” effect is when your body loses weight, then gains weight, then loses weight, and so on. That’s what these types of guarantees are. Sure, some overly obese individuals can lose more than 2 lbs. of fat in a week, but the majority can’t. Losing 6 lbs. is mostly muscle and water, which is a horrible thing. Muscle is vital to your body, so when it loses it, it wants to get it right back, and a lot of times, it’ll put muscle back on and bring excess fat storage with it. This can leave you having more body fat than when you originally started a “weight” loss program.
Alright, so we’ve established that all weight is not the same. Losing a pound of muscle isn’t good for the body, while losing a pound of fat is (in most cases). Also, hopefully it’s clear why scales aren’t always the best indicator of fat loss. When I evaluate a client’s success, figuring out her body fat percentage is a lot more meaningful to me than seeing the number on the scale. If her body fat stays the same, but she’s smaller on the scale, then that tells me she’s either lost muscle or water. If her body fat is the same, but she’s bigger on the scale, then that tells me that she most likely is retaining water. When both her body fat percentage and weight on the scale drop, then I know that she’s actually losing body fat and achieving success.
For every gram of glycogen stored, approximately 3 grams of water are stored with it. For those of you who can’t seem to shake your scale addiction, here’s why you need to be prepared for what you’ll see at the start of your weight loss program.
Like I said earlier, it can be very discouraging when you step onto the scale and see that you haven’t lost any weight and may have evened gained weight. As long as you don’t give up and are doing the right things with eating right and working out hard enough, your body fat will slowly start to come off. You just need to be patient. Don’t give up.
When you first start an exercise program, your body is basically thrown a curve ball. Your body is used to having to use a certain amount of energy throughout the day, but now that you’re exercising, your body figures out that it needs a greater energy supply. So what happens?
If you remember, your body’s source of energy comes from glucose. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the glucose is used to make energy, and your body performs how it needs to. Well, your body also has a “reserve tank” for excess glucose. Instead of storing all the excess glucose as fat, your body stores some of the excess glucose in an easier form to break down for energy; it’s called glycogen. Glycogen is long chains of glucose molecules that are stored in our muscles and liver.
Working out too intensely can cause muscle tears to become overly inflamed to the point where the mini-tears start to swell with fluid. Your body adapts to how much glycogen it needs to store in order to have enough “energy” on stand-by for when your blood sugar starts to drop because there isn’t enough glucose in the bloodstream from the food you last ate. When we start to exercise, our bodies require more energy and become more efficient at getting that energy, so as a result, our bodies start to store more glycogen. Here’s the kicker. For every gram of glycogen stored, approximately 3 grams of water are stored with it. This means that now your body has a larger amount of water and glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, and as a result, your body weight can go up by a few lbs.
Picture a piece of bread or pasta noodle. What happens when you put them in water? They’re like sponges. They soak up the water and expand. The same can be said with glycogen. Glycogen is a carb, and it sucks up water just like any other carb.
Here’s another culprit. If you go from not working out to working out very hard, your muscles will most likely be sore for the next 2 or 3 days. This is because when you work out, you essentially create mini-tears in your muscles. Working out too intensely can cause these tears to become overly inflamed to the point where the mini-tears start to swell with fluid. This excess fluid in the muscles can cause an initial, excess weight gain. By starting out an exercise program slowly and working your way up, you reduce the likelihood of tearing your muscles too much. To some extent, though, muscle soreness will occur when you first start exercising, but the amount of soreness and inflammation can be controlled by gradually working into a fitness program.
If you continue to stick to your weight loss program and don’t become discouraged by the initial weight gain that may result, you’ll slowly start to see the weight come off for good. Rest assured, even though you may be retaining water during that first month of working out, your body is still burning off fat. After a month’s time, that excess water weight and glycogen will still be there, but your body will have started to burn off enough fat to overcome the water weight gains, and you’ll start to see a difference on the scale.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the individuals who are the most successful with permanent weight loss are those who don’t see results in the first month. One thing I’ve noticed about my most successful clients, the majority of them actually gained a pound or two during the first month of exercising. My clients who weren’t very successful were those that maintained the same weight during the first month, the second month, and so on. Why? I’d have to say it’s because my most successful clients were working so intensely that they experienced extra glycogen and water storage. My clients who wouldn’t put in the effort didn’t need extra glycogen stored, so they didn’t see any initial weight gains.
You see, my successful clients saw an extra pound or two on the scale during the first month, but as the program went on, that extra glycogen storage meant their bodies had the extra fuel to stay revved up and burning off excess calories. It also meant that of the food they ate, less was going into fat storage and more was going into “high-octane” glycogen storage. Less fat storage equals faster weight loss.
So here’s my advice. Don’t be scared of delayed results within the first month. Your body is going through an adaptation process, and it requires some time to prepare itself for its new lifestyle. Keep your exercise intensity up, your eating habits right, and you’ll slowly start to see your fat loss results overcome your new glycogen and water storage results. You’ll slowly start to see that success you set out to achieve.
Dan Falkenberg is the cofounder of Your Live Trainers. He can be reached at DanFalkenberg.com.
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Are You Dieting But Still Gaining Weight? Here’s Why

Q: I’ve been following my healthy eating and exercise program perfectly, but when I weighed myself this afternoon, I weighed a pound more than I did this morning. What happened?

A: Oh, that dreaded scale! It is not uncommon for body weight to fluctuate throughout the day. This is often the result of changes in fluid balance, which means that your body retains different amounts of water at various times of the day. For instance, when you wake up in the morning and you haven’t had anything to drink for several hours, you often weigh less than you do in the afternoon.

There are also other factors that can affect fluid balance and, in turn, weight. For example, a woman’s weight will fluctuate slightly based on where she is within her menstrual cycle, and everyone will weigh a little more the day after eating a salty meal or two.

If you’re feeling stymied in your attempts to drop pounds, don’t lose hope. These four tips can help you get and stay on track — and help you better keep track of your progress.

1. Know When to Weigh In for an Accurate Measure

When following a healthy eating and exercise plan, many of us define success by the number we see on the scale. If you are tracking your weight loss, it is fine to weigh yourself each day, but do so at the same time each day and in similar clothing. This will limit the amount of fluctuation that you see as a result of changes in fluid balance. However, it is most important to try not to focus on the day-to-day changes, but instead, track your weight loss month over month to see your overall progress. This will give you a better idea of how things are going by seeing real changes in weight rather than water retention.

2. Track Inches Instead of Pounds to See Results

If you’re not seeing the results on the scale that you would like, consider measuring your success by tracking your measurements: hips, waist, thighs, etc. As you start to exercise more and eat a healthier diet, it’s common to see changes in measurements before a change on the scale. Keeping track of your measurements, or how your clothes fit, gives you another way to measure your success!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help if You Need It

If you’re not happy with your progress after tracking your weight and measurements for a month, it may be a good idea to see a local registered dietitian. Most health insurance companies will cover a few visits with a nutritionist to help you on the road to weight loss success. You will be able to discuss how you’ve been doing, and the dietitian can suggest what changes may be helpful as you move forward. Keep in mind that a healthy weight loss amount is between ½ to 2 pounds per week. So make sure to set reasonable expectations for yourself. If you can’t meet with a registered dietitian, try these healthy habits for weight loss.

4. Remember: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Even if you’re not seeing the changes that you were hoping for right away, try to keep in mind that, regardless of weight loss, exercising and eating healthy foods will help you feel better and will decrease your risk of negative health outcomes, such as diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. Weight loss is a challenging journey, but if you make health your primary focus, you’ll always win!

You kicked up your workout routine, squeezing in a few solid days a week of sweat, and eating a balanced diet filled with plenty of nutritious foods. You feel like you’re well on your way to tipping the scale, but when you finally step on, the numbers say otherwise.

Well, listen up: You’re not alone. Research shows that while some people lose weight from exercise alone, most people do not. There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to weight loss, including some lifestyle choices and health habits that can cause you to put on pounds even when you’re putting in the work. Here are some reasons you might not be seeing the results you wanted from your workout:

1. You’re giving the number on the scale too much credit.

There are a variety of reasons you shouldn’t mind the number on the scale as much. There are days when you eat and drink differently, sweat more because of the workout you’re doing or the temperature outside, sleep less from stress, etc. The list goes on. The number on the scale could teeter for all of these reasons.

Instead, take a step off the scale and assess the other benefits you might have gained from your newfound exercise routine. Do you have more energy? Do your clothes fit a little looser? Do you feel stronger carrying groceries or putting a suitcase in an overhead bin? Are you feeling all-around happier, more motivated, or less stressed? Did your overall health improve? These are the benefits of exercise that matter more than the pounds you’ve lost—and that should keep you motivated.

“It’s ultimately about how you’re feeling,” says Jason Machowsky, RD, CSCS, clinical supervisor of performance services at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “Look for other measurements of exercise working—weight is not the only measure of success.”

2. You’re consuming more calories than you’re burning.

It’s super common for your appetite to turn up just as your fitness hits full blast, says Torey Armul, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In fact, a June 2019 study from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people tend to lose less weight than expected when they exercised because of an increase in appetite—and an increase in energy intake.

More Weight Loss Advice

“When you start working out, your body starts burning more calories,” Armul explains. “And when you burn more calories, your body naturally wants to compensate by eating more calories to make up for what you’re burning.”

What’s more, people tend to overestimate how much they burn in a workout. Armul suggests keeping logs of how many calories you burn in a gym session, as well as tracking your food intake. Fitness trackers, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, will tell you calories burned during exercise, while weight loss apps like MyFitnessPal offer easy food recording. You definitely don’t need to write down these numbers for months, but try a week or two just to see how your stats line up.

Armul also says it’s a red flag if you’re exercising only so you can eat more. “That’s a good theory, but you don’t want to use eating as an excuse to exercise,” she says. “Make the goal getting healthy or fit or increasing athletic ability—not doing it just so you can eat more.”

3. You might have a health issue.

If you’ve really been exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep, but notice that your weight just keeps creeping up, you might want to see a doctor, says Machowsky.

Thyroid problems and certain medications can cause you to gain weight, no matter how much time and effort you put into eating healthy and working out. So if you’re feeling extra frustrated, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. They can rule out more serious health problems.

4. Your pre- or post-workout snacks aren’t the best choices.

As your appetite increases from burning more calories, it’s easy to reach for pre-packaged and processed foods that contain simple sugars, says Armul. But instead of filling your hunger with chips, cookies, or crackers, go for healthy post-workout snacks, such as fruits, veggies, lean protein, and healthy fats, so you get filling nutrients and likely in smaller portions.

While it’s beneficial to eat something after a workout to recover and rebuild, you don’t always have to have something. Machowsky says many people take in too many extra calories simply because they’re trying to eat a snack within 30 to 60 minutes of their workout. If you ate lunch or a mini meal an hour before you exercised, you probably don’t need something post-sweat, too.

On the flip side, if you don’t eat before your workout because you’re waiting for that post-activity re-fueling window, you might be left absolutely starving after exercise. That’s also a safe bet for gaining weight. Reaching a state of extreme hunger tends to cause people to overeat, says Machowsky, so keep your satiety levels in check.

5. You’re eating too much protein or carbs.

Marathon runners might need to carbo load before the big day, but if your runs last less than an hour, you don’t necessarily need to fill up on carbs—the same goes for protein. Most Americans actually already get enough protein in their diets, says Armul, so you don’t need to focus so much on getting more of it—even if you’re weight training or HIIT-ing it more. “People love to talk about protein because it is essential, but if you eat too much, you’re going to gain weight, as it will be extra calories,” she says.

6. You’re not drinking enough water.

“I think people forget how much more fluid they need for exercising—you need to make sure you’re keeping up with your liquid needs,” Armul says. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so plan to ramp up your water intake as your pump up your workouts.

7. You’re not lifting weights.

Cardio increases your metabolism more, spiking hunger levels, but weight training offers a strong way to counteract that, says Armul. “Plus, when you gain muscle from lifting, you actually burn more calories at rest,” she says. “Lifting weights tends to not boost appetite as much as cardio, and it increases resting metabolic rate by accumulating lean muscle mass.” Even better, focusing on strength training can help you live longer—which is an even better pay-off than shedding a few pounds.

8. You’re only moving during your workout.

“The most common mistake is that people will work out and then their other daily exercise goes down,” says Machowsky. When you put so much emphasis on your gym time, but you sit a desk the rest of the day—or maybe you pushed it so hard that you don’t have energy to move for the next 24 hours—you could essentially keep your daily calorie burn hovering at the same spot as before your workout routine picked up. Remember to keep moving throughout the day by taking breaks to go for a walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s not only your time spent in a scheduled sweat session that contributes to your overall calorie burn.

Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here. For added fun, follow us on Instagram.

Mallory Creveling Freelance Writer Mallory Creveling, ACE-CPT, has more than 10 years of experience covering fitness, health, and nutrition.

Over the course of his career, Mayer’s pioneering studies – on rats, babies and schoolgirls – demonstrated that the less active someone was, the more likely they were to be fat. Mayer himself, the son of two eminent physiologists, and a Second World War hero to boot, became one of the world’s leading figures in nutrition and most influential voices in the sphere of public health. As an advisor to the White House and to the World Health Organisation, he drew correlations between exercise and fitness that triggered a revolution in thinking on the subject in the 60s and 70s. “Getting fit” became synonymous not just with healthier living, but with a leaner, meaner body, and the ground was laid for a burgeoning gym industry.

Each successive postwar generation was enjoying an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, and those lifestyles have been accompanied by an apparently inexorable increase in obesity. Three in five UK adults are now officially overweight. And type II diabetes, which used to be a disease that affected you at the end of your life, is now the fastest-rising chronic disorder in paediatric clinics.

But have we confused cause and effect? Terry Wilkin, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, argues that we have. The title of his latest research is: “Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness”. Wilkin is nearing the end of an 11-year study on obesity in children, which has been monitoring the health, weight and activity levels of 300 subjects since the age of five. When his team compared the more naturally active children with the less active ones, they were surprised to discover absolutely no difference in their body fat or body mass.

That’s not to say that exercise is not making the children healthy in other ways, says Wilkin, just that it’s having no palpable effect on their overall size and shape. “And that’s a fundamental issue,” he adds, “because governments, including ours, use body mass as an outcome measure.” In other words, obesity figures are not going to improve through government-sponsored programmes that focus primarily on exercise while ignoring the behemoth of a food industry that is free to push high-calorie junk to kids (and, for that matter, adults).

For one thing, Wilkin believes he has discovered another form of “compensation”, similar to Timothy Church’s discovery that we reward ourselves with food when we exercise. Looking at the question of whether it was possible to change a child’s physical activity, Wilkin’s team put accelerometers on children at schools with very different PE schedules: one which offered 1.7 hours a week, and another that offered nine hours.

“The children did 64% more PE at the second school. But when they got home they did the reverse. Those who had had the activity during the day flopped and those who hadn’t perked up, and if you added the in-school and out-of-school together you got the same. From which we concluded that physical activity is controlled by the brain, not by the environment – if you’re given a big opportunity to exercise at one time of day you’ll compensate at another.”

Wilkin argues that the environmental factors we tend to obsess about in the fight against obesity – playing fields, PE time in school, extracurricular activities, parental encouragement – are actually less of a factor in determining what exercise we do than our own bodies. “An evolutionary biologist would say physical activity is the only voluntary means you have of varying or regulating your energy expenditure. In other words, what physical activity you do is not going to be left to the city council to decide. It’s going to be controlled, fundamentally, from within.”

His thesis has caused controversy among his peers – there have been cavils that his study sample is inconclusively small – and not all obesity experts appreciate the message. “We haven’t had the sensitivity in the studies to really determine the longitudinal determinants of obesity in children yet,” says Dr Ken Fox, professor of exercise and health science at Bristol University and advisor to the government’s obesity strategy. “It’s far too early to start discounting things as important as physical activity. Those who are saying it has no impact are neglecting a huge amount of the literature. I am suspicious of anyone who polarises obesity as one thing over another when there is strong agreement that it has multiple causes.”

“Terry’s point is right,” says Paul Gately, “but it’s not right in the context of public health promotion. In people who have lost weight and kept weight off, physical activity is almost always involved. And those people who just do diet are more likely to fail, as are those who just do exercise. You need a combination of the two, because we’re talking about human beings, not machines. We know that dietary behaviour is quite a negative behaviour – we’re having to deny ourselves something. There aren’t any diets out there that people enjoy. But people do enjoy being physically active.”

“What we want to avoid is people thinking they can control their weight simply by dieting,” adds Jebb, who points out that this is the very scenario that encourages anorexia in teenage girls. “Just restricting your diet is not going to be the healthiest way to live.” Traditional dieting clubs like Weightwatchers and Slimming World promote exercise as a key part of a weight-loss strategy: scientific studies show that exercise is an important factor in maintaining weight loss and, Jebb adds, some studies suggest it can help in preventing weight gain.

But it is still much harder to exercise when you’re already overweight, and “high energy density” foods are quick to get us there – overeating by just 100 calories a day can lead to a weight increase of 10lb over a year. “Education must come first,” says Wilkin. “Eating habits have to change to a much lower calorie intake, much lower body weight, and we would be fitter as a result because we would be able to do more physical activity.” He would like to see higher levels of tax on calorie-dense food, similar to those levied on tobacco, which have proved effective in the campaign against smoking.

Does the coalition government – which will launch a White Paper on the subject this autumn – agree? Anne Milton, minister for public health, is not keen to commit to any particular strategy before its publication. “There’s not a magic bullet here,” she says. “Despite the best efforts of government actually the public’s health hasn’t improved hugely.Change4Life is doing a good job. But we think there’s still lots more we can do with it.”

Any drastic measures to curb the excesses of junk food marketing seem unlikely – both Milton and Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley stress the importance of working “with” industry – and much of her language is concerned with “individual choice”. When it comes to losing weight, it seems there’s only one real choice – stop eating so much food.

Running on empty: fat is a feminine issue

The good news The latest scientific findings from the US suggest that an intense workout in the gym is actually less effective than gentle exercise in terms of weight loss. Barry Braun, associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts, says that the evidence emerging from his research team shows that moderate exercise such as “low-intensity ambulation” (ie walking) may help to burn calories “without triggering a caloric compensation effect” – ie without making you reach for a snack the moment you’re done. In one experiment, Braun showed that simply standing up instead of sitting used up hundreds more calories a day without increasing appetite hormones in your blood.

The bad news Perhaps offering one reason for a multi-billion-pound weight-loss industry aimed almost exclusively at women, research has confirmed that it is more difficult for women to shed the pounds than men, because women’s bodies are simply more efficient at storing fat. In one of Braun’s experiments, in which overweight men and women were monitored while walking on treadmills, the women’s blood levels of insulin decreased while appetite hormones increased; the men’s, meanwhile, displayed no such change. “Across the evidence base, it seems that it’s tougher for women to lose weight than men,” affirms Ken Fox, professor of exercise and health sciences at Bristol University.

Snack attack: how long it takes to burn off 10 favourite foods

One portion of Tesco lasagne (560 cal): 45 minutes of spinning

One slice of Domino’s pepperoni pizza (198 cal): 45 minutes of swimming

Morrisons’ chocolate-chip muffin (476 cal): 58 minutes of climbing

Packet of Walkers cheese and onion crisps (184 cal): 35 minutes of frisbee

Subway tuna wrap (310 cal): 1 hour and 10 minutes of body pump

Bacon sandwich on white bread (430 cal): 58 minutes of football

Coffee Republic ham and cheese toastie (436 cal): 1 hour and 30 minutes of netball

Granny Smith apple (62 cal): 15 minutes of weightlifting

M&S hot cross bun (159 cal): 20 minutes of skipping

Mars bar (280 cal): 50 minutes of aqua aerobics

Emma John is deputy editor of the Observer Magazine

8 Reasons You May Be Gaining Weight Even If You’re Eating Healthy

As a practicing endocrinologist, my patients frequently ask why they continue to gain weight even when they’re eating healthy. There’s rarely a simple answer.

A myriad of factors can contribute to unintentional weight gain among individuals who believe they’re eating wholesome foods. It’s not just what you eat, but how much, and when. Even the amount of sleep you get each night can affect your weight.

Follow these eight tips to address some of the more common contributing factors to your weight.

1. Food Quantity Matters

We’ve all seen diets that allow you to eat as much as you want of certain foods. Celery is one food that is often placed in this all-you-can-eat category. You might eat more fruit, vegetables, or nuts because you know they’re healthy—after all, it’s hard to stop eating more than a small palm full of those healthy almonds!

Just because a food is considered “healthy,” doesn’t mean you can eat unhealthy amounts of it; portion sizes and food intake are important to consider.

This applies to juice as well. Juice is not as healthy as consuming the whole foods within it; the fiber is removed once a fruit or vegetable is juiced, and we tend to eat more food in a smoothie than we realize. Normally, you wouldn’t eat a banana, apple, orange, cup of blueberries, cup of yogurt, and milk in one sitting. And yet, a typical smoothie contains all of those ingredients, if not more.

Liquid calories are also much easier for your body to metabolize and any excess calorie intake can add to weight gain (potentially as fat),.

Examine the quantity of healthy food you’re consuming and the ratio of liquid versus whole foods. Try to record what you’re eating every few weeks to keep yourself honest and educated. If your schedule is too hectic, you can take pictures of what you eat during the day, and then calculate the calorie equivalents in the evenings or during the weekend.

2. Don’t Rush or Skip Meals

How and when you eat certain foods are critical to maintaining a healthy weight.

Research shows that people who skip breakfast are more often overweight than those who don’t skip this important meal.

Rushing through meals can cause you to eat more than you planned. Chew deliberately during your meal and drink water between bites to slow down your typical eating pace.

3. Keep Your Metabolism Moving

You need about an hour of exercise a day, even if you have healthy eating habits. This doesn’t have to be a heart-pounding cardio workout; a simple walk is a good start.

Try to take 10,000 steps a day. Use a pedometer app on your smartphone to track your progress. On days that you don’t hit the goal, consider ending the day with a walk around the block.

Consider investing in a standing desk, which can be found online for as little as $70. It’s a worthy investment for your bottom line (figuratively and literally!). You can alternate between sitting and standing every hour or so at work. The more physical activity and active muscles you have, the more you’ll increase your metabolism.

4. Seek Out Hormonal Harmony

Sometimes our body works against us, despite our best efforts. If you have a family or personal history of endocrine problems such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or you’re going through menopause (average age for women is 51), andropause (more gradual for men), or perimenopause (8 to 10 years before menopause), you may want to have your doctor check that your hormones are in balance. Hormonal imbalances can make it difficult to lose weight, and in some cases, can cause you to add on pounds.

5. Check Your Gut

Our bodies are hosts to many organisms that can both help or hurt us. The bacteria in our gut, which research has shown can have an impact on our weight, can be affected by a variety of factors such as how we were born (c-section vs. vaginal), use of antibiotics, and what we eat.

Make sure you’re consuming good pre- and probiotics (especially after being on antibiotics) to keep the right kind of gut bacteria to help your metabolism and overall health.

6. Get Abundant, Restful Sleep

The quality and quantity of your sleep is just as important as the kind of food you eat. You may want a doctor to assess the quality of your sleep if you wake up with a dry mouth or headache or are tired, even after a 7- to 8-hour rest.

Studies have shown those who do not feel well rested after sleep have increased cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods as well as altered hormones that can increase blood pressure, glucose, and weight.

Making sure your bedroom is a protected place for sleep (dark, quiet, no pets or snoring bed partner—ear plugs anyone?) are good first steps to take to make sure you’re getting quality sleep each night.

7. Review Your Medications

Certain medications can also increase your weight. Talk to your doctor to find out if the medications you’re taking are making it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and adjust them if possible. If it’s not possible to reduce or change them then you will have to be all the more strict with diet and exercise to help counteract their effects on your weight. Examples of medications that can contribute to weight gain are steroids (such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, cortef, and kenalog in topical, inhaled, injection, or oral forms), diabetes medications like insulin and some medications that treat depression, migraines, seizures, and high blood pressure.

8. Keep Stress Levels Low

In this fast-paced society, it’s easy to lose track of your own internal state. Pumping out cortisol and other stress hormones hour-after-hour can take a toll on your health; stress hormones can increase blood pressure, heart rate, glucose and create more visceral (around the internal organs) fat over the long-term. The work deadline you’re so stressed about can hasten your biological deadline.

Regular exercise, good quality sleep, and meditation are three great ways you can help control your stress. Try to breath slowly and mindfully throughout the day, especially when you feel your stress levels rising. Meditation can lower blood pressure, heart rate, improve immune function, reduce inflammation, and improves one’s overall health and sense of well-being. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you for breathing life back into them, one breath at a time.

Remember, weight loss takes time, mindfulness, and patience. Start each day with a positive view towards your ultimate weight-loss goal. You will get there.

Improve your physical and emotional well-being with a wellness retreat at the Chopra Center. Find a holistic retreat that fits your needs today.

*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

Additional References

  1. Mourao DM, Bressan J, Campbell WW, Mattes RD. Effects of food form on appetite and energy intake in lean and obese young adults. International Journal of Obesity. 2007 Nov (11):1688-95. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA.
  2. Mattes, RD, Beverages and positive energy balance: the menace is the medium, Int Journ Obes, 30, S60-S65, 2006, Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

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Working out is hard enough, without the emotions that go with stepping on the scale — and finding out the numbers are going in the opposite direction. We’ve all been there (sadly): weeks and weeks of clean eating and diligent exercise, only to see that you’re gaining weight instead of losing it. It’s soul crushing, to say the least.

While you may feel discouraged, rest assured it isn’t cause for panic. That change in the scale doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong, nor does it mean you’re going in the wrong direction. There can be some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons you’re gaining weight. Here, four things you need to know if you’re gaining weight while working out and eating healthy.

You’re gaining muscle.

The most obvious answer is also quite motivating: muscle weighs more than fat — or so the myth says. So while building muscle may increase your body weight, you’re probably still losing inches off your waist or thighs which overall will make you look and feel better. So if the scale isn’t budging or starts to creep up, remember just give it some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither does your “perfect” body. According to Gerard “Coach G” Burley, owner of SWEAT DC in Washington, DC, “Living healthy is about body composition not just weight. Sometimes you are gaining muscle while losing fat making your body look and feel better.” Worry less about the scale and more about performance, or if you’re in to measuring then focus on body measurements and body fat percentage.

You’re not giving your body time to respond.

Just because you start exercising doesn’t always mean your body will respond to that immediately. Exercise — like everything — puts stress on our body, and it can put your body into shock, which ultimately can lead to weight gain. Sometimes, the body just needs time to adjust. “Don’t pay attention to the scale,” Lauren Buckner, owner of Body by Buckner in Washington, DC tells ESSENCE. “Pay attention to how you feel and focus on your increased power, energy and strength. As we workout we are building more muscle and changing the structure of our bodies. We don’t always know how that will play out on the scale, but what we do know is how we feel.”

Water retention.

Another unassuming culprit is water retention. (Just when you thought water was good for you, it turns against you) “Water makes up approximately 65 to 90 percent of a person’s weight, and variation in water content of the human body can move the scale by ten pounds or more from day to day,” says Jeffrey A. Dolgan, a clinical exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, Florida. There’s a theory that the body will actually retain water when you exercise, not only as part of the healing process but also as a method of getting glycogen to the body in a more efficient way. That more efficient fuel system means you may carry around a few extra pounds of water.

You have an underlying medical condition.

In very rare cases, there may be something seriously wrong. So if you’re doing all the right things — eating a calorie deficit diet and exercising more — and nothing is still working, it may be time to talk to your doctor. For example, women with thyroid issues can cause weight gain and weight loss to be more challenging.

The main thing to remember: keep going! You’ll be better off today than you were 90 days ago. And 90 days from now, you’ll be even better than that. And then again after that! Slow progress leads to big wins.

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