As the march to understand weight-loss and body sculpting ambles forward, our views on diet and weight-loss are increasingly nuanced. People on diets typically lose between 5% and 10% of their body weight, but the overwhelming majority
eventually gain it back. Weight-loss has to involve changes you can sustain for the long haul; otherwise your efforts may be wasted. But what if you haven’t managed to lose weight yet? Here are the most common causes.
1. You’re gaining weight, not fat
Gaining weight doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gaining fat. Muscle is more dense than fat, which means even a small gain in muscle can cause you to move up the scale a bit. This is especially true if you’re doing more strength training—in the form of yoga, weightlifting, or calisthenics—than aerobic exercise. With enough time, you should begin shedding fat at a faster rate than you gain muscle, eventually allowing you to lose weight.
2. Crash diets and unhealthy eating plans
Even if you eat significantly fewer calories than you need in a day, you can still gain weight if you adopt an unhealthy eating plan. Foods with a high glycemic index, sugars (including simple carbohydrates), and some other foods can cause your body to stubbornly cling to fat. Likewise, it’s possible to feel like you’re eating less when you’re really not. An otherwise healthy diet that also includes three sodas a day and a shot of liquor at night may mean you’re consuming way more calories than you need.
Crash diets can also cause you to gain weight, particularly if the diet is not sustainable for the long-run. For instance, if you adopt a highly restrictive diet during the week, allowing yourself two “cheat days” on the weekend, you may be so nutritionally starved that you overeat on these days, causing you to gain weight.
3. Starvation mode
For most of human history, it was starvation, not obesity, that led to the most health problems. This means our bodies have evolved a mechanism to help us avoid sudden or excess weight loss. If you cut calories too dramatically, your body may go into what’s known as starvation mode. Starvation mode causes your body to desperately cling to fat, struggle to build muscle, and slow down your metabolism. If you’re still not losing weight after a month or two, consider the possibility that you could be slowly starving your body.
4. A sudden transition
If you need to lose weight, odds are good that you have a semi-sedentary lifestyle. Initially, transitioning from a sedentary life into one packed with exercise can cause a bit of weight gain. Though you’re losing fat, you may gain water weight for several weeks. Give it a month or two, and you may find that things begin to balance themselves.
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