Are you working out and eating right, but can’t seem to lose weight? We spoke with two Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute experts, Robert Reames and Nikki Kimbrough, and discovered seven possible reasons why.
I’m eating healthy, but I’m not losing weight. What am I doing wrong? If you’ve ever asked that question, you’re not alone. “I hear it all the time,” says Robert Reames, author of Make Over Your Metabolism. “People think if they just eat less and move more, they should lose weight, but it isn’t always that simple.” Both Reames and Nikki Kimbrough, a celebrity trainer, agree that the most important parts of a healthy diet regimen are regular exercise, proper nutrition, sleep and stress management. “I call it the big four,” Reames explains. But even if you’re adhering to all four, there are pitfalls that can hold you back from diet success.
Instead of eating right, some people just try to eat as little as possible, which can backfire. “When you deprive your body of nutrition by skipping meals, your body thinks it’s being starved, so it holds on to fat that it would usually burn,” Kimbrough says. “You want to eat five to six small meals a day—breakfast, lunch, dinner and two to three snacks. And aim to eat every three hours. This speeds up the metabolism instead of slowing it down.”
If you frequently feel sluggish or have an upset stomach, you might be allergic to an ingredient in your food and not even know it. “I think many people are intolerant of gluten and wheat,” Reames says. “Others might be allergic to some of the chemicals in processed foods.” These allergies can cause inflammation and fluid retention—and in the long run can cause fatigue, which can affect your exercise routine. “The old layman’s way of checking: Take that food or ingredient out of your diet for two weeks and see how you feel.”
It’s important to get your heart racing with cardio, but make sure to take time to also hit the weights (or do other weight-bearing exercises like yoga). “Just 30 minutes can really help, especially if you circuit train,” Reames says. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn (even while sitting).
We’ve almost been preprogrammed to believe that we should avoid fat at all costs, but that is not always the case. “A lot of fat-free foods may be loaded with excess sugar, which is bad for your body,” Kimbrough says. Yet some of the best superfoods out there—avocados, olive oil, walnuts—are high in fat, but the good kind. “These fats balance your insulin levels, which helps you burn more fat.”
The most recent American Heart Association recommendation for daily sodium intake is 1,500 milligrams per day. That’s two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt. One of the simplest ways to reduce your salt intake is to cut back on processed foods, which are normally packed with sodium. If you eat out a lot, order smartly. “When you get a steak or chicken, ask the waiter to make sure that your meat isn’t marinated or preseasoned with butter and salt. Just ask them to grill a fresh piece of meat. Also, ask for steamed vegetables when possible,” Reames explains. “One of my clients dropped 15 pounds just by cutting out sodium.”
Depending on your age and gender, you should eat 20 to 38 grams of fiber per day (check your need here). “But most people only get between 10 and 12,” Reames says. Fiber helps flush your system, and fiber-rich foods help fight off hunger for longer amounts of time. “I think of vegetables as nature’s fat burners. They fill you up because they have lots of fiber and water in them,” Kimbrough says. There are plenty of easy ways to boost your fiber intake: Add beans to a meal, put ground flaxseed in your cereal or salad, and eat more fruit.
“Some prescription drugs can play a part in weight gain,” Reames says. He suggests talking to your doctor to find out if weight gain is a side effect of your medication and to ask if there are other options that might work. “There is usually more than one choice, and you should get the right one for you.”