By Jen Evola, LMT, RD, LDN, CGFI

     During nutrition counseling sessions, clients often complain of taking exercise classes or working with a personal trainer, yet only losing one pound or less of body weight.

       Most people do not eat well or exercise efficiently enough to achieve their fitness goals. Gaining or losing weight depends on your energy balance, the amount of calories consumed vs. the amount of calories burned during exercise. Simply put, if you eat more food than your body needs and you fail to burn the appropriate amount of calories, you will gain weight. In order to lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit by reducing your food intake. Since one pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories, a deficit may be built by reducing food intake by 500 calories on a daily basis. This should lead to weight loss of about one pound per week for those considered overweight or moderately obese (BMI- Body Mass Index of 25 to 35). For those more severely obese (BMI above 35), you may need to create a calorie deficit of 750 to 1,000 calories to lose approximately 2 pounds a week.

       How many times have you heard or said, I cant seem to lose weight, but I really dont eat that much. Eating too few calories can also be a problem as it takes calories to burn calories. With a drastic caloric deficit (800-1000/day), your basal metabolic rate (which is the rate your body burns calories for energy) decreases as a way to protect from starvation. As a result, the body learns to function at a lower calorie level, which is not ideal for weight loss. We want to train our bodies to use more calories, not less.

       Its also important to understand that even though following a sound exercise routine consisting of weight lifting and cardiovascular exercise, as well as healthy eating may burn off 500 calories, your efforts may be easily cancelled out if you are not watching your food choices.  For example, if you were to consume 2 slices of cheese pizza (500 calories) following your daily workout you have just negated the hard work you have put into your program.  For example, a nutrition client running her first marathon was under the impression that since she increased her daily exercise program and training that she would easily shed 5 or 10 pounds.  Instead, because of the intense workouts, she found herself hungrier than usual and eating more. As a result, she stayed the same weight and at times even weighed more. Essentially, as you exercise more, you become hungrier and consequently you eat more or think you should consume more. The management of your weight must involve careful monitoring of the calories and portions of foods consumed.

       Sometimes through resistance training you may add muscle weight, which decreases body fat, but the result will be that your weight remains the same. The relationship of exercise to weight loss is complex and often confusing. We often think that regular exercise will lead to easy weight loss. You should always exercise to improve cardiovascular health, maintain bone mass, improve strength, and of course have fun.  If your goal is weight loss, focus on calories and portions consumed. The process initially may be slow as it takes 30 days to develop new eating habits and consume less food, so it may take some time before you begin to see a loss in weight. Be patient!

       Balancing healthy eating habits with appropriate exercise will help achieve your ideal weight. Consequently, you will feel good, fit in clothes more comfortable, and ward off potential diseases such as diabetes, heart, cancer, osteoporosis, etc. that may creep into your life as you age.

Listed below are some dietary suggestions to help manage your weight:

  • Jot it down - Tracking helps you stay on target. Identify the amount you eat (portion sizes), the frequency of eating, and the reason you eat.


  • Start thinking of food as fuel for the body  Eat a balance of high quality                  carbohydrates, lean protein, and heart healthy fats.


  • Consume 5 A Day  Eat 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit per day. Mix it up  variety is the key for a nutrient boost.


  • Eat at least 3-4 servings of beans  Any beans are great except for refried beans.


  • Eat a minimum of 3 meals per day  Eat every 3-4 hours, consuming 3 meals in addition to 2-3 snacks in between is best for a metabolism boost.


  • Drink plenty of water  Carry a water bottle with you throughout the day.



  • Watch your calorie and portion intake, Its the key to weight loss!


Think practical in your challenge to manage your weight. Healthy eating, adequate calories, moderate portions, and regular exercise need to be part of your daily habits. Take it slow and remember to allow about 30 days to develop a new habit before you see results in weight loss.


Contact Dietitian Jen Evola at or (773) 563-3863.

I Eat Right and Exercise Why Can't I Lose Weight?