<< Back

What to Do When Diet and Exercise Aren’t Helping You Lose Weight

March 04, 2024

You’re eating kale and whole grains, and meeting all your daily cardio goals. So why isn’t the scale moving?

Maybe it’s time to mix things up or take a hard look at your choices, offers Kamraan Madhani, MD, a medical weight loss specialist with Hartford HealthCare.

“Even when nutrition and exercise are optimized, desired results may remain elusive due to factors like weight-promoting medications, stress and chronic medical conditions,” Dr. Madhani says.

Here are a few tips for when diet and exercise aren’t helping.

Am I eligible for weight loss surgery?

Start hereCall 855.792.6258

1. Make sure your lifestyle is as healthy as it seems.

First, Dr. Madhani suggests being honest about your eating and exercise as “healthy” and “regular” are relative terms.

“There can be significant variance in what is considered ‘healthy eating’ and ‘regular exercise,’” he starts. “The subjective nature of these terms can lead to confusion and leave people frustrated when they don’t see the results they strive for.”

The basics of a healthy lifestyle include:

  • Diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and protein-rich legumes and meat.
  • Control of added sugars, sodium, saturated and trans fats, and cholesterol.
  • 150-250 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. You can work your way up to this total by adding more time each week. You could also do 75 minutes of vigorous activity such as swimming laps.
  • Strength training exercises involving all major muscle groups at least twice a week.

“For people trying to maintain good health, the target for exercise is a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity. For those wanting to lose weight, the target should be 300 minutes a week,” Dr. Madhani says.

> Related: 3 Tricks for Better Portion Control

2. Mix up your workouts to avoid plateaus.

Even if you follow a solid workout plan, it’s good to shift gears and try something new, push yourself further or otherwise mix up your routine, Dr. Madhani suggests.

“Our bodies are very good at adapting to regular external challenges. If you run every day, before too long the run becomes less challenging as the body adapts,” he explains. “Plateaus are normal and should be expected in weight loss journeys.”

When hitting a plateau, he encourages you to pursue new, challenging forms of activity.

“Find something you enjoy so you’ll stick with it. The act of regular movement is incredibly valuable to physical and mental health, not to mention longevity,” he says.

Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

3. Realize that weight loss isn’t synonymous with good health.

It may be time to look beyond the scale, Dr. Madhani says.

“I recommend patients focus on overall health and function. ‘Obesity’ is commonly defined by objective cutoff values in body mass index (BMI) which don’t accurately reflect overall health,” he says, noting that a BMI of 30 in a white man is not the same as that in an Asian man.

“It is possible to have what’s called ‘metabolically healthy obesity,’ which means the person has an elevated BMI but is in full physical function and good metabolic health, with no weight-related comorbidities like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes,” Dr. Madhani says.

So if it seems like diet and exercise aren’t helping, try taking your focus away from the scale. Instead, he suggests setting other health-related goals, like reducing the amount of medication taken for blood pressure.