If you find yourself trying to shed pounds that just don't seem to budge, it's easy to get discouraged or feel like you'll never reach your goal weight. But don't go there! There's often one key reason why you're seemingly stuck in a weight-loss plateau. It's likely that you're simply not creating enough of a calorie deficit. The biggest mistake people make when trying to lose weight is not counting calories -- or not counting them accurately (get out that journal and track everything you eat and drink for a week to see where you might inadvertently be sneaking in extra calories). The other huge mistake is bagging out on your exercise.
Let's tackle this one at a time. First, you absolutely must burn more calories than you're taking in. There's no getting around it. A calorie is a unit of energy, so the energy you don't use gets stored in your body as, you guessed it, fat. Of course, there are a couple of factors that play into this, which vary from person to person. One is your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the amount of energy your body expends while at rest; and the second is your active metabolic rate (AMR), your total calorie burn on an average day, minus exercise. So you'll need to figure out how many calories you burn a day. To calculate your BMR, use one of these formulas, according to your gender:
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Once you've got your BMR number, it's time to calculate your AMR. Rate your average activity a day by giving yourself a 1.1 (chained to your desk), 1.2 (mildly active, doing a fair amount of walking at work), 1.3 (work primarily on your feet, moving at a fast pace) or 1.4 (you're doing hardcore labor like construction work).
Next, take that number (say it's 1.2) and multiply it by your BMR. So if your BMR is 1,400 and you multiply it by 1.2, you'll arrive at an AMR of 1,680. This means if you eat around 1,700 calories a day on the days you don't work out, you won't gain weight.
But the whole point of this is that you want to lose weight, and that's where the exercise part comes in. If you've been doing the same workout routine for weeks, now's the time to mix it up. Your body will naturally adapt to repetitive activity -- so if you're no longer feeling the burn, you can bet it's because you're no longer torching calories. To keep your muscles challenged, change your routine at least every two weeks. And kick those workouts into a slightly higher gear. Aim to take up the intensity around 10 percent by jogging a little bit faster, lifting a little heavier or adding a few more repetitions. Also try harder versions of your favorite exercises like military-style push-ups instead of push-ups on your hands and knees.