The Weight Gain Mystery (?)

Many people tell me that they’re eating healthy, or they’re exercising a lot, but they’ve noticed they’re not losing weight or fat.

In this week’s newsletter, we discuss why you’re not losing weight (click on the link on the right of this blog to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter).

In a challenging workout, you could burn about 700 calories/ hour (depending on how hard you work, your age, fitness level, etc.). A less challenging workout is closer to 400 calories (a good reason to do a challenging workout like my boot camp!). I’m going to assume that you are putting in 100% effort so that you are burning 700 calories.

It’s your friend’s birthday and you want to take her to lunch.  Her birthday only comes once per year so you figure that you can go out to eat and will try to eat healthy. You figure that you can eat healthily at the Cheesecake Factory. The Cheesecake Factory has a lot of salads, and salads are healthy.

Before ordering, the server brings you bread and butter, of which you have two slices, skipping the butter. You stick with water; you get Thai lettuce wraps since they are wrapped in lettuce and thus are less calories than bread. You order the small Factory Chopped Salad; for the main dish, grilled salmon with mashed potatoes.

You “have to” have a piece of cheesecake because, why go to the Cheesecake Factory? You’re exercising during the week and just had a healthy meal, so you deserve it. Anyway, you don’t go there that much, so one piece of cheesecake is moderation. The Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake has pumpkin, and pumpkin is healthy. At least it’s not the Snickers Bar Chunks Cheesecake.

After dessert, you have coffee, a Café Mocha. It’s just a coffee so you figure that it doesn’t really count.

The next day, after your boot camp workout, it’s time to weigh-in. You felt like you had a healthy meal and are glad that you were able to moderate your choices. You’ve been exercising all week so you should have lost weight.

Stepping on the scale, you’re shocked. The scale must be wrong! Are the batteries low? Maybe I’m wearing heavier workout clothes. Or I drank a lot of water that morning so it’s water weight.

You are unaware of the damage that was done at your “healthy” lunch. You weren’t aware of the calories.  It just seemed like a healthy meal. And you believe that a healthy meal should lead to weight loss.

Look up the calories you ate at lunch by going to Here are the nutrition facts as reported by the Cheesecake Factory:

Food item: Calories/Sodium (mg)

Bread: 200/ 200
Thai Lettuce wraps: 1030/2350
Factory Chopped Salad: 520/1000
Grilled Salmon: 710/320
Mashed potatoes: 560/850
Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake: 1080/370
Café Mocha: 420/90
Total Calories: 4,520 / Sodium: 5,180 mg


In one “healthy” meal, you’ve gained over a pound (it takes 3,500 calories to equal a pound). If you had eaten the higher calorie meals (the Bistro Shrimp Pasta is 2290/820) and higher calorie appetizers (Factory Nachos, 1930/2780) you could have gained two or more pounds in that one meal.

Imagine what happens when people take the entire weekend off from eating healthy!

By the way, it would take more than six boot camp workouts to burn off your “healthy” lunch!

It’s worth noting that you’ve also consumed an excessive amount of sodium. The American Heart Association states that the maximum sodium intake per day is less than 1500mg. In this “healthy” lunch, you have consumed practically 4X the maximum sodium intake for the entire day. That doesn’t take into account anything else that you ate that day. If you exceed the max in one meal, you may have consumed 10X the recommended amount over the course of the day. It’s not surprising that so many people are on blood pressure medications.

The problem is that we underestimate the amount of calories we consume. We also make a lot of justifications. For example:

-“I had to have X (insert food choice) because of Y (insert specific places, times of year and events).” Change this from “have to” to “I chose to.” If you want to lose weight, make different choices.

-“X (insert event, like your friend’s birthday) only happens once a year so it’s OK.” Every person you know has a birthday once a year; how many birthday lunches does that add up to?

-“Salads are healthy.” Many salads are not healthy and are very high in calories.

-“I deserve this food.’ Look at it in a different way. Find other ways to reward yourself.

-“Calories from drinks don’t count.” You need to calculate all calories consumed, not just food.

-“Healthy food leads to weight loss.” We don’t always know what’s healthy and don’t consider the number of calories consumed.

A student of mine discovered it would take a 5.5 mile run to burn off one piece of pizza (It would take more miles if there were extra toppings or if you drank a soda). With that knowledge, she didn’t eat it because she dreaded needing to run those extra miles! This is a great way to think, because you become aware of the caloric cost in terms of time and energy spent exercising.

Moderation is a great concept in theory, but I’ve never seen it work over the long run with people who have ongoing weight loss issues. We kid ourselves into thinking that we are eating in moderation. Also we develop addictions to the foods that we are eating and we become unable to eat in moderation. There are so many events, special occasions, holidays and vacations that become exceptions.

The solution is to be aware of your food choices and find ways to enjoy your special occasions while only consuming the amount of calories that you are burning that day.

We are here for you in western Howard County to help make weight loss happen!

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2 Responses

  1. theresa

    theresa November 26, 2013 at 8:29 pm | | Reply

    5.5 miles of running to burn off a slice of pizza? Running burns between 100-150 calories per mile. 550 calories is one heck of a slice of pizza.

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