Why you can't lose weight from exercise combined with caloric restriction

I received this email recently, from a woman wanting to know if the meal plans can help her. (yes! absolutely!)

"I have followed the plant-based diet for the last two years and love the way I feel. I have lost 80 pounds so far but I am stuck. For the last month I have greatly restricted my caloric intake. I am also exercising daily but my weight hasn't budged for a month!"

First a big congrats on the weight loss! That's amazing!!

Second, as I have found with many of my clients, caloric restriction in and of itself is not always enough. It depends on WHAT more than total calories. (*I found this particularly true as my clients started reaching their goal weights (less than 25 lbs to go).

For example, I've had clients who insisted they could eat "whatever they wanted" as long as they stuck to a certain caloric budget. Sometimes this worked initially but it always faltered in the end. They had to clean up their diet to get results.

Eating plant-based can have it's traps, too. For example, eating too many fats like nuts and seeds can inhibit weight loss even when you're counting calories. (See: Not Losing Weight on a Plant-Based Diet? Here's Why).

Third, if you're exercising and greatly restricting your calories, that could be the problem. When I was a personal trainer, I found the heavy restriction + exercise combo often slowed my client's losses (and that also led to them not feeling their best).


If my clients insisted on heavily restricting their calories, I generally advised them not to "exercise" (only walk). Once they achieved a desired weight/body fat loss, and they were willing to stop restricting, then we brought exercise back in.

Exercise is great, but it's not required for weight loss. It also requires more of a juggling act than if you try to lose based on diet alone. If you want to exercise, by all means do, but make sure you're eating enough and be careful not to deplete your glycogen.

I also do not recommend daily exercise. Any trainer will tell you working out every day is too much unless it's light activity like walking or gentle yoga.

Lastly, remember that the scale is not the best method for tracking losses. You could be gaining muscle in addition to fat loss from all that exercise, in which the scale won't move down. (Related: What Weighs More: A Pound of Fat or a Pound of Muscle (& Why the Scale is a Frenemy)).

The meal plans make it so easy and I'm thrilled to have so many success stories.

For those looking to lose weight, stick to the meal plan as close as possible and choose the lower fat options!

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