Research shows that exercise alone won’t help you lose weight, and contrary to popular opinion, it’s not the right message for the worldwide obesity epidemic. A recent study reveals why, suggesting that your body adjusts to higher activity levels, so while you may burn extra calories initially, eventually that rate will plateau. And there is some disheartening research, indicating that solely using exercise as a weight loss method can actually lead to weight gain. “Clients always say, ‘I’m doing all of this activity, but I just can’t lose the weight,’” confirms Mangieri. “I even have athletes who are training for 5Ks, 10Ks, and half marathons, and still gaining weight.”
If you follow these two guidelines, you’ll automatically be doing a third thing that is linked to reduced calorie intake: eating more low-calorie–dense foods. High-calorie–dense foods (like full-fat cheese and red meat) pack more calories ounce for ounce than low-calorie–dense ones (like vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole-grain cereal). According to a study published in the journal Appetite, eating a low-calorie–dense diet (by decreasing fat, eating more produce, or adding water to recipes) helped people consume 230 to 396 fewer calories a day. “With these strategies, you’ll also be eating foods that are higher in fiber, so you’ll stay satisfied,” says Donald D. Hensrud, M.D., the chair of preventive medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. If you’re still not dropping weight, consider using an app, such as Lose It!, to track your calories. That way, you’ll be able to see what you’re consuming and where the calories are coming from.