Food for thought...this post is inspired by a common theme I encounter as a personal trainer, so I feel many may benefit from this information.
The scale isn't budging or maybe it's moving in an upward direction. The answer must be to severely cut calories, starve, go on the newest trendy diet, or do 3 hours of cardio a day. Right? WRONG.
First point of importance, don't dwell on the scale. While the scale is certainly a valuable tool, that's not where the focus ought to be. Let's direct our mental focus and energy beyond the scale. Focus instead on this: Healthy is not a size, it's a lifestyle. It's a lifestyle of clean eating and exercising. Nutrition is a HUGE part of the equation.
Nutrition is far more responsible for creating our shape and our health than most people realize. We can work hard in the gym, but we can't outwork an unhealthy diet. If you are putting in the work at the gym and not seeing results, take an honest look at your nutrition. Don't jump to the conclusion that eating less is the answer. Food is fuel, not an enemy. Focus on eating clean, whole foods: lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, a rainbow assortment of veggies, water, water, water, and reduce sodium and sugar intake. Be careful not to sabotage yourself with liquid calories or frequently forgotten incidentals such as coffee creamers, sugar, sugary condiments and sugary or high fat dressings.
It's not about restriction either. It's about consistency. We don't become overweight because of 1 or 2 unhealthy meals just like we don't achieve our physique goals with just 1 or 2 healthy meals. Consistency. I personally follow a 90/10 rule. I eat 6 small meals per day (every 2.5-3 hours), so that equates to 42 meals per week. I eat clean at least 90% of the time, meaning I have room to indulge for up to 3-4 meals per week if I choose. I generally save those meals for the weekend and I am active over the weekend. Just be careful not to turn these 3 meals into a binge. As I stated, it's not about restriction...it's what you do consistently that matters and if 39-40 of my meals are clean, that's consistency with room for an occasional indulgence.
Clean eating doesn't have to be bland--experiment with spices and non-sodium based seasonings. A grilled bison burger on a whole grain bun with veggies and a baked sweet potato is far from bland. I steam veggies with lemon juice or grill them with a brush of olive oil. For dinner or breakfast, I love egg white and chicken burritos (whole grain wrap) with a dash of hot sauce. We make our own pizzas with healthy ingredients...it is possible to eat clean and still enjoy what you eat...give it a fair try and be creative.
Also, the answer isn't eating less, the answer is eating healthy. Your metabolism will eventually suffer if you eat at extreme deficits. Your body will run according to how it's fueled. Your car doesn't run well on fumes and neither does your body. Make sure you are taking in adequate calories.
In summary, focus not on the scale but rather on being healthier and growing stronger by consistently eating clean and exercising...if you do this with honest effort, your body composition will improve significantly. Notice I stress body composition over scale weight...gain muscle, lose fat. Love your body and work on having a healthy relationship with food. Banish self-deprecating thoughts from your mind...you are beautiful regardless of your size or weight--it's not about that, it's about being healthier.