Ask Stew — Work Hard with No Weight Loss

Eating healthier foods and portion control are two keys to losing weight.
The whole foods plant-based diet opens people up to a huge world of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains while restricting meats, dairy products and oils. (Eric Pilgrim/Fort Knox)

Even if you are highly active with a manual labor job, it is difficult to lose that stubborn 10-15 pounds that lingers around the midsection of the body after a certain age. Here is an email about the difficulties of losing weight, even with a physically demanding job.

Hi! I was reading a few of your diet and exercise books and what you had to say about overcoming doubt really spoke to me. I thought I'd shoot you an email and ask a quick question:

I eat well, stay hydrated and work on a farm so I'm doing physical work eight hours a day. However, I've never been able to get to a healthy weight. I'm always 15lbs over. What should I do? -- Mary

Mary -- I, too, eat well and was pretty disciplined with my diet -- so I thought. But I did not really notice why I was not losing weight (when I was trying to) until I wrote everything down that I ate or drank for three days. (I usually recommend a week, but I figured out my problem in 2-3 days.) In those three days, I noticed I scooped too many helpings of peanut butter as a "healthy" snack. Well adding 500-600 calories to my day made losing weight impossible at nearly 50.  But I stopped it and started dropping with a regular workout routine I was doing. I also noticed that even though I was eating steak, chicken, fish, salads, fruits and vegetables primarily with very little if any snacking, I was eating too much. It came down to simple portion control, to be honest.

Also, a little more sugar control has helped push the weight down, too. I eliminated sugar and focused on smaller meals and only snacking on nuts or a piece of fruit. By not consuming the entire meal or using smaller plates and saving some for leftovers the following day, not only am I losing weight (10lbs in a month) but also saving money. Sometimes, you can eat too much steak, grilled chicken and foods that are good for you, making it hard to lose weight.  See related article I just wrote on a few weight-loss methods that come down to discipline with food intake and daily activity. With working on a farm, some monitoring of your diet should do the trick. If you want to add a 20- to 30-minute cooldown cardio section to the end of the day or first thing in the morning, that is not a bad idea for additional calorie-burn options. This can be walking, jogging, biking or any other cardio activity available to you to include swimming, rowing, cross-country skiing or elliptical gliding. You can keep it simple with little to no equipment or take the cardio activity inside with one of the many machine options.

Make sure you are drinking water throughout the day as well. That will help you feel less hungry as you start to decrease your portion size to someone who is not a teenager anymore. Eventually, we all need to learn that you no longer can outwork your diet after a certain age. For me, it was around 40 years old, even though I am highly active (near 1.5-2 hours a day of workouts).

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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