Why Are You Not Losing Weight Doing Pilates?


Most people with experience with Pilates will insist that it’s changed their life, but others claim it’s overhyped. While Pilates is great for conditioning the body, using it as your only exercise for weight loss isn’t always practical. Naturally, one of the top questions from those new to Pilates is, “Why am I not losing weight?”

You’re not losing weight doing Pilates because the calories burned aren’t enough to create a calorie deficit. Additionally, Pilates conditions the muscles, and since muscle is denser than fat, the muscle being gained is likely offsetting the fat loss. 

Although Pilates might not be best as a sole exercise when seeking weight loss, don’t let that deter you from starting a practice. Read on for recommendations on safely losing weight with Pilates, the different types of Pilates, and how eating a balanced diet and staying active can help with weight loss. 

The Proper Way To Lose Weight With Pilates

Consistently doing Pilates can result in weight loss over time. However, the most effective way to lose weight with Pilates involves more than just beginning practice. 

Firstly, combining healthy, balanced eating with consuming proper food portions will result in a decrease in caloric intake. 

The reduction of calories coming in from food and the increase in calories burned during Pilates sessions will result in a gradual weight loss over time. Since Pilates isn’t designed to have a high-calorie burn, a balanced diet is a must for weight loss. 

Secondly, combining Pilates with cardio workouts will also aid in weight loss. Give my Pilates with sliders/socks workout a try to feel the difference compared to a regular session.

A cardiovascular exercise (AKA cardio) is any type of exercise that increases your heart rate, typically through the execution of repetitive movements involving large muscle groups. Some of the most common cardio workouts are running, walking, biking, or using the elliptical. 

Because cardio exercise increases your heart rate, cardio workouts are associated with a high-calorie burn which is ideal in combination with a strength/toning workout such as Pilates

If you are reaching a stalemate in your progress, try following a healthy eating plan and cross-training for better results. 

How Weight Loss Occurs

Although it’s probably not what we want to hear, weight loss is all about calories. A caloric deficit needs to be created to lose weight, which means the body needs to burn more calories than it’s getting. 

Two primary ways to create a calorie deficit are by consuming fewer calories or increasing the calories burned. Those who are most successful with weight loss combine the two. 

The idea of having the calories you burn outweigh the calories you consume may seem daunting, especially when most foods today are so calorie dense. But keep in mind that the body naturally burns calories by simply performing life-sustaining activities such as converting our food to energy, known as metabolism

Upon hearing that weight loss is all about calories, many automatically begin researching the best diet. However, be wary of diets, as research has shown that they aren’t effective in the long term. 

Diets restrict what can be consumed and are designed to be temporary. This feature of diets means that once a diet is stopped and a person returns to their normal way of eating, their previous weight returns too. 

An alternative to the dieting roller coaster is aiming to make healthy lifestyle changes instead. 

In a practical sense, this looks like replacing your daily soda with sparkling water, having a piece of fruit instead of candy, or swapping out your typical lunch of a burger with fries for a salad. 

You can also work on portion control, the frequency of eating, and when food is consumed for improved results. Making small healthy changes over time will lead to a complete lifestyle change in food, which has proven to be much more effective and sustainable than a diet. 

Benefits of Pilates

In addition to Pilates being beneficial for those looking to lose weight, it also has several additional benefits.

Low Impact & Accessible To Many

Much of Pilates’s popularity comes from the fact that it is a low-impact workout, yet its practitioners still see results. 

Low-impact workouts pose less risk to the body due to the exercise less straining on the muscles, joints, and body overall. This reduced strain makes low-impact workouts accessible to a range of people, including those that are elderly, inexperienced in exercise, or even those that may be healing from a previous injury

Many who want to create muscle strength deduce that lifting weights and using machines is the only way to make it happen. However, consistent Pilates practice can offer the same results without the additional strain on the body from heavy weights. 

Full Body Conditioning

Another unique benefit of Pilates is that it was designed to condition the body as a whole. 

Much Pilates is core-focused, meaning that even during workouts targeting the arms or legs, the core remains engaged to hold a certain position. The overall focus on core strength combined with targeting other areas of the body through breath-synchronized exercises results in a whole-body exercise

Improved Posture

As Pilates heavily focuses on core strength and whole-body fitness, posture is a focal point as it is directly associated with proper body alignment

One of the most effective ways of improving posture is to strengthen the core, and that, combined with a heavy focus on proper alignment during class, naturally leads to improved posture. This improvement in posture is also why many with back pain tend to find relief through Pilates. 

Pilates vs. Yoga

Pilates is often closely associated with Yoga, which is similar in practice but more focused on mindfulness. You may even notice some of the same positions when comparing the two disciplines, but they are far from the same.

Similarities

One of the most notable similarities between Yoga and Pilates is that they heavily emphasize the proper use of breath while executing movements. Whether practicing Yoga or Pilates, you’ll find that every motion is presented with a specific breathing cue, either an inhale or exhale. 

Proper breathing is integrated into these workouts for many reasons, one of the most important being that effective breathing increases endurance. Increased endurance allows us to execute more movement repetitions before tiring due to increased oxygen in the body. 

Proper breathing also increases the safety of workouts and helps in the activation of muscles

In terms of similarities, you may also notice similar positions and movements in Pilates and Yoga, increased flexibility over time, and a focus on alignment and whole-body wellness.

Differences

While Pilates and Yoga have many similarities, such as a heavy focus on breathwork and alignment, there are quite a few notable differences between the two. 

While both focus on synchronizing movements with the breath, the reason why such a heavy focus is placed on proper breathing techniques differs. 

The overall purpose of Yoga is to increase its practitioners’ spiritual and mental wellness, with increased flexibility and physicality being a secondary bonus. This differs from the overarching goal of Pilates, which is to help its practitioners achieve whole-body physical fitness.

Another noticeable difference between the two disciplines is how the practice is executed. Yoga practice will take students through a series of poses, also known as asanas. These positions are held for extended periods while a steady breathing pattern is utilized for support. 

With Pilates, students may see some of the same positions as those observed during a Yoga class. However, instead of holding a position, the focus is on controlled, repetitive movement that challenges the core and aims to tone the muscles. 

To learn more about the differences between these two types of exercise, read my article which explores if Yoga or Pilates is better for beginners. 

For more information, see: What is Better For Beginners Yoga or Pilates?

Different Types of Pilates

There are two main types of Pilates, and while they differ slightly, the overall goal in both is to create physical wellness throughout the body. 

Mat Pilates is performed using a Yoga or exercise mat, while Reformer Pilates is practiced through a reformer. In terms of effectiveness, there are arguments for both disciplines. Most Pilates practitioners choose the one that fits their lifestyle, goals, and personal preferences more. 

Mat Pilates

Mat Pilates uses specific exercises and an individual’s body weight to condition the body. The positions and techniques taught in mat Pilates are said to be the foundation of the Pilates method, as aspects such as proper alignment are heavily emphasized. 

Some benefits of this Pilates are that it sets up a good foundation for proper alignment during all exercises and is accessible since it only requires a yoga mat. Also, due to the lack of support from a reformer, the core will have to work harder.

Reformer Pilates

Reformer Pilates is a more modern form of Pilates and is commonly what most people picture when they think about Pilates. 

In this form of Pilates, exercises are executed using what is known as a reformer. A reformer is a bed-like structure with springs, resistance bands, and pulleys. The idea behind reformer Pilates came from founder Joseph Pilates and his experience with nursing bedridden patients back to physical health. 

Reformer Pilates differs from Mat Pilates in quite a few ways, but most notably, it offers a way to adjust the intensity of a specific exercise by adjusting the resistance. Additionally, the reformer offers more support than mat Pilates, which is often attractive to beginners. 

Also see The Ultimate Guide to the Pilates Reformer

Reasons You May Not Be Losing Weight

So you’ve started up a Pilates practice, but you’re still not seeing results. What gives?

While Pilates is an ideal workout, especially for those looking to lose weight, there are several reasons you still might not see any progress in your weight loss journey. 

Not Drinking Enough Water

The main substance in our bodies is water. In fact, it accounts for roughly 60% of our body weight. It’s an understatement to say that water is vital to a healthy body. Water can also play a role in helping with weight loss as well, as it’s no calories and can help curb your appetite. 

Soda, juice, coffee creamer, and other liquids we consume throughout the day may seem harmless. However, over time, those calories add up and can prevent you from losing as much weight as possible. 

Ensuring that you’re drinking the daily recommended amount of water and swapping out calorie-dense beverages for water can help reduce the number of calories you’re consuming. 

Sedentary Lifestyle

Even if you take up a consistent Pilates practice, you may not see results if you lead a sedentary lifestyle. If you work in an environment that requires lots of sitting or little to no movement, try increasing your daily activity by standing, walking around during phone calls, and taking the stairs when you can. 

Eating More Food as a Result of Working Out

For many, the aspect of increased physical activity and or exercise often leads to an increased amount of food consumption. Because you’re burning more calories, your body will naturally want to replace what you’ve lost through exercise, which is often more than you normally eat. 

However, a calorie deficit needs to be created to lose weight, meaning you need to be burning more calories than you consume. A good way to increase weight loss is to ensure your food portions remain sensible, even with the addition of exercise. 

Emotional & Mindless Eating

For many, the food we eat is directly tied to how we’re feeling, a concept known as emotional eating. It’s why when we’re sad or down, we reach for the ice cream in hopes that it will make us feel better, even if we’re not necessarily hungry. 

Another way we find ourselves eating when we’re not hungry is mindless eating. This kind of eating usually occurs when our mind is distracted, making eating while in front of the TV a prime time when mindless eating happens. 

The biggest downside to both emotional and mindless eating is that, at times, we find ourselves eating even though we’re not hungry, which is one of the leading causes of weight gain. 

To prevent these types of eating, keep healthy snacks around, such as fruit and vegetables. So if you find yourself eating emotionally or unintentionally, healthy foods will be readily available to reduce the chance of consuming something calorie dense instead. 

Another way to combat emotional eating is to take a moment and have a glass of water before eating. Our sensations for hunger and thirst can be very similar at times, so it can be helpful to drink water before eating to give us a better idea of whether we are truly hungry. 

Medication & Doctor Consultation

If you’ve tried all the above and still do not lose weight with regular exercise, reach out to your primary care physician. 

There are many medical reasons you may not lose weight, such as medication, genetics, thyroid issues, etc. A doctor can help you determine if any of these medical reasons may affect your ability to lose weight and help with either a treatment or a workaround. 

Conclusion

Pilates is a low-impact workout that is best known for total body conditioning. Because Pilates is aimed at conditioning the body instead of burning calories, incorporating additional cardio exercises such as walking or running can help those wanting to lose weight. 

Losing weight is about creating a calorie deficit, which is, in short, burning more calories than you take in. Therefore, in addition to cross-training, healthy eating and proper portion control are necessary for optimal weight loss. 

Sources

Donna Finnie

Donna loves to share her passion for Pilates with others. She is a fully qualified instructor who believes Pilates is for everyone, regardless of age, as it can truly help to increase strength, flexibility mobility and athletic performance.

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