If you find yourself on the weight-loss journey, you probably have a scale to check your progress, or you at least used the scale to discover your starting weight. Hopefully you are employing some exercise into your weight-loss adventure. Perhaps you are simply counting calories and eating less. Many people have been successful at shedding pounds and reaching their fitness goals through the use of both of these tactics, but the most effective and beneficial method for losing weight is the combination of both exercise and calorie control.

If you have been trying to lose weight for some time now, and the scales seem to be stuck in the same range, there are a few simple things to check to be sure you are on the right track.

Exercise. What type of exercise are you doing most often? Steady-state and moderate-intensity exercise have great health benefits, and you can absolutely lose weight this way. It just might take longer. To really see peak results and shed the pounds, be sure you are engaging in some high-intensity exercise (for shorter amounts of time) at least twice a week in your workouts. Numerous studies point to the benefits of exercising this way, and this could be just the spark you need to get the scale moving.

Exercise type. If you are overweight, you may find the scale moves much quicker at the start of your weight loss journey. The reason being due to all the excess fat sitting around. This fat can be shed much more quickly. After some time, you will reach a point where a 1-3 pound per week loss is seen, and this is the healthy recommended amount.  You didn’t gain all that weight overnight, and it can’t be lost overnight.

On the other hand, if you have little fat to lose, and you are working out to add strength, you may shed the fat, but you are gaining muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat, so pay more attention to how you feel and how your clothes fit than to the number on the scale.

Calorie control. “Counting calories” is a common expression, but it can have negative connotations when done improperly or viewed as a task or chore. When you think of all the work that could go into counting, it’s easy to become discouraged or disinterested in the effort needed to stay on track. Calorie control is an easier way to think about calorie consumption, because all you are trying to do is control your caloric intake, not count every consumed calorie. In the end, however, the method that works best for you is the method upon which you need to focus your efforts. When you are thinking about controlling calories, all you need to focus on is one question: “Are you burning more calories than you are consuming?” For some, counting calories helps that person know the exact answer to that question – if they have an accurate count. If you go running outside, for instance, it will be tough to know how many calories you burned without some sort of device.

Portion control. This goes hand-in-hand with calorie control, because if you are eating large portions, chances are you are eating more calories than your are burning during exercise. Too many people have the wrong idea of what a portion of food should look or feel like once eaten. Restaurants have done our society no favors in the ever-increasing amounts of food they pile onto plates. The key is to limit your portions and be sure you are eating healthy, nutritious foods with enough calories to supplement your workouts and daily activities. Anything else can be deemed “empty calories” with no health benefits.

What are you eating? Ask yourself this question, and the answer may be just what you need to get over the hump that is holding you back and keeping the scales from moving. Processed foods have a lot of hidden sugars which lead to weight gain. Sports drinks can help you replenish lost electrolytes and sodium, but they are often packed with sugar as well. The very foods and drinks you think are aiding in your fitness goals may very well be the ones holding you back. Unfortunately, organic and natural food is often the most expensive, but strive to eat as natural as you can afford. Your body and health are worth it. If you eat healthy, nutritious food you stand a much better chance of losing weight and getting the scale moving.

In the end… remember the most important question of all, “Are you burning more calories than you are consuming?” If you don’t know, and the scale is staying put, the answer is no. If you can honestly say that you are burning more calories than you are consuming, then a visit to the doctor may be in order. You could have a hormonal or thyroid disorder preventing weight loss.

Barring any unforeseen auto-immune or related health issue, your body is designed to sustain a healthy weight range with exercise and healthy eating habits. There is now way (for a healthy person) to burn off a bunch of calories (more than they are eating) and still gain weight. Knowing this, you can rest easy knowing that the scales will move if you combine exercise with proper foods and proper amounts.