Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. “Do what you like because it’s good for you,” Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Still, some people might benefit from more structure when it comes to meal planning. “Sometimes a structured diet is easier for people to manage in their busy lives, because they don’t have to think about what foods they should eat,” says Tamara Melton, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., nutrition communications and wellness consultant, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson. “They can also help to get someone used to a proper portion size of meals.” So newbies to healthy eating might consider starting on a structured weight-loss meal plan and then adapting it as they get more comfortable with new eating habits. But again, if you have or are in recovery from an eating disorder, this might not be the best choice for you—focusing so much on numbers can take a lot of people to a dark place that is definitely not healthy.