How to lose weight with Pilates (what to do if you’re not)

Woman stretching back pilates

I reached out to my friend and Pilates expert, Jillian Hardwick to help with today’s article on how to lose weight with pilates. What you’ll find below is a simple, practical, rational, and straightforward approach to losing weight with Pilates (if that’s your goal). But also, why weight loss is not necessarily the aim of Pilates, and what you may want to focus on instead.

Can you lose weight with Pilates?

It depends.

You may lose weight with pilates if you’re in a calorie deficit over time. You may not lose weight with pilates if you’re NOT in a calorie deficit over time.

  • To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than your body needs. This is a calorie deficit.
  • To gain weight, you must eat more calories than your body needs. This is a calorie surplus.
  • To maintain weight, you must eat the calories your body needs. This is calorie maintenance.

If you’re not losing weight you’re eating too much even if you think you’re not. Not gaining weight? You’re not eating enough even if you think you are.

This would be the same for any other form of exercise.

workout weight loss chart
Note: Use your workouts to help you get stronger, move more, and become an awesome person that can do rad shit. Not for weight loss.

Because most people come to me wanting to lose some amount of fat and build lean muscle. Let’s look at it that way.

You can create a consistent calorie deficit over time in a few ways.

✅ To learn more about some of these ideas sign-up for my free 5-day body transformation course.

When it comes to weight loss calories matter most. But this does not mean they are the only thing that matters.

  • Quality of food matters
  • Sleep matters
  • Rest and recovery matters
  • Your relationship with food matters

A number of things matter. But calories matter most with weight loss. If you want to lose weight while doing pilates you’ll need to be in a calorie deficit.

Will I lose weight if I do Pilates every day?

It depends.

You may lose weight by doing pilates every day if you’re in a calorie deficit over time. You may NOT lose weight by doing pilates every day if you’re NOT in a calorie deficit over time.

By doing pilates you will use (or burn) calories which may help create the calorie deficit that is needed for weight loss. But as research has shown us, some combination of exercise and diet is most effective for short and long-term results (1).

How long should you do Pilates for weight loss?

Pilates in front of a window

What does your schedule allow for?

If you’ve only got 5 minutes do that. Got 15 minutes, do that. 30 minutes, 45 minutes, a full hour – then do that.

What’s most important is that you’re doing something. Start wherever you are and level up from there.

Will you become a pilates expert by doing 5 minutes? Probably not. Will you lose weight from 5 minutes of pilates? Most likely no, unless you’re in a calorie deficit over time.

But what’s most important is that you’re doing what you can within the circumstances of your own life. Work with that and go from there.

How often should you do Pilates?

According to, Jillian Hardwich of HB Pilates.

❝ Your frequency should depend on your goals, fitness level, and other activities and workouts. I know that doesn’t answer your question directly but there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to Pilates, and that’s actually my favorite part.

For example, I have worked with professional athletes who would dedicate one day per week to Pilates training for improving core strength, and dynamic flexibility, and focus on proper form and alignment both to help prevent injuries AND improve their lifting. That’s right, a strong core and improved posture and body awareness can lead to heavier lifting in the gym.

However, most of my clients fall into one of two categories; 2-3x/week or religiously 5-6x/week

If you are just beginning your Pilates journey I would recommend starting with 2-3 days per week, focusing on consistency and allowing a day or two in between for rest and recovery. ❞

In a random controlled trial (RCT) fifty people participated in a 12-week Pilates class, which met for 1 hour 2 times per week. Each person was randomly assigned to either the experimental (n = 25) or control group (n = 25). Subjects performed a basic Pilates mat routine consisting of approximately 25 separate exercises focusing on muscular endurance and flexibility of the abdomen, low back, and hips each class session.

At the end of the 12-week period, participants showed a significant level of improvement (p < or = 0.05) in all variables except posture and balance. This study demonstrated that in active middle-aged men and women, exposure to Pilates exercise for 12 weeks, for two 60-minute sessions per week, may be enough to promote significant increases in abdominal endurance, hamstring flexibility, and upper-body muscular endurance.

Ultimately, how often can you currently do it?

Got once a week? Do that. Got twice a week? Do that. Got three days a week. Do that.

How long does it take to see results from Pilates?

It takes as long as it takes.

When you start exercising more, making better dietary choices, and sleeping better progress typically happens in this order.

  • More energy
  • Improved mood
  • Get stronger
  • Body composition changes (add muscle/lose fat)
  • Weight loss

According to a Pilates expert and owner of HBPilates in Huntington Beach, CA. Jillian Hardwick says that someone doing Pilates for the first time can expect to notice the following.

❝ Joseph Pilates once famously said, In 10 sessions you will feel the difference, in 20 you will see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a whole new body.❞

In the first 3 to 6 months and sometimes as many as 12 months. You’ll notice that your strength, mobility, and flexibility may increase rapidly. Then all of a sudden it gets harder and harder to get stronger. Leaving you all like 🤔 and 😕 and 🤷

This is totally normal and is creatively called “beginner gains.” Almost anything you do is progressive overload at this point and your body responds very quickly to it. You can even get great results with poorly designed programs and random workouts.

You may even notice that some exercises are easier to progress with than others. Again, totally normal. 

Another caveat, as your form improves exercises may get more difficult. This is because you’re loading the muscle more efficiently. You’re most likely NOT getting weaker.

How many calories does Pilates burn?

A 150-pound person doing a 50-minute Pilates mat class at a beginner level MAY burn 175 calories. An advanced 50-minute class may burn 254 calories. You may burn more calories from Pilates reformer classes or Pilates workouts that elevate your heart rate.

Does Pilates slim your thighs?

According to, Jillian, ❝ you can’t spot reduced body fat with Pilates. So someone usually asking this question was misled thinking that sit-ups will give them abs and the abductor machine at the gym will tone their outer thighs. At no fault to them, because fitness marketing is ruthless.

But Pilates is great for working out the entire body. If you have never done Pilates before you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find sore muscles you didn’t know existed like your adductors (inner thighs), deep core muscles, and glutes.❞

Does Pilates flatten your stomach?

Again, I reached out to, Jillian and she had this to say. ❝ Actually, yes. While you can’t target body fat, proper activation of your core muscles and a better understanding of your posture and alignment can lead to a flatter-looking abdomen region. If you really want a flatter tummy, you should double down on your nutrition.❞

What types of Pilates are best for weight loss?

As mentioned above. you’ll burn more calories in a Pilates reformer class or any Pilates workout where you elevate your heart rate. However, is burning as many calories as possible while doing Pilates the goal, or is getting stronger, more mobile, and more flexible the goal?

Ultimately, the best Pilates (or any form of exercise) is the one you can do consistently, that you enjoy, and that fits in your budget. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend trying different pieces of Pilates equipment and apparatuses until you find one you really enjoy. Remember, things you enjoy are things you are more likely to continue in the long run.

6 types of Pilates to learn more about and experiment with:

  • Classical Pilates
  • Mat Pilates
  • Reformer Pilates
  • Contemporary Pilates
  • Stott Pilates
  • Winsor Pilates

✅ To consult with an expert reach out to, Jillian here or try a free 7-day trial and experience various Pilates classes in the comfort of your own home. 

I’m doing Pilates but not losing weight

This is because you’re not in a consistent calorie deficit over an extended period of time even if you think you are.

You’re eating more than you think

I like to call this the “almond butter effect.” Yes, almond butter is a perfectly healthy food to eat. It’s also extremely calorie-dense. Two tablespoons (30 grams) is roughly 200 calories and most of us don’t measure out 30 grams of almond butter.

Another great example is smoothies. It’s wonderful that you’re getting more fruits and veggies but often times the smoothies we’re making or ordering out are packed with more calories than we think.

One way to improve this is by creating more calorie awareness. Spend a few days this week reading labels and looking at things like calories per serving. If you eat out see if the nutrition information is listed online. If you really want to dial it in, get weird this week and try weighing and measuring your portions, and entering it into an app like Myfitnesspal.

Not burning as many calories as you think

In a study conducted at Stanford University, different fitness trackers were assessed to check their accuracy for calories burned. The results showed that the most accurate device was still off by 27%. While the least accurate was off by 93%

These overestimations can lead to overeating. You now believe you’re burning X number of calories and have room to eat Y number of calories.

Moving less over the course of a day

It’s very normal to move less throughout your day as you start to exercise more. Our bodies are very good at trying to maintain homeostasis. When you start exercising, burning more calories, or are eating in a calorie deficit it’s very normal to compensate by sitting less and moving less throughout the day.

There are a number of other things that could be contributing to this as well:

  • Workweek dieting. Creating a calorie deficit during the week and eating more than you think over the weekends. Thus, balancing out your caloric intake.
  • Not accurately weighing and measuring foods if you are tracking calories in an app like Myfitnesspal
  • Underestimating portion sizes and calories if you are not tracking.
  • Dining out often. Meals out tend to be higher in calories and include larger portions than we would make at home.
  • Assuming “clean eating” or “healthy eating” alone will lead to weight loss.
  • PCOS

✅ I dive deeper into 7 reasons you may not be losing weight in this video.

How to use Pilates to lose weight

Exercising more has become the default strategy for many when they’re not losing weight. Please keep in mind that exercise alone won’t lead to weight loss. The only thing that does is the consistent calorie deficit we’ve been talking about.

So if you generally enjoy Pilates, you should do it.

But maybe not with the intention of losing weight. Instead, use it as a way to move your body that you enjoy, and can add to your quality of life fund.


Photo by Dane Wetton on Unsplash

Photo by Ash Hayes on Unsplash