When You’re Exercising But Your Body’s Not Changing

Lego Weight Lifter

What if all that effort isn't paying off?

I was asking people for fitness questions on Twitter the other day and I got a great one from @TartandFit: "Why is it that I keep exercising but my body's not changing?" Good question, Michelle!  What does it mean?  Are you doing something wrong?  Not necessarily, but here are some things to check. Are you eating your workout calories? So many people say, "I worked out today so I can eat that _______."  (Fill in the blank with your crave food here.) Often those extra calories are more than you burned during your workout and you wind up maintaining or actually gaining weight. Are you working out with intensity? Leisurely strolling on the treadmill while you flip through a magazine isn't going to cut it.  You need some high intensity to really open up those fat cells and drain 'em.  Also, you can't count warm up and cool down time as part of your workout.  Cardiovascular training only happens when you're AT the cardiovascular level, which means you have to actually be sweating, and the more sweat the better. Are you eating water retaining foods? Sodas, salty snacks, etc. trigger your body to store more water than it needs.  Eat clean for three to five days and you should see some weight come off in the form of water.  If that happens, then you know you've been doing your body wrong and you need to eat better, so ditch the junk! Are you in a fitness rut? Our bodies adjust to the same old, same old quickly.  If you haven't changed up your fitness routine in the last six weeks then it's time to do so now.  Add weight or reps, add interval training, get a workout buddy who will challenge you, or try something completely fresh.  A new routine could quickly blast you through your plateau. Are you getting enough sleep? Our body malfunctions when we're sleep-deprived.  We get sugar cravings, we retain water, we get cranky and don't want to go to the gym.  There are so many ways that sleep dep sabotages our fitness goals.  It's critical that we get enough sleep.  If we don't, frankly, we're screwed.  Make sure you are electronics-free at least one hour before bedtime and don't push yourself to stay up late.  When you feel sleepy, heed the call for Zzzzs. Are you stressed out? Whether it's little things piling up or one big overwhelming thing, they happen all the time.  When we stress out our cortisol levels go up and we start sabotaging our best intentions.  Get to-dos off your plate, take the "me time" that you deserve, pick up meditation.  Whatever you need to de-stress, make sure that you do it regularly.  It's not a luxury, it's for your health. We need to start thinking about fitness holistically.  It's not just the two to five hours a week that we work out.  It's literally our entire life.  What we eat, when we sleep, how we handle stress, all of it. Have you exercised and not seen the changes you had hoped for?  How did you break through?  I'd love to hear your stories. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.


6 Responses to When You’re Exercising But Your Body’s Not Changing

  1. Michelle August 13, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

    A great post; glad my Tweet inspired such a thoughtful article. I wanted to let you know that after avoiding the scale for a few weeks, when I stepped on it last, there was actually movement in the right direction. It looks like I’m starting to find the right balance.

  2. Lisa Johnson August 14, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    Yay Michelle! Good for you :) Now you need to negotiate with yourself if you’re going to check occasionally or just not worry about it.

  3. Daiv Russell August 25, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Also, some food allergies or sensitivities can cause a reaction of intentionally retaining disease-fighting fat cells (adipocytes). cf: http://www.upwardquest.com/immune-support/12-fat-fights-disease.html

    So, sometimes a failure to lose weight might be because your diet, though low in calories, is sparking off your body’s immune defense network and keeping fat cells in place.

    Celiac (gluten), wheat, soy, and dairy allergies appear to be common causes of this. And when every woman in the world seems to be chugging milk to prevent bone degeneration, there might be some unintentional side effects. Spinach is high and calcium and other nutrients, but just isn’t as convenient (or tasty, to some) as milk.

  4. Lisa Johnson August 25, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Daiv, I’ve been reading a ton about this lately. I have almost completely cut out dairy and gluten and even though I wouldn’t say I’m allergic to either my body is responding by getting a lot leaner … I’m surprised at my body’s reaction, honestly but I’m going with it. A lot less upset stomach too. L–

  5. Michelle February 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Well, it’s 6 months later and with a lot of hard work, I’m down over ten pounds and I’ve taken at least 4 inches off my midsection. Slowly but surely, it’s coming off. The proverbial icing on the cake came a couple of weeks ago when one of my favorite coaches, who I hadn’t seen in months, complimented me.

  6. Lisa Johnson February 17, 2012 at 12:36 am #

    Michelle congrats and keep going! Thank you so much for checking back. :-)

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