Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: Working Out Doesn’t Work For Me!

Q&A Wednesday: Working Out Doesn’t Work For Me!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Q: I decided 2 months ago that I wanted to lose weight, properly this time. The juice diets/waist trainers/water fasts/starvation I’ve tried it all. I did all my research, re joined the gym and got going. All I drank was green tea and water, kept a food diary, ate six meals a day (salad, plain oat porridge, chicken, low carb fruits, raw fish, veg, diet shakes etc. I mean I went innnn. I would go to the gym 4-6 times a week, cardio and strength training were equal and interval training was all I did. I had a goal an I was so excided. I started on 14 st 9 [Erika’s note: the UK uses “stone” measurements for weight, which translates to about 205lbs in Imperial US measurement] so the weight should have come off easily, especially water weight. After a month and a half (a month of dedicated eating properly) I went to the gym to weight myself. I’d GAINED 2 lbs. Muscle or not I should have AT LEAST LOST something….anything. I went straight to the toilet and cried for about 20 minutes straight. To be honest I’ve cried about every day since then and that was on Monday. I’m slowly slipping back to my old ways. I don’t want to, losing weight, and having a flat tummy is something I’ve dreamed about for years. I’m even getting emotional as I type this to you. I mean, I gave everything I had to give, even when I didn’t feel like it and it still wasn’t good enough. I’ve been back to the gym since Monday twice and got changed but left straight after. I don’t see why I should work out, what’s the point anymore when I know it doesn’t work for me?

I just don’t know what to do. I feel so fat and ugly and pointless. Any words of advice?

There’s so much going on, here. So, so much.

First, you’re not “pointless” because you don’t have a flat tummy. There are countless “points” for your existence and being, and very few of them have anything to do with your appearance. You have to look at yourself outside of the lens of “does she have a flat tummy?” and see the many other ways in which you contribute to the world around you. You are not “pointless.” I’d wager a bet that you aren’t “ugly,” either.

We tend to develop a sense of “grass is greener” syndrome, where we fixate on what we don’t have in a way that reduces the amount of time to appreciate what we do have. You might not have a flat tummy, but you have strong legs, defined shoulders, and/or shapely arms. You might not be losing weight, but you feel decidedly stronger, now. You can’t see any of that, because you have laser-sharp focus on what you do want right now, and that’s a flat tummy. To make matters worse, that’s not something that’s going to appear overnight, so you’re only going to punish and disappoint yourself further as time advances.

It’s really a masochistic cycle that’ll ultimately leave you hating yourself. Take a deep breath, then take another, then step back from the cycle.

Sometimes, “giving all you have to give” is just too much. Sometimes, we aren’t as rigid or regimented or committed to our routine as we think we are. And, sometimes, we did our research and only got part of the answer instead of all of the answer or even the parts of the answer that are more valuable to us.

If you were eating multiple meals a day, that’s great. But what were the calorie counts? Were you consuming enough calories to ensure that you had a healthy deficit? Were you cutting too many? Were you getting enough protein? You mentioned diet shakes—why were you consuming those? Those are largely unnecessary—were they potentially putting you over your estimated need for calories during the day?

You stated that you were working out six days a week, but that your cardio and your strength training were equal. My suggestion is always to use high intensity interval training as your forms of either when it comes to trying to lose weight. Strictly strength training isn’t what I’d recommend for someone who is invested in seeing fat loss results, and strictly cardio isn’t the move, either. Combining both through HIIT is the best and most reliable way to go about seeing—and maintaining—results.

Juice diets, water fasts, waist training are all fad diets that people do to try to experience the instant gratification that comes with seeing movement on the scale, but that movement rarely means anything. None of them can be done permanently by the average person, none of them can bring you overall optimal health, and none of them can bring you consistent weight loss ultimately leading up to your goal. Not a one.

I can understand the frustration of not losing, but as a trainer, I’ll tell you two quick things: 1) it’s hard to attach some kind of instructive value to those two pounds because you don’t keep tabs on your body fat percentage; and 2) chances are very high that if you’re gaining after all that training, you’re likely eating more than you think you are in terms of caloric value, usually attributable to what you eat after you train. Even with all that cardio, if you’re eating too much, that’s a situation primed for muscle development, which means valuable weight gain… even if it’s really not what you want.

You need to work out because working out can be a great way to boost your self-esteem. It helps improve your quality of life. It gives you a social outlet outside of work. It gives you a way to achieve your goals and, even if it doesn’t always work the way you want, it beats sitting at home in front of the TV eating junky food and melting into your couch.

In short, shift your training to strictly HIIT 3-4 times a week, keep tabs on what kinds of calories you eat and how many you’re eating. Figure out what times of day you’re hungriest and center your calories around those times, like before and after training, middle of the day, before bed. Leave the fad diets behind—no juicing, no fasts, no smoothies, no diet shakes.

Turn your weight loss into a way for you to live an overall healthier, fad-free, active lifestyle. Find meals you enjoy that are filling to you, find activities you love and commit to them, and cross-train through HIIT so that you can perform better in those activities. And most of all, forgive yourself for where you are, find ways to appreciate what you bring to the world—here’s a hint: it’s more than the potential to be “beautiful” in someone else’s eyes—and start to appreciate what you can do today and how you improve each day. No one lays a path to long-term success through self-hatred. No one.

Let it go, and learn how to make shifts that will work for your life. Trust me—your body will thank you for it!

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Alaina May 19, 2016 - 4:59 PM

Great response!

Cindy May 22, 2016 - 1:28 PM

Wow! I had the whole “I’ve been working out like a beast for 2 months and haven’t lost a pound” conversation with a friend this morning. I too thought that after only pretending to work out for a couple of years that actually focusing and driving myself to consistently workout hard would surely make the lbs melt off quickly…lol…nope!
This post was very timely…food for thought. Thanks

Ryan May 22, 2016 - 3:05 PM

In the midst of my overeating addiction, I also struggled with overexercising. I wrote about it on my blog recently with regards to warning people, who might be like me that the real answer to losing weight is primarily in what you eat not the exercise. And there are so many wonderful reasons to exercise and I love to exercise, don’t get me wrong, but watching that number on the scale go down should not be tied to your reason for exercise. It will cause you misery in the long run. It took me four years to break that addiction so I really want us talking about this issue and stopping other people from that slippery slope. It’s so easy to turn your food addiction into an exercise addiction rather than face your issues with overeating. Thanks for getting into this subject it’s an important one.

Nia G May 22, 2016 - 3:28 PM

As always, great stuff! There are so many things said in this Q&A that needs to be put on HUGE billboards so that folks can understand health and wellness. There isn’t a SINGULAR method on losing weight or gaining muscle. Many ways, MANY WAYS.

*offering in the chu’ch basket*

LPH May 22, 2016 - 9:55 PM

Yes! I hit a plateau a few months into working out and eating right. I wound up getting a trainer and was told that because I was only doing cardio, and was doing the same thing all of the time, my body was getting used to the routine. I started weight lifting with a trainer and still doing my cardio. I lost weight, but was losing muscle! I then found out that I was working out too much! So, all of the high intensity cardio (an hour 3-4 times a week) was burning muscle. So, I have cut back a little.

So much to learn!! But not giving up is the best advice!

Tina May 23, 2016 - 5:51 AM

Love your response so supportive, understanding and also helpful to me as well. I hope your words are really heard and felt. Keep up the great work 🙂

niesha May 25, 2016 - 5:59 AM

No smoothies? But, I thought those were good for you?

Erika Nicole Kendall May 25, 2016 - 10:25 AM

Check out this link and this link.

jwoolman June 23, 2016 - 9:43 PM

There are too many ways for the scale to mislead- the number depends on how much water is retained (a lot after vigorous exercise), how much food is still in the gastrointestinal tract in various stages of digestion, how much water has been drunk recently and is being processed for retention or exit. Water is heavy!!! So I would also suggest looking at how your clothes fit before assuming you’re not succeeding with your eating and exercise plan. I wear very loose clothes (can’t stand pressure again my skin), but even I realized that I was losing weight after two months of just eating differently because my clothes were even looser (hadn’t bothered to look at a scale, I was eating just to deal with digestive issues even though I was carrying a lot extra and did need to get my weight down). I was so clueless that I had probably lost about 16-18 pounds before I dragged out the scale to confirm. If I wore tighter clothing, it would have been more obvious sooner. I was tracking my food to help me eat frequent nonallergenic small meals with a lot of variety and check for protein/fiber and was generally only a bit under the calorie budget the app set for just maintenance, but it turned out that I had grossly underestimated my weight when setting up the app. So presto change-o, weight loss!

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