After discussing health and fitness goals with dozens of people over the years, I’ve noticed a re-occurring theme. The conversation will usually start with something like this:
“I’ve been eating healthy and working out, but I’m still unable to get rid of THIS [points to belly], or THIS [points to some other stubborn area]”.
Ultimately, a lot of people feel as though they are not seeing the effects of their “healthy lifestyle”. Although there are tons of reasons why you may not be seeing results, there are a few commonly overlooked bad habits that can leave you feeling plateaued and frustrated in your fitness journey. In reality, these lifestyle oversights quickly add up to cause issues:
You are a Weekend Warrior and spend most of the day in a sedentary state.
I definitely use to be guilty of this one. In my mind, playing sports a couple times a week and a random workout here and there meant that I was “active”. It is very easy to focus on the fact that we spent an hour at the gym, and forget that we may have spent the previous 8 hours hunched over at a desk! In the grand scheme, that workout counts for less than half a percent of my total day, so how can I really expect it to make much of a difference? If you have a fitness tracker, strive for 10,000 steps OR make a point to move for at least 30-45 mins of additional activity. And by move, I don’t mean a blood, sweat, and tears training sessions – simply taking the stairs throughout the day or going for a few brisk walks is all you need to supplement your training program. This concept is called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), and is a fancy term for everything we do outside of sleeping, eating, or actively working out. It doesn’t feel like much when you’re performing these activities, but it adds up – trust me.
You are not pushing yourself hard enough during your workouts.
I’m pretty sure everyone has seen that person at the gym who is squatting with 2 pound dumbbells in hopes of results. To be honest, unless you’re injured, when you are lifting, you should be using weights that challenge you, particularly for the last couple of reps. In order to do this, you have to be mindful of fatigue indicators, like having to slow down or finding it more difficult to complete the full range of motion (think “8” in terms of intensity on a scale of 1-10 by the last rep). This means that if you’re going heavy, you might be getting to that point at about 10 reps, and if you’re going lighter, it might be closer to 20 reps. We’re going after the “burn” with every exercise, as this is what signals your body to get stronger over time.
Another thing to consider, particularly for cardio sessions, is the fact that you might not be getting your heart right up enough in order to see results over time. This is totally fine if you’re going for a low intensity walk to boost NEAT, but won’t cut it if you’re trying to get your cardio on point. You can get fancy and measure your heart rate, then calculate your target zone, OR go for the lazier approach, called the “Talk Test” (my preference!) Basically, you’ll know if you’re working out at a more moderate to intense pace if you’re able to talk, but not sing, during the exercise.
Your diet is S.A.D (the Standard American Diet).
I’m pretty sure we all know what the typical North American diet looks like – sugary beverages, processed foods, excessive salt, etc. I think it’s pretty obvious which foods are processed junk, but the real issue you might be navigating tricky marketing scheme and pinpointing the less than ideal, “healthy foods”. Think of items like fruit flavoured yogurt. Unless you like sending your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride and ending up hungrier than you started, please stick to plain versions, with REAL fruit that you add yourself. Another big one is having orange juice with breakfast. Yes, you’re getting a great dose of vitamin C, but at what cost? At 33g of sugar in a 12-oz serving, you may as well have a can of pop! You can easily get the vitamin C from fresh veggies like peppers. OR, just eat the whole orange and get the benefits of the fiber it contains to slow down blood sugar spikes. Managing blood sugar levels and hormonal responses related to food choices is half the battle in reaching your fitness goals! Focusing on filling your plate with nutrient dense, whole foods and you’ll find that overeating and you’ll find yourself moving in the right direction.
You are not drinking enough water.
Water can do a few amazing things for your in your fitness journey. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, not drinking enough of it can trick you brain into thinking that you’re hungry (no bueno!). When make a point to drink enough water (I am for 2.5L per day), you’ll enjoy its appetite suppressing and metabolism boosting effects, along with a few pounds lost in water retention! I always know when I’m not drinking enough, as I start feeling “puffy”, in my face and fingers.
Another thing to note is that water really is crucial in the process of fat burning. In a nutshell, your kidneys cannot function optimally without enough water, and as a result, they offload some of their duties onto your liver. The issue with this is that the liver is responsible for fat burning (among many things), and if it is tied up doing the work of your kidneys, it can’t focus on metabolizing fat. The effect? Lackluster fat loss results, despite your best efforts.
Still unsure why your skinny jeans are a bit snug? Click here for Part 2