3 Reasons Your Workouts May Not Be Working

 

 

I’ve spent the last 9 years either pregnant and gaining weight or working on losing that weight. I’ve realized a few things watching 45-50 pounds come and go so many times. First, it’s easier to gain than to lose. Second, breastfeeding is my weight loss secret weapon, and without breastfeeding losing weight is a TON harder. And third, no amount of studying for my degree in health or studying to become a personal trainer could compare to the “hands on” learning that postpartum put me in!

 There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to the gym and grueling through uncomfortable workouts just to see the scale stay the same, or worse go up. It’s frustrating enough to quit trying. However, before we quit, there are a few things to remember– important things that explain why those workouts may not be doing what we’re hoping they will do, and a few things we can change to actually see results. 

Our bodies want to stay the same, so working out makes us hungry and subconsciously causes us to eat just enough extra food to stay at the same weight. It’s called homeostasis, and it’s the body’s way of staying balanced. It’s hard to break this balance, but it’s not as difficult as we make it. We complicate it with talk of slowing metabolisms, special diets, etc. but it’s a simple formula: calories burned must be greater than calories eaten. The hard part is keeping the calories eaten less than the calories burned long enough to actually burn fat. One cheat day can make up for an entire week of working hard, and your body will happily remain balanced and at the same weight.

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Next, it’s painful for most of us to admit, but we often aren’t working out as hard as we think we are. Most of us don’t have to move very much during the day. We’ve been privileged/cursed to be able to live completely sedentary lives and still survive just fine. I’ve been keeping track of my steps this pregnancy with this Garmin watch, and I’ve been attempting to get 10,000 steps each day. Having a watch to count my steps is motivating, and I’ve learned how few steps I actually take in a normal day if I’m not intentionally active. Even though I spend my day with kids, I can go an entire day with fewer than 3,000 steps (or traveling less than 2 miles.) This means if I want to get 10,000 steps (about 4.5 miles for me), I need to spend more than 30 minutes walking. Whoever created the step counter was a genius, and helped all of us realize how little (some of us) move in our daily lives. I’ve used this and this and even one of these to track my steps, and they all work great. 45 minutes or more feels productive enough to make us think we can skip a day here and there, but if we’re hoping walking 2-3 days a week for 45 minutes will give us results, we’re going to be disappointed. If we spend our entire day sitting still, it takes a lot of intentional walking/movement to expend the energy we need to to lose weight. I like to attempt the “magical” 10,000 steps each day and then do 3 strength training workouts throughout the week. Realistically my daily steps are closer to 8,000 and many weeks I only end up doing 1 day of strength training instead of 3, but setting goals guaranteed to give results helps me see when I slack, so at least I’m not surprised when I gain a couple pounds or fail to lose weight when I’m trying to.

Finally, the part that ruins it for most of us: we don’t need to eat as many calories as we think. Along with our privilege/curse of a sedentary life, we have also been “gifted” with extremely delicious and available food. In reality, we can easily eat all the calories in one meal that we need for an entire day. There are so many helpful apps and websites where you can type in the foods you eat each day to see how many calories you are eating, and it’s extremely helpful to use one of these when you feel like you’ve gotten off track. I like to use one for about a week or so, just to remind myself what foods or what time of days I am overeating. We often eat because we’re bored, because food tastes good, and sometimes because we’ve trained ourselves to avoid the feeling of hunger. It’s also very easy to eat too much when we are hungry because we eat too quickly. Eating slowly and intentionally can help your body realize when it feels full enough without overeating. A good rule is to stop eating before you’re full and give your body 15-20 minutes to decide if you actually need to eat more or if you just want more because it tastes good.

Counting steps and calories are both extremely helpful skills that can be learned and done more organically once you’ve gotten used to knowing how many steps are “enough” each day and when you’ve eaten enough. Keeping a regular tally of calories in and steps taken sounds like a chore, but once you’ve done it for a week or two it becomes second nature to go out for an evening walk for extra steps at the end of the day and to stop eating before you’ve eaten too much.

The most important thing I’ve realized when it comes to weight loss is to be consistent, and stop worrying so much about the small mistakes and the last 5-10 pounds. I’m not sure if it’s being in my 30’s, but stressing out about a perfectly flat stomach just feels unimportant now (even when I’m not pregnant!) Being overly concerned with appearance isn’t what drives my desire for working out and staying fit as much as it did once upon a time. Feeling good, being in control of my body (not letting hunger or food control me), feeling strong, and having clarity in my mind are my motivators now. What about you? What motivates you to workout? Do you struggle with any of these points? 

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