If you feel like you're doing everything right and still stuck at a plateau in your fitness, this is for you. Maybe you've been going hard in the workout department, eating fairly healthy and not seeing progress. This can be extremely frustrating and even lead to quitting altogether. After all, it can be pretty de-motivating to make these big, uncomfortable changes without seeing any results. I experienced this personally for YEARS. I was working in fitness, and felt like I was doing everything right, while actually missing the boat on a lot of key aspects (covered below). Turns out simply auditing my behaviors and making some changes was the difference between feeling sluggish and feeling energetic + losing 20 lbs. So today we are going to do a very honest troubleshoot to see what factors may be holding you back from making the progress you so desire. Here we go!
Get crystal clear on what progress looks like for you
Often times we come up with these completely ambiguous goals and then get frustrated that what we are doing "isn't working". But without clearly defining what we hope to accomplish within a certain time frame, how can we really know if we are failing to make progress. Coming up with a measure-able goal within a realistic timeframe is key. For example: "I want to lose 3 inches off of my waist in the next 2 months" or "I want to add 30 lbs to my deadlift over the next month". Without specific goals like these, we are less likely to make focused efforts towards those goals, and less likely to even know if we are making progress!
2. Have progression built into your workouts
Too often I talk to women who have been using the same 8-10lb weights for months or even YEARS! And they wonder why their bodies aren't changing. It's important to keep in mind that our bodies are extremely adaptive. Meaning, when you first start exercising, literally anything can cause your body to change because the stimulus is new. However, as time goes on, this stimulus is no longer novel and your body will stop responding in the same way. This simply means that progression MUST be a priority in your workouts. Having a plan really helps ensure you aren't just doing a random workout every day hoping for results. You want to be steadily increasing your weights or volume within your workouts for continued progress.
3. Monitor your food QUANTITY
While food quality (eating nutrient-dense, non-processed foods) is important for overall health and how you feel, food quantity is what determines whether our body size increases or decreases. Meaning, you could workout religiously 7x weekly, but if you are still eating in a calorie surplus at the end of the day, you will gain fat. Far too often, I hear clients of mine saying "well I eat pretty healthy", but they have no idea how much they are consuming on a regular basis. It starts with awareness - either monitoring portion sizes or tracking calories.
Calorie deficit = Fat Loss
Calorie surplus = Fat/Muscle Gain
Maintenance calories = Weight maintenance
4. Check your protein consumption
Ample protein intake is crucial for getting the most out of your workouts. Not paying attention to protein is ultimately shortchanging the work you're putting in with your workouts! Protein aids in muscle growth, repair, and maintenance (while in a calorie deficit if fat loss is your goal). Therefore, not getting adequate protein can lead to muscle loss, ultimately lowering your metabolic rate. Maintaining, or even building muscle is so important for maintaining a healthy metabolism, which allows you to stay leaner with less effort year-round. Protein is also the most satiating macronutrient, making it easier to remain full when you consume enough. If you've never paid attention to protein consumption, start by tracking and seeing where you typically land on an average day. If you are quite low, begin by shooting for at least 80G daily. From there, bring that number up to 100G. If you have a big goal of fat loss or muscle gain, that number will increase.
5. Take an honest look at your consistency
This applies to both fitness AND nutrition. Eating well and working out 4 days out of the week and then going totally nuts with "cheat meals" and alcohol 3 days out of the week is not being consistent. And this type of approach will leave you constantly spinning your wheels without any forward progress. The decisions you make the majority of the time will dictate the direction you go. Period. Only you can truly say how consistent you're being with calorie intake, choosing healthy options, showing up for workouts, getting daily steps, and eating ample protein.
6. Check your daily steps
Non-exercise movement is HUGE when it comes to a fat loss goal. So if leaning out is high on your list of results you'd like to achieve, be sure to pay attention to your average daily steps. Of course, you may not have the opportunity to kill it in this department every single day, especially if you work a sedentary job. But simply being mindful of taking opportunities to walk more or squeeze in little movement sessions each day really adds up. Again, it starts with awareness. Track your daily steps for a week and see what your daily average is. Add another 2,000 steps onto that number and try to hit it every single day. Once you've been consistent with that for a few weeks/months, you can consider increasing again.
7. Consider tracking food intake
While this may not be your top choice, tracking food has been proven to be the #1 behavior change that led to body composition changes in test groups. So if you're really serious about gaining muscle or losing fat and have seemingly tried everything with no big changes, it may be time to track. Remember, this isn't forever. But it is a helpful tool to use for a time when you hit plateaus or can't seem to move the progress needle. And if you have never tracked before in your life, there's a chance you're grossly over or underestimating your daily intake! It's just human nature. Apps like MyFitnessPal make it fairly simple to get started with tracking.
8. Be seriously patient
In an instant-gratification society, we are not very patient as a whole. The problem is, there is no fast-track when it comes to fitness and body composition changes, especially when done in a manner that will actually stick. So while you may feel frustrated after 3 weeks of lifestyle changes and no results, remember how short 3 weeks actually is. Body composition changes take months. Don't expect immediate results even if you are doing everything right.
I hope this helps shed some light on any areas in your health/fitness pursuits you may need to dial in on or troubleshoot a bit. Stay consistent and you absolutely will get where you want to go!
Your coach + friend,
If you're looking for a practical, step-by-step checklist to start eating healthier, check out my 7 Step Guide to Healthy EatingOR join my fitness community by starting a 90-day exercise program. If you have any questions about this article, comment below! I hope you feel inspired to hit the ground running and pursue a healthy lifestyle you feel confident about!