I have been eating clean and exercising 6 days a week doing cardio and weights for the last 2.5 months but I have seen no results at all! I really don’t know what to do? Is my progress just taking longer than usual?
First of all, congratulations! What you are doing here is no small feat and you’ve already done what most people won’t do and that is to simply make the effort to START! I completely empathize with your frustration as this is one of the major reasons why people tend to quit exercising. This is especially true if someone is new to exercise and/or beginning a new nutrition plan. We all want to see a change or some type of progress for our efforts. When beginning an exercise and nutrition regimen the effort seems to be monumental. All of a sudden you are spending time researching gyms in your area, going to personal training sessions, buying running shoes and going to the specialty store for organic groceries.
And then comes the effort to workout and keep yourself motivated to do it every day. That can be a lot of time, money and effort to give to something that doesn’t appear to be giving anything back! You can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone as many people from beginners to veteran athletes experience this same frustration. There is a sort of blanket question I’ve heard hundreds of times from people over the years that is, “How is it that I’ve been working out and eating healthy but I still look the same?” Sound familiar? As with many things in life, the answers are often embedded or hidden within the question. By offering the following suggestions, it will allow us to examine this question in more detail.
Keep a Food Journal
What is eating healthy or eating clean? Is it a bagel instead of a croissant at breakfast? A sandwich instead of a burger for lunch? Maybe drinking some fruit juice instead of a soda? What if I told you that even though it appears that these are healthier choices, they are virtually the same. I often give this scenario to my clients and they are in disbelief, so as a homework assignment I’ll have them go home and look up the nutritional content of the 2 choices and compare them. This is a great exercise to get into the habit of knowing exactly what you are putting in your body.
This is where keeping a food journal will be critical to your success. Write down EVERYTHING you eat and drink for a month. The easiest way to get in the habit of doing this is to write it down while you are eating because if you wait until later, just like balancing your checkbook, you will forget things or it simply won’t get done. There are many great websites that offer total nutritional data for just about any food you can think of. Many offer free programs where you can easily keep track of your diet and they will automatically calculate your total calories per day along with all of the macronutrients (grams of protein, carbs and fat) of the food you consume everyday.
For our purposes I would only have you write the total calories for each item consumed. After that, you can also look up the daily caloric requirements for someone of your age, height and activity level. What you will most likely be given is the number of calories needed daily to maintain your current weight. If weight loss is your goal, you can safely reduce your total number of daily calories by 500. This will reduce your weekly calories by 3,500, which is the amount of calories in a pound of fat. A loss of a pound a week is considered safe. The important thing here is to simply get into the habit of doing it because you will become much more aware of what you eat on a daily basis and this awareness is the first step to change.
Keep an Exercise Journal
What is exercise? For some it’s a walk through the neighborhood or a casual game of tennis. For others it’s a 10 mile run and for others its yoga. And some don’t consider it exercise unless it’s an all out pace that leaves you sweaty and exhausted. While all of these are great forms of exercise and absolutely have merit for different reasons, there is a difference. And that difference for the purposes of answering your question is that they all place different demands on the body. And the body will only change if it needs to.
If the form of exercise you are doing doesn’t require a change in your body’s physique or fitness level to easily complete the task then it will remain as is. So there must be a demand placed on the body that is challenging enough to promote growth. So what we are looking for is a focused exercise routine that is challenging to complete but attainable. What you will find is that this same routine will become easier to perform over time and this progress is important to record. Keeping an exercise journal is a really rewarding way of doing this. Many Olympic athletes do this very thing to chart their progress and it’s definitely a habit we can all learn from.
All of the principles for your food journal will apply to your exercise journal as well. ShapeFit has a fitness app called FitTracker which is available for both the iPhone and Android phones. It provides a very nice exercise journal where you can track all of your exercises and get access to over 500 exercise guides with detailed photos and instructions. FitTracker also provides an area where you can log your own personal notes like how you feel and any issues you might be having. Documenting and tracking this exercise data is crucial for helping to determine if your workouts are really working.
Here are a few suggestions for enhancing your workouts. Try switching your cardio workouts to 45-60 minutes first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Use calorie burning exercises like:
- Elliptical Machine
- Jumping Rope
For weight workouts, try heavier sets of 6-8 repetitions. This intense lower rep training will help to build up muscle and increase strength levels. Muscle is the best thing you can focus on for changing your physique, since muscle is one of the most metabolically active tissues in your body and will burn an extra 6-10 calories per pound. By really analyzing your diet and exercise routine, you can pinpoint any issues in your fitness plan and then make the necessary changes which will help you reach your physique goals!