Exercise but can't lose weight

Podcast Episode #035: I Exercise Every Day But Still Can’t Lose Weight

You've been hitting the gym regularly. You've tried going to classes. You run. You even use the moving staircase (a.k.a. the deadliest piece of equipment at the gym!), but nothing seems to work.

What's the point of putting in all this effort if the scale isn't going to reward you, even just a little?

It's not worth it.

But, instead of giving up on exercise, there are likely a few tweaks you could be making in order to see some changes take place. Here's where you can begin...​

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of Make Your Body Work podcast. As you know this show is all about answering your questions about healthier, happier living. I just want to start off my saying thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the amazing emails that you sent to me every single week. Really great questions that have potentially turned into some amazing podcasts.

I have a couple podcasts coming up that are just great and it's only because of the questions that you send in, so thank you. And thank you for the inspiring stories. I've said this before, but probably my favorite part of the day is opening up my email and getting stories from you who have specific actions that you've taken as a result of this podcast, or other things that you've learned.

When you tell me about your results it gets me so fired up to bring you more great content and more awesome expert guests. I just can't say thank you enough. Thank you for being a part of the Make Your Body Work community and just really inspiring me.

Let's get into today's topic. I have a really great question from Joy. Here's what she said, "I feel like I'm lucky because I actually love to exercise. I go to the gym every day to do cardio, weights, classes and almost always look forward to it." Then she puts in brackets, "(not always but most of the time.) But I still carry a little extra weight around my waist and in my butt. Sometimes I wonder if I'm exercising too much, what do you think? I really just want to be healthy but would love to tone up, too. From, Joy."

Joy, great question. This idea of, I'm doing everything right but still not getting the results that I'm looking for, is so common across pretty much all the clients that I work with. I am all ready exercising, I'm doing cardio, I'm lifting weights, I'm doing classes, my diet's great but I still haven't got the results.

It's so frustrating because at first glance it does seem like you're doing everything right. We read so much today about the obesity epidemic and how the majority of people don't exercise regularly, so for someone like Joy, or other listeners out there, when you do start exercising and still aren't getting to where you want to be, wow, it can be really demoralizing.

I'm excited because I've recruited a great guest, Laura Jackson. We met at a fitness conference just a couple weeks ago and she has some really amazing experience when it comes to training clients and helping them change up. Not only to exercise, but looking at some of the deeper issues that can be going on in your body that might be preventing those results. Without further ado, I'd love to introduce to you Laura Jackson.

Meet Laura Jackson

Hey, Laura. Thanks so much for joining us today.

Laura: Hi, I'm pumped to be here!

Dave: Yeah, I was excited. So we met at a fitness conference a couple weeks ago and as soon as I learned about your business I thought, okay I need to get her on the podcast. I appreciate you taking some time.

Laura: That's awesome. No, ironically I've heard about you, too. I know that you are one of the top fitness professionals in Canada, congratulations.

Dave: Thanks. Old news way back in 2013.

Laura: Yeah, but I've still heard of you in the circle, so I was like oh, I'd love to be on your show.

Dave: That's great. Well, maybe you can start off just by telling the listeners a little bit about your business and what your specialties are, and kind of how you got into the whole fitness world.

Laura: Yeah, for sure. So I am co-founder of Fit Chicks, which is Canada's largest women's only fitness company. We started with, we mainly do boot camps so we started with women's only boot camps and started in Toronto. We also offer personal training courses like those offered at TrainFitness. Really just kind of our approach, we're really about challenging fitness but that's really inclusive to all levels of fitness

It really took off, so it started expanding and now we have over twenty locations across Canada. We also do fitness retreats and we have a DVD line. We also just got into providing online certifications for other fitness professionals with our Fit Chicks academy. So we have a program called the Fitness and Nutrition Expert Program, which our next one launches is in April.

Dave: You are busy, wow. I don't know how you do all that.

Laura: We do a lot of different stuff, but I just love health and fitness, and wellness, and female empowerment all wrapped into that. I just think there's such a need for it. As much as I can give back and as much as I can get involved in the community, I'm all about it.

More Exercise For Better Results?

Dave: That's awesome. And that's why when you and I started chatting by email about what sort of topic we cover in the podcast, I got this question from Joy and I think it just lends itself so well to your expertise.

Just kind of in summary, basically, Joy says she's going to the gym every day, she lifts weights, she does classes, does all this stuff but she's still not getting the results she's looking for. She finds she still has some weight around her waist and her butt. Do you experience that when you work with your clients at all? Maybe clients that over exercise?

Laura: Yeah, well actually when you sent me this question I was like oh my gosh, this is one of these questions that I get a lot. Because I think we're always in this mentality of more is better and really it's not. Smarter is better, that's kind of the way that I approach things.

It's time to work out smarter, not work out longer or harder!

Click to Tweet

So even getting this question from Joy I actually took a step back, because there's so many other factors that come into play when it comes to not reaching your goals when you're exercising, especially for women. I know she was saying she's at the gym every day doing cardio, and weights, and classes.

So obviously I can't talk to her but even getting that question some of the things that come up for me right away are looking at other factors, other than just her going to the gym. Especially for women, there's so many other things that play into reaching your goals. Being weight loss, being muscle building, being maintenance, it's not just hitting the gym.

I know she said she's doing cardio, and weights, and classes every day which is a lot. But, I'd like to know too, how many days of cardio verses how many days of weights is she doing? Because that's massive and I'll get into a little more about that in a moment. I also would love to know what her nutrition is like because you can not out train a bad diet. Which we all know.

Dave: Thank you for reinforcing that, very true.

Laura: But it's one of these things that a lot of times it's not even just eating poorly. When we think of a bad diet we think of junk food, or processed foods. But it's also how much are you eating in terms of your macro-nutrient balance. Which is your protein, carbohydrates and fats.

For example, if she's going to the gym every single day but she's eating a super carb heavy diet with little protein she's not going to build that muscle that's going to help her burn more. Because muscle's metabolically active. It's just going to be counter productive.

Dave: Laura, let me jump in there. Because you're covering a lot of important topics and I just want to break these down for the audience. First of all, you talked about if you could talk to Joy you would want to know sort of her breakdown of how her work outs are, like what do they consist of. For someone who's trying to lose weight and feels like they're stuck, what do you recommend?

Don't Be Afraid To Lift Weights

Laura: For someone who is like Joy, because she obviously is a little more advanced, right. She's not just starting out at the gym. I would recommend her starting off with focusing more on her strength training. Instead of doing the cardio, the weights, and the classes really focusing on four to five days a week, because she is more advanced, of going heavier with the weights. Lifting pretty much, I wouldn't say to full on failure because we wouldn't her to not be able to walk the next day. But where those last couple reps are a real struggle.

Dave: Maybe you can talk even for listeners who aren't familiar with that term, what does it mean to exercise to failure?

Laura: Well, it basically means when they call a one rep mac, you can only do one. It's so heavy that you literally could only do one. Or, if you're training to failure, that last rep you can not physically do.

Dave: So you push yourself to literally the point where your muscles start to fail and they can't contract any longer.

Laura: Yeah, and the whole purpose of doing that is to break down your muscle so it will build.

Dave: It's interesting actually, that you brought up again going right to the weight training. Because this is very unintentional, but I've had a string of guests on the podcast over the last two months and probably four or five, all women, have said the same thing: ladies, if you want to lose weight you got to start hitting the weights and don't be afraid to increase the amount of weight you're lifting. And it sounds like you're on that same page.

Lifting weights doesn't make women bigger. It DOES help them reach their ideal weight!

Click to Tweet

Laura: Oh, completely. And if you want to reshape your body. A lot of times women are looking, they want these curves now that are getting really popular with the Kim Kardashians, even though let's be real, I don't know if that's fully worked for. You're not lifting weights and that's the way you're going to reshape your body composition. 

Even for my clients I say don't even worry about the weight on the scale because you can be a really tight, strong size four and weigh the same as a size eight and you don't have as much muscle tone. Don't focus on the number, focus on different measurables like performance measurables, and then obviously the way your clothes fit, and the way your body shape starts to change.

Dave: One of the things that you said I like is you sort of picked out the fact, just from Joy's message, that she's probably a more advanced exerciser. Just based purely on the fact that she exercises a ton and does quite a variety.

So for someone like her, you said, maybe doing four or five strength training sessions a would be great. What about someone who, say typically goes into the gym and she's on the treadmill or on the elliptical and that's all she's been doing. Does she jump in and do four sessions of strength training a week?

Laura: I would say probably start with three and see you feel, then go to four or five. Also, just because the main thing, too, is really starting to learn proper form. I think a lot of people they jump in too fast and get into four or five days a week and they end up injuring themselves, which then just sets you back way further. Also, it's really discouraging. I would say start off with three.

Dave: I think that's fair as well. Giving yourself at least a day of rest in between each session.

Laura: Yeah. I'm not a big ... I shouldn't say believer because I think cardio has its place. I think that, especially for women, we're still in that mentality of being cardio bunnies. The other thing with women as well that's really over looked is hormones. I think that, and there's so much research coming out now, but we're always doing so much cardio and cardio is really hard on your body.

Overtraining Increases Cortisol Levels

It elevates what's called cortisol, which is your fight or flight, when you get stressed about something and you want to either run for the hills or go Rocky on someone and punch them out. It also is responsible for holding on to that fat, especially around the waist. Which I know Joy was even mentioning as well.

If you're overtraining you're going to increase cortisol levels, if you're training for too long you're going to increase cortisol levels. And also if you are not managing your lifestyle outside of working out, like stress management and a lot of other things, you're going to have these elevated cortisol levels, too.

It's really kind of finding that sweet spot and sometimes it's taking a step back and seeing ... Maybe taking a break from the gym and seeing how your body reacts to that, then coming back into it with a different approach. More strength, less cardio and go from there.

Overtraining Increases Cortisol Levels

Dave: So wise what you just said. I assume you'll be able to relate to this, but let me know. One thing I've encountered is clients who come in and say, "Okay, I'm only going to do cardio two to three times a week and I'm really going to focus on strength training."

But then they get this idea that their strength training used to be this super high intensity interval training, or doing classes where they are lifting weights. So they think that that's strength training but in reality, their heart rate is just flying for that entire class or for that entire session, and that's almost like doing another session of cardio.

Laura: No, completely. Even for us, our Fit Chicks boot camp that we do, they're all based on high intensity interval training. They are an hour long but the actually high intensity cardio parts are much shorter to compliment longer body weight and weight training resistance. You're getting the balance of both but you're not burning at this crazy high level throughout the entire class where your body is actually doing more harm than good.

Dave: A hundred percent. Again, I'm glad you said that. When I read Joy's message the first thing I thought is, I pictured her in step class and all these high aerobic classes, plus all the cardio she's doing, her workouts might pretty much be all cardio. Just cardio, potentially.

Laura: Exactly. It's funny because I think there's still a lot of women where there's so afraid of getting bulky, and I think that's why they step away from thinking about picking up the heavier weights. I always tell my clients, I'm like you have to think of it like your muscles are like a stove.

You want that stove to keep on fueling it with the fire to be able to burn. Because muscles metabolically active, it's the best deal ever. You build more muscle, you get to sit around and burn more calories doing nothing. Like who doesn't want that?

Dave: I love that quote, it is the best deal ever. Muscle Is the best deal ever, I agree.

Laura: Totally! Put the work in the gym and then let your body rest and build and then it just turns into this fire burning fat machine. You're not going to get bulky, we don't have the hormones to get bulky. Unless you're taking drugs, as a female, you're not going to suddenly turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger if you pick up a fifteen-pound weight.

Dave: A hundred percent agree. I had a podcast, it is podcast 26 for any listeners. MakeYourBodyWork.com/26. I was talking to my guest about our workout plans and I was saying how I lift really heavy weights and I'm right now trying to bulk up. I had one of my clients afterward email me and say, "Hey, Dave, you have ..." and it's a female. She said, "You have me lifting heavy weights. Shouldn't I be worried about bulking up like you're trying to do?"

 Exactly your message, I said, "A- our hormones are completely different. And B- I'm eating four to five thousand calories a day right now and I don't think most women are doing that."

Laura: Exactly. I've done fitness competitions as well. Which is basically baby body building, kind of, which is a whole other conversation. For me to be able to, and I'm tall I'm 5'10. I'm a mixture of, I'm pretty much a mesomorph, I gain muscle easily and I can gain fat easily as well. But I'm tall, so to put on muscle it takes a lot for me. It takes a lot of heavy lifting, it takes a lot of eating, and a lot of eating the right foods. I was eating a lot of protein at nutrient timed intervals so my body could effectively use that food to build the muscle.

Dave: Yeah, and we'll get into it. I would like to ask you a little bit about diet in just a second. On the exercise piece, basically your message has been: lift more weights, start at maybe three sessions a week, work your way up to four or five. Reduce the amount of cardio and allow your body's hormones to adjust and allow your body to start building that calorie burning material, that muscle.

But what about for someone, and I get the hint that this is Joy where she says, "Okay, I'll go and do the weights, but I can't give up my cardio. It feels wrong to give up my cardio." Do you ever deal with clients like that? It's like a mental shift that they just can't quite flip.

Keep Your Cardio Duration Under 45 Minutes!

Laura: Yeah, I do a lot. I also think though, like I said before, I do think cardio has it's place. Having a strong heart, cardiovascular training is about having a strong heart. I just think we need to shift our mentality of cardio from being, I need to do this forty-five minute step class or an hour on the elliptical trainer, which I think is the most useless machine. I'm sorry to whoever created it.

Dave: Ah, you just made some enemies.

Laura: I know but it's the most unnatural motion. Anyways, I think it's shifting your thoughts around cardio. I always say to my clients, if you are going to do your cardio, which I do build in for some of them depending on their goals. If it's fat loss I might give them two to three days a week.

But, I do it short and I do it after their weights. They have to do their weights first so they have maximum energy for their lifts, and then I might do eight minutes of high intensity intervals following their workout. But I try to keep them in the gym for no longer than forty-five minutes because after that forty-five minutes is when that cortisol level can really spike, and you're getting in to too long.

If it's the case that they do have a longer weight training day then maybe I'll say okay, you're going to do cardio at another time during the day or on a different day. And it's still going to be short, maybe eight to twelve minutes.

Dave: Okay, great. That's just really practical for all of the women, and maybe men, listening out there. Short work outs, forty-five minutes or less and if you're going to tack on cardio put it after your weight training session.

When you workout, don't count the hours. Make the hours count!

Click to Tweet

One thing that I just want to add to that is I've read a number of studies that talk about the diminishing returns of working out longer, and forty-five minutes was kind of their sweet spot where your body is getting those adaptations up to about that forty-five minute point but then carrying on a workout for an hour, or an hour and fifteen minutes, the amount of gains you seek drastically decreases for the amount of effort and time you're putting in.

How Your Body Holds On To Weight

Laura: I know it's really interesting when you start to really dive into the science of it and what your body ... Because working out is, you're putting your body in a state of stress. It is, even though there's positive benefits from it. I had a client before who was a marathon runner. You would think running three hours, five hours, whatever it is, that you would be losing weight.

Because you're running so much and losing so many calories. But her body actually did the exact opposite. Every time she would go into marathon season she would be up around thirteen pounds because her body was in that state of stress, and her hormones were all over. Her cortisol is thinking, something bad's going to happen we've got to hold on to everything we can.

Our body wants to be healthy in the state of homeostasis, it does its best to keep you holding onto what you need thinking there's an attack coming. So one of those things is fat. It was crazy to see that because you would think from the amount of output she would be dropping weight like crazy, but it was the opposite.

Dave: That's so valuable, and again listeners just really think about that point that Laura just made there about the fact that you can be exercising so hard, or putting in so many hours a week, but if your hormones are out of whack and you're not caring for your body you will not get the results that you're looking for.

The Role of Toxins and Weight Gain

Laura: Hormonal, that's kind of one of my passions right now, I'm really into the hormonal side of health. Because I think it's really overlooked and we're getting exposed to so many toxins now. They say that you're actually exposed to over thirty toxins before you even eat your breakfast.

Dave: Wow.

Laura: Really what happens, and how that applies to weight loss and health, is that these toxins build up in your body and they interfere with your natural hormonal processes. All of the hormones that influence your body composition, those are thing like thyroid, and testosterone, and estrogen, and insulin.

These toxins go into your body and they kind of go haywire and try to mimic those hormones, but they don't know how to do it. There are studies coming up now, and major things are showing, that one of the reasons why a lot of people are gaining weight so rapidly is because of these toxins that are doing all these crazy processes in our bodies.

Dave: Maybe you can speak, and that might tie into diet a little bit. So again for someone like Joy, and we don't know all the pieces we just know what Joy wrote in her original message. Someone who's stuck, they're plateaued, they're exercising like they think they should be doing still not seeing results. What can they do diet-wise maybe to change up their diet just to see progress but also to avoid being exposed to some of those toxins you speak of.

The "Complete & 3" Rule

Laura: The first thing I always, always say to all of my clients is obviously, first try to go as un-packaged and unprocessed as possible. Buying foods that don't have labels, things like vegetables, and meat, and fruit, and whole grains. All the things that they don't need a nutrition label on them because they're natural foods.

Then I always follow something, I call it the complete and three rule, because I think it's an easy thing to have in your back pocket. Every time you have a meal you basically think it has to include three things: a protein, a fiber, and a healthy fat. Then that kind of gives you, whether you're at an event for work, or you're traveling, you know that right away first thing and foremost is always packaged and processed real whole food.

Then from there I'm going to make sure my meal includes a protein, a fiber, and a fat. Which helps to balance your blood sugar, keep your insulin levels from spiking and avoiding weight gain.

Dave: I love that, that's very practical and very easy to remember. You call that complete and three?

Avoid packaged food. Anyone can start eating meals made from fresh ingredients today.

Click to Tweet

Laura: Yeah, at Fit Chicks we call it the complete and three rule.

Dave: I like that. Can you just speak really quickly on the fiber piece of that. What do you recommend when people are looking for that fiber component?

Laura: Fiber is huge and we're seeing such low levels of fiber consumption now because of the increase in packed and processing. I would say between twenty-five to forty grams. If you're someone who hasn't been eating a lot of fiber, start with twenty-five and up your water intake or you might be a little backed up. I personally always try to stay around the thirty-five to forty for myself.

Dave: And that's per day?

Laura: Yeah, and that's really easy when you're adding in things. Like a cup of raspberries has nine grams of fiber. You don't really think of raspberries as fiber, you put a cup in your smoothie that's nine grams right there. It adds up really quickly.

Dave: Again, I liked how you emphasize the first and foremost thing that people need to do is move away from those packaged or processed goods because when you start talking fiber so many products out there mark up themselves as being high fiber because people know that hey, fibers good for me. But if people start looking in their meal, using this complete and three method and think okay, I need a fiber I'm going to grab small bran or whatever it is. That's defeating the whole purpose.

Laura: I find that ... Because my background, too, I'm also a holistic nutritionist. I focus, also, on really the health properties you're getting from the foods. Something that is packaged that's high fiber is also probably very highly inflammatory, high in gluten which a lot of us have reactions to now because the wheat is not the same as it used to be. There's so many other things that play into it so it's always just best to go with mother nature, she's the best chef out there. Real whole foods, it's the way to go.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: Awesome, that's really, really sound advice. We like to keep this podcast short and to the point. You've given some really actionable ideas all ready, but I want to ask you for our listeners to have a Make Your Body Work take away. That's just something... if they wanted to start right now where would they begin. Back to Joy's question, exercise all the time, still carrying the weight, what would someone in that position do today to make a difference?

What I would always say to somebody is just first take a step back and look at the overall picture of your life. Just do a quick life inventory of this is my goal that I want, okay what am I currently doing? Just switching it up and focusing more on the weight training. Reducing the cardio, keeping your workouts under forty-five minutes, four to five days a week of strength with maybe a little bit of cardio in there.

Obviously what I said about the nutrition, just really trying to get real, whole foods and balance those meals and balance the blood sugar. The last thing is just to keep in that toxins kind of thing, simple things you can do to reduce your toxic exposure is: do not drink out of plastic bottles, ditch the plastic big time it's terrible for you.

Dave: Amen, amen. I love that. Even environmentally. Environmental...

Laura: Environmentally, too. If you don't care about the environment do it for your health for sure. Also, stop using these body creams. Anything we put on your body goes into your system as well. Swap out body creams for things like coconut oil. Also even air fresheners, essential oils are amazing. They're just simple swaps that you can slowly start to reduce that exposure and then tie that in with your nutrition plan and your workouts, and you're going to be all set.

Dave: It's funny because I typically look for, what's one thing you can do today?

Laura: I give you like fifty.

Dave: What's neat Laura, that really proves the point that it is a holistic approach that's needed to really see results. You gave a bunch of one steps that someone can start today, but if you feel like you've been doing everything right, to listeners out there maybe to Joy if you're listening, start to think about Laura's message and this holistic approach. Which of those areas, maybe do you need the biggest improvement in?

Laura: I think that's even what we developed our Fit Chicks academy certification, the Fitness and Nutrition Expert certification. It's a twelve week online certification program in fitness, nutrition, wellness, and business. It's kind of putting all of those together because you need to look at the whole picture.

I think that's one thing a lot of, not only fitness professionals, just every day people we only focus on one thing. It could be that your wellness is out of whack, that's what's affecting your fitness. Or your fitness is out of whack and that's what's affecting your nutrition. It's just looking at the overall picture and then going from there.

Dave: Great message. For the listeners out there if they wanted to learn more about you, your philosophies, what you do, where's the best place they can connect with you?

Laura: Head on over to our website, FitChicks.ca. We've got a ton of information on not only all of our classes and things that we offer, but we also have an amazing blog that has a ton of free workouts, a lot of awesome recipes, and just a ton of tips in general from the wellness side as well.

Dave: I was just looking at your blog and it's awesome. Again, very holistic approach I would highly recommend that to any of the listeners.

Laura: Well, thank you.

Dave: And thanks again, Laura. I feel like we could probably do a whole other podcast just approaching that topic of toxins and balancing hormones. So hopefully we can have you back someday.

Laura: Oh my gosh, tell me when I would love to. I love talking toxins!

Dave: Thanks again, and have a great day.

Laura: You too, bye.

Dave: Thanks again for joining us today, and for your awesome advice Laura. Thanks again to you, the listeners, like I said at the top of the podcast without you there would be no show. I appreciate you tuning in and I appreciate your support, I appreciate your questions and just sharing your fitness journeys with me. If you ever want to get in touch with me about a question you have about a podcast episode or just to share your results or talk about what's next in your life, feel free to email me; dave@MakeYourBodyWork.com.

For anyone who is feeling stuck and they really need to get out of the rut they're in and start losing weight and start seeing results, I would love to work with you. I have a program called the 10 in 4 challenge that helps people lose ten pounds in four weeks. Even better than that, it sets you up on a routine that's going to help you sustain results and get even better results in the future. So if you'd like to work with me lets get this done. You can go to 10in4.com. That's 1-0-I-N-4.com. 10in4.com. Check with the program and I'd love to get working with you.

Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing you here next week.

Thanks for joining me today!