Why Your Body Isn't Changing

Trying to get in shape is a long process.  

It's a frustrating process.  

As a society we have no concept of delayed gratification.  If we want some thing, we want it NOW.  We expect things to appear at the snap of a finger, or the tap of an iPhone screen.



Your body doesn't work that way.  

Your body won't change after a week of good eating, or a month of consistent workouts.  It takes time to adapt, and then even more time to optimize.  The only thing that really matters when you're trying to change your body is consistency and hard work.  

Look, I get it.  We've all been frustrated by a lack of progress in our body when we "feel" like we're doing everything right.


Your feelings don't matter at all.  If you don't have the facts to back up the way you feel you're setting yourself up for failure.  

Here are the 5 biggest reasons why your body isn't changing.  

1.  You're Not Tracking Your Calories

I feel like a broken record saying this, but every calorie you ingest needs to be accounted for.  

The bottom line is that if you are not tracking your calories you are just guessing.  Changing your body cannot be left to guesswork.  You need to be disciplined and precise. 

A caloric deficit is the only thing that will enable you to lose weight.  Despite all the complicated bullshit you see on social media, the amount of food you eat is the most important factor.  

Think of your body like a water balloon.

Imagine you take a pin and prick a hole in the balloon so some water starts leaking out.  Don't do this to your body, this is not a proven way to lose weight.

If you want the balloon to stay the same size you need to refill it with exactly the same amount of water that is leaving.

If you want the balloon to grow you need to refill it with more water than is leaving.

If you want the balloon to get smaller you need to refill it with less water than is leaving.

That is exactly how your body's energy (calorie) balance works.  

The water leaking out of the balloon is your caloric expenditure.  That's how many calories it takes for your body to function and how many you burn by moving.  The refilling water is your caloric intake.  It's how much you eat. 

You need to eat according to your metabolism, activity level and goals.  If you want to get smaller you need to ingest less energy than you burn.  If you want to grow you need to ingest more energy than you burn.

The only way you can be sure you're eating the appropriate amount of calories is by tracking them.  

You can use a notebook, an app, take pictures, whatever.  It's a stupidly easy process that adds about 30 seconds of work to every meal.  Tracking each and every meal will give you a complete picture of your nutrition.  It gives you data to analyze at the end of each month so you can see where you went wrong and where you went right.

There really is no excuse for not tracking your calories.  The only reason to not track your calories is laziness.  If you're not tracking your calories you have no right to feel frustrated.  You really just aren't working hard enough.


2. You're Lying About What You Ate


If you are tracking your calories, you're off to a good start.  However, that's not entirely good enough.  

You need to honestly track your calories.  

You need to be meticulous with your serving sizes and know exactly how much you are eating.

The difference between logging a true tablespoon of Peanut Butter and a "spoonful" is about 150 calories.  If you do that every day it adds up to 1,050 extra calories per week.  

That is more than enough calories to take you out of a caloric deficit and put you into a caloric surplus, meaning you are now in a state where your body will gain weight instead of losing it. 

The details are always the most important part of anything.  It may feel good in the moment to log a fake serving size and see a low number of calories, but you're sacrificing a long term result for a momentary feeling.  

The purpose of chasing a physical goal isn't to feel good all the time.  The purpose is to find the truth about yourself and use that truth to push you to a better place.  

We all have bad habits and we all make bad decisions sometimes.  What separates successful people from self sabotaging people is the ability to honestly evaluate their behaviors and create a new path for themselves based on that honest appraisal.  

Unsure of how much you should eat?


3. You're Tracking the Wrong Metrics

There's a reason I didn't call this article "Why You Aren't Losing Weight".  As I've covered before "losing weight" means losing fat and muscle.  Most people should aim to lose fat while maintaining muscle.  

The scale is not the most important metric for most people.  

Your weight will fluctuate regularly.  You'll have a 3-5 pound swing throughout the course of the day.  Lack of sleep, stress and other environmental factors can effect the number on the scale.  

That sucks for a lot of people.  If their weight doesn't change, or goes up, they start to beat themselves up and begin the process of self sabotage.

A pound is a pound.  No matter what that pound is composed of it will weigh the same.  A pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of bricks.  However, the bricks are denser than the feathers.  A pound of bricks will take up much less space than a pound of feathers.

The same is true for muscle and fat.

 Muscle is more dense than fat.  It takes up less space.  If you lose fat and gain muscle you will weigh the same but look vastly different.  

Your body fat percentage and measurements are a much better indicator of body recomposition.  

Buy, find or hire someone to take your body fat percentage every 4-6 weeks.  You can do measurements yourself.  Start with your waist, thigh, bicep and hips.  Measure and record them every month.  

If the scale stays the same, but your waist loses some inches it means you are doing everything right.  If your scale goes up and so does your waist it means you're not adhering to steps 1 and 2 and need to re-evaluate your decision making process.

4. Your Perception is Warped

You are your own worst critic.  

You notice flaws in yourself well before other people, and you might even make some up.

This is human nature.  I'm not a psychologist so I don't know the reason why we do this, but its a very common trait.  

The only thing you can do is account for your own self sabotaging ways, and make a plan to counteract it.  

This is another reason why the metrics in step 3 are so important.  

You're going to have days where you feel like shit about yourself.  You're going to look in the mirror and hate what you see.  You'll be frustrated beyond belief.  

You're going to doubt the work you put in and start to tell yourself "this will never work for ME like it works for other people."  You'll start to think none of this is worth it. 

That's always a lie.  

If you have been tracking your measurements and body fat you'll be able to review them and see that you're head is just messing with you.  You're doing fine, you're just having a bad day.  

5. Your Expectations Are Out of Line with Your Work Ethic

There's a saying in business "You can't build a million dollar company with a hundred dollar work ethic."

That is twice as true for your body.  

Dreams are great, they can motivate you to work hard and continue down a path of resistance even when it seems fruitless.

But dreams can also hold you hostage and warp your expectations.   

Dreaming is passive, it requires no action.  Dreaming can lull you into a false sense of accomplishment and make you entitled.  

"Why don't I have a six pack?? It's my dream!"

Dreams only come true if you are willing to put in all the work necessary to achieve them.  You can't will your dreams into reality, you must labor them into reality.

Your feelings, emotions and thoughts about yourself are important.  They are not the most important thing.  You need to focus on your actions, your habits and your decisions.  You can't complain about your lack of results when you haven't put in the work.  

Creating grand expectations for your body is a road to disappointment.  If you have a history of quitting, laziness and half assing everything you can't snap your fingers and make those traits go away.  You must act against these now ingrained instincts every day in order to forge new habits and a new work ethic.

Expectations must be paired with the cold reality of the work at hand.

You want to lose 40 pounds this year?  Are you ready to track every meal you eat? Are you ready to skip desert 99% of the time?  Are you ready to quiet the voices in your head that tell you to quit when it feels too hard?

You want to gain 15 pounds of muscle this year? Are you ready to lift until the point of failure three times a week? Are you willing to eat even when you're so full you feel like you're going to puke?  

Amazing results require amazing work ethic.  Nothing less than that will do.  Don't set unrealistic goals for yourself unless you're willing to put in unrealistic work. 

The pursuit of the truth is the highest goal of a fitness and nutrition program.  Trying to make yourself feel good all the time is a worthless pursuit.  Boosting your self esteem does nothing but excuse flaws and weaknesses. 

The only way you can change your body is by being completely honest with yourself about your behavior and decisions.  

Your body is nothing but a series of decisions stacked on top of each other.  If you constantly make poor exercise and dietary decisions your body will reflect that.  If you make good decisions your body will start to reflect that as well.

Take your journey one decision at a time, and realize that each decision has a consequence.  It's hard work, but it's necessary and it's the only way to create the body that you want.

Honestly tracking your calories, taking appropriate measurements and accounting for your own worst habits is the only way you can begin to create a path to a better body.  

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Patrick Henigan