I have been training a client for 16 weeks now and her results have been slow. She does four cardio sessions per week (interval training) for 60 minutes per session and weight trains twice per week for 60 minutes at a moderate to high intensity. She is currently participating in Weight Watchers, although she doesn’t always eat enough and binge drinks once a week (six glasses of wine). Although she hasn’t lost any weight, her girth measurements and body fat have lowered marginally. Her shape has changed, and her fitness level has increased greatly.
My question is, why hasn’t she lost weight, and why haven’t her body fat and measurements altered significantly when her fitness levels have increased?
First, I recommend you tell your client not to worry about what the scale reads. If she looks better and has higher energy levels, then she is progressing; she is achieving her fat loss goal. Secondly, the increase in lean body mass is adding weight simultaneously as she is losing fat; thus, the scale is not moving.
As far as your client’s fitness levels, it is absolutely normal that there would be a dramatic increase compared to aesthetic changes. A neurological adaptation phase will occur before a morphological change.
If your client has hit a plateau, you may want to consider changing her program. If the program is complied with and properly adjusted as the body changes, your client should see results every three to four weeks. If you have been steadily altering her program and she is still not changing, be sure to consult with her regarding her diet. Underreporting calories, consciously or unconsciously, is the most common reason for body-fat reduction plateaus. The New England Journal of Medicine published studies indicating that obese subjects underreport calories by 40 to 47 percent, while people of normal weight underreport calories by 20 percent. Thus, if your client is indulging in small amounts of extra food, they will negate the extra energy that was expended through her exercise program.
Final thoughts: Always design a program based on a client’s lifestyle. If your client is exercising realistically, she will make positive life changes. However, by overdoing the exercise component, your client will make quick changes that will not be maintained in the long run. (Exercising for an hour a day is not realistic for all people. Be sure that your client has the ability to maintain her fitness program.) For your client to be successful, teach her to focus on:
- Loss of body fat, not weight loss
- Loss of inches rather than weight loss
- Positive changes in daily eating and exercise habits
- How she feels about herself
- How her clothes fit
- Lifestyle changes!