Why am I not seeing results from diet and exercise?
When it comes to improving your health and fitness, people are not the same. Odds are, what worked for your friend or someone on the internet, may not work the same for you.
When it comes to not seeing results from your diet and exercise program, before you address other factors, here’s 10 questions to ask yourself:
1. What are my ultimate goals?
2. Are my goals realistic?
3. How long have I been trying to reach these goals
4. What have I done to reach my goals?
5. Have I noticed any positive changes?
6. Have I noticed any negative changes?
7. Have I plateaued?
8. Have I done anything to overcome the plateau? If so, what did you do, did it work, and how long did it take?
9. What do I struggle with the most?
10. Do I have any pestering health symptoms?
The top lifestyle factors personal trainers and fitness influencers preach are get enough sleep, stay hydrated, avoid sugar, eat protein, avoid alcohol, do intermittent fasting, count your macros, include more strength training, switch up your workouts, and be consistent.
If you listen to these common health and fitness tips, you understand that to see results it’s best to keep track of what you put in your body and what you put out. Whether you’re trying to lose fat or gain muscle, this is the first go-to action to get results. I usually tell my clients to give a new “program” 4-6 weeks to see changes, after that the body tends to plateau.
If you have seen minimal to no progress, have an extremely healthy diet, a faithful workout routine, and have tried all the basic tips and tricks, it may be time to address more internal issues.
Let’s first start with the lymphatic system, aka the bodies most neglected system. Most health and fitness professionals aren’t educated on the lymphatic system, so it’s not your fault if yours has been neglected. It’s just a matter of time for us to spread the word - the lymphatic system may be the missing piece to your health and fitness goals.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is our internal drainage system. Its major functions include:
• Protecting your body from illness-causing invaders.
• Maintaining proper fluid levels.
• Absorbing fat from the digestive system.
Think of it as your body’s pipes and garbage disposal that doesn’t have a pump. Unlike the circulatory system, that has your heart pulsing to move blood through the body, your lymphatic system does not have a pump. To give you an idea of what you’re dealing with, the body has 15 L of lymph fluid and 5 L of blood. That’s a big difference! Those 15 L of lymphatic fluid must have a major role in the body. Let’s look at how the lymphatic system contributes to the major factors that affect our body’s inability to adapt to a diet and exercise program.
When it comes to eating healthy, if you have a toxic fluid environment it can be difficult for nutrients to enter the cells. It can also be difficult for cells to excrete waste if the body has a toxic environment. It is the lymphatic system’s job to clean up toxins in the body. Most of us change eating habits and focus on nutrients to produce body changes, but this may have no effect if the nutrients have difficulty entering the body’s cells. This is why it’s very important to address the lymphatic system to remove the clog of toxins in the drainage system, and to cleanse the pipes so you can absorb the nutrients you’re putting in it. If you continue to digest food or liquid in a backed-up system, it makes it very difficult to filter out the good nutrients.
Intense workouts may cause chronic inflammation. When you workout it’s causing cell destruction which can cause soreness, swelling, and tightness, then you make new cells.
Modern day high intensity workout culture is a major culprit for inflammation. For example, your workout time is probably your only opportunity to move in the day. If you go from 0 to 100 really quick in an intense workout class, your body goes into “survival mode.” We focus on personal records and sprints because we think that’s how we are going to change our bodies, but we might be overtraining.
If your body is already stressed and toxic, you won’t be able to efficiently process the cells you “destroyed” in your workout, and it will limit your muscles ability to generate new cells. When you work out and cause excess tension, you will cause more inflammation in your body. If there’s excess tension and inflammation present in the tissue, it restricts fluid flow. Fluid will then accumulate causing you to be swollen unless your lymphatic system can help reduce the inflammation and drain the excess fluid.
Keep in mind inflammation is not bad, but when there is excess inflammation, it may cause more problems than just feeling “swole.”
Like physical stress, too much emotional stress has a negative impact on the body.
When you experience stress, cortisol (a stress fighting hormone) is released. The lymphatic system is uniquely susceptible to stress. If cortisol levels are abnormal for a prolonged period, it can bring the lymph flow to a halt along with many other symptoms. As for diet, cortisol regulates metabolism and blood sugar. If you have too much cortisol in your body, it is known to cause weight gain during stressful times. Cortisol can also change your body’s shape by relocating fat cells in the body, most often around the abdomen and face. An excess amount of cortisol can cause your body to produce less testosterone which may decrease muscle mass, as well as slow down your metabolism.
Not only does cortisol affect your metabolism and muscle mass, but it also suppresses your immune system and weakens the blood-brain barrier, lungs, and gut barrier. A weakened gut barrier leaks waste into your bloodstream, causing your immune system to be unable to fight off foreign invaders.
Aka your body’s chemical messengers.
As we get older, our bodies are constantly changing, and these changes are driven by hormones. Everyone will experience natural periods of hormonal imbalances; however, hormonal imbalances can also occur when the endocrine glands are not functioning properly. Hormones control growth, sexual function, reproduction, metabolism, blood sugar, blood pressure, and mood. Hormonal imbalances, similar to the effects of cortisol mentioned above, can sometimes cause unexpected body changes that you cannot control. A healthy lymphatic system allows for hormone balance. If the lymphatic channels cannot remove toxins properly, those chemical messengers are not going to be able to do their job.
Fascia (connective tissues)
Fascia is a sheet of connective tissue that surrounds and supports every structure in your body. Healthy fascia allows for proper body symmetry and alignment, enhanced lymphatic flow, increased blood flow, reduced appearance of cellulite, reduced risk of injury, less aches and pains, and improved flexibility. When fascia is unhealthy it is sticky, tight, forms movement restrictions, causes aches and pain, throbbing, stiffness, and swelling. Fascia connects throughout the entire body, so if you tug on one side of the sheet, the position of entire sheet will shift. If you ever had a knot or tension in your shoulder, that’s likely because of your fascia.
When it comes to your body shape and function, your bad posture may be causing your fascia to be unhealthy, your misalignment will not allow for proper muscle activation, blood and lymphatic flow is reduced, nerve pathways are restricted, and you are ultimately causing more inflammation.
If you’re involved in the workout world, you’ve probably heard of myofascial release therapy, this is the fascia we’re talking about. Most of the lymphatic system is right under the skin along with the superficial fascia. Since the lymphatic system does not have a pump, it relies on the movement of our muscles and fascia to squeeze the lymphatic vessels to move the lymph fluid. If the lymph fluid is unable to flow through the tissue, swelling and unpleasant symptoms will occur.
There are not many studies regarding fascia, however, throughout my 20 years of health, fitness, and body treatment experience, I have discovered those with unhealthy fascia have more skin and muscle inflammation, difficulty sensing their body position and muscle engagement, struggle to metabolize fat where this is sticky fascia, and have more congestion in their lymphatic system. It is imperative to maintain healthy fascia and keep the juices flowing.
Depending on your age and genetics, your skin may be holding you back from seeing your toned body. As people age, the deterioration or reduction of collagen and elastic in the dermis cause sagging skin. Collagen is responsible for making the skin feel firm and elastin is responsible for skin elasticity.
Most research claims the primary cause of sagging skin is caused by a decrease in collagen and/or elastin, an increase in subcutaneous fat, and larger fat cells. However, new discoveries have suggested that sagging skin may be related to the lymphatic vessels. It was found that impaired function of the dermal lymphatic vessels causes subcutaneous fat to accumulate, which leads to sagging skin. When it comes to working out, it is recommended to do more strength training instead of cardio so you’re not “skinny fat” and fill out your skin. This is true; however, it may not be enough to help tighten your skin.
There are many ways to address the factors that affect your body’s ability to see changes. We’re not old school anymore, diet and exercise alone don’t always allow you to achieve your goals. Age and genetics may be factors, but don’t use that as your excuse. It may be time to educate yourself on ways to improve your lymphatic health and/or find a true expert that understands your body and can help implement other modalities beyond diet and exercise.