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Not Seeing Results? You Might Be Lying to Yourself

Are you busting your ass in the gym and not seeing the results you desire? If so, you’re not alone. An alarming percentage of lifters are unhappy with their progress, and many of them blame their genetics for their lackluster results. However tempting it may be to blame genetics, there could be a simple solution.


Don’t get me wrong, genetics definitely play a very large role in determining your ability to lose fat, build muscle, and improve fitness. In fact, I’ve written two articles on the topic (HERE and HERE). The genetically-blessed can see twice the results with half the effort…that’s just all there is to it. However, many individuals wrongly blame genetics rather than take a hard look at their diet and exercise regimens.

As a personal trainer, I would venture to guess that around 1/4th of my clients over the past decade believed that they had some type of thyroid or other metabolic disorder that was preventing them from losing fat. I would now like to bring your attention to a classic paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine titled Discrepancy Between Self-Reported and Actual Caloric Intake and Exercise in Obese Subjects (click on the link to download the full paper).


In this study, the researchers decided to examine the discrepancy between the actual quantity of calories consumed and exercise performed and the reported quantity of calories consumed and exercise performed by obese subjects who were struggling in their weight loss endeavors. The results were shocking. The researchers found that all of the obese subjects who believed that they had “diet-resistance” in fact had normal metabolisms. What then was causing their alleged diet-resistance? Get this:

They were underestimating/underreporting their caloric intake by a whopping 47% and overestimating/overreporting their physical activity by 51%! To elaborate, the subjects thought that they were taking in 1,028 calories per day, but in actuality they were consuming 2,081 calories per day. Moreover, they thought that they were expending 1,022 calories per day, when in actuality they were expending 771 calories per day. This is a really big deal. It is quite obvious why these subjects were failing to see results.

Personal trainers and registered dietitians see this all the time. As soon as clients learn how to accurately track their calories and macros, voila! – they start making progress. If you are currently spinning your wheels and are just guessing with regards to your caloric intake and energy expenditure, it’d be a good idea to start tracking your caloric and macronutrient intake. There are many free phone apps that you can use. Finally, there’s a big difference between simply showing up to the gym and sound training. Good training will have you consistently setting PR’s and engaging in progressive overload, which causes your body to become a denser, shapelier unit.



  • Dunkman says:

    It’s a tough balance for PTs. On the one hand, you need to tailor work to the desires of the individual, on the other hand, you have to sometimes tell them what they don’t want to hear and ask them to do things that they may not want to do. All without losing a client. It’s a sales job of sorts and unfortunately a lot of trainers are just like guys at closing time – willing to say just about anything to close the deal.

  • Ashley says:

    Hi Bret! I’ve been glute bridging and following your advice since Spring.. I have to say I love what information you put out there and my results! However, I seem to have hit a sort of plateau. I started noticing about 3 weeks ago that I can’t get my glutes to fire/respond like they used to. I’ll do my glute activation warm ups, then begin my workout with bridges and thrusts. The first set goes perfectly, I can feel the burn. But every subsequent set the feeling/burning/activation in my glutes starts to fade. It’s almost as if my glutes go numb. No matter how many times I try to activate my glutes again, they appear shot after my first set. I’ve tried increasing weight, decreasing weight, doing my activation drills between bridging/thrusting sets, but nothing helps. Have any of your clients experienced this before? Any advice? I would really appreciate it!!

  • Kristi Joy says:

    I was just talking about this last night. Those who have a hard time losing weight/reaching their goals are really deluding themselves, but they often don’t realize it! They don’t realize that it doesn’t just take a little bit of effort to change your physique–it takes a LOT of effort. They often have the wrong information as well. For instance, that eating vegan, or paleo, or just taking carbs out and walking around the block, will automatically cause fat loss. It really IS about having a calorie deficit. It is easier to not take responsibility and blame it on genetics.

    It’s so frustrating to see, but unfortunately difficult to tell people that they are bullshitting themselves. I suppose we all do it in some area of our lives. But I think a big part of personal growth is to stop lying to ourselves.

  • Martina says:

    If u feel like u are really dedicated to your training and nutrition, and u do not see progress, consider checking metabolic issues and your micronutrients intake too! I’ve always wondered why I am unable to progressively overload. I used to train to my limit and get a good DOMS everytime, but I was unable to increase weight during 2 years. When I got health issues, my doctor found that in fact I do have a metabolic disorder, which would prevent my muscle from developing and my body from detoxing. My disorder causes my body to need mich higher doses of zinc and B Vitamins & since I am taking them I lost all of my cellulite and – more important – I am getting stronger. I am finally increaseing weight and relatively quick.
    By the way, I am pretty sure, my health issues was triggered by food additives in my protein shake, which I was consuming up to 3 times daily. Now I dont drink them anymore and I am leaner than ever. I guess only a healthy body can grow muscles seriously.

    • jen says:

      What type of doctor did you find this info out from?

      • Martina says:

        A conventional doctor and practitioner of functional medicine, which did some blood tests. I had them done due to an autoimmune disease (I am in remission due to diet changes and micronutrient balance. I am following the paleo autoimmune protocol and do many super foods). I have the metabolic disorder called pyroluria, which is found to be linked with lyme disease, that causes loss of Vitamine B6 and zinc. I find it important to mention, that not many doctors try to find the root causes of diseases and I am lucky I found one who did.

    • Alex says:

      By cutting your 3 shakes, maybe you went in a calorric deficit and actually managed to lose weight/fat that way! Can’t lie with thermodynamic 🙂 Just a thought, good job on the progress.

      • Martina says:

        I guess this is a potential explanation, too! I did not track calories… but i weight still the same as before though. I am just a little stronger.
        However, if ever I give protein shakes a try again I would go with organic additive free ones, and maybe even dairy free ones. For now I am just trying to up meat and veggies and stay very healthy.

  • I have always believed that most people who need to lose body fat and get in shape are not prepared to do what is necessary to achieve, and some blame the lack of weight loss results has a thyroid problem. I think people who have issues and want to overcome their problems should try to develop the mindset of Arnold.

  • Smokewillow says:

    Yea, everybody likes to find and excuse not to count calories.’Thats thr key, getting enough calories in the appropriate ratios. This information has been out for a couple of decades now and we as a society should be further along but better late then Never.

  • Marcy says:

    Oh man, I really don’t like the way this is going. While I do believe there are over eaters out there, I think we have to be really careful about saying most or all obese are in that category.

    For me, it was food choice. Once my dr told me I was diabetic, I went paleo, I lost 65 lbs pretty quick. I worked out just as hard as before and ate MORE calories (I tracked my food before and after).

    I know people look at me and think I overeat since I’m still fat. It’s just not true. I struggle to get all my protein macros every day, and I eat well / don’t often feel hungry. When i get enough protein and stay away from carbs, I lose weight.

    I might be more inclined to believe that fat people are not moving as much as they think they are. Even still, I think we have to be careful putting everyone in that place. No one that sees me at the gym can honestly say I don’t bring it. My hip thrust last week was 365, bench 135, and squat 205 on the Strong Curves Advanced program (none of those were PRs). I can tell not many big women lift at my gym, judging by the shocked looks I often get.

    I think there are a lot of people with undiagnosed blood sugar issues, especially obese people. I don’t think judging these people is really gonna help them move more and eat better.

    • Lucy says:

      “I don’t think judging these people is really gonna help them move more and eat better.” Well said, Marcy.

  • Geniebeanie says:

    I’ve been “gluting” for 10 weeks now, saw results pretty quickly; however, my new found glute muscles have pushed the fat I carry on my high hip up even higher – sounds weird but it makes my hips look even bigger although the sag is gone. Not sure which is better

  • Michelle says:

    Ditto for me! My glutes are more shapely but I just saw bikini pics of myself from yesterday and my hips look higher and huge! It was a wake up call for me because i thought I was looking great but it looks like I’m not losing fat. I’ve been following Carb Nite Solution of a few months now and although I feel great, I’m not really losing inches on my waist/hips.

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