The real reason why people have trouble losing weight and what they can do about it.
Let’s cut through the bs…
Let’s be real, who doesn’t want the body of their dreams - NOW. Today. Right this second. This collective wish of the masses has led to literally hundreds of billions of dollars being spent on various quick fix solutions - people searching for “the magic pill” through various supplements, new equipment, etc. with unrealistic expectations. This disconnect between expectations and actual results has led to much confusion, frustration and wasted time and money. Sadly, we, as a society, have created this problem ourselves.
First off, look at the recently ditched food guide pyramid. It misinformed people for decades and taught them to eat massive amounts of processed carbohydrates. This will and did lead to steady weight gain for most people with our modern activity levels. Next, in health class we were taught that if you did 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week then we were doing what was required to create and maintain a healthy body. Again, with modern activity levels and these “recommended” diets, this isn’t exactly true.
So as the years pass, while America gains more and more weight, society (media/ advertisements/ TV shows, etc) keeps reinforcing that we are supposed to look a certain way (picture super fit model or actor). At the same time we are told that it’s normal and OK, even “all American” to eat a certain way - fast food, junk food, etc. (Now I’m picturing the Carl Jr.’s ads with the scantily clad models taking bites of humungous, greasy triple burgers) Unfortunately, eating this way (as a habit) and looking "that way" aren’t compatible. This leads to increasing levels of frustration, anger, pain and for many - learned helplessness (they give up and believe that it isn’t possible for them based on their age/ genetics/ etc.).
Enter Big Business.
Over the last 20-30 years gyms have popped up everywhere, infomercials selling the latest piece of equipment/ weight loss program to lose 30 lbs. overnight have taken over the TV and the supplement industry with its’ short term focused and often dangerous diet pills have raked in hundreds of billions of dollars. Building on our already fundamentally flawed education of diet and exercise, we now have tons of different companies all trying to sell their specific (and typically incomplete) solution - this pill, that powder, this new piece of equipment, etc. Unfortunately, people being people (wanting results NOW!) and marketers being marketers (wanting to sell their stuff), the marketing messages started to take advantage of our lack of understanding/ miseducation and positioned their product(s) as THE instant gratification, immediate weight loss solution. These products were advertised not only on TV and radio, but also appeared in huge sections of magazines that looked like 'editorial content', but were really paid advertisements. This became so prevalent and they were presented so well that the public started to warp these advertisements into educational materials and allowed them to begin to shape our “continued education” on fitness and nutrition. Because these were in no way objective “studies” and their purpose was purely to sell product X, this has led to even more misinformation, confusion, and frustration and a search for the short-cut. The quick fix. And yes, the easy way out.
Enter The Truth.
To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of a problem to one who is striking the root.”
To “Breakthrough” and make a truly lasting change to our body we need to let go of half measures, mis-information, and our previous mental programming, and rebuild the foundation with correct principles and science. This is the ONLY way to really get to the root of the problem and to make a real, lasting change.
Tony Robbins, a now world famous peak performance expert, describes this kind of “breakthrough”:
“It’s a moment when everything changes—when what seemed impossible suddenly becomes possible, and you no longer settle for anything less than extraordinary. Breakthroughs are the reason people succeed and companies thrive, no matter what’s going on around them.
There are literally thousands of triggers, but a lasting breakthrough requires a change in one or all of these elements:
1. A New Strategy
2. Our Story
3. Our State”
Our State. That's start here. Our “state” is really how we feel at any given time (our emotional or mental state). This strongly impacts, and is impacted by our Story. For example, when we FEEL tired, we can create a story around that feeling to allow us to skip a workout. Our state is controlled by our focus and our physiology, and we’ll delve deeper into this later. But for now, just consider that if we spend all day focusing on our “story” about why we can do something, it is likely to leave us not feeling to confident about accomplishing it. Simple enough?
Our Story. This is how we communicate to ourselves and has become a big part of the problem with all the misinformation and confusion over the years. When we want look a certain way, but don’t this leads a great deal of inner turmoil. Psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. To reduce this tension, we must resolve this contradiction. We could do so by changing our bodies, but often time, due to all of the confusion and mis-information, people have tried that previously and failed. So, especially in the case of fitness, most people then choose to change their beliefs. There are multiple was to do this, but two of the most common are to tell ourselves that it isn’t possible (because of our age, genetics, etc), or to tell ourselves that you don’t want it after all/ it’s not that important to you (so you settle for the long term pain of not being in the shape that you want to be instead of having to endure the more immediate pain of this internal conflict.) Let’s take a look at a couple other common stories that hold people back from accomplishing their fitness goals:
“I’m too busy/ don’t have time.”
Is that really true? Is it really IMPOSSIBLE for you to MAKE time to workout 20-60 minutes/ day (notice I say “make” time - you don’t just find it)? Or is it a matter of priority? My experience has always been that we have plenty of time for our highest priorities. Ok, then how important are these things to you? Common “stories” as to why you can’t make the time are “I have to work/ $ money” or “I have to do _____ for my family.” Well, you’ve only got one body right? If it breaks down, who’s going to be taking care of your family then? Or making $ - what’s the point of having more money if we don’t feel comfortable in our own skin? Ok, so picturing your dream body, how you will feel then vs. now - how badly do you want to make these changes? Now I don’t want you to answer that question while looking at it through a lens tinted by thinking about how hard it may be to accomplish. Pretend that you could just snap your fingers and make these changes occur. How important are these things Very important? You: “Of Course!” Perfect, so we can move on.
“I’ll start Monday.”
This one may just be the biggest poison there is to success. Procrastination is a killer of dreams. “I’ll start tomorrow/ next week,” is a slippery slope that quickly turns into next month, and so on… We need to reach that point in our life, that cross roads, when we admit to ourselves that we are not 100% happy with where we are at or where we are heading, and that we want to look and feel a certain way. AND, from this MOMENT on we are going to start to make these changes once and for all. I think you are there otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now, but you tell me…are you ready to make this commitment to yourself? Congratulations! I knew you had it in you!
These are just a few examples of our stories and how they limit or prevent our success. We will continue to work through these at a later time.
At this point it only leaves the Strategy…
A New Strategy. This is the “How to” part. It’s much easier to keep a positive state and not make excuses (er, find reasons) when your efforts yield results. A flawed strategy definitely makes the whole process much more difficult, but for the most part that is exactly what most people are left with. To explore so of the more high level issues let’s take a look at some of the myths out there connected to weight loss.
Fiction: If I buy X product or do Y workout, I’ll lose 20 lbs. this week! (or some other unrealistic timeline)
Fact: We don’t gain 20 lbs. overnight and unfortunately, we don’t lose it overnight either. The maximum safe weight loss number is thought to be around 2-4 lbs./ week for most people. This will vary somewhat depending on how much weight you have to lose as well as health concerns that you may have, but really what makes weight loss unsafe is the way you do it.
The first week when starting out may be higher due to losing some water weight from either sweating more than you usually do or from cleaning up your diet. Have expectations of losing weight faster than this is not only unrealistic (therefor setting you up for failure and frustration), and dangerous, but it also typically ends with gaining the weight back due to the methods used to dropping the weight are often not sustainable.
Fiction: All I need to do to take this diet pill.
Fact: Speaking of dangerous ways of losing weight… The supplement industry is not regulated by the FDA (not that even that would make them safe). What this means is that they can put whatever they want on the market until it is proven unsafe. The has occurred several times over the last 2 decades. Most notably Phen Phen and Ephedra. Both led to the deaths of many people before being taken off the shelf. Now, I’m not saying that all supplements are bad, but you have to be very careful, especially the diet pills as they are typically very stimulant based. These stimulant lead to a massive stress put on your circulatory system including your heart - which last I checked you only get one of, so you should probably take care of it… Also, even if these was no risk, these usually only help by helping us create a caloric deficit through appetite suppressants so you eat less or stimulants that get our hearts racing and increase calorie expenditure. More on why this is a partial solution at best next.
Fiction: I’ll just lose weight by following ______ crash diet.
FACT: There are some that still beleive that weight loss is a simple as calories in (consumed) vs. calories out (burned throughout the day). While this is not the complete story it is a big part of it. (WHAT we eat is also important as it impacts our hormones and even our neurotransmitters, not only effecting our body, but also potentially our behaviors). While this immediate caloric deficit, will typically lead to some weight loss - is this a good thing in the long run?
Well, it turns out that HOW we lose weight is a very important part as to whether or not we keep it off. First off, is “weight loss” really ALL that we want, or do we want a body composition change? (meaning tightening up, toning up - this means losing fat AND building muscle, which requires resistance training.). Also, when losing weight this way it is common that we not only lose fat but also burn off some muscle as well. Muscle is very important in making these changes long term as it takes calories to support. Basically, more muscle = higher calories burned each day = easier to keep the fat off.
Fiction: I just need “THE” magic workout and I’ll do it over and over again until I’m in shape.
FACT: Unfortunately, the “right” workout for us today, in our current physical condition will not be the “right” workout for us in 3 months, or likely even 3 weeks. When were exercise appropriately, eat appropriately and rest/recover appropriately we get stronger, increase our levels of cardiovascular conditioning and endurance and develop what is know as neuromuscular efficiency. The “efficiency” basically means that we get better at doing the movements and our body learns how to do them while using the minimum amount of effort required. This, on top on being stronger and in better shape means that we need to regularly change up our workouts appropriately to continue to challenge and stimulate the body. A number of areas need to be considered; the number of reps and sets, the amount of weight, the movements themselves, the tempo, the range of motion, etc.
FACT: To cause weight loss and a body composition change we must use appropriate forms of resistance training, Cardiovascular exercise and nutritional modification. To maintain the weight loss and body composition change, the way we lose the weight is very important and we must develop new habits. More on that here: http://www.compelfitness.com/fitness-psychology/so-i-started-a-personal-training-company-and-proceeded-to-gain-40-lbs-of-fat/#/.
If this all seem like a lot, don’t worry. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below to ask questions or to set up a free coaching session (or personal training session if you are near one of our locations).