Once again, I have talked to another potential client who doesn’t “get” the concept of health coaching. This person wants to lose more than 40 pounds and is frustrated, which I get. They’re taking long walks a few times a week, and the weight hasn’t budged. They called me, specifically looking for a trainer who will, quote, “work me until I drop.” They “eat healthy” according to their definition of it, having no soda, only water, and no junk or processed food, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
There are some other underlying issues with this person, but I won’t mention them due to some basic confidentiality issues. The fact remains, however, that what I’m going to tell you applies to everyone who has a substantial amount of weight to lose, and I define substantial as more than 40 pounds.
At the risk again of sounding like the commercial:
When you’re starting out on a health journey, and your goal is to lose weight, what’s the first thing you probably do? You look online for some tips and tricks that will help you along the way. You probably look for recipes that are low calorie and healthy, you check Pinterest to find ways of leaning up your favorite foods, so you can still enjoy them. You know you need to exercise, so if you’re a woman, you probably look for a good group cardio class, something fun like Zumba or REFIT®, RIPPED or maybe a boot camp. If you’re a man, the manly thing to do is hit the gym and lift heavy. Your manly cardio is usually done alone by running, or maybe you’re in a cycle club where you get the benefits of group support, but when riding you’re by yourself with the wind in your face and nothing but your thoughts (and traffic). In either case, you start doing your selected form of required exercise for the diet you’re attempting, and you lose some weight, and then you stall. MAYBE. Or maybe you don’t lose anything at all.
So now what? Well…
It’s obviously the food.
You’re not strict enough and you’re eating too much, which may actually be the case. You may have some portion distortion going on. And you keep doing your exercise and you lose a little more weight. MAYBE. And here you go again, rinse and repeat. Until one day, eventually. Nothing works. You just can’t eat any less than what you are and hope to function.
Now you’re thinking –
It must be the exercise, right?
I’m not doing enough. I have to step up my intensity or more because that’s all that’s left. So, you add another class, or you add more weight (which may actually work), and that works for a while, until you stall out again. Or worse, you end up injured. Your joints were under stress from the additional weight in the first place and by going into beast mode, you have wreaked.
Do you see the cycle going on here? At some point or another you go back to Dr. Google to find out what you’re doing wrong. That’s when maybe you hit on the site that leads you to beast mode in your workouts – those workouts that leave you drained instead of feeling exhilarated, sore to the point you can barely move for two days, and it doesn’t take long before you’re dreading what you’re doing and you’ve stalled yet again. That didn’t work, you go searching again, and now it’s someone promising a magic cure, pill, shake, powder, drink, etc.
Let me interject one of my favorite quotes from Admiral Akbar in the original Star Wars movie
“IT’S A TRAP!”
The ingredients claim to be “all natural” (can someone define that for me please?), but the names are so long you can’t pronounce them. And here’s a little tip – if you can’t pronounce them, chances are your body doesn’t know how to process it, no matter how “all-natural” it is. You end up with a wrecked (not broken, we’ve talked about this) metabolism, adrenal fatigue, a stressed-out body with cortisol levels so high you’re probably insulin resistant, because that’s what cortisol does, and – worst-case-scenario – you’re strung out and can’t sleep because that “all-natural ingredient” was some form of speed. What a mess!
Dear person reading this, please do not get caught in this cycle. There is such a better way that won’t cost you your health. There is a sustainable way that’s slow, practically painless and that you can actually ENJOY, and as you’re doing it the things you learn along the way will be so valuable that weight loss will be a bonus. Who doesn’t want that?!?
And again, remember, this isn’t you if you only have maybe 10 pounds to lose. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog post to talk about vanity weight). You can gain health in other areas, but if you only have a few pounds to lose I would hope your goals would be things beyond measure of pounds or minutes.
For our bodies to lose weight, all aspects of health must come into balance. Did you know that if you’re not sleeping well or enough, your body will not only hold onto weight, but could also possibly gain? Some of this might be attributed to making poor choices when you’re tired, because we all do that, but there are very distinctive physiological processes that happen during sleep that we need to function at our optimum. So, if you aren’t sleeping, you’re doing your body a disservice.
What about stress? Are you taking care of everyone but yourself? Do you have something going on in your life or someone’s care that requires your full attention? Are you overbooked with work, working late, working a lot of overtime? Are you a social butterfly that can’t bear to turn down an invitation to go out with friends and have dinner, or drinks? Another aspect of health is FUN, but if you’re overextended to the point that you can’t stand to have an evening to yourself or feel pulled in different directions by the invitations, that kind of fun can be stressful.
What are you doing to safely move your body? Notice I didn’t say, “exercise.” That word has such a bad connotation with some people that they can hardly bear to even think about anything that even resembles exercise. Let me remind you that the American College of Sports Medicine, the gold standard for movement requirements, has determined that 150 minutes a week of cardiovascular is enough. For the ladies above in the group exercise classes, three one-hour classes a week meets that requirement plus a little. Be picky about your choices, realizing that 150 minutes broken up in 10-minute chunks is very achievable. The recommended strength training is 2-3 sessions a week, working all major muscle groups. Get a good reliable trainer to set up your program, and you’re talking 20-30 minutes each session working upper and lower body. That’s it! Those are the minimums you should work toward.
And yes, food is a part. Some people with relatively small amounts of weight to lose do well with a short-term “diet,” a word that makes me shiver. If you think about it, Beachbody programs – Pay, P90X, ‘Cize, are all broken down into 12-week sessions with a recommended food plan. You go through the program, take a short rest, and start all over. Most people are only able to stick with a diet for about that long, and for them, it’s a great, on-target marketing plan.
Let me remind you however, if you have a substantial amount of weight to lose, more than 40 pounds, your best bet is to become your own advocate, finding the lifestyle food plan that works for you. YOU are the expert on your body, and with small changes, noting effects and benefits, and good whole, primary food, less processed food and sugary beverages, you will get results.
Time is going to pass anyway – use that time to be your own best renovation project. The benefits are innumerable, but the alternate, regret, can weigh you down mentally and physically much more than the pounds.
As for praying for you to find a trainer to work you ‘til you drop, well, I ain’t prayin’ for that! You deserve better!