By Michael Simmer BS, CSCS, LMT, FST
I have been in the health and fitness industry for almost 10 years, I have been a trainer, worked in a physical therapy clinic, been around professional baseball players and have had countless interactions and experiences with different clients, players and friends all regarding weight loss.
There is one interaction I to this day still remember as though it was yesterday. I was a young and new to the training world. I was working at a small 1 on 1 training studio here in the valley. One of the very first clients I ever got to work with was a young women who had the goal of looking better in a bathing suit, which is I think a common thing to hear especially in the valley of the sun. As we started working together I could see she had the drive and she had the passion, but something still seemed to be blocking her, at her 3 month weigh in, she discovered that she was now down 28 pounds from the time she started this life style change, and me being the overly excitable former athlete immediately looked for a high five, yet I did not receive my high five, yep I was left hanging, my hand was just up there for all to see and it was alone, no strong slap, no satisfactory point where you were like wow that was maybe a little aggressive, just me, my smiling face and my raised hand. After getting over that blow to my pride, I realized she was not happy, in fact she was somewhat upset with herself. She told me that she was not encouraged because she wanted to lose at least 50 pounds and now she feels like a failure. Come again? A failure! Say what!?! At first I wanted to go into motivation mode, but I caught myself, that is not what the issue was, she had the motivation already, me telling her how awesome she is won’t help a thing so I went a different way, and asked her, Do you feel better? Yes, do you sleep better? Yes, do you have more energy? Yes, is it easier to move around and do daily things? Yes, is it easier to climb all the stairs to your classes? Yes, do you feel better about yourself then you did 3 months ago? Yes. Question after question followed by yes after yes, so here is this young woman who just lost 28 pounds, feels better, improved her quality of life and was still not happy with herself, and she even thought of herself as a failure, A FAILURE. I wish this story ended with me telling you she rebounded from this and went on to work her but off and reach her 50 pound goal, but after that weigh in I never saw her again, calls, text nothing go through to her.
Knowing what I know now, I wish I could go back in time and work with her again, now I believe her issue was not with herself or her accomplishment it’s that she needed to be taught how to set goals for self, and set proper goals for herself. A 2001 Study from the university of Pennsylvania, showed that on average overweight people will set their goal at losing more then 2/3rds of their body mass, which is about 3 times more then they need to lose in order to immediately improve their health. Setting un-reachable and often unrealistic goals is one of the fastest ways to stop a weight loss program in its tracks, That first failed attempt at reaching that goal is all it takes for them to give up and tell themselves it’s never going to happen. This self-fulfilling prophecy is so damning to a person’s mental health, that it will become true. As coaches in this industry we are just as much attached to our clients as we are to their goals, it is not only our responsibility to keep them on track, but also to educate them and that means being honest with them, sometimes brutally honest, do not let them set themselves up for failure. They can achieve their goals, but they need to be reachable and attainable, so how do we do that for them?
Set Mini Goals, don’t shoot for the moon right away especially if you are just getting back into the gym, instead of saying I want to drop 10 pounds this month instead tell yourself I want to be in the gym for a minimum of 16 visits this month, just changing the narrative from a weight number to something such as the goal of gym visits works on a few levels, 1 it makes them more accountable for getting into the gym, and 2 if they complete that goal, they will probably get a bonus result when they step on the scale.
Don’t go overboard on diet changes, the reason we have a nutrition plan is because it is just that it is a plan, not a diet. A diet is something you can start and stop, then find a new one or change to this one or that one, but a plan is a plan. People are less likely to stray from a plan. Most times we need to correct bad food habits and not bad food choices, Are you always snacking, are you eating in front of the TV, do you always feel like you need to clean your plate, work on changing these bad habits and the diet changes will come more naturally. This is part of setting process goals and not outcome goals, so instead of saying I will lose 30 pounds in 30 days, instead say I will get 10,000 4 days this week, I will meal prep for next week this Sunday, once you start doing something repeatedly it becomes automatic.
Once you get towards your goal don’t settle in, When we first start a new workout or a new diet, friends, family, coworkers etc. will be you biggest fans for the first 1 to 3 months, praising your effort and your results, but once you start getting towards 5 months of your new lifestyle those fans can start disappearing, the praise will start becoming quieter, but that does not mean that you can now maintain where you are at, we need to push past this moment, challenge ourselves with new routines and new recipes, sign up for a race or an event keep exercise fun and energize, recruit a buddy making yourself a mentor and accountable for yourself and them.
Always take some time to re visit your goals, alter them change them as needed set new ones along the way, write your goals down and look at them often, know and accept that a healthy weight loss program is a marathon not a sprint, it takes time and focus. Even if you only lose a ½ pound 1 week that’s still progress, so be happy and proud of even the little successes. Realistic goals will help improve physically but perhaps more important mentally, it will boost your self-esteem and remind you of your journey.
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