What does it REALLY take to lose weight (and keep it off)........Part One
Now, I won’t waste anyone’s time and dance around this subject with any cute coddling quip (see what i did there) about how it’s a hard uphill battle that you have to fight everyday, etc. etc…..You already know that! All the fatties scooting around at Disney World have already permanently cemented that fact home! Or have they?
Seriously, whether you’re a layperson that possess some fitness knowledge or are completely clueless, I find it hard to grasp that anyone could believe that 30-40 minutes of simple “movement” whether that be yoga, walking, biking and NOTHING else would suffice in you being able to make any drastic and permanent appearance change…Before behavior change zealot has a heart attack, I will stipulate that many times I have advised people just to “move” (including walking) because they aren’t doing anything, and something is obviously better than nothing...However, the population of people/clients that I am referring to are those that have come to me and sworn up and down that all they want to do is lose X amount of weight and keep it off. And they'll do "anything to achieve it...but....
I have been nothing short of astounded at the number of people that have come to me for help, yet want to negotiate how much they “need” to do. How about adopting the attitude of “want to do” or “get to do” or better yet “am able to do.” All three are better than talking a coach down as if he or she is trying to sell you a used car. In the end, you as the client/student has identified that there is something that you would like to see changed, whether that’s appearance, performance, health markers, or all three. First step accomplished! The next is committing to the process and finishing whatever it is that you start. Your coach may not put you on the perfect plan, however, chances are it is better/more than what you are currently doing and simply attacking it as you would a blizzard from Dairy Queen will most likely yield some positive benefits.
I mention DQ above (because I L.O.V.E. ice cream) because I am making a point that weight loss and being fit, however you personally define that, is a lifestyle. It goes beyond that, i would label it a holistic approach to changing how you take care of yourself on an hour to hour, day to day, week to week basis. To me, lifestyle changes that will result in physique changes have to be a little intrinsic. We have to own them to a degree, perhaps the better term is “get into it,” similar to how someone can immerse themselves in a new hobby such as triathlon. What it isn’t is “oh crap, I've got this thing and I want to do this for 10 days and then….” No real change takes place. Sure a person can exhibit some discipline over a week and a half but then what? That is why things like “cleanses” and the like are so counterproductive in the long term. They don’t teach you anything.
We’re all familiar with the term “tough love” and sometimes a little tough love is in order when we embark down the road of laying down a foundation for a more healthy lifestyle. Do you have to be perfect?
Of course not! The 80/20 rule is a great compass to adhere to. I am primarily referring to re-directing one's self, however what if we were working with a client? Behavior change as I am sure most coaches have experienced is not easy to elicit. People’s habits have been ingrained for quite some time and no sweet faced muscly armed coach or trainer is going to easily get someone to suddenly make different...better decisions.
So what do we do? Well, admittedly this is a massive over simplification, but we need to lay down a series of attainable goals and then stack upon them. We also need to give a person permission to fail. It doesn’t mean we take it easy on them, (see tough love above), but we can be sensitive, and empathetic to the individual and the individual's needs. The idea in the end is to show the athlete, client, patient, that success can be had, but that it’s not going to happen overnight and the process will take some time and commitment. At this point everyone reading this (which may be in fact all of two people, including my mom) needs to take a breath, give me a moment as I step down gingerly from my soap box to rejoin the rest of society and I’ll kindly breakdown the big rocks, in my mind, to sustainable healthy weight loss.
**all of what you have read and are about to read (you and my mom) is merely my opinion...no this is not a disclaimer, it’s just fact. Yes, I do have a shit ton of experience and generally believe I know what to do to help someone achieve a greater level of fitness and athleticism, but in the end opinions are like A-holes...everyone has them, most stink, and most people are them! So take everything with a grain of salt (I have no idea what that means by the way...but I get the context, so I use it.)
STEP ONE - Physical
Clearly the most obvious. This is where we all start and when I say we I mean all personal trainers, strength coaches, whatever you call yourself...this is where our prescriptions begin. And while the physical side may not be the most efficient in getting people where they want to be physique wise (see Nutrition/Kitchen), for most, the simple act of getting their asses moving begets a cascade of good *“feels” that make the other parts less miserable.
*i don’t really get why we’ve started saying that, but it’s contemporary….like watching game of thrones, so i use it…
Starting a new fitness regimen (for some) can be fun and invigorating. It's a fresh start, it gives you something to focus on and adhere to...which is the main reason that 30 day, 6 week, and 60 day challenges are so effective. But, they must be done right, not everyone can jump into a program guns blazing.
I break people up into 4 categories.
Category one - Have not and are not currently doing anything fitness related
I would say this category is reserved for those individuals that are chronically sedentary or very obese (those two go together.. And I don’t mean to be derogatory, but we need definitions in this business). If this is you or you work with someone that you believe belongs in this category then yes, 2-3x per week of dedicated walking (short bouts), perhaps some very basic bodyweight exercise, and some lifestyle changes such as walking places you may normally drive or parking farther away and if warranted, taking the stairs when the elevator was the norm. As cautious as we’ve become as an industry, mostly due to a complete lack thereof prior, I feel like perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. What I mean by that is that the mistake I most often see is never progressing clients out of this category...As long as you’ve taken a layered progressive approach..spending a few weeks to a month laying down some consistency and then adding some additional activities is in my mind a good idea (health markers and injuries permitting).
Category Two - “The Dabblers”
They’re active, but they dabble in a little of this and a little of that. They do everything, but it's all intermittent with no consistency. There week consists of Barre, Yoga, Spin, Pilates, Bootcamp, and a jog with their dog. Weight training comes in the form of the boot camp or perhaps the high intensity yoga class they did at noon on Tuesday. Normally some variance and intermittency in your training is a good thing, however when there is a complete lack of consistency with no progress in any category, then you’re a dabbler and you add variety for the sake of variety (see class pass). Something must make up the foundation of what you do. This is a sub group, not the main group of the “muscle confusion” crowd. Sorry if that’s you (don't be pissed Crossfitter:-). Once again, kudos for being active, and it’s MOST CERTAINLY better than nothing, but not necessarily optimal ….much like my blogging.
Category Three - Need a coach people
This group is very similar to the dabblers but they’re more addicted to the iron game. This crew runs, lifts, and does the occasional yoga class but has no real direction. Nothing they do is progressive or for a purpose. The biggest difference i see in this group is that in my mind it contains mostly guys...this group wouldn't do spin one day, bare method the next, yoga the next and orangetheory the day after that...no, this crew would go for a five mile run, and then hit the gym for “arm day.” They’re good intentioned and have enough downloaded internet programs at the ready to be dangerous….but the biggest thing they’re lacking...is you, us….a coach!
Category Four - Doing too much
Just like a category four hurricane, this group is all over the place. I see them as uber obsessive workout types that believe they can and should go hard all the time...I think you can surmise the sub culture I am referring to:-). This group crushes themselves into oblivion...some with no real direction (category three) and some who elicit similar behaviors as category two, just with much more intensity. In all fairness, we all exhibit traits from category 2-3-4 from one time or another, but I’m talking about the extreme. They’re the workout in the morning class, workout at noon, and then lift again after work types. Interestingly enough, this group, as i've observed is also bad about adhering to good nutritional principles (see step two). It would appear the prevailing attitude is that they are so active they don't have to pay attention to what they fuel with, and perhaps for a time period they don’t but as we all know, father time is undefeated and eventually we must all buckle down and at least stick to something. Not to get too far out of the scope of this blog, but this crew also has zero time to adopt any recovery - physical, emotional, psychological - strategies and as such i've witnessed some out of whack hormones, huge elevated levels of cortisol, and an eventual suppression of testosterone as a result of chronic driving the body into a hole. That is a cocktail for shitty long term development and an environment ripe to not let go of body fat.
The global perspective that i think is most often missed within the physical side of weight loss is that it doesn’t stop with the workout. As i mentioned previously, there is a lifestyle component that is critical. In my experience effective weight loss and weight management is much more effective when incorporating new and SMALL daily habits. Habits as simple as parking farther away so you can tally more steps in a day. Other options are going for a short bike ride after dinner each night or helping a friend move (although, not consistent and generally not fun), it is movement. Lastly, and perhaps most important, I encourage people, even those not struggling with weight loss, to pick up what I term Non Exercise Activities. A non exercise activity (while it is exercise) is something that you do for fun, recreationally, that you don’t go into thinking, I’m doing this for fitness purposes...Our choices in southern California are nearly boundless. Choices include beach or grass volleyball, tennis, mountain biking, swimming, and surfing...literally anything that requires you to move, but most importantly something that you ENJOY and you DO NOT consider a “workout.”
In part two I’m going to dive head first into step two, and probably the most important step...and that is what happens in the kitchen.