Having worked with numerous people of all shapes, sizes and ages I have identified a number of common factors that prevent people from achieving their weight loss goals. It’s easy to get caught up in all the technical, scientific stuff, which any good coach should know, but sometimes you miss the wood for the trees. People aren’t statistics and, in my experience there’s a number of basic elements that need to be addressed. Here are just 5.
You don’t care enough
The idea of losing weight is attractive to you, you know that you’re over weight and out of shape and you would love to be leaner and fitter. However, you lack motivation and every time you see one of your friends achieving what you’re not you say something like “I need your motivation.”
No, you don’t, you need YOUR motivation. Why aren’t you motivated to do all the things you know you should be doing to start losing body fat? Because you don’t care. You don’t care enough about the person in the mirror and therefore don’t appreciate the value to investing in yourself. No, why plan your week, schedule meal prep, workouts and active recovery periods when you can sit on your arse, eating ice cream and watching reruns of gogglebox?
It’s important to understand that healthy weight loss requires lifestyle change. A change to priorities, habits and mentality. Change is daunting and unless you deeply care about the person (you) that you are trying to change you won’t do the things you need to do. Everything is about choices, you chose to buy the ice cream and eat it, no one did it for you. But, once you learn your own self-worth you won’t make those choices, you’ll choose to batch cook a weeks’ worth of food, go to the gym 4 times a week and meditate for 10 minutes every night because you’re worth it.
When you love yourself you will do all those things on instinct, it’s easy to prioritise your time, to motivate yourself and, of course, your problems no longer go in your mouth.
Remember that scene in Return Of The Jedi when Master Yoda was teaching Luke about the force?
“I don’t believe it.” Luke said, “that is why you fail.” Replied Yoda. Or, as that other great Jedi said “Believe in yourself and you will succeed.” – Master Troy.
Your expectations are unrealistic
You want weight loss and you want it now. Moreover, you want to look like that professional fitness model on the cover of that magazine. But, you’ve been overweight and out of shape for years and it takes months just to get your head straight, let alone get lifestyle in order and then your body in check.
Even if you have everything dialled in you’ll realistically lose somewhere between 0.5-2lb of fat per week (depending on your starting point). That means to lose 40lb will take about a year, usually longer.
You also have to realise that to be super lean like a fitness model takes a lot of dedication and very specific approaches to dieting and training. Is that really what you want your life to look like? Or, is it just what you think the world expects of you? Do you really need to be less than 10% body fat if all other areas of your health and fitness are on point, even if it’s not necessary for a performance goal? Maybe you just need to appreciate yourself a bit more.
I often find that people’s perceptions change as they get more into their journey. They start off believing that a leaner body will make them happy, but as their self-confidence improves their goals change too. Suddenly, they care a little less about how they look and start to want more performance related goals such as stronger lifts or better endurance.
That’s not to say that being really lean for the sake of aesthetics is wrong, you just have to be sure that you’re doing it for the right reasons. My advice is to care less about what other people think and care more about what you think (see point one).
Your life is too stressful
There is always time for the things that matter to you. You probably make time for your friends, family, work and, I bet you make time to scroll though social media or watch pointless light entertainment TV shows. Maybe you just need to learn to say no from time to time. It’s not selfish to put yourself first and if you think that saying no makes you a bad person you care too much about other people’s opinions (see point one).
Being organised, planning ahead and treating essential things like food prep and workouts like important appointments in your diary actually saves time in the long run and cuts down on procrastination.
We can all make excuses to not do a thing. When I used to teach swimming and help out with schools holiday kids camps I lost count of the amount of kids I taught to tie their show laces. It seemed that the parents were of the mindset that doing it for them was saving time. Probably because they weren’t making the time to teach their child to be more self-efficient and saving time and stress in the long run. You can leave anything to the last minute but then you are always reacting and never pre-empting. This causes a fight or flight response. Most people live their whole life like this, so is it any wonder that they get overwhelmed by the concept of food prep? Or consider relaxation and sleep a waste of time?
Physiologically if you do one thing to massively improve your health it should be to get the right amount of sleep. If you are stressed out because your time management is poor you won’t get good sleep. If you are hanging it out and staying up late for the sake of it, your life lacks purpose (see point one).
You’re eating too much
Yep, here’s the nutrition bit. Mindlessly eating, thinking you’re eating healthy but binging at the weekends is the reason that you aren’t in the shape you want to be in. Now, the advice to eat less and move more is too vague. It’s not so much the volume of food but the quality and energy density of the food.
Processed junk foods will be higher in fat and sugar which makes them easier to over eat. Conversely, they are lower in protein and fibre and lack micronutrient density. This makes them less satiating, less nourishing and more “addictive”. Not addictive like a drug but you get used to them, they affect your blood sugars, give you an endorphin boost and they almost always lead you to crave more.
Eating balanced meals that contain sources of protein, fibre and more healthy fats and carbs (less processed fats and sugar) will keep you feeling fuller, lead to less cravings for junk foods and make you eat less throughout the day, especially if you paid attention to the previous point and have your stress and sleep on point. Again, if your mind is in a good place there’s less need to resort to comfort eating.
Be mindful when you eat, be mindful of how foods make you feel and be mindful of what you are thinking or feeling when those junk food cravings hit. Learning to identify these triggers is important in learning to remove them. Control and consistency are the keys to sustainable weight loss. But, applying those controls on a consistent basis is very difficult if you have skipped points 1, 2 and 3.
"It’s important to understand that healthy weight loss requires lifestyle change".
You’re not moving enough
Once you have got more balance in your eating and have your control method in place you need to get your arse moving. Yeah exercise is important. It improves your blood pressure, your insulin sensitivity, your posture, your appearance, makes you stronger and less injury prone. But, in the grand scheme of things a typical workout will burn around 300kcal (depending on volume and intensity). But 10,000 steps might burn 500kcal.
So, exercise is important but just moving more through the day is really important. One thing I have found with people starting out on a weight loss journey is that they often think they are really busy and active. But when we track their steps, they’re barely hitting 5,000. It seems, quite often, that they are busy in their head rather than physically and this probably goes back to point three.
Granted, not everyone has the luxury of being able to walk to work or, get out at lunchtime and might be confined to a desk for large portions of their day. Unfortunately, that’s life but you can still find ways to move more. Take the stairs, walk to the water fountain, park your car further from work, get up and go to the IT department rather than calling them to you when you need your lap top turning off and on again.
The good news about points 4 and 5 is that once you have addressed points 1, 2 and 3 they’re easy to get right. Remember this is about lifestyle, changing old habits for new and a constant and evolving journey of self-development. Never stop learning and if you are making mistakes that’s great, they’re a great way to learn and improve. Strive for excellence, not perfection and enjoy the journey. I feel another Star Wars quote coming on…