After working with many weight loss clients I realized that very few people have what it takes to lose the weight they want to lose and keep it off in the long run. Statistically, 95% of people in the US that lose weight regain it within a year. This is simply because the general public is not educated on ALL of the aspects of weight loss. Weight loss is not all about your physical body; there is a battle that goes on in your mind as well. In my previous weight loss article I gave you some of the basics of weight loss that were purely physiological. However, you will learn after reading this installment about the battle that takes place in your mind and how to come out the victor. Note: If you have not read “Weight Loss 101″ yet, you can go here to read it first to make sure that you are caught up on all the basics.
First, lets talk about all of the different types of weight loss clients I have come across, they are broken down into four categories:
The Fearful Client:
It is sometimes hard to tell what a client may be fearful of. They could be fearful of me, fearful of the “gym” environment, fearful of getting hurt, fearful of “putting on too much muscle” or “getting big arms” (that’s right women), but most likely what they are truly fearful of is CHANGE. The problem with all of the fear I just mentioned is that they keep people from acting upon their desires to change. Unfortunately, those who fear change are the ones who will continue to live their lives until something drastic happens in their lives. Only then can they build up the strength to take action. I know plenty of people who did not fight their fear of change until they suffered from severe pain or were diagnosed with diabetes, arthritis, or even cancer. The fact of the matter is that we all like to live comfortable lives, even if a little bit of discomfort is introduced, we will live with it until it gets to the point that we simply cannot survive without making some type of change. I have literally had people say to me “My back hurts, but it has been hurting for years so I have gotten used to it”. Do you realize that your body is NOT designed to be in pain? This type of client must learn how to push through their fears and welcome change.
The Overzealous Client:
When a client comes to me and says, “I am ready to make a huge change in my life, I am going to stop eating out, cut out sugary drinks, and workout five days a week”, immediately an alarm goes off in my head. This type of client normally has some obsessive-compulsive behaviors and is heavily influenced by something they read, hear, or see on TV. This client tries to go from one extreme to the other; from overeating and zero activity to a vegan diet and two-a-day workouts five days a week. If you know someone like this, here is a spoiler alert…They are going to fail. Being overzealous is normally a bad thing because they burn out easily. They think that they are ready to make all these changes for the long haul, but when they do not get the results they want in the time they want them, they become discouraged. They will say “I just did all that work, pushed myself to my physical limits, starved myself of the food that I really wanted to eat, and I only lost 1lb this week. I would rather walk on a treadmill for an hour and eat what I want to eat than go through all of that for nothing.” The overzealous client needs a calming force to slow them down a little bit, start them gradually, and work them up to a more intense workout and nutritional plan over time. The worst thing someone can do is go into a weight loss program thinking they will lose 100lbs in a month and keep it off in the long run.
The Ambiguous Client:
This client comes to me not knowing what they want or why they want it. The problem with ambiguous goals is that it then takes a greater degree of change for them to perceive success. Therefore, when I am working with a weight loss client, my goal is to get them to narrow down their goal and really get into the heart of why they want to lose weight, why they want to put on muscle, or why they want to get toned. If their goals are not clarified before the program is started then progress will not be apparent to the client and he/she will most likely stop trying. I mean who wants to work hard for no results? The most efficient solution here is to ask them “What will change about your life if you accomplish your goal of losing this weight” or “How will your life be better if you lose this weight”. Many times a weight loss client will go to a trainer and tell them that they want to lose weight and the trainer will as “Why?”. Asking them why they want to lose the weight is an ambiguous question and if you ask an ambiguous question, expect to get an ambiguous answer in return.
The Highly Motivated Client:
This is the client who comes in and is ready to get started right then, right there. This differs from the overzealous client because they are more willing to listen to my advice and trust me. This client has most likely come in of their own accord and not because they read something in a magazine, saw something on TV, or heard something on the radio. My job in this case is to make sure that they know that the motivation that initially got them through the door may not be enough to get them all the way to their goals, and then show them how to get the motivation they will need.
The Common Denominator:
What is the one thing that all weight loss clients, or anyone trying to achieve a specific goal, have in common? CHANGE!!! If you are at point A and you want to get to point B then something has to change. In the case of a weight loss client, if point A is 280lbs and point B is 215lbs, then what is the one thing that needs to change? THEM!!! Is change ever comfortable? No, it is not. Biologically speaking, your body likes to live comfortably in state of homeostasis, so when you try to take your body out of that comfort zone it will not be happy with you. In fact, it will fight you and it will tell you to stop and it will tell you that it cannot do what you are asking it to do. If you don’t believe me, try to do a set of squat jumps for a minute straight and tell me that your body was not cursing you out about 30 seconds in. So if change is necessary for us to accomplish our goals, but our body doesn’t want to change, what gives? First, let me make a very clear distinction between two, commonly confused, words; pain and discomfort.
- Pain is the existence of something that should not be present in your body. Examples of this are sicknesses, diseases, muscle tears, ligament tears, broken bones, etc. Pain is your body’s response to these intruders and it’s like a loud alarm that goes off to let you know that something is not right.
- Discomfort, when broken down to it’s root words, literally means “Not With Strength”. Therefore, when you are doing an exercise or movement where your muscles are not strong enough, it will feel uncomfortable. At that moment of discomfort, your body is not in a crisis, it simply knows that you are trying to change something about it and it does not like it; it wants to remain in homeostasis. However, if you push through that feeling of discomfort you will find that your body does not need to stop every time your mind tells it to. In fact, the better you become at recognizing discomfort and are able to push through it, the more your body will change.
At the very first sign of discomfort we all have a choice to make. We will either push through the discomfort and embrace growth and change, or we will decide to stop and turn away from the discomfort and never grow. My whole life I have been more of an introvert and therefore always tried to avoid confrontation and even conversation, especially with people I did not know. But one of my greatest examples of the relationship between discomfort and growth came when I had no choice but to talk to some people I didn’t know very well. At first, it was so uncomfortable that I literally wished that I could crawl into my own skin and just disappear, but I didn’t. I stayed and just did my best to keep the conversation going, no matter how uncomfortable I was. Wouldn’t you know that the next time I was in a similar situation it was easier for me. Because I had pushed through my discomfort, I grew and I became just a little bit better, a little bit stronger in an area that I once considered myself to be weak in. As I continued to push myself out of my comfort zone, the better I became at talking to people, to the point that I hardly feel any discomfort at all when I am in those types of situations now. The same applies in the world of exercise. The more you are able to push through the physical discomfort of exercise, the better and stronger you will get.
How to Push Through Discomfort:
To be able to push through discomfort, there are a few things that you need to know. First, is that your mind is constantly swirling with thoughts, and if you are like most people about 80% of those thoughts are negative. Since our thoughts are influenced, created even, by the world around us we tend to pay attention to those that are loudest and shiniest. If you are in the middle of an uncomfortable experience and you continue to pay attention to how uncomfortable it is, will you want to push through it? Not likely. So what do you do? The most effective way to push through discomfort is to have an arsenal of positive thoughts at your disposal that you can turn your attention to at any given moment. For example, I could have a client who wants to lose weight because they are in so much pain all the time that they can’t even play with their children in the yard. While they are in the middle of an uncomfortable experience, I will remind them why they are doing what they are doing; they are doing it for their children, so they can live life with them and not miss out on their lives as they grow up. For a parent, that is all the motivation they need to push through any type of discomfort. Another way to push through is to have them give me a few “Truisms” about themselves. A Truism is a positive statement about you and/or your life that is undeniably true. For example, “I will persevere through any obstacle”, “I am strong”, “I am loved”, “I am determined”, “I am resilient”, etc…These are all forms of intrinsic motivation that are more powerful than any form of extrinsic motivation (loud music, people yelling at you, etc..). They are more powerful because they come from within YOU and because they are true.
Sum It Up:
In my experience, the majority of weight loss clients fail at achieving their goals because they have no idea what it takes to push through the discomfort that they will experience during their journey. Losing weight requires someone to change their physical body while giving it less energy than it requires to function. Not to mention the fact that fat is not the first fuel source that your body uses to create energy. The weight loss journey is incredibly uncomfortable and if one is not prepared how to recognize discomfort and given the tools to persevere through it, they are going to fail. My goal is to help give people the tools to succeed, no matter what goal they are trying to accomplish.