The Hard Truth about Your Weight Loss
I did my best to avoid writing a weight loss article this January. The myriad of publishings on losing pounds "this year", or how to shed 5 by February can be just as paralyzing as it is informative. To be honest, I didn't want to contribute to it.
What could I possibly say that hasn't already been said? Do I just say what you've already been told in my own words?
Eat more vegetables, more proteins, get more sleep, and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
Don't eat so much fast food, drink so much alcohol, stay up so late, or destroy an entire bag of chips during one episode of "How to make a Murderer".
Oh, and adding peppers to your extra cheese pizza doesn't make it a healthy meal...sadly.
Sure, I could get really scientific and explain why intermittent fasting is awesome for the heavier guys in the world, but risky for women. I could share strategies about how to overcome cravings, build more muscle, or shred a few extra pounds of body fat. Hell, I could get do some early marketing for my new fat loss program - and sell you on it before I launch it. (Hint - it's going to be pretty darn cool).
So, what am I going to talk about? Why did I change my mind?
Because there is far too much sugar coating going on in the world when discussing the realities of weight loss. There is a lot of deferring blame to the outside world, pointing to the stress of life, and a whole lot of excuses as to why one isn't successful in their pursuit.
Weight Loss Starts with Accepting the Facts -
There are a series of realities of weight loss programs that fly under the radar because they aren't sexy, empowering, or easy to write without upsetting someone. There are words that many trainers, writers, and publications want to avoid because they evoke negative emotions.
I get it.
Yet, successful people in life, business, and fitness know one truth beyond all.
Owning your actions and accepting responsibility is critical to achieving and continuing success in your life.
Ducking your problems or blaming external factors not only damages your credibility, but also leads to convincing yourself that you aren't in control. Sacrificing this control is the first step in ensuring you'll never reach a healthy and confident weight!
In weight loss - there is no long-term success without realizing a few facts about diet, exercise, weight-loss, and body image. These are those facts:
1. You aren't on the cover of the magazine, you are not going to compete this year, and stop worrying about Instagram likes-
All of these things are about pushing your image into the public sphere for approval (and judgement). While a quick skim of this tactic leads many to think it'll motivate them to work harder and stay focused, it actually does the exact opposite.
It puts the focus outside of yourself. You aren't measuring your progress - the world is. If they don't approve, which in a world of fake tans and big pecs, fake boobs and tight glutes, they won't; then, you are going to find yourself demoralized and demotivated.
Demoralized and demotivated means you are going to stop paying attention to detail, which leads to a stall in progress. A stall in progress means you'll get frustrated and quit. Quitting means you'll actually end up gaining weight as you compensate for the sacrifices you made in the place.
Don't compare yourself to your trainer, or a fitness model. Don't set a goal that is admirable but impossible. Focus on developing habits and losing a few pounds at a time. If you are a guy with a big round belly and you want to look like the shredded guy on your muscle magazine - awesome.
First, focus on looking the guy who jogs past you every morning while you are on the way to work. Focus on looking like the guy picking out produce at the grocery store instead of the guy deciding what size he wants his coke and fries to be.
Focus on being the guy that actually does what he says he is going to do instead of the guy who blames his genetics, the cold weather, or Professor Dumbledore for his weight.
You need to want it. YOU
2. You need to NEED to change
One of my favorite sayings from my childhood comes from my mother -
"Want in one hand and shit in the other; see which one fills up first".
The point is obvious - your wants mean nothing. In fact, in a matter of bluntness - in a world with over 7.1 BILLION people in it - no one gives a damn what you want.
I don't mean that rudely. Seriously. There just isn't enough time, money, or patience in the human species to account for everyone's wants.
NEEDS however, those we can work with.
People need air, food, water, shelter, protection, good health and love. We have our family and friends, jobs and charities - all designed to help everyone achieve those needs. No one is donating to the "Kevin wants a Lambo out front fund". Nor should they.
My point here is this:
You need to want your weight loss, yes. More importantly, you need to need that weight loss. You need to not get out of breathe when you go up a single flight of stairs. You need to stop buying doritoes everytime you see they have a new flavor. You need to stop make excuses about your problems and instead you need to own the fact that weight loss is hard, but you need to do it.
Because it is neccessary for your survival. Plain and simple. Walking around thirty or forty pounds overweight isn't how you were designed. It isn't a few extra. It is the reason you have diabetes at a young age, or why you can break into a fierce sweat doing anything. It is why you sleep like shit and have no energy to get through the day.
The difference between wanting to lose weight and needing to lose weight is as simple as going to a restaraunt and observing the ordering, feasting, and social habits of all those in attendance. Everyone there wants to lose weight. Every single person wishes they were a few pounds lighter and felt a little bit tighter.
Yet, here comes a beer and bread for the table. Oh look, mozzerella sticks. Another beer. Chicken Parm with a side of fries soon follows. Two more beers and a wise decision to skip dessert later - one could conclude that this individual doesn't care about their weight.
It isn't being judgmental when you do the math and see a few thousand calories and few hundred grams of fats and sugar. It's about being honest.
What does needing to lose weight look like?
Believe it or not it isn't the girl quietly nibbling on spinach leaves like a rabbit in the corner and licking an ice cube. It isn't the guy who spends 6 hours at the gym and only drinks protein shakes.
Those people don't exist, or at the very least, they are a rare few (and not healthy either).
A person who needs to lose weight is the person who goes to the same restaraunt on the same night and sits just one table away. Instead of treating this night out like an all-expenses-paid trip to gluttony city - they order a glass of red wine and pass on the bread. No appetizer and a second water satisifies them until a delicious cut of salmon served with vegetables and a baked potato is placed in front of them.
"It's all about choices" - like my fellow Tier 3+ coach Mike Gallagher states.
--Wanting to lose weight is eating right Monday through Friday afternoon, but having a frustrating day at the office and deciding to blow off steam over Happy Hour. Happy Hour leads to a late night, and a skipped spin class on Saturday. Guilt sets in and soon enough the whole weekend follows a spiral.
--Needing to lose weight is eating right Monday through Friday afternoon, but having a frustrating day at the office and deciding to blow off steam by taking that boxing class you've been eyeing. A stress-free and proud individual goes home and eats a dinner they planned and goes to bed early. Spin class is a blast and Saturday is productive. You even got a drink with a friend you'd hadn't seen in a while, but the night ended early, and that's ok by you.
Like a good friend, and Men's Health Top Trainer - Gideon Akande says "We Got Goals".
3. You Will Mess Up - Own it and Move on
If you think that you will execute everything perfectly on your way to your optimal weight and body composition, then I'm sorry to be rude and break this to you, but you wont.
There is no such thing as perfection in this world.
Looking at the example above of the happy hour making the weekend go awry. Maybe that person is a die hard fitness fanatic and has spent months training hard, skipping booze, and eating a vegetable and protein rich diet. Maybe that was just a bad weekend.
We are all human. I'm a trainer who loves my workouts, actually enjoys chicken and asparagus, and tries to be in bed at reasonable hours. Yet, every now and again I'll have a two day hiatus from the heathly lifestyle. One bourbon may turn to two, which may become five in a night. Pizza will probably follow. The next morning will probably involve a red Gatorade.
That doesn't mean I don't reset myself as soon as possible and get back on the wagon. I realize that I didn't do my body well, but what would be worse is eschewing the whole damn thing and acting like I don't care anymore.
I love the phrase another fellow Tier 3+ trainer, Virginia Kinkel, uses when working with her clients -
"Ok, so you get really tired and forget to brush your teeth one night. Does that mean you'll never brush your teeth again?"
Of course not. You'll wake up in the morning and sprint to the bathroom and brush those puppies, maybe twice. You sure as hell won't walk around acting like you don't care about it.
Truthfully, that is all that needs to be said on this one. No one is perfect. You'll screw up. Cool. Move on and get back at it.
4. You need Resilience and Perspective - not Encouragement
This relates a bit to my first point about needing others to observe your progress, but it goes a bit deeper.
In a society where every kid gets a trophy for even thinking about playing a sport, and scores are no longer being kept - there are no more winners and losers. In a world where you can't chant "airball" at basketball games, and even schools are questioning the validity of grades - intentions outweigh production.
A simple fact of life is that without pain and loss we are incapable of growing. We curate our social media feeds to only show our victories, and only tell stories of our triumphs. We show pictures of us partying in Vegas with sexy showgirls, but not pictures of us being rejected by the girl of our dreams.
But dear God is it neccessary.
Bear with me as I share a personal story that has never been told to anyone in my life:
I got cut from my high school baseball team during my senior year. I had been on the varsity and JV teams in the years prior, so making it seemed like a sure thing. When I got to school and peaked at the list posted on the boy's locker room door - I shattered.
I wasn't going to be the next Derek Jeter or even Jeff Reboulet for that matter. I didn't hit well, had an average arm at the time, but had a very sure glove at shortstop or second base. I should have been on the team.
I was devestated and hid in the bathroom to call my mom. She said I could leave school and so that is what I did. I got into my GMC pick up truck and sped away from the school I hated, and my classmates who thought it funny to point out my failures.
My mom did like any loving mother would - she hugged me and consoled me...then took me to TGI Fridays. That day I had barbeque ribs, a big ass plate of french fries and probably 3 glasses of soda. We talked and time passed. Yet, through all of the "I love you and you are going to be Ok" talk - the thing that stood out to me was her telling me something to this effect -
"You aren't going to get your way all the time, and your father and I aren't going to always be around to protect you, or pick you up. One day you'll have to learn how to pick yourself up and keep going. You'll have to be able to say "screw you, I'm better and I know it". You have to be willing to take punches."
I didn't know it then, but that talk changed my life.
See, what I haven't told you yet is that I didn't try to be a better baseball player that year. I spent the winter months eating junk food and playing video games. I stayed up too late and thought the gym was spelled "Jim" - and he was just another guy. I didn't go to the batting cages, and I didn't throw to get my arm ready.
So, during tryouts I was just a 5 foot something kid with very little muscle mass, a slow bat, and a dead arm. Sure, I could field with the best of the team, but I was slow and out of shape. My swing was ugly and I couldn't hit anything that wasn't 65 and down the middle. I should have been cut.
To wrap it all up -
We all want to be encouraged. We all want to feel supported in our endeavors. Everyone wants a high five and a hug every now and again. Truthfully, everyone deserves one. Life is hard. Being successful at life is even harder.
Yet, encouragement will only get you so far. My clients know that I'll high five the hell out of em' after a great lift, and hug them before and after every session just because I think they are amazing for giving me their best. But, I'm just the trainer. I can coach and push. I can love and encourage until the day I'm pushing daisies.
They still need to be resilient. They still need to be able to self assess. You do too. You need to be able to say, "well i really screwed that up, and it hurts". Then, you need to lick your wounds and heal and move forward.
Occasionally I reflect on life and think of how to describe it. One such time I came up with the following quote. It is written in 3 places that I see everyday so I never lose sight of what I think it means.
"Motivation is what makes us approach the door. Perseverance makes us walk through it. Nevertheless, resilience is what keeps in the place we so desired to enter in the first place."
It isn't about Facebook likes, or comments that say "way to go girl". It isn't about posting a selfie of yourself in the gym throwing up a bicep in the mirror. It isn't pictures of your food or a video of you leg pressing a small school.
It is the willingness to work when the lights are off. To heal your own wounds when they occur and to push forward through pain because that is what you are designed to do.
Encouragement is your mother in the stands telling you to knock the ball out of the park. Perspective is knowing a single wins the game. Resilience is not changing your approach when the first two pitches are strikes.
Success is stepping back into the box and trusting yourself to know that a curveball is coming. You've been here before. You'll keep your weight back and look for the seams on the ball - you know you'll see it spinning. Instead of being too eager and jumping out at it and trying to yoke it over the fence - you'll keep your hands and tight and drop the barrel of that bat into the zone and loop the ball over the first basemen's head. It is a game winning hit.
Your weight loss can be a game winning hit too. It is the summation of being critical with yourself when neccessary, honest always, and resilient until you die. There will be curveballs along the way, and there will always be a crowd watching. Some will love you no matter what and encourage you even when you fail.
And you will fail. You will strikeout more times than you hit home runs. But, you will learn lessons everytime - just as hitters learn how to better hit.
Others in the crowd will watch you to see you fail. They'll ignore your successes, but throw a million likes at your post about hating exercise. They don't want to see you do what they can't. Like crabs in a steampot they will try to pull you down.
So don't lose weight for public approval. Don't tell everyone you are doing a show. Don't post progress photos and vines and instasnaptwitters about every meal. You'll get likes, and you'll be encouraged, but those likes and those comments won't do shit for you when you are stressed, lonely, and ready to quit.
Only you can handle that. It is in the choices you make, the attitude you bring to the game, and the decision that you need to be a better you. Exercise is hard and dieting can be a pain. You'll sweat and cry, cuss and spit. You'll gag at your greens, and put cheese in your eggs every now and again. Sometimes you'll break and order a whole pizza on a Friday and say "F it all" as you watch a movie.
That's ok. Weight loss - like life - is a process. So too is climbing a mountain. The mountain top is only glorious if you did the work to make the climb. So, stop making excuses and start taking ownership of your experience.
Put your helmet on and step up to the plate - you are up to bat!