A New York Times article was just published with the title “Americans Blame Obesity On Will Power, Despite Evidence It’s Genetic.”
These were the key points of the article:
- Losing weight is really hard
- Most people fail
- You’re better off not trying the diet and exercise route and getting weight loss surgery
- We are all simply a product of our environment and genetic make up
I couldn’t argue with many of the main tenants of the article. Losing weight is really tough. I’ve worked with enough clients to know that.
But, I don’t agree with the last two points. We are not simply a victim of our circumstances. More importantly, we are not better off not trying to get healthy and fit and opting for weight loss surgery.
I think we want to hear it’s not our fault. We want to blame someone or something else for our problems. Our desire to look for someone to blame extends far beyond obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. I find it in my marriage. It’s easy to think, “if Nicole would just change X, our marriage would be so much better.” Maybe that’s true. Maybe if you had a different genetic makeup, you wouldn’t be as fat. Maybe if you grew up with an active family, you wouldn’t have such a hard time getting to the gym. But, just as I can’t change Nicole (she’s pretty great already), you can’t change your genetic make-up or childhood. We need to instead focus on the things we can change—our behaviors, choices, and habits—and get to work.
Don’t get me wrong, the stats are alarming. The NYT article said, “The self-help route has not been successful for most. Ninety-four percent of the survey participant’s who were obese had tried to lose weight with diet or exercise, to no avail. A quarter of those people said they had tried five to nine times, and 15 percent said they had tried more than 20 times.”
Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth pursuing. In fact, I would argue the things most worth our time and effort in life are the most difficult.
Imagine if we looked at quitting smoking in the same manner. Quitting is tough, so why bother? Those who quit for at least 1 year took an average of 8 to 14 attempts before success. It’s really tough to quit and many fail. Does this mean we shouldn’t even attempt it? Of course not.
Maybe you got delt a bad hand when it comes to genetics and you grew up with twinkies and balogna sandwhiches. But, you only have one life. How you decide to live it is up to you and you alone. You are responsible for your health and body.
Changing our approach
The NYT article and I agree on one thing: our current approach to weight loss and lifestyle change isn’t working. But, trying to “go on a diet” 20 times and failing doesn’t necessarily mean weight loss is impossible. It means current weight loss practices are down right jacked up. The status quo of crash diets, intense exercise, shake-diets, and juice cleanses are doing more harm than good.
Don’t become prey
Not everyone in the fitness industry wants to see you succeed long-term. There are plenty of fitness businesses promising the world in exchange for a quick buck.
“Lose 10 pounds of fat in 30 days”
“Juice cleanse removes 7 pounds in 9 days!”
These diets work. Temporarily. Any diet or exercise plan which puts you in a calorie deficit will lead to weight loss. We have proven to the fitness industry again and again, if they can get us to lose 10 pounds fast, we will tell all our friends and make the fitness company a bunch of money.
Most weight loss centers, boot camps, diet plans and online programs champion ultra low-calorie diet plans and soul-crushing workouts every day. The weight comes falling off. 5 pounds the firt week. 2 pounds a week for the next few. Eventually, however, people plateau, get burned out, or injured. The weight comes back on and they become another failed weight-loss statistic.
If you’re thinking long-term, which you should be, you need to find an approach that changes you for longer than a few months.
What you need is a sustainable plan with your life.
Going from eating fast food most meals of the day to a strict meal plan will lead to weight loss. But, the rapid weight loss is almost always short-lived. People gain the weight back and end up feeling defeated.
Think about the commitments you have in your life. Is it realistic long-term for you to make the changes you are aspiring to make? If you’re a mom with 3 kids, it’s probably not realistic for you to make different meals for yourself and the rest of your family. It may work for a few weeks, but your setting yourself up for burnout.
A busy working professional probably can’t commit to 5 hours a week in the gym and 3 hours of cardio outside of it. He’s better off shooting for 3 strength training sessions per week and a few short interval workouts at home. We have an awesome client at Village Fitness who is the CEO of a company. He works out for 50 minutes at Village Fitness three mornings per week. He does strength training, an interval finisher and stretching and mobility work all in 50 minutes. In just three hours a week, he’s made massive headway towards getting lean and moving better.
Most of our clients at Village Fitness are busy. Really busy. They run companies, take care of kids, or manage a home. Sometimes all three. Therefore, I’m always cognizant to avoid overloading them with too much.
We run our Village Fitness Challenge 3 times per year. During the challenge, we give out a meal plan, recipe guide, grocery list, and off-day workouts. Even though our meal plan is far from a restrictive crash diet (in fact, it is quite sensible), it was almost impossible for our busier clients to follow.
What we’ve found works better is making slow, habit changes. Eating slowly, stopping at 80% full, or integrating veggies with every meal. These small changes add up to a completely changes lifestyle. Unfortunately, slow, small changes, is not a sexy slogan. But that is how you create massive, lasting change. Change your habits. The results will take care of themselves.
Get professional help
Most people know what to do, implementation is the tough part.
For me, hiring a coach a few years ago was one of the best decisions I’ve made for my fitness. Exercise has never been a struggle. I love working out in the gym and getting outside running or on my bike. Food is my weakness. I really, really love food. And I often eat too much and too fast. Still, it’s my biggest struggle. But, when I finally had someone to ask me if I was staying consistent with integrating habits into my life, it made a huge difference in my life. When I started making habit changes, it didn’t immediately lead to massive changes. I made slow incremental changes over the course of a year.
If you’re struggling to lose weight or stay on track with your fitness, hire a coach. Better yet, hire a good coach. Find a coach who doesn’t recommend a drastic diet plan or excessive exercise program. Look for a coach who will tell you “it’s going to take a while, years perhaps, but I think we can accomplish your goals.”
If you hear the words “juice-cleanse” or “shake-detox” go running in the opposite direction.
Making an investment in your health and fitness is one of the best decisions you will ever make. I don’t know anyone who looks back on years of personal training or a gym membership (that they actually used) with regret.
You’ve got two choices
First, you can decide to live reactively and become a victim of circumstance. You can eat the food everyone around you eats and not exercise. Sadly, this often leads to being unable to live the life you want at an early age.
Or you can be proactive. Realize you make your own choices. Every day you decide if you want to move closer to your health and fitness goals or further away from them. Will you get to bed early so you can make it in for your group training session tomorrow morning? Or will you decide to cancel because you stayed up late watching the new Gilmore Girls? I heard it wasn’t even that good anyways.
As I write this, I’m on a plane to Reno to spend a week with family. The flight attendant just came around offering cookies or Cheese-it’s ®. Neither will do much for you nutritionally. Yet, everyone took a bag and mindlessly ate. A bag of Cheese-it’s® or cookies won’t derail your progress. But, if you constantly follow along with what everyone else is doing, you’ll struggle to meet your health and fitness goals.
Yes, it’s tough to decide to go against the grain and not do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable and awkward. But, if you want to be lean and healthy, it’s simply what you’ll have to do. It won’t be easy. But it will be worth it.
To long-term results and community,