Wednesday, December 2, 2020

When Weight Loss Is Not Enough

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People love success stories. Reading success stories fills them mushy feelings and psychologically makes them feel like they've accomplished something. Weight loss success stories are particularly popular. YouTube is filled with them. There are Instagram accounts dedicated to them. They get passed around Facebook like hotcakes.

I sometimes feel as though these stories in a social media setting do more harm than good.

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You have a great story: a relatable hero, a relatable struggle, a moment that motivated them to finally take action, and an inspiring journey of transformation and success. You know the video/story is going to end in success, but you watch to the end for the for the feelings, sense of accomplishment, and closure. Often times, you hear the person talk about mental transformation as well. How their confidence and happiness changed. How they feel ready to take on anything.

What we don't talk about is the journey that doesn't end in celebration. No, I'm not talking about the people who's journey ended in a failure and return to old bad habits. I'm not even talking about the people who gained the weight back a year later. What I'm talking about is even more horrible than that.

The person who loses the weight, but doesn't feel any different. Let me rewind a bit.

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Imagine a person who's overweight, dealing with poor self-image, poor self-esteem, and has struggled with a life time of underhanded remarks about her size. This person sees other people lose weight and transform their lives. She decides that's the path she needs to take. After finding the right method and being completely sold on the changes needed, she loses the weight and has a beautiful transformation.

Another success story... right? 

Things got off to a good start with her coach. She was motivated and ready to do what it takes. The coach made notice of how negative she was about herself, but assumed that would improve through the process. After one month, her coach was blown away at how hard she worked. Never missed a workout, never cheated on her diet, and always showed up ready to be pushed. When she got on the scale she had lost 20lbs in the first month.  The coach was so excited, he hardly notice her frowning at herself over in the mirror. Over the next few months, the coach realized that she actually seemed more and more down after each weight in. He had hoped she'd snap out of it on the final weigh-in, when they finally met the goal weight.

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That didn't happen. Confused, the trainer says, "I thought you'd be happy! You did awesome and you look great."

Her response: "I don't look any different. I'm still fat and people still don't like me."

Not a success story... but a heart breaking reality. Weight loss was not enough.

Some of you might be checking out and dismissing this as fairy tale.  I promise you, it's closer to a horror story than a fairy tale. Others might be pondering possible reasons like orthorexia or other disordered eating. There was no obsession about exercise or food, but more of an indifference and disappointment.

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Several similar phenomenon are detailed in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics written by Maxwell Maltz, a former plastic surgeon. He was well known and often asked about his successes and the seemingly miraculous transformations they underwent, not just in appearances, but in personality. In the book, he admits that as amazing as those successes were, it was the failures that taught him the most. He talked about patients with severe congenital defects undergoing surgery and refusing to see the transformation. Two different people with similar disfigurements receiving similar surgeries. One came out of it happier, more confident, and more social. The other remained withdrawn and depressed.

I highly recommend his book and I won't spoil any more of it specifically.

The problem his failures had,  as well as the client who lost the weight, is that in spite of their amazing transformations, they held on to their old self-image. So back to our example.

She found solutions to the her perceived external problem, her weight. Those solutions delivered as promised. What she never addressed was the internal problem, her mind. She couldn't change how she saw her self, nor did she every truly believe that she could change.

So what does this mean for us?

Mindset has to be a part of the training. My fellow Precision Nutrition students and graduates are receiving the appropriate training in this regard. However, most certified fitness professionals receive little to no training on mindset. This needs to change.

To the mom or dad reading this, you are in control of your self-image. If you are struggling with your weight and have a poor self-image, it is time to start visualizing a better life for yourself. To work on your mindset and allow yourself to be happy. If you want to lose weight, great, but training your mind is a must. Sometimes... Weight loss is not enough.

Also, there's more to life than weight loss. Weight loss is something that can happen, but the pursuit of fitness, health, and wellness should not be measured on a scale, but in how you feel being you.
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At Return To Fit, we help men and women to build stronger minds and bodies and feel good in their own skin so that they can confidently take on any challenge or opportunity without worrying about their health, energy level, or self-image getting in the way.

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