So I’m wearing my Exercise Scientist hat today, and my Psychologist cardigan, and my steel-capped, ass-kicking boots. I will be blunt, but honest, and possibly politically incorrect. I will also possibly say what you don’t want to hear.
Feel free to look away – now.
Hmm, still here huh?
Even though I’ve spoken way too much, for way too many years about getting in shape (in the course of my work) and I’m kinda over it, recent events have compelled me to write this post. It seems we’re still missing the point when it comes to losing weight and fat (effectively and permanently). Permanent weight loss – there’s a concept! If you, or someone you know, needs to lose weight, pay attention and/or pass this post along.
Conventional thinking tells us that losing weight is essentially a physiological process; lift this, run there, stretch that, get your heart rate up, increase your incidental activity, decrease your calorie intake, no carbs after three (‘cause that’s gonna do it) and increase your overall energy expenditure. Mostly good advice.
Traditional approaches (by the medical profession and the fitness industry) tell us that weight loss is essentially about three key variables; exercise, food and lifestyle. Oh yeah, and more education. And to a point, they are right. But only to a point.
I’m here to tell you that while exercise, food, lifestyle and education are indeed important variables in the process, without doubt, the biggest determinant of weight loss (or gain) is what’s going on in that nine pound (four kilo) thing sitting on the top of your shoulders. For the most part, it determines success or failure.
The Psychology of Weight Loss
Interestingly, the psychology of weight loss is rarely discussed or taught (in any depth) by the experts and in my humble opinion, that’s because many of them don’t get it. ‘It’ being the head stuff that goes with the body stuff. If you have been, or are currently, overweight, then you absolutely know that losing weight is first and foremost a psychological and emotional process.
I was a fatty (200lbs, 90kgs at fourteen) and when I got my head in the right place, my body followed. I thought different, chose different(ly) and created different. For some people their obesity is merely a symptom of their thinking, their standards and their beliefs.
Q. What really determines weight loss (or gain)?
A. Attitude, thinking, self-control, mind-set and ultimately, decisions.
We know what to do. But we don’t do what we know. We’ve never been more educated. Yet we’ve never been fatter. We’ve never had more resources. And we’ve never made more excuses (heard them all). We’ve never had more reasons to lose weight. And we’ve never wasted more time.
The Quick-Fix Society
Many people don’t want to hear this message because it’s too fundamental and obvious. And it requires real effort, sacrifice, work and self-control. “Whatever you do Craig, don’t mention the ‘D’ word (discipline) and please don’t talk to me about self-control again.” No, we’d rather talk about weight-loss theory number ten million or the latest ‘breakthrough’ pill, powder, potion, product, gizmo or gadget. Or that amazing new weight-loss book. ‘Cause we need another one of those. We want quick, easy, convenient and painless. We are soft. We are precious, lazy and lack self-control. We are the quick-fix society. And the instant-gratification generation. And the fat generation.
We want an answer that doesn’t require effort or sacrifice on our part. We don’t want to acknowledge that we are the answer – and the problem. And it is this mentality which keeps us (us, the society) fat. If the answer to Global obesity was in fact, more education, information or resources, then we would all be getting leaner by the day because we’ve never been more educated, informed or equipped when it comes to diet, exercise, lifestyle and all that ‘obesity-related stuff’.
Some Food for Thought (no pun intended).
(You can still look away at any time).
1. External change needs to be accompanied (or preceded) by, internal change (for it to be lasting).
2. Most people who lose weight regain it (over 95%) because they haven’t really changed their attitude or thinking. They change their behaviors for a while but deep (deep, deep) down they haven’t really changed their core thinking, beliefs, attitudes or standards. On a subconscious level many people are waiting for it (the diet, the fitness kick) to be over, so they can go back to being ‘normal’. And even when they do eat less and exercise more they (often) slide into a deprivation mentality – constantly telling themselves that they’re ‘missing out’.
3. If we tell ourselves that losing weight will be a painful, horrible process – it will be (for everyone). Attitude = outcome.
4. The sooner we stop looking for ‘easy’ and start looking for ‘effective’, the sooner we’ll start to see real (forever) change.
5. Weight-loss martyrs are a pain in the ass – “I’ve been so good… I’ve been so good.”
6. While food, exercise and lifestyle are important ingredients and variables in the weight-loss process, it is the thing on top of our shoulders which determines how we eat, exercise and live, which in turn determines our physiological state.
7. The fat person with all the knowledge, education and resources… and a crap attitude, will stay fat.
8. The fat person with limited knowledge, resources and genetic potential.. and a great attitude, will produce much better results every time.
9. The sooner we stop getting in shape for ‘events’ (weddings, birthdays, reunions, parties) and start getting in shape for life, the sooner we’ll start to see forever results.
10. The fitness industry and medical profession often have a one-dimensional approach to weight-loss; physical. This is ignorant, naive and ineffective. Losing weight (effectively) is a complex, multi-dimensional process (physical, emotional and psychological).
11. Losing weight is not about finding the right program, diet, supplement or drug; it’s about finding the right attitude.
12. Many (okay, most) fat people make excuses and tell lies. A lot. Just ask the ex fat kid. Yes, I know this sounds offensive but if you had experienced the thousands of conversations with as many fat people as I have, you’d know that I’m telling the truth. You can get offended or educated; it’s a choice.
13. By the way, ‘fat ‘ is not an insult (in this discussion), it’s a physiological state.
14. The sooner we call fat what it is (as opposed to deluding ourselves by calling each other full-figured, big-boned, heavy-set and voluptuous) the sooner we will get serious about addressing obesity in a real, practical, no bullshit way. Perhaps we should worry less about political correctness and more about heart disease, diabetes, bowel cancer and the plethora of other obesity-related conditions.
“Whatever you do, don’t mention the ‘F’ word.. you might hurt her feelings; she’s not fat, she’s voluptuous!”.
15. We love to play the blame game. We wanna blame someone or something for our obesity. It’s a time thing. It’s a genetics thing. As long as it’s not a ‘me’ thing. Otherwise I might have to get off my ass and take responsibility for my fat self.
If you’re still talking to me, let me know your thoughts on this subject…
Written by Craig Harper at Motivational Speaker