The majority of people I’ve trained in my career or heard discuss their fitness goals, name weight loss as their primary goal. Although I understand it is an important goal for them to achieve, it almost always leads to frustration and failure. People convince themselves they aren’t getting results because the scale doesn’t reflect a number they have in their heads. They tend to overlook the multitude of other benefits and improvements to their health and fitness.
For most people, weight has very little to do with fitness. There is no set number for what weight each person should be, it’s only a superficial figure in our heads (don’t even get me started on BMI). Even the people I’ve known who have been successful at weight loss, although a remarkable and proud achievement, have done it by sacrificing their lifestyle and neglecting more critical areas of their health.
I coach instead to use performance as a goal, not weight loss. Think of weight loss as an outcome and performance as the goal. Performance measures improvements in areas such as strength, mental health, sports performance, endurance, speed, flexibility, body fat, metabolism, energy levels, focus, cognition, and injury reduction. There can be hundreds of measurements for performance, and weight loss is not one of them.
One could argue weight loss is good for performance, but weight loss alone will not make you perform better other than being lighter. We can convince ourselves that losing weight is good for our mental health, but the path to getting there can be damaging to our mental health.
The Cons of Weight Loss Goals
- Daily disappointment
- Complicated science (see below)
- Only one measurement of health
- Low success rate
- Not enough on its own
- Limited benefits
- Indicates very little about your fitness level
- May lead to eating disorders
The Pros of Performance Goals
- Weekly progress
- Simple science
- Many data points to measure performance
- 100% success rate (with my clients)
- Improves quality of life and longevity
- Many benefits
- Indicates a lot about your fitness level
- Note: Be mindful of recovery and ego-related injuries
Why Weight Loss Is Complicated
Here’s some of what factors into your weight:
- Homeostasis (the body’s overriding goal for you)
- Caloric intake
- Dietary choices
- Nutrients in your diet
- Exercise selection
- Exercise consistency
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
- Genetic predisposition
- Hormones affected by lifestyle and genetics (Insulin, Leptin, Ghrelin)
- Sleep quality and duration
- Medical conditions
- Emotional eating
- Social and environmental factors
- Social support
- Access to healthy food and physical activity
If weight loss is your goal, start focusing on improvements to your performance. I can guarantee you that with consistency in exercise, nutrition, sleep, and stress management, weight loss will happen if needed.
Be patient and keep in mind that the people who appear fit and manage to stay fit have put in years and hundreds of hours per year to get that way.
Be persistent and stick with it. Quitting only guarantees one result. With fitness, every effort will be rewarded in some way.
Be proud and celebrate the small wins. The scale does not measure what matters most. Getting a workout in is a win. Getting stronger is a win. Learning something new is a win. Choosing a healthier option is a win. Stretching for a few minutes is a win. Going for a walk is a win. Buying a new workout outfit is a win. There’s so much winning going on.
In summary, be patient, persistent, and proud of your performance.