At the beginning of this year, I bet you had some new year’s resolutions. Some of you might be thinking “ah true, I had something…” We talk about losing weight every year. After Christmas you might have thought “I’ll start exercising next year!” or “I’ll lose 5kg in 2 months!”. I face these kinds of resolutions every day as a Personal Trainer, and I have some thoughts about them that I want to share with you.
Everyone is talking about weight loss
It seems like everyone on this planet has been talking about it. In 2020, “How to lose weight” was the 7th most asked question on google. Even “How to make money” was 24th. People are more interested in losing weight than making money!
Of course there are thousands of YouTube videos about how to lose weight. This topic is flooded, but not very many videos or articles ask the questions that make you think a little deeper about this topic.
1: Since when did you start wanting to lose weight?
You might have been wanting to lose weight since around puberty when you first started caring about your body shape. But have you ever wondered why your wish is still only a wish after thinking about it for so many years?
It comes down to your priorities. For example, if you were told by your doctor that your heart is at risk because of your weight, you would judge it as the highest priority and try to lose weight straight away. But if that’s not the case for you, and you’re just randomly thinking “Happy New Year! It’s time to lose weight!” then your reasons and motivations are not very strong and you’re likely to give up on your resolution relatively quickly.
To successfully make such a lifestyle change, instead of making another New Year’s resolution, begin by thinking about how important weight loss is to you, and start to prioritise it in your daily life.
*Please note: If you prioritise weight loss so highly that it comes before your work, friends, family, and health, you could be facing an eating disorder. In this case you need to stop relying on general information found on the internet, and start working through things with a professional to learn what you really really need.
2: What made you want to lose weight?
There must be a moment when you felt “ah I’m too big.” What were you doing then? Was it a word that someone said to you? Or was it the words that you threw at yourself?
If the reason was “I don't want people to think that I’m fat” or something that someone said to you, please remember that this is for your sake, and your sake alone.
As long as your desire to lose weight stems from a reason like that, no matter how lean you get you will still have those thoughts and fears about your body.
Do you know why? Because even if you lose 10kg over the course of a year, if you still get puffy from eating a pizza the night before, then you’ll still think “ah I’ve got bigger.”
Your life is too short to live in fear of peoples’ comments about your body. There’s nothing good in spending time with people who make such unnecessary comments anyway. Such judgements are usually based on their mood or whatever has happened in their life, so don’t worry about it. It’s out of your control. Stay away from those negative influences. Live for yourself.
3: Where did your goal number come from?
If you are saying you want to lose 5kg, where does that number come from?
If you think you want to be the average weight for your height, why do you need to be the average?
Let’s be clear. Let’s say you want to get leaner. You want to change your appearance and how you feel about your body. But your goal setting is based on a number on a scale that doesn't always show how you look or feel.
If you have a healthy diet and lifestyle, you could get leaner without dropping a kilo on the scale. On the other hand, if you stop exercising, that number gets lower but your body could look looser. This inverse effect happens all the time.
For example, I weigh 65kg. I’m 5kg heavier than when I moved to New Zealand 4 years ago, but I fit in my clothes better than ever. I’m 10kg heavier than what’s considered “model weight” (or whatever it's called without evidence). But when I ask my friends and clients how heavy I look, they say about 55-60kg. There's a 10kg gap between how heavy I look and what I actually weigh. We don’t have conversations in our daily lives like “Oh hey, ah your body weight is 55kg, cool, so today’s meeting is about our business strategy during this pandemic...”. So you'd need a darn good reason to chase a specific number that doesn’t even give you what you want.
(Back when I weighed 55kg but wanted to cover my body because I was ashamed of it. )
(I weigh 65kg, but fit better and feel better in my clothes)
Maybe it’s a good idea to start changing your fitness goals to more appearance-based and feeling-based ones. (e.g.) I want to wear these clothes and feel good; I want to feel confident in front of the mirror, etcetera.
4: Are you after just a physical change? Aren’t you missing something more important?
I’ve seen so many people who’ve gained confidence by transforming their body. Some say they feel more confident and do better at work just because their body image has improved.
Looking at such positive changes every day, I find that what increased their confidence was not the degree of the change, but how much effort they put towards their own body, knowing that whatever they do has meaning and is working as they want.
You gain confidence because you worked for it, not just because your body has changed.
A physical change can be the key to boosting your confidence, and it can be proof of your effort. But don’t underrate the huge psychological change by only focusing on your visible physical results. This psychological change is not measurable, but the confidence you gain has the power to change your entire life in a positive way. So, look for both visible and invisible changes to celebrate your effort.
5: Last but not least, why can’t you be happy about yourself now?
I’ve seen some people who can never be happy about themselves, no matter how much they’ve changed.
Those are the types of people who are just not happy no matter what they have.
I used to be this type when I had body image issues - I still am sometimes I have to admit. But I am a work in progress.
This type of person cannot be happy about themselves, because they have a strong desire to keep getting better and better. They want more. They believe they can do better. It always feels like they are not doing as much as they should. They are always
striving toward a bright future where their body is better than now, without focusing on today’s happiness.
This is also called perfectionism. They put in a lot of effort. They do their best at all times. Nothing but achievement satisfies them, so they are not good at drawing a line and saying “I think I’m good here, it’s enough”.
They need to smash their goals. That's why such people tend to rely on a number; it makes the goal measurable and easy to tell if they’ve achieved it or not. But as I said, a number on a scale doesn’t show us how we look, or represent how we feel on a grander scale. If you don’t know how to feel happy about what you have, you will find that you still criticise yourself in the future, no matter how many changes you make. I wasted so much time and effort, running this negative perfectionism loop that has no exit, and in the end it didn’t make me happier about my body.
Therefore, I want you to stop for a moment and ponder on why you aren’t happy about yourself today. Is it because of your body? Or is it the way you talk to yourself?
What you want by losing weight
Those are the 5 questions that I wish more people would think and talk about before trying to lose weight.
I think that weight loss and muscle gain are similar to earning money. If you don’t know where to draw the line, it’s never enough. You can never have enough money. In reality, more money doesn’t always mean you are happier. What makes you happy is your attitude towards money and the life you have.
Weight loss is the same. Being leaner doesn’t mean you are happier. So stop relying on your body shape, or a number on a scale, to determine your happiness or success. Learn to appreciate what you have, change your attitude towards your body, and look at more than just the number on the scale before trying this or that diet. Your life is more than just a number.