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3 Reasons Why Weight Loss Challenges Fail

Posted Aug 04 2009 5:52pm

weight-loss My friend Heather was recently part of her office’s weight loss challenge.  When she signed up, she felt the in-office ‘Biggest Loser’ competition was exactly the motivation she needed to lose the extra 15 pounds she had been fighting with for some time.

On the first day of the competition, all the participants ‘weighed-in’ and set a weight loss goal for the next two months.  The only requirement of the challenge was that each participant come in for weekly weigh-ins.  Heather set her goal to be a loss of fifteen pounds and enthusiastically threw herself into a healthy eating plan and exercise regimen.

At the end of the competition, Heather was devastated and felt as though she failed:  She only lost 10 pounds.  Heather was so caught up in the number on the scale that she lost sight of all that she had achieved over the course of the two month challenge.

Unfortunately, weight loss challenges often fall short if they aren’t planned or managed properly.  Here are three mistakes many of them make:

1. Bad Ways of Measuring Success: Weight is only one indicator of health.  As in Heather’s case, focusing on weight can be discouranging and disappointing.  Many times, what shows up on the scale can be highly misleading.  As a result, it is important to utilize several methods of assessing an individual’s progress.  Here are some to consider:

  • BMI: A 5′-10″ person who weighs 175 pounds is very different than a 5′-2″ person who weighs 175 pounds.  BMI takes height into account. Calculate your BMI…
  • Body Measurements: As you lose weight, you also lose inches.  Measuring how many inches are lost throughout the program helps you to understand how your body is changing.  At the beginning of a program, women should measure the circumferences of their bust, chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves, upper arm and forearm.  Men should measure the same areas, except for their bust.  Take these measurements every month to see your progress.
  • Body Fat / Lean Body Mass: Exercising and doing strength training will help you to lose weight, but more importantly, it will help you to lose fat while building muscle.  Since muscle weighs more than fat, you may not see as much of a loss in weight, but you may very well lower your body fat.  Calculate your Body Fat…
  • Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Exercising can cause your resting heart rate and blood pressure to lower.  This is a sign that your heart and body are getting into better shape and that you are becoming healthier.
  • Visual: Watch how your clothes start to fit and see how your body changes.  Are your clothes fitting better?  Do you feel more confident and better in what you wear?  Qualitative assessments can be just as telling as quantitative ones.

2.Lack of Education: Losing weight should be done in a healthy way.  If participants aren’t educated in how to safely and effectively lose weight, they may not see the results they wanted.  Starving yourself, extreme dieting and over-exercising, all can do more damage than good.  Bring in registered dietitians, nutritionists, wellness counselors and fitness specialists to speak to the group.  If your company won’t sponsor this or you are doing this challenge with friends outside of the office, task each group member to do some research on a wellness topic and report what they learn back to the group.

3.  Lack of Emotional Support: Weight loss requires a supportive environment.  If an individual doesn’t have the support of friends or colleagues, they may be set up for failure.  Bring in a wellness counselor who can help individuals work through these issues.  Or, start your own support group.  Have weekly meetings that focus solely on the struggles, set-backs, achievements and emotional side of the process.

I’d rather see Weight Loss Challenges be called Health Improvement Challenges.  It moves the focus away from the scale and onto a healthier mindset.

Have you had any weight loss challenges at work?  Did you partake in them?  What did you think?

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    Each of her colleagues went through the process on their own, but would come in once a week for their weekly ‘weigh-in’.
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