I love getting the opportunity to sit with people and share in their vulnerabilities, weaknesses and struggles. I love getting to celebrate their triumphs and watch them grow and become more confident and gain better self-esteem. It seriously brings my heart so much joy.
I recently sat with a woman who had severe anxiety. She looked at the crowded gym floor and had tears in her eyes, fearing the all of the people would be watching her and judging her. We talked about why she wanted to work out in a gym and what goals she had in mind for herself. As usual, weight loss topped the list. I asked why she wanted to lose weight and tearfully she replied that she thought it would give her more confidence and help with her anxiety. She had lost weight before, but gained most of it back. I asked her if she had felt more confident when she had lost weight before. More tears. No.
No was the answer because losing weight is not the answer to finding better self-confidence. Now, before you start yelling at me and arguing, let me explain.
Weight loss is a funny thing. Our culture is obsessed with it. Look at the store- hundreds of pills, powders and potions promising to melt away the pounds leaving you slim, trim and happy without having to change your lifestyle. Thousands of books claiming to be the final word and authority on how to get your body lean and trim. Millions of blogs boasting the coveted secret to weight loss success. Hundreds of gadgets and gizmos promising to get you the body of your dreams while you sit on the couch (come on, really, a shakeweight?).
But what is weight loss? Does it look the same for everyone? Is it sustainable? What exactly are you losing when you lose weight?
Weight loss can mean anything from losing water weight, muscle, bone density or body fat. When people want to lose weight, they generally do one or more of three things: 1) they cut out “carbohydrates” or 2) restrict calories or 3) start working out. All of these are short-term solutions that lead to long-term problems.
First, cutting out carbohydrates or going low carb is not sustainable. Your body needs carbs for energy supply, brain function and hormone support, just to name a few. Carbohydrates encompasses a wide range of foods too including grains, fruits, veggies and legumes. Going low carb will drain your adrenals and place more stress on your body. Then your body will hold onto more fat because it cannot produce enough energy from carbs. Bad news bears. I learned a lot about going low carb and it was not good news. People think it works because when you reduce the amount of starches/carbs in your body, you stop retaining water, which gives you “instant” results with plans like Atkins or South Beach. Not a lasting solution since you cannot cut out carbs forever.
Second, calorie counting. I did this for years when I started losing weight after college. I logged my food intake religiously and tried to stay under 1,000 calories a day. Yeah, that didn’t back fire on me 7 years later. Calories are difficult to calculate and even more difficult to portray accurately. Was that a handful of nuts or a serving? Was the really 4 oz of meat or 6? Drastically reducing your calorie intake is setting yourself up for disaster. When you diminish your energy (ie: calories), your body responds by conserving energy to keep you running. That conservation looks like your body storing more fat and shutting down energy sucking systems like digestion and metabolism. You may see short-term results, again from water or muscle loss, but not from fat.
Third, exercise is a great way to help you get in shape and improve things like strength, flexibility and endurance. However, it is not the end all be all of weight loss or fat loss. You have to be able to sustain the level of activity that you engage in to maintain your results. Biggest Loser contestants find this out first hand- in order to keep the weight off, they have to continue restricting calories and working out 6 days a week. When they stop, they gain it back. I ask my clients, what if you broke your leg and couldn’t work out? They give me a panic stricken look to which I reply, then you would be fine because your results are not coming from exercise as much as lifestyle and dietary training.
You’re probably thinking, ok, so if I don’t want to lose weight, what do I want?
That’s a great question!! I ask my clients the very same one. What do you want from your body? Do you want to run a race? Do a triathlon? Climb a mountain? Do a pullup? It is these accomplishments that bring about confidence, not a number on a scale. That number will fluctuate 3-6 pounds per day and trust me, it will never be enough. Never.
Finding your confidence in changing your lifestyle and setting goals is a practical, sustainable way to build self-confidence and feel your best, despite what the stupid scale says. I challenge you to think about some practical goals that you can achieve without cutting carbs, restricting calories or working out like a fiend. It is amazing how accomplishing goals can change your life and empower not only yourself but those around you! Here are some of my goals that I wanted to achieve and did:
Overhead press 100#
Do handstands and one arm handstands!
Rope climb (even though I am deathly afraid of heights!)
Skin the cats on rings
What is something you are not currently able to do that you would like to do?