Since the new year I have had many people, friends and clients speak to me about negative feelings towards their weight and body shape. January is always a time for change and reflection but this year I have heard more feelings of exasperation than ever before. It got me thinking, and reflecting. I began to think about myself in 2016 when I was being heavily complimented on my body shape. In some ways this was great, however what my inner voice and what others maybe didn’t consider was that I was training for the London Marathon. I questioned what would happen when I stopped running so much and moved towards a body shape that I could happily maintain for a lifetime. Thankfully, I am unfazed by this but more sensitive souls could be affected by such a sudden change (I no longer receive the compliments I was in 2016).
When I was sporting this enviable (apparently!) figure I was running over twenty miles a week but also eating an incredibly healthy diet. To help my marathon training get off to a good start I chose to follow the whole thirty eating plan. The whole thirty creators make it very clear that the eating plan is not a diet and is not designed to help anyone lose weight. It is about; “restoring a healthy relationship with food”. The whole 30 website states; “Certain food groups (like sugar, grains, dairy and legumes) could be having a negative impact on your health and fitness without you even realizing it. Are your energy levels inconsistent or non-existent? Do you have aches and pains that can’t be explained by over-use or injury? Are you having a hard time losing weight no matter how hard you try? Do you have some sort of condition, like skin issues, digestive ailments, seasonal allergies, or chronic pain, that medication hasn’t helped? These symptoms are often directly related to the foods you eat—even the “healthy” stuff. So how do you know if (and how) these foods are affecting you?” As someone who does not advocate diets, in particular not fad diets I want to make it clear this is not a weight loss programme and should not be used as one – in fact I think it can have the opposite effect on some people who may binge on the restricted foods after the eating plan ends. However, due to so many of the foods I choose to snack on being eliminated, alongside those yummy full fat milk lattes and the significant amount of exercise I was doing I did lose weight and was a desirable size. My story really exemplifies the extremes some of us need to go to to be “the perfect weight”. I would like to reiterate 100% of my diet was healthy food, not low calorie/weight loss/lighter foods but healthy, good for the body foods. I did not have ‘bad days’ or ‘naughty treats’ E.V.E.R! I was also running over 20 miles a week. For some this is attainable, for few this is attainable for life however for the majority of people it isn’t. There needs to be a compromise and this is where expectations need to be managed.
To lose weight I see three options;
- Follow a diet. You will almost certainly lose weight but when normal eating resumes the weight will be put back on. Many people that I speak to actually end up putting more weight back on.
- Follow a significant exercise programme. If this is ever stopped the weight will go back on again.
- Change eating habits to healthier options and exercise regularly. If stopped weight will be put back on.
The problem we seem to have in our society is that people go on a diet, reach their ideal weight then stop the diet. When clients come to me to help them lose weight there may be the expectation that I will help them achieve option one; “stick to a diet”, whilst they may not call it a diet or recognise it as such their general mindset will be that they need to follow a particular plan. What I actually do is try to help my clients achieve number three. We try to find a subtle change that suits their lifestyle.
I would like to use an example of a recent weight loss client. She had been out for dinner three nights in a row during the week prior to our session. She condemned herself for this despite having chosen the healthy options on the menu. We spent some of the session looking at the way she views this. Previous experience meant that she described herself as “naughty” and said she’d had a “bad week”. This is not ok, if she wants to lose weight for life she needs to be able to accept invitations to dinner and continue with her ‘life’. Going out for dinner but making healthier choices is a compromise that may not achieve the absolute perfect weight but can be easily maintained for life and give a healthier slimmer figure. During our sessions we will work on changing her mindset so that she realises it’s ok to go out for dinner and to eat some cake at birthday parties for example. We will work on her confidence to suggest different restaurant options that may serve healthier meals and we will explore what those healthier options are. We will also work on her self image so that she can be confident with a slimmer (but not necessarily perfect) figure that allows her to still be her and do all of the things in her life that she wants to. We will also find an exercise plan that suits her and fits in with her lifestyle. Not something that she doesn’t enjoy or is too much in an already busy life that she has more weeks of not fitting it in than actually completing it. My aim is to have weight loss clients finish their sessions with me slimmer, healthier, fitter and happier but still themselves and living the life they want to.