Weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals trainers deal with. The reality, however, is that not every person who seeks to lose weight ends up reaching their goal. Often times, that’s because people striving for weight loss don’t go into it with the right mindset or information about what really works when it comes to shedding fat and building muscle.
Drawing upon their expertise and years of experience with clients, here’s what trainers want you to know about dropping pounds, plus what successful weight loss looks like from their perspective.
RESULTS TAKE TIME, AND IT’S BETTER THAT WAY
You probably already know it can take a while to see the benefits of working out and eating healthy, but knowing something and accepting it are two different things. “Many clients will join a fitness program only to terminate too soon,” says Michael Piercy, MS, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner of The LAB and IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year 2017. Think about it this way: “The weight that you might want to lose didn’t get there in one day, so we know that it won’t come off in a day.”
Plus, there’s the fact that losing weight really quickly isn’t a great idea. “The faster you lose weight, the more likely it is to come right back (plus some) when you stop dieting,” says Christel Oerum, a certified personal trainer and diabetes coach. “When you lose weight too quickly, you also decrease your body’s metabolism, meaning that you burn fewer calories. When you have reached your weight goal and go back to a normal, healthy diet, you may have decreased your metabolism so much that even a ‘normal’ diet will make you gain weight fast.” That’s why slow and steady is the best approach, which means 1–2 pounds of weight loss per week maximum.
YOUR “WHY” IS AS IMPORTANT AS YOUR “HOW”
Having a plan for how you’re going to lose weight is great, but there will inevitably be moments when your motivation wanes. During those times, your reason for wanting to lose weight in the first place becomes even more crucial, according to Brian Nguyen, CEO of Elementally Strong. Ask yourself: Why are you doing this? Is this doctor-ordered for your health? If so, why would you follow those orders? “After all, most people know what they should be doing: Eat more broccoli and less sugar, get eight hours of sleep, exercise or be active for about 20 minutes a day,” Nguyen points out. To actually make those lifestyle changes that will affect your body composition requires a big “why.”
“Maybe it’s to be able to play with the kids without pain. Maybe it’s to reinvigorate your sex life with your partner. Whatever it is, no one’s goal is really the number on the scale,” Nguyen says. “Get to the real why and make yourself conscious of it daily.” That can include making a vision board, creating your own mantra, or journaling about your weight-loss experience. However you do it, the more you focus on the specific reasons you want to lose weight — the ones without numbers attached — the more likely you are to stick to it.
WHAT WORKED FOR YOUR FRIEND MIGHT NOT WORK FOR YOU
It’s easy to get caught up in trendy workouts, diets and wellness trends, thinking they could be the answer to all your weight-related woes. “I see this all the time,” says Alix Turoff, a certified personal trainer and registered dietitian. “A client will come to me and tell me what’s working for their friend and think that they need to be doing the same thing. If your friend is following a Paleo diet, and it’s working for them, that’s great but that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to lose weight or meet your goals,” Turoff explains. Instead, it’s better to figure out a plan that capitalizes on the healthy eating and workout habits you may already have. “It’s important to realize that weight loss and nutrition are extremely individual and it’s OK to follow your own set of rules — within reason, of course.”
CRAZY-HARD WORKOUTS AREN’T REQUIRED
You might think the harder you work out, the faster the weight will come off, but that’s not necessarily true. “Don’t sign up for the most challenging boot camp in town with a goal of totally burning off your bad food choices,” says Shana Verstegen, fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness. “This is a recipe for injury and burnout. Instead, find fitness activities that you enjoy and stick with them. If fitness is viewed as fun and something you look forward to, then there is no limit to how long you can maintain it.”
RESISTANCE TRAINING WILL MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE THAN CARDIO
It’s a common misconception that to lose weight, you have to do a ton of cardio. “By mainly basing your weight loss on lifting weights and eating healthy food — and not just on lots of cardio and a super low-calorie diet — you will permanently increase your base metabolism, meaning that you will burn more calories every second of the day, even when you are not working out,” Oerum explains. “As you build more muscle mass and your metabolism increases, it will become easier and easier to both lose weight and to maintain your weight loss.” Of course, cardio isn’t a bad thing, and it deserves a place in your routine no matter what your goals are, but perhaps a smaller one than you might expect. Oerum emphasizes that resistance training and good nutrition are more effective for long-term results.
THE PEOPLE YOU SURROUND YOURSELF WITH MATTER
Having a community to reach out to can make a world of difference, and while you might not be able to control your family’s health habits, you can certainly make an effort to spend time with fitness-minded friends. “Don’t forget that you are the culmination of the five people you hang around with the most, so be sure to seek out friends who are already living that healthy and fit lifestyle,” Nguyen advises. “The bottom line is that no one does this alone.”
If you can, find a workout buddy who can help keep you accountable. “Have fun with the fitness game using a system of checks and balances with rewards and penalties,” Nguyen suggests. “Maybe the most consistent partner gets a free steak dinner or whoever is later to workouts does the meal prep for the following week.” By motivating each other, you’re also motivating yourselves.
PLAN HOW YOU’LL END YOUR WEIGHT LOSS
“One of the most common weight-loss mistakes is not having a plan for what to do after you reach your goals,” Oerum says. “Most people either keep following the same diet they used to lose weight or end up going back to how they ate before their weight loss.” Neither choice is ideal. “Instead, don’t think of your weight-loss journey as being done until you have managed to keep your goal weight for at least a month.” How do you do this? “After you reach your weight-loss goal, slowly start adding a little more (healthy) food into your daily diet.” Finding a calorie intake that allows you to keep your weight stable is just as much a part of the weight-loss process as shedding pounds.
IT’S BETTER NOT TO HAVE WEIGHT LOSS AS YOUR PRIMARY GOAL
You might be thinking, “What? How can this not be the goal if it’s why I’m training?” Easy. “Strive for athletic and wellness goals such as completing a race, improving your maximum lifts or tracking your food intake for 30 days straight,” Verstegen says. “The weight loss will follow. If you train as an athlete, you will eventually look like an athlete.”