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Fat Loss Programming – Part II

In Part 1 of this series, we focused on our teaching goals 1-4:

  1. Uncover deep, meaningful goals and reasons for changing (Why)
  2. Set outcome and habit goals (What)
  3. Decide on the programming style (How)
  4. Develop a realistic and sustainable plan of action (How)

This installment will focus on principle #5 in our system – Education and Preparation, which entails learning to rebound from setbacks, identifying and overcoming plateaus, and identifying and celebrating achievements.

Many years ago, I began a list of what (at the time) I called RJDisms, which is a list of tenets that provided a system for education and a way to approach the points listed in Principle #5. As time went on, I altered the name to DISTINCTIONS. I feel it is easy and makes more sense to people. Currently, there are literally 100’s of RJDisms (I have even written a book containing them), but here, we focus on the Distinctions and why they matter to your client’s fat loss success.

The Order of Things

For a protocol focused individual, teach about calories, then mindful/intuitive eating.

For a process focused client, calories are much less a priority as a lesson. Instead, focus on journaling.

Mindset Matters Most

Often, we will come across clients that have a “victim mentality”, meaning they believe that outside circumstances are to blame for their lack of progress. Having a mindset that claims ownership of choices and accepts accountability for actions may be the single most important piece of fat loss success. Honestly, there is not much we as Fitness Professionals can do to help a client that refuses to accept responsibility for their lifestyle. Fortunately, we have tools to facilitate their journey to accountability.

Clients with perfectionist mindsets believe they are holding themselves to a very high standard. A perfectionist mindset is a surefire way to balk at the slightest imperfection that leads to a non-stop cycle of starts and stops.

A healthy mindset allows for mistakes, detours and slip-ups. It allows us to remember that we are not perfect and that we have failed numerous times at numerous things in life. However, none of that matters if we do a little bit better in the positive direction than our failures pull us in the negative. A healthy mindset looks at progress, not perfection.

When clients own the following, they own their ability to create a different lifestyle.


Generally, when clients fail to lose weight or to keep it off, it comes down to any of these 4 options, all of which represent a negative and/or unprepared mindset:

  1. They were not ready to commit to a different lifestyle.
  2. They did not know how to get started and stay on the right track.
  3. They lacked the proper education necessary to make the change stick.
  4. They wanted a quick fix.

Failure leaves clues. The 3 most common things I see among people that consistently struggle with their weight (or any area of their life) are these:

1. An "All or None" Mindset

Many people in life (not just weight loss endeavors) adopt and hold true to the mindset of PERFECTIONISM, or "All or None". This mindset shows itself in numerous ways, but most often, it rears its ugly head during conflict. Many clients I have had are OK if everything is going well. Their choices are sound, their thinking is pure, and their mood is good. However, as soon as one area of life causes stress, it creates a spiral of negative thinking and their mindset goes from "I am in control" to "This isn't working, I quit!”

The stressor could be a work conflict, poor food choice, a missed exercise session, or a bounced check. This "All or None" mindset makes it increasingly difficult to attain and maintain success because the thought process relies on the foundation of perfection.

A better plan is to understand that negative situations happen to everyone and will happen to you on occasion. Learn to handle stress with proper perspective and gain the ability to understand that every choice counts towards achieving or delaying one’s goal.

2. Failing to Plan

A second pitfall I often see is that many people do not plan their meals and workouts. They workout based on feeling motivated and they eat based on convenience, taste and choices their influencers are making.

Many people wait for motivation to strike before they act. This is the exact opposite of what needs to be done to gain success.

3. Lacking Consistency

Often, individuals begin a plan when they become distressed about their health, appearance and/or fitness levels. They make multiple drastic changes at once in an all-out effort to achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible, typically repeating mistakes from their recent past. When people attempt to accomplish too much at once, they become overwhelmed and may cease a few of the more important acts of goal attainment. Consistency is accomplished by placing priority on the actions that are most vital for the desired outcome and continuing these actions. You cannot get to your goals with a "tomorrow" attitude.

Consistency is the single most important ingredient in the recipe for success.

Everything Affects Everything

Understanding that Mindset Matters Most allows us to see how mood, fatigue, core beliefs and limiting beliefs drive people’s behaviors. “Everything affects everything” allows us to see how weight gain, as unintentional as it may be, is a result of your choices, and how those choices are a direct result of your lifestyle.

The calories in vs. calories out (CICO) model of weight loss is inarguable, as it is based on the Laws of Thermodynamics; however, you can see from the above diagram that calorie intake can be positively or adversely affected by many things (stress, lack of sleep, anger and frustration, financial stress) and trick you into eating more, even though you may not be hungry. This, in turn, may cause a negative mindset shift and cause greater sabotage to your weight loss efforts.

So, the mindset side of life has a direct result on our calorie expenditure. When we feel good, we are more likely to move more and more often as well as make food choices that are aligned with our values, representing the healthy and good in us.


Fat Loss is more important than weight loss

Weight loss stated as a goal is vague and incomplete. Don’t get me wrong, people probably do need to lose weight. However, focusing solely on how much total weight is lost is a one-way road to not achieving the type of physical and mental transformation people are truly looking to achieve. Instead, we need to focus on the type of weight being lost (or gained).

All weight loss is NOT good weight loss. All weight gain is not bad weight gain.

Know the Difference Between Water Loss and Fat Loss.

Typically, chronic dieters have a “Chicken Little” mindset to naturally occurring weight fluctuations. Obviously, this is damaging to long-term progress and should be addressed immediately by the coach.

Coach talk - You will have fluctuations in your weight from day to day. It is important to remain emotionally “even” when the scale reads a few pounds down and not get “too upset” when the scale is on the high side.

Add a bit of logic to this emotional roller coaster: There are 3500 calories in each pound of fat. If you lost 3 lbs. on the scale yesterday, did you figure out how to burn 10,500 extra calories? The same concept applies in the opposite direction. Did you eat 10,500 EXTRA calories yesterday? This fluctuation is normal - treat it that way.

Weighing In on Weighing In

A typical dieter’s mindset has them so focused on their current bodyweight that they weight themselves daily (if not more) because they want to experience immediate results. However, the effects of changing your eating habits and being more active are not instantaneous. It usually takes a couple of days or weeks before you can see a significant drop in your weight if you follow a healthy diet plan. If you weigh in everyday, there is a big chance that you will be disheartened because of the slow progress when it comes to shedding pounds.

Additionally, most people do not have a steady bodyweight, but rather a body weight range. It is normal to fluctuate +/- 2-5 lbs. every few days. This is essential information for a dieter to understand, as they are in control of some of the factors that cause the fluctuation and not in control of many others.

Scale usage should be utilized for watching your weight trend. The best method is to begin by finding your body weight range. To do this - weigh daily for 5 days and mark the lowest and highest weights. This is your natural body weight range.

As an example, if Monday you weigh 167 lbs., Tuesday 164 lbs., Wednesday 166 lbs., Thursday 167 lbs. and Friday 165 lbs., your body weight range is 164 - 167 lbs. Every time you step on the scale, you should expect to see a number in that range.

While creating better food and fitness habits, you will lose weight slowly. If you were losing 1 lb. of fat per week, your body weight range would shift at the end of 1 month. That means it would go from 164 - 167 lbs. down to 162 - 165 lbs.

If scale watching has the client in a good mood because the scale moved down, or worse, a bad mood because it rose, you need to recheck how they are defining success. The scale will fluctuate regardless of how well they are eating or working out. Put the numbers into perspective by understanding the components of body weight (BW). Be sure to make the clients aware of how to measure bodyweight range and weight trends.

Tips for Weighing In

After you have found your starting BW range, be sure to weigh yourself once per week. To minimize fluctuations, follow these tips for weighing in:


Lifestyle Changes Will Prove Better than Dieting

As previously discussed, most people fail at dieting (95% gain weight post-diet and end up heavier than when they began). The stats show that people typically start a diet every 3-4 months. That is a large accumulation of failures over the course of a decade or two. No wonder many are skeptical and have lost hope. Part of the reason for this is that people just do not know what else to do. In addition, the diet industry makes its money from people remaining ignorant and uninformed.

In the chart below, you can see different types of diets and how they create their energy deficit. There are layers of slick marketing hype added to each of these, but fundamentally, diets all have 2 things in common:

  1. They create a calorie deficit
  2. They have great marketing campaigns and get you to believe this method is the best solution.

So, dieting or diets generally leave the dieter unsuccessful (accumulating failures, which is totally negative feedback to future attempts), confused and untrusting.

A better approach is to teach a step by step approach to lifestyle changes. A lifestlye change would follow the R.P.M. continuum (Realistic, Progressive and Maintainable), or, said as a RJDism, Ownership and Layering. As you gain mastery over one habit and it no longer requires practice and focus, add another, but never before that. In practice, it could be learning to consistently drink more water, gaining another hour of sleep, adding more vegetables to your intake, keeping a journal, or practicing stress-reducing techniques.

These charts act as references and educational tools for clients. The R.P.M. principles should act as the educational foundation. The Health Structure chart should act as a reference for the client to help them choose which area of their life to focus on and which actions to alter.

Lifestyle - Which Fat Loss Habits are you Currently Working on?

Weight/fat loss is the outcome of many habit changes practiced consistently, it is not a goal. Here are examples of habits to implement and track with your client:

  1. Drinking an adequate amount of water every day
  2. Decreasing liquid calories (except for #4)
  3. Ensuring proper protein intake
  4. Taking a daily protein supplement or meal replacement formula (if need be)
  5. Eating more fruits and vegetables
  6. Planning meals and mealtimes
  7. Strength training 3-4 times per week
  8. Practicing patience and mindfulness (including slowing your speed of eating)
  9. Keeping a food journal (for accountability purposes) for 2 weeks at a time (every 4-6 weeks)
  10. Increasing daily movement by standing instead of sitting or walking instead of standing or planning 10 minute workouts in addition to your scheduled gym workouts

Obviously, fat loss programming contains a great deal of information. The physical components are simple compared to resetting a dieter’s mindset. With that, we will conclude this series in the 3rd installment by completing #5 in our system – Education and Preparation: Learning to rebound from setbacks, identifying and overcoming plateaus and identifying and celebrating achievements.