What Makes a Successful Weight Loss
Factors in a Successful Weight Loss
Billions of people have lost weight. Very few (5-10% of them) have been able to keep it off. With my clients that number is much higher because I help people work on more than just eating and exercise.
It’s about setting yourself up for success. In a lunch meeting with a former client, I saw in him, all the attributes of a successful fat loss lifestyle. And it inspired this post.
He asked me out for lunch. He had moved away and was visiting town. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in a year-and-a-half. He’d lost over 100 lbs (350-235 lbs) on his five-foot-nine-inch frame. Most of that weight, he lost during the 1.5 years that he worked with me. Now he’s not only kept it off, he’d lost a bit more weight, despite starting a new career in a new city (most would have backslid half of that transition).
After catching up on life, he asked me:
Success Principle #1
Ask questions like, “How can I be successful?”
I wish more clients asked me stuff like this.
This guy took his body transformation beyond food and exercise (by asking about success), and that’s why he’s successful.
But I hadn’t yet answered his question – on what makes a person successful. There’s lots more to it.
I finished the last few leaves of my Caesar salad and answered him:
Success Principle #2
Be kind to yourself, be patient, and have resilience.
That’s the cure for obesity as far as I can tell. I see it every day. Many people who have lost a lot of weight, (30 lbs for example) sometimes have a bad day or a bad week (and gain five pounds). Successful people put that behind them. Most however, flagellate themselves to the point that they don’t believe they can succeed. They beat themselves up. Instead, we must understand that fat loss is non-linear. There are going to be a lot of difficult times. We must be kind to ourselves when we make mistakes. At the same time, we must assess and adapt.
I say, “don’t hate – evaluate.”
You keep fighting because the alternative is gaining weight and dying younger, and being sad and in pain along the way.
I explained this to my client. He looked back at me and agreed. “I know I’ve been through a lot, and I do… I do keep fighting.” (When I met him three years ago he was out of work, and now he has this cool new job in a really fun city).
I continued. “So, we have people not thinking about success principles, people being too hard on themselves. And we have the metabolic ‘damage’ where the body tries to gain the weight back.”
Success Principle #3
Help your metabolism as much as possible.
This means lifting heavy weights and doing high intensity cardio. What’s heavy? If it’s challenging for you. It’s harder to maintain fat loss with just cardio and diet, and it’s almost impossible with just diet alone OR with exercise alone.
He lifts and does cardio. He does group fitness classes actually. He has to modify some movements but that doesn’t stop him.
Success Principle #4
Have social support.
“You’re also successful because you have a lot of social support. Basically, we are the average of our closest friends, whether that is virtual or local. So, the fact that you have a workout buddy at the office is huge.”
“Accountability.” He said.
“Social support is more about someone listening to you and wanting to help. Accountability is you reporting to someone on a schedule. A workout buddy ticks both of these boxes.”
Success Principle #5
This can be with a workout buddy, a monthly group-class training membership, monthly or weekly check-ins with a group or one-on-one coach. Research has been clear on this for decades – the more you have to check in with someone, the more successful you will be.
Success Principle #6
Control your environment.
Check out the awesome set-up my client put in place, for his trip to Toronto:
“I got a week pass at my old gym in North York. And my local gym out west has a location downtown, so I got a few days there, and their mid-town location. Plus I know a guy at this other gym, so I got a few days there.”
“Four gyms? You have access to four gyms on your trip?”
I sat back in awe and respect. “This is why you are successful. Nobody does that man. Nobody sets up four gyms on a business trip. Good for you man.”
“I have to! I have no choice! If I don’t train I feel like crap and might gain weight. And I don’t always want to train, so I make it easier for myself.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
For you reading this, have a gym close to where you live or work. Mine is a 5 minute walk away and I have gym in my building. I take exercise gear with me when I travel.
Also, don’t keep junk food in the house. And don’t let the restaurant put bread on your table if you are trying to avoid bread.
These might look like small things but are actually huge things that will control your behaviour.
Success Principle #7
Find other reasons/benefits for what you are doing. For example, you may train to look leaner, but the side effect is better mental health.
He told me all about how great it FEELS to train. Regardless that he is still overweight and it’s really hard to lose more fat.
I told him about my experience:
- If I train every day, I feel like my best self – 100% awesome 24/7
- If I train every-other day, I’m about 80-90% happy.
- If I take a few days off in a row, I’m only about 10%. I’m sad, uninspired, shy, anxious, and so on.
Success Principle #8
Mastery of core skills (cooking and exercise).
This concept seems very straight-forward to me. You have to know how to cook and how to exercise, if you are to succeed. Often times, people don’t ask for help because they are ashamed (even though they might not realize that). See above Rule #2 about being kind to ourselves.
Human beings HATE doing things when they are unsure about their skills. For example, ask a novice decorator to decorate a wedding for 500 people. Do you think he/she would enjoy that? No freakin’ way! The pressure is way too high and their skills too low. The self doubt will make them hate the project.
Same with cooking and exercise. Your trainer gives you a complicated program? You won’t do it. You can’t cook chicken so it tastes good, you won’t do it. This is what happens.
At our lunch, I said, “When I met you three years ago, you did not know how to cook or lift weights. You got me and others to help you, and now you know how to do that stuff.”
Success Principle #9
Understand and manage social eating.
He told me, “Everyone says I’m crazy. Like we’ll go out to a restaurant, and I’ll have them make something special for me and I don’t eat bread or dessert, and everyone says, ‘You’re crazy.’ But I’m not like them. If I was 150 lbs, I’d eat the bread. But I can’t. So I don’t. Out of sight, out of mind. My brother’s wife made this special dessert, and I said, ‘Ok’ and I had a bit”
“So, sometimes you will and sometimes you won’t?” I asked.
“95% of the time, I won’t.”
As he explained this to me, he seemed very at peace with this.
So let’s catch up. How has this guy lost over 100 lbs and kept it off for 1.5 years despite moving across the country and starting a new career:
- He’s curious about success principles
- He’s resilient, kind to himself, and patient
- He has social support
- He has accountability
- He attends group classes
- He controls his environment
- He loves the other benefits to eating right and exercise (other than fat loss)
- He knows how to exercise and cook
- He manages social eating and stands up for himself
When I take on a new client, it’s these things I try to instill in them.
Sure, you can weigh your food and have the best wearable technology money can buy, and maybe you lose 20 pound really fast. But it’s all meaningless if you aren’t kind to yourself, or you can’t stand up for yourself when someone challenges what you are eating.
I can help you lose weight and keep it off by instilling all the things required, including what to eat and how to exercise, and the success principles above.