To lose weight or to gain a better life

Updated: Apr 30

Why I don’t offer weight loss programmes

One of my favourite running coaches once said: “Never do a run in order to LOSE something. Do the run to GAIN something”. What he meant was this: Don’t go for a run focusing on something negative, like losing weight; rather focus on something positive, like what you can gain from that run: fitness, better health, piece of mind, strength, endurance, confidence or simply just feeling good. This philosophy doesn’t just apply to running. It applies to all exercise. Focus on the positive. This little shift in perspective could make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting fit.

Why losing weight is a bad motivator

Losing weight is probably the most common reason why people exercise. So why do I consider it a bad motivator?

Weight loss is what psychologists call extrinsic motivation, which, by definition, is motivation to perform an activity in order to earn a reward or avoid punishment. As opposed to this, intrinsic motivation would mean engaging in a behaviour because you enjoy it and find it satisfying; you are performing the activity for its own sake, rather than for an external reward. The behaviour itself is its own reward. Now, extrinsic motivation is not all negative. Rewards and punishment can be great motivators when used properly. However, when it comes to exercise, studies have shown that people who are intrinsically motivated - those who exercise just because they enjoy it, those who train because it makes them feel good, those crazy people like me who go for a run just for the fun of it (what’s wrong with them, right?) tend to adhere to exercise for a long term, as opposed to people who simply do things in order to get their reward in the form of a smaller number on the scales.

So I don’t offer weight loss programmes anymore. Yes, I am a personal trainer and I am fully aware that these programmes form the foundation of our industry. So what? That doesn’t make it right. Do I know how to lose weight effectively? Of course I do. Hell, I’ve tried most of the different diets and weight loss programmes myself. Sometimes in order to cut for a fight and sometimes just to see whether it works. Did it work? Yes. Did it last? Nope..

Throughout my career I’ve also coached a couple of people whose only goal was to slim down. However, deep down it never felt right. I wasn’t really helping them in the long run. I haven’t actually changed their lives for better. And that was the reason I became a coach.

There is no magic trick or miracle diet that will change your life overnight. If you want real results, you have to put in some real work. But make sure you enjoy the process.

Why are you really doing it?

Too many people see exercise as a short term means to achieving a goal, that in many cases isn’t really theirs at all. What I mean is, very often people who wish to lose weight, do it not for themselves, but because of social pressure. They do it because of all the media and social networks promoting an “ideal” image how people should look like and inciting shame in everyone who doesn’t fit in that “perfect” little mould. This kind of motivation is even more diluted. We not only engage in exercise for the external reward of losing weight, but we’re not even doing it for ourselves. We’re doing it to please other people, often people we don’t even know! We’re desperately trying to fit into a box the society has created, thinking that if we want to be happy, we have to fit in. Now, why would you want to fit in, when you were born to stand out? Who cares what other people think? It’s your life, live it your way!

Getting off topic here… Anyway..

Exercise for the right reason

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that being overweight is a good thing (especially if it comes with health issues), and that losing weight is a bad thing. What I’m trying to say is that it is bad motivation. Exercising is one of the best things in life. Why would you want to make it a struggle? Why would you want to hate it? It doesn’t have to be something that you have to suffer through in order to get lean and gain the approval of the society. Exercise is fun! It makes you feel great. It clears your mind, relieves stress, energises and inspires. Do it for the right reasons. Do it for yourself.

So you don’t like it? Have you tried it all? Just because one activity didn’t work for you, doesn’t mean none of them will. You don’t like running? Fine, go swimming. Not too fond of swimming pools? Well there’s always the Thames.. Or the gym. Not too keen on lifting heavy stuff either? How about getting punched in the face? Can’t show up at tomorrow’s meeting with a black eye, huh? Then how about playing some football? Basketball? Beach volleyball? (Half naked girls and boys jumping on a beach… Just saying..)

You have tried it all? Really? Well then, maybe it was your mindset that was wrong all along. And so we circle back to the beginning. Exercise. For. The. Right. Reasons. Forget about the numbers on the scale and what everyone thinks. Do it for yourself. Do it, so you can feel good.

Weight loss is a natural consequence

Once you find something you really enjoy, you will stick to it in the long run. It will not be a burden anymore, it will become a habit, an essential part of your life. And as you perform it regularly, you will see the improvements, not only in your fitness, but in your life, too. You will start performing better in other areas of your life. You will naturally start to make better choices when it comes to nutrition, because you will feel the benefits when you exercise. Weight loss will come naturally. It might not be as instantaneous as we all wish it were, but it will be permanent. Because by the time you get to the weight you always desired, you will realise that it doesn’t matter at all. It is not what it’s all about anymore. And you will not stop there, because it’s not the end of the journey anymore.

Fitness has become your lifestyle. You swim because it makes you feel better. And feeling better makes you a better person. You lift weights because it makes you feel strong. And feeling strong gives you confidence at work. You play with a ball because it makes you feel like a child again. And that makes you happy. You get up at 5 am and go for a run because when the zombies come, they will eat the slow ones first...

Welcome to my world of crazy!

Don't ask me why I run. Ask yourself why you don't.

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