weight loss pre-requisites
Could we argue there are “better” approaches to weight loss than others?
We know that dramatically slashing calories, detoxes, cleanses, and “clean” eating aren’t helpful- at best. At worst, they can be largely problematic.
Nevertheless, millions of folks try to lose weight year after year. Most people gain back more weight than they lost.
First thing’s first- we know weight loss is not a behavior.
A “healthy lifestyle” is built upon a series of dozens of behaviors. Whether or not the behaviors yield a smaller, leaner, thinner body doesn’t matter- but try to tell that to someone who’s dead-set on losing weight, and their eyes glaze over.
I repeat: weight loss is not a behavior. The efficacy of your behaviors is not accurately defined by what you look like or what you weigh.
While I don’t sell, promote, or facilitate intentional weight loss, if I did, here’s what I would have in place for clients:
6-12 months of pre-requisite work prior to entering into a weight loss phase.
Here’s what that would look like:
Prerequisite #1: Sleep
- have you been getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night for the past 6-12 months?
- if no, that’s where we begin.
- if yes, we would do an overview of sleep habits + hygiene to make sure the routine sticks for good. We would also look at sleep quality.
Sleep is vital to overall health, wellness, and performance. It impacts our mental health, emotional health, and physical health.
Some folks have other health habits locked and loaded: they’re going to the gym, eating protein + vegetables, and drinking water. Yet, they’re under-slept, under-recovered, over-stressed, and over- caffeinated.
Not getting enough sleep can disrupt our hormones, our ability to control our blood sugar, increase likelihood of injury and illness.
Sleep is vital.
If someone has resolved to get to the gym at 6am every day, but is getting into bed at midnight and waking up at 5am, it’s only a matter of time before they can’t keep up. Fatigue, cravings, and injury looms around the corner.
So long before we commit to a structured period of weight loss, a solid foundation of sleep needs to be intact.
Prerequisite #2: Movement
- Not to be confused with exercise
- Are you moving your body 2-3x/week (minimum) at a low intensity for at least 30 consecutive minutes? This can be a leisure walk, yoga, riding a bike, gardening, playing with your kids at the park, walking your dog, kayaking, etc.
- We want to make sure that movement is baked into your life long before we add the “pressure” of weight loss.
Many folks only focus on movement once they decide they want to lose weight. This is problematic, as it confirms the belief that movement is “only good for” weight loss or aesthetic pursuits.
Prerequisite #3: Exercise
- 2x/week strength training (minimum)
- 2x/week cardiovascular training (minimum)
Similar to movement, the benefits of exercise are not simply reserved for aesthetic changes or weight loss.
In fact, the benefits of exercise are endless.
For 6-12 months prior to beginning a season of weight loss, both movement + exercise should be a part of the routine.
Other things we’d be looking for within this pre-req are:
- are you always working out at high intensities? (You should not be- it should vary)
- Do you know how and when to push vs pull back?
- are you taking proper rest days?
- are your expectations well managed?
Prerequisite #4: Food
- For 6-12 months, I’d need to see a demonstration of eating ~3 square meals per day that each consist of carbs, protein, produce, something to make it taste good.
If someone has been trying to lose weight for years on end with no official diet breaks, we’ll typically see some interesting food habits.
Things like low calorie foods throughout the day in place of substantial calories & nutrients; cutting out entire food groups (keto, vegetarian/vegan [not for ethical/religious reasons], etc.), intermittent fasting, obsessively weighing and tracking food, compensatory exercise responses, and so on.
There are several counter-intuitive things about intentional weight loss:
- You should not enter into a weight loss phase unless you’ve been eating in a surplus or at least at maintenance for several months prior
- You want to diet on as many calories as possible
Prerequisite #5: Stress Management
- Both dieting (and hunger!) and exercise are stressors.
- If overall stress is not well-managed or mitigated, it’s only a matter of time before the body starts pushing back and “shutting down.”
Think about it. If you’re heading into a season of weight loss and you haven’t done anything about:
- Your work-life balance
- Your household stress
- Can’t stop saying “no” to new responsibilities
you won’t have very much margin to focus on other things. Not to mention, excess stress is a huge culprit of disease.
Lack of ease.
Dieting is hard enough as it is- we don’t need to make it any harder by not addressing our accumulation & management of stress.
If you could hire me for weight loss or aesthetic pursuits, this is where we would begin for 6-12 months. Based on how the implementation and success of these pre-reqs would go, we would then discuss if you’re in a good place to begin intentionally losing weight or changing your aesthetics.
While you can’t hire me specifically for weight loss or aesthetic pursuits, the irony is that all of these pre-reqs are a huge component of The Barbell Collective, my online strength and conditioning program for athletic women.
That’s because these are all health-promoting behaviors.
You should be employing these pre-reqs into your life whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.
You can read more about The Barbell Collective here.