"Running with the herd and heading for the cliff"
During the first few months of training, particularly with female clients, there is always concern about scale weight. With high intensity power training (HIPT) often times in the beginning, the scale doesn’t change very much and that leads to drama. The question I ask at that point is, “are your clothes fitting differently”? If the answer is, “yes, they are looser”, then I ask, “would you rather be the same weight and 3+ sizes smaller or lose some weight and be one or two sizes smaller? At that point their amygdalae (those small almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep in their brain that process emotional reactions) are overwhelmed. How can I be the same weight and smaller than I would be if I lost weight?
We’ve all seen the pictures comparing the volume that 5 lbs of fat occupies versus 5 lbs of muscle. Fat occupies far more volume per unit mass than muscle. More importantly, muscle increases metabolic rate (you can enjoy more food without getting fatter), makes you more functional for activities of daily living (improves quality of life), and helps dispose of glucose (keeps you out of the scooter and dialysis). Fat on the other hand releases a host of circulating variables that lead to inflammation, metabolic dysfunction, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. From an aesthetic perspective, if you are into aesthetics, a smaller pear may feel better in clothes, but doesn’t look very good naked. Muscle gives the body aesthetic shape. Pound for pound per unit height, a V will look better in a swimsuit compared to a pear. Lastly (this will really light up the amygdalae), a lean V always appears to weigh less in clothes than a like weight pear. For example, recently someone asked how much one of my older female clients weighed, I told them 140 lbs, their response, “no way, she can’t be 140, she looks about 127 at the most”. So what matters more to you? How much people think you weigh or what you really weigh? Do you want them thinking, yeah I think she’s about 140 when you actually weigh 127, or she looks about 127 when you know you weigh 140? Better eat more if you ponder this one, your amygdalae is going to burn a lot of glucose!
From a trainer’s perspective, the easy money is getting in front of the herd and run with it, that is until you get close to the metabolic cliff, then bailout let them run off the cliff and look for the next herd to lead. Easy because you don’t have to change the direction the herd is running, just take their money and run with them. Having been in this business for almost two decades, I have seen many run off the cliff or become retreads as I call them. They work on that low kcal diet, live in the gym, lose 30+ lbs and at some point find it unsustainable, disappear for a few months only to return 40 lbs heavier with less muscle and ready to do it all over again.
One might argue that losing any fat and becoming physically active is a good thing, it is, however for it to remain good it has to be sustainable. Living in the gym and consuming a dietary intake focused on skinny versus fit is just not going to work long-term.
If you have a real life (kids, professional career, husband or wife that has a professional career, and actually want to spend time with your kids and husband/wife) a life in the gym isn’t in the cards.
Life is full of choices, understand the science and know that at some point, everyone’s life becomes real (marriage, kids, a better more demanding job, etc.), be ready for it so you can stay fit and healthy for life. Don’t let your amygdalae manage you, manage your amygdalae.