We live in a society today based around immediate gratification and instant results. Technology has conditioned us to have what we want, literally at our fingertips. This phenomenon has transferred into all aspects of our lives, including the health and fitness world. Billboards hang over our streets and highways promising immediate weight loss. Commercials flash on our televisions advertising appetite suppressants and diet fads that guarantee to drop inches off your waist without even exercising – in just days!
As someone who has been involved in the fitness industry since my undergrad days, I often have much cynicism when I see the immediate-results-promising fad diets. Engrained in me is the belief that to see real fat loss results, you need to eat chicken breast and broccoli all day long, lift heavy weights and suffer a rather monastic lifestyle.
The reality, though, is that healthy weight loss lies somewhere in the middle of both extremes. Crash dieting with extremely low calories to drop as much weight as possible, without exercise, often yields immediate results on the scale, but little change in overall body composition. The best way that I have heard this described is by a client in one of my franchised personal training studios who was tired of crash diets. She said that with every crash diet, she may lose 30-50lbs in just two months but ended up looking like a “smaller version of herself from the beginning.” Even worse, crash diets are usually not sustainable and once one reverts back to regular eating, the pounds come back on in full force. On the other end of the extreme, while living a monastic lifestyle and suffering through flavorless meals and doing endless hours of exercise will get you to your weight loss goals, it is often just as difficult to maintain as a crash diet. Missing meals with friends and family and suffering is just not what health and fitness is about. Like so many other things in life, balance is the key to a successful health and fitness program. If weight loss is your goal, find a happy medium that includes a sustainable exercise program and a nutrition plan that allows you to eat some foods you enjoy while still being in a caloric deficit (remember, calories in versus calories out is what dictates that loss!) and can be maintained as a healthy lifestyle choice.
If there is one thing that my years in the fitness industry – as an athlete, an exercise enthusiast, personal trainer, nutrition undergrad, franchisee and business owner – have taught me, it is that when approaching an exercise and nutrition program, create a balanced lifestyle, not an extreme one.