I could tell she was instantly uncomfortable sitting in this tiny cubicle at the back of the gym with me – a stranger she’d only met 20 seconds before.
Trying to reveal that I wasn’t interested in tricking her into buying a big, expensive package that was contract-clad and she couldn’t back out from if she suddenly had buyer’s regret.
“Why are you interested in working with a personal trainer?” I asked.
“Because I want to lose 20lbs.” She said, as if she’d declared those exact words at least 542 times in the last month.
“Why do you want to lose 20lbs?”
She shook her head and squinted her eyes as if she didn’t understand the question.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Why do you want to lose 20lbs? What’s driving you?”
She looked down at the ground and let out an unconscious sigh. When she looked back up I could tell she was about to tell me – a stranger she’d just met 57 seconds ago – the history of a painful internal struggle.
I leaned in.
Trying to establish the feeling that it was okay. I was all ears. And there was no room for judgments in this tiny, uncomfortable cubicle.
This is an example.
It’s not a word-for-word memoir.
Just a mosaic of several conversations I had with new potential personal training clients.
And because of these conversations, during my 3+ year stint as a personal trainer in a gym-setting I came to a vital conclusion…
Weight loss should never be the goal.
Now this may seem silly – especially with the number of women who came to me saying they wanted to hire a personal trainer so that they could lose 10lbs, 20lbs, 45lbs, 167lbs…
But after getting to know the women who scribbled those numbers on a piece of paper I realized that it’s never actually about the weight.
It’s always about something submerged in the depths of their reality. Something driving them that – at first – they (understandably) didn’t want to proclaim to this stranger who they’re hoping has the magic pill to shake that weight off of their body.
The problem is we can get so focused on that number. On what the scale says.
And if we focus on weight loss, if we focus on purging those 10lbs from that woman’s body, what happens when they reach that goal?
Are they happy? Truly?
And more importantly, what happens if they don’t quite get there? If it’s 8lbs instead of 10lbs?
Are they happy? Truly?
It’s never about the weight.
And if we focus on the weight everything else – all the amazing results they’re getting on their quest to weigh less – gets missed.
They miss out on the fact that they have the energy to actually play with their kid. Not sit and watch them play. But actually build the world’s best pillow fort and pretend to be the Mommy Dragon guarding Castle CouchFort while their kiddo – Princess Amelia – scales the walls to save Teddy from the Dragon’s evil grasp.
They miss out on the fact that they actually like their husband’s eyes on them now. They feel more confident and comfortable in their body so when they catch his eyes dancing on their skin they aren’t so quick to cover up.
They miss out on the fact that – after a day of lugging grocery bags into the house, bending down to pick up their toddler 768 times, going for a 2KM (I’m Canadian, so that’s about 1.2 miles my American friends 😉 ) walk to and from the park, and squatting down to pick up at least 30 pieces of food off the floor that their helpful toddler launched from their highchair… their feet may be a little sore but their back isn’t. Finally. Finally they feel like they have a strong core that keeps up with what they need to do every day.
So don’t make it about the weight.
Or you may miss out on the victories that a scale could never gift you.
Ask yourself why.
“Why do I want to lose 20lbs?”
Then ask why again. And again. And again…
Ask until you have that moment where you think “I had no idea that’s what I really wanted.” Or “I forgot that that’s what I was hoping for.”
This idea actually comes from Toyota of all places.
The former Executive Vice President of Toyota, Taiichi Ohno encouraged his employees to “Ask ‘why’ five times about every matter.”
Give it a try.
Grab a piece of paper – yes, do it on paper not just in your head. It’s more powerful that way.
At the top, write your weight loss goal. Then ask why. At least five times.
Let’s Give It a Try…
“I want to lose 35lbs”
“Because I’m sick of my clothes not fitting right.”
“Because I hate being stuck buying long, baggy shirts so my stomach doesn’t accidentally fall out when I’m grabbing something from the bottom of the stroller.”
“Because it’s embarrassing. I don’t want to see the look on people’s faces when my fat rolls are showing.”
“Because it hurts. Because I feel ugly. And ashamed. And awful. Just awful.”
“Because I feel like I look nothing like what women who have babies are supposed to look like a year after they give birth. I look nothing like those “How She Lost the Baby Weight” magazines so I don’t feel beautiful. I don’t feel worthy. I try so hard but I just can’t seem to get it right. I can’t seem to make the fat disappear.”
What is she actually looking for?
She wants to feel more confident.
It doesn’t matter what the scale says.
She could lose 34.5lbs and still not be totally happy if she doesn’t focus on the core of what is really going on.
But if – along her weight loss journey – she understands that she’s doing this to gain more confidence she’ll be able to do the right kinds of things, in the right moments to boost her self image – no matter what the scale tells her.
Then once she starts to get some tone and definition – even if she doesn’t lose all the weight – and she starts to feel more confident, when her shirt rides up when she’s reaching for the water bottle in the stroller it’s not such a big deal anymore.
She feels better about herself.
Even if she doesn’t lose all 35lbs.
Because she’s moving in the right direction and it’s not just about the weight anymore.
It’s about the freedom a positive body image can give her.
Let’s Try Another Angle…
“I want to lose 10lbs.”
“Because I want to have more energy.”
“Because I’m sick of feeling tired all the time.”
“Because I never have the energy to do the things I want to do.”
“Because by the time the baby’s in bed I’m so exhausted the only thing I want to do is plop on the couch and binge-watch Scandal and I wish I felt better so I could actually do something fun or useful or something.”
“Because I used to be fun. I used to do stuff. I used to be the one who would – at least sometimes – suggest sex. And it would be good sex. But now it all seems like such a chore. I don’t want to do any of it because I’m so tired. But I honestly wish I had more energy to do some of the things I used to love doing. I miss parts of my old life. I mean, I love my son, but there are some times when I wish I could at least have pieces of my old life back. Like hobbies and adventures and good sex. I miss having the energy to have good sex.”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Do you see how powerful this can be?
How focusing on the weight isn’t going to give you 100% fulfillment because there’s oh so much more to your story?
And how – when you focus on the non-weight stuff – along the way you get to celebrate all these amazing victories that have nothing to do with what the scale says?
Like – a month into working out 3 days a week – having a burst of energy at 8pm and saying, “Hey hun, I’m going to bed. Come join me. No really. Come join me…”
The idea behind losing weight is great.
You want to be healthier.
You want to have more energy.
You want to feel happier.
Just remember that a scale can’t give you those things.
All it can give you is a number.
And if that number isn’t what you were hoping for, but you’re focused on the bonuses outside of that number, you can still feel like you’re winning.
Like how you just went swimsuit shopping and didn’t totally hate every single suit that you put on because you caught a glimpse of a tricep muscle in that awful flourescent lighting and it made all those pushups worth it.
So ask yourself why. Again. And again. And again.
Ask until you know that that reason will be enough to motivate you to hold that plank for just 10 more seconds.
It’s only 10 more seconds.
And now you have a gratifying reason to hold on that has nothing to do with the number on a scale and has everything to do with having the energy to make Princess Amelia shriek with joy from being chased by Mommy Dragon.