The other day, a funny thing happened to me. As I was warming up on the bike at the local gym, a gentleman came up to me and asked me : “What do I need to do to lose 65 pounds in 3 months and look good like you?”
I laughed and smile. He was obviously kidding.
But it got me thinking… That kind of solution is rampant on the Internet, in magazines, in TV shows… “LOSE 10 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS!” “DO THIS EXERCISE EVERYDAY TO LOSE YOUR BELLY FAT”…
Although those “plans” seem silly, or flat-out dangerous to me now, I do understand the feeling of needing an extreme program or diet to get rid all that extra weight. When you’re tired of being treated differently because of your looks, you’re ready to do anything to get better.
We’re all looking for a miracle solution to get healthier… a few years ago I did too.
When you’re on a downward slope and you just can’t keep going
When I was obese myself, I would regularly find myself looking for THE workout, recipe or diet that would make me lose the 65 extra pounds I was carrying everyday. Whenever I looked at the mirror, I hated what I saw. Getting up the stairs was becoming harder and harder, the clothes I bought 6 months prior didn’t fit anymore, and my doctor was concerned I was not getting better despite her multiple efforts and warnings.
I tried many diets. I tried going to the gym more. I tried getting up early in the morning. Somehow, I never kept my late-night promises to myself:
Tomorrow is a new beginning. Your new healthy life starts tomorrow morning and that’s it! No more BS and eating sweets. No more sitting all day. You’re going to be active, healthy and beautiful. It all starts tomorrow. Promise!
I got heavier. I had high cholesterol. I got sicker. I was taking too many pills to even manage without a dispenser. I was 22 and I got more depressed by the day. I thought to myself: “It just CAN’T keep going like this. This has got to stop. I can’t handle more pills. I can’t handle more weight.”
Should I hire a personal trainer?
I already had a membership at the local gym. But not unlike many other people – only about 20% of gym members actually use the gym regularly – I struggled to make it to the fitness center weekly. Every time I did go, I was envious of those who had a personal trainer. “If only I had a personal trainer”, I knew I would commit and make it work.
I was hesitant to splurge on a personal training package and commit to 4 months with a trainer. After all, I was living on a student budget… would I later regret getting into more debt to pay for someone to help me get healthier? My rational brain was telling me not to do it. That I was in too much debt already. That it might not work and I would waste my money.
This voice was loud and kept saying I shouldn’t hire a personal trainer. It was that same voice that gripped to a certain identity I clang to : I was the fat kid in the family, I was the sick one in the family. It was part of me. And I couldn’t get rid of the extra pounds.
But a tiny voice inside me kept trying to get my attention. A voice that my crippling anxiety couldn’t entirely cover.
It whispered: “Do it… It will be worth it. It’s now or never”
So I signed up for bi-weekly personal training sessions. And that made ALL the difference.
There’s nothing more important than our good health – that’s our principal capital asset.
– Arlen Specter
Structure and Accountability
After a lengthy assessment and evaluation, my private trainer put me to work. Not only did she become a great source of knowledge about exercise, but she understood I had a chronic disease and limitations, and didn’t allow that to stop our journey to a healthier me. She would ask me how I was feeling, if I felt tired or rather energetic. She even tailored the sessions to my moods so we got the best of our time together. With my trainer, I felt heard. Her non-judgmental approach made me feel understood and gave me an outlet to channel my frustrations.
Again, I could have simply gone to the gym twice a week myself… why was I not able to do that like all the other people? It seems like all the people I saw on Facebook were so good at scheduling their workout and sticking to it. But I was different. And one of the things I learned through my transformation is that I have a tendency to prioritize meeting outer expectations rather than inner expectations. If, for example, my friend suggests hanging out on a Thursday afternoon and I had planned to go to the gym after work… I would readily scratch my own plans and go with the friend. If my sister needs help babysitting and I had planned to study for an important exam that day, I would go help my sister. Those are great qualities to have, but if I wanted to thrive and still have a healthy body to enjoy life for many decades, I needed to learn to prioritize myself!
Having my trainer expecting me at a specific time made it easier. I didn’t have to make a decision. I simply went to the gym. I made sure to be on time and ready. Because for some reason, I wouldn’t want to let her down. Isn’t it funny, how I was willing to let myself down, but not other people? Anyhow, I needed exterior accountability to get me to my goal. And my personal trainer provided precisely that!
Also, I am pretty money savvy and love getting my money’s worth whenever I spend. More than anything, I hate wasting money on stuff I don’t end up using. Knowing I had paid and had set meeting twice a week meant I couldn’t simply cancel the morning of because I didn’t feel like it, because I was tired or in a bad mood. I would lose the full amount of my session. So when I got home extra tired or busy, I still ended up going to my appointment. My trainer then simply adjusted the workout to match my energy levels.
Not once did I regret pushing through and honoring my appointment instead of resting at home!
This personal trainer worked with me for about a year. Not only did I reach my fitness goals with her, but I also maintained a balanced lifestyle thanks to her teachings. She became a wonderful friend and I can’t thank her enough for her patience with me throughout my journey.
The truth is, there is no ONE program or solution that fits everyone. There might be some success stories out there, but I urge you to look beyond the before and after pictures, beyond the number of pounds lost. An estimated 5% of people who successfully lose weight end up keeping it off past 5 years. The same person who lost 65 pounds over 12 weeks probably gained it all back and even more within the following years… and that’s really sad.
Most of us spend years in school or on the job learning our craft as professionals. Yet, very few of us make time to learn how to manage and maintain the body we were blessed with at birth. No crash diet or extreme program can teach you the life-long skills it takes to live a long, pain-free and joyful life.
Consider Personal Training as a made-to-measure course that you will benefit from for years after its completion.
I cannot stress enough how my own personal trainer changed my life. I didn’t just lose 65 lbs. I went through my transformative year 6 years ago now and have not gone back to my old habits. Knowing that the odds are stacked against me to stay lean and healthy because I was overweight all my life before my twenties, remaining healthy now years after is my biggest success !
Cheers to my old personal trainer and friend, Stephany, and a to all the health and fitness professionals who dedicate their practice to inspiring their clients to adopt sustainable and healthy habits!