How 12 week diet and fitness challenges set you up for future failure

I recently did a road trip between Durban and Cape Town and somehow it made me think of one of these popular 12 week weight-loss challenges. Just like a body transformation challenge you know you are in for an uncomfortable short-term journey, but you also know you will get there in the end. You just visualise yourself sipping on a drink while admiring Table Mountain, or wearing those old jeans you used to fit in that are now hidden in the back of your cupboard, and you find the strength to push through your discomfort. And just as you expected, you feel incredible when you make it and can finally relax and enjoy yourself. The problem with reaching your goal weight by following a body transformation challenge is that you end up in a destination that you aren’t quite ready to call home yet. You may look like a lean and fit person, but you don’t think like one yet. This means that to maintain your hard-won goal weight you need to stick to an unsustainable calorie allowance and exercise regime, instead of choosing to think like a lean and healthy person who consistently makes healthy choices.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and just felt like you needed something to change drastically? When you feel like you desperately need to lose weight it can be easy to let impatience become your main motivator. Before you know it you are in a space where you are fixated on how your clothes fit you, or don’t fit you. Every bite of food you eat can become loaded with emotion and can induce strong guilt feelings, or pride at making the “right” choice. You decide it’s time to get serious about this, to make sacrifices and work towards your ultimate goal: To get fit (and lose weight). And here in Durban we are spoilt for choice when it comes to body transformation challenges that promise short-term weight loss. Every day you drive past pictures of rock hard abs promising that you can drop the weight too!

To top it off we all know of someone who committed to a 12 week body transformation challenge and saw amazing results. These newly trim people carry themselves with pride. After all, it took months of sweat and deprivation to achieve these incredible results!  I don’t know if you have ever gone through this rigorous process. Having seen this first-hand I can tell you one thing: for most people the end of those 12 weeks could not come sooner.

What does a 12 week weight-loss challenge offer you?

12 week challenges are popular for a reason. They work. They produce fantastic results for those who are willing to put in the hours at the gym and avoid certain foods and drinks. But, as I mentioned earlier, the results they produce are often simply not sustainable. Sticking to a strict weight loss diet (mainly based on calorie restriction) and an exercise plan for a three-month period is admirable, but not impossible. So what are the dangers I associate with these body transformation challenges?

  1. After completing a strict programme many people feel that it’s only natural to reward themselves for their abstinence. They do this by enjoying everything they avoided for the past few months.
  2. These challenges do not address any underlying behaviour issues but focus only on surface level solutions.
  3. Three months are simply not enough to change your lifelong mindset about exercise and food.
  4. I have seen people who achieved their goals become completely discouraged after the challenge has ended because of the endless struggle to maintain their goal weight.

How are body transformation challenges different to other diets?

They aren’t. This idea is not new. Many people have been able to transform their bodies by focussing on avoiding certain foods and committing to increased exercise. These challenges might just be a bit more extreme in the commitment they require, but yo-yo diets like these have been around for years. Part of the reason that weight-loss challenges have gained so many followers is because they produce fast results. But, on the other hand, followers will probably need to continue doing these challenges if they want to maintain their goal weight! (Just like going on that diet 2 weeks before summer, for the third year in a row…)

If being on a diet is so good for you, why do so many women feel embarrassed by their restraint? No-one wants to be that person at a braai who is obsessing about what she can’t eat, counting out her small portion while everyone else just lives their lives. I know some of the committed “get fitters” who cut back on their socialising to avoid places where they would be tempted by “bad” food. At the end of a 12 week challenge people like that are thrilled because life can go back to normal. Hunger will be a thing of the past now that you’ve reached your goal!

Finally, your life is your own again. But, just like with many other diets, you are now faced with the real life challenge of having to keep your weight down on your own steam. Gone is the support structure you relied on for the past three months. You, and only you, are responsible for your weekly weigh-ins. Believe me, sticking to a stringent weight-loss plan without anyone holding you accountable is extremely difficult.

Say goodbye to dieting and hello to a full and free life!

Can you become thin by following a strict program? Yes, I think we’ve established that you most definitely can. But will you stay at your goal weight after you ease back into your normal way of life six months down the line? The chances are slim. Becoming lean is one thing, but staying lean is another thing. Why are these challenges so appealing to us? I believe there are various reasons.

  • Firstly, the idea of losing a lot of weight in a short space of time is very attractive. When you feel unattractive you want to see change as soon as possible!
  • Secondly, the results achieved by these programs have been widely advertised, which gives people the confidence that they can reach their goals too.
  • Thirdly, people believe that a 12 week program will help to set them up for future success.

This could not be further from the truth. I hope I’ve made it clear that if you want to see lasting results you need to find a way to completely change how you think about, and relate to, yourself, your abilities and the food you eat.

So how do you make changes that will last a lifetime?

That’s where I come in. I will help you transform your body, habits and lifestyle so you can make those healthy choices consistently because I believe the key to living a healthy life lies in the small everyday decisions you make, and in the habits you form. And honestly, there is no need to completely cut out one whole food group for the rest of your life unless you have an intolerance or medical condition!

Take control. Change the rest of your life, and not just the next few months with Absolute Health Online Coaching. I would love to explain to you how we can tackle your weight-loss goals the right way, and set you up for the months and years ahead. So let’s set up a call, or if you would like some more information first why don’t you join our pre-sale list?

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