At the moment, TV schedules seem to consist entirely of programmes relating to weight loss. Operation Transformation, The Biggest Loser and many other variations on the theme aim to inspire, educate and entertain us as they follow the health and fitness journeys of the contestants.
Although there is a positive side to these types of programme, I feel that there is one major drawback.
The above mentioned TV shows tend to create unrealistic expectations of what constitutes “normal” weekly weight loss and, by extension, create an unhelpful reliance on the weighing scales as the main indicator of body composition.
Without a doubt, I find that one of the biggest problems for clients starting a new training regime is unrealistic expectations. Some people seem to think that the very act of signing up to a gym or hiring a Personal Trainer automatically entitles them to the body of their dreams.
And it’s not really their fault. Apart from weight loss tv shows, we’re also bombarded with images of lean, healthy, and attractive women who’ve achieved that perfect body with a machine that they only have to use for 6 minutes a day. And the best part is that the machine does all the work!
And then there’s the latest “Killer” programme from Men’s Total Body Fitness Muscle Health Magazine that guarantees that lads will be fitter, stronger and leaner than ever before.
Of course, the lads will also automatically have six-pack abs and be irresistible to women. Trouble is these magazines have said that about every training programme in every issue for the last 10 years.
So let’s come back to the real world for a moment. Training to gain muscle or to lose body fat is simple. But it’s not easy. If it was easy everybody would be doing it and gyms would have much better membership retention rates.
As a general rule the average amount of Fat Loss on a sound nutrition and exercise programme will be 1-2 pounds per week. Clients with more body fat and greater fluid retention will tend to drop more weight initially, before the weight loss tapers.
Although contestants on tv shows are seen to lose 7-14 pounds per week for the first few episodes, this is definitely not the norm for the general population. Spectacular weight loss can often be due to losing water and/or muscle. Lost water will be replaced and it’s rarely ever a good idea to lose muscle.
When it comes to those lads looking to bulk up, gaining a pound of lean muscle per week is about as good as it gets. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was known to put a bit of time and effort into his workouts, was more than happy to gain 25 pounds total weight in a year.
So whether you’re looking to gain muscle or lose fat, please be prepared to maintain a healthy diet and put in the effort for about 4-6 training sessions per week. Concentrating on clothes size and/or tape measurements and ignoring the scales will also work much better.
If at that point you’re not achieving your realistic targets, then it will simply be a case of adjusting your training or nutrition plans until you’re back on track.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you stay realistic, focused and patient, it will happen.