Normal weight in no way signals perfection – just as overweight does not signal imperfection. However, the general consensus in scientific literature is that being overweight can lead to many disadvantages. Obesity is multi-factorial and complex in nature, and can develop due to social, behavioral, and racial effects as well as genetics and environmental influences.
Advancements in technology and automation have decreased the need for people to partake in physical labor, activity, and movement in general. Although the efficiencies and comforts gained by these advancements benefit us all, they come at a (sometimes hidden) cost of public health. Societal changes, the food industry, and the COVID-19 situation have compounded this issue to an extreme and present additional challenges to this already worrisome trend. This article is not a lecture or fat shaming. It is simply a somber analysis of where we stand today and what upward trends we are facing in the ongoing obesity epidemic. Once the baseline is identified, six specific, tried-and-true strategies to tackle weight loss are introduced.
In 2016, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 39.8% of American adults were not just overweight but medically considered obese. This is a stark increase from 30.5% in 1999. Additionally, childhood obesity rates were also trending upwards from 13.9% in 1999 to 18.5% in 2016.(1)
The public health obesity problem is a significant concern in America: Higher body weight has been associated with increases in mortality rates. Overweight and obesity has been directly linked to: increases in hyperlipidemia, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, deceased respiratory function, endometrial, breast, prostate and colon cancer, as well as social stigmatization and social discrimination.(2,3)
And while it is easy to become discouraged from this often overwhelming dose of negativity, contrary to popular belief, it is very doable to overcome the challenges of obesity and attain a healthy body weight. How do I know? I have personally helped hundreds of overweight and obese clients to regain their healthy body weight and fitness levels. Intervention with adequate nutrition coupled with a long-term movement plan are essential to this transition. You can view some of those success stories here: https://www.ocfitnesscoach.com/before-and-after/
Being overweight is defined by a body mass in index (also known as BMI) of 25-29.9kg/m2 while obesity is defined as a BMI over 30kg/m2. You can use this online calculator to figure out your BMI here:
Yes, the BMI has its limitations and does not take into consideration body composition (i.e., muscle structure) for it's calculation, but it generally provides a good rule-of-thumb of someone’s body fat status if they are new to working out or looking for a general reference.
So how do we work towards countering the obesity trends? People who are overweight may benefit simply from increasing physical activity along with making a few moderate dietary changes, while obese individuals may need more of a concentrated effort on caloric intake to reverse their trends. However, I have found in the 11 years of working with personal clients at OC Fitness Coach, that the following six specific strategies are key to losing weight:
1. Avoid Judgement
Too often, I see clients reflect on what has not worked in the past or feeling stuck on how they “failed” previous efforts (in their own words, not mine). That’s why I believe it is crucial to your physical success to adopt the right mindset when beginning your intervention plan.
This may sound like a small thing, but the first task you need to complete in regaining your fitness is fostering that positive voice in your head. This positive outlook is important in many areas of life, but it holds especially true for bigger weight loss projects. Yes, staying positive is not always easy, but believing in yourself and trusting the professional process is extremely important when it comes to changing your health. And if your inner voice isn’t loud enough, please know that as a coach, I’m here to educate, inspire and empower you to wellness – whether it’s in person at the OC Fitness Coach studio or virtually in our Patriot Fitness Academy.
2. Focus on What Matters
Wanting to lose scale weight is often the first and only measure of program success that I hear clients mention during our first few coaching sessions. And it’s true, the scale is a good measurement of progress for some people at certain points, but unfortunately, it is not a great indicator across the board for all groups of people. That often includes those just starting out on a wellness plan.
Instead of focusing on scale weight, I encourage people to focus on the lifestyle habits we put in place. Factors such as increasing lean body tissue, consuming essential amino acids, eating nutrient-dense foods whenever possible, cooking more at home, drinking clean water, prioritizing sleep, reducing stress, being around people who are supportive of your goals, and avoiding toxins. These habits precede the decreases in scale weight. Sustainable weight loss happens when the body perceives that “all is well” instead of experiencing an “emergency mode.”
Hormones (e.g., insulin, testosterone, cortisol, estrogen, thyroid and more) are in charge of your body and balancing these hormones takes time once you begin implementing these healthy habits. When clients begin to prioritize these habits over and over, then – and only then – will sustainable weight loss occur, and that takes time. Other indicators of progress early on that I encourage clients to focus on include changes in energy levels, sleep quality, flexibility, decreases in general body aches and pains, strength, confidence, coordination, improved blood work from your physician, stress and improved activities of daily living.
3. Increase Movement and Activity
The following guidelines are given to deconditioned individuals and are recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine.(4)
· 5 days per week
· 40-60 minutes of movement
· Low impact exercises (bike, swim, walks, hikes)
· Proper precaution with high-risk individuals with cardiovascular or orthopedic injuries
· Focus on increasing duration early on rather than intensity
· 2-3 non-consecutive days of weight training per week
· 1-3 sets per exercise
· 10-15 reps per exercise
· Gradual load increases
· Body weight exercises (modified pushups, modified planks, body weight squats, stairs)
· 2-3 non-consecutive days per week
· Full body stretch routine
· 30 seconds static stretch holds
· Progress to more dynamic mobility stretches
4. Set SMART Goals
Goals must be “S”pecific, “M”easurable, “A”ttainable, “R”elevant and “T”ime-based to assure that the program is carefully planned, and progress can be traced. This is what SMART means for fitness and health goals:
Example 1 – “I will go down 3 pants sizes within 3 months of starting the program with my consistency and patience by trying on my tight jeans weekly.”
Example 2 – “I will increase my vitamins and minerals in my diet within 30 days, by eating more nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, organic proteins, and healthy fats which will be tracked on MyFitnessPal for me to review.”
Both examples clearly define what the end objective is, the procedures on how to get there and how we can analyze the process in case there needs to be any changes along the way. 5. Get on a Schedule: The 6P Plan
I introduce all of my clients to the 6P Plan: Proper planning prevents piss poor performance. An outline of what you will do based on your goals, activity level, and limitations will put you on a direct path to success. It does not take long for my clients to get into the rhythm of working out using their individual exercise schedule and movement plan, and before you know it, your routine will be as familiar to you as the back of you palm. It’s important to safely apply the principle of progressive overload and continuously challenge your body over time, so your body doesn’t get used to the same workouts.
Monday- Pushups, 7,500 steps, flexibility stretches
Tuesday- 7,500 steps
Wednesday – Rest
Thursday – Body squats, 7,500 steps, flexibility stretches
Friday – 7,500 steps
Saturday – Planks, 7,500 steps, flexibility stretches
Sunday – Rest
6. Be Patient, Be Consistent
Be patient, be consistent. These words are by far the most repeated words in my gym that I have used with my clients over last 11 years at OC Fitness Coach. 95% of the time when clients have “failed” with their past lifestyle journeys, they have either lacked consistency or patience, and often both. Habit building takes time – and that’s okay. Your mental and physical state will not change in an instant.
Starting a new workout plan can be the easy part. The real test of your fitness resolution will sneak up on you weeks (or months) after you begin. This is where your weight loss battle is lost or won. My goal as a coach is to ensure your fitness habits are repeated over and over. Once the novelty wears off, you must remain consistent and stay over the target day after day, week after week, month after month. When the results start coming in, it fuels your motivation and makes the process easier moving forward.
I never try to give my clients the impression that sustainable weight loss is easy. That’s because I’m not here to lie to you, and we don’t live in a superficial weight loss commercial. However, regardless of past attempts, your personal history, genetics, injuries or busy lifestyle, you too can get to where you want to be with the proper lifestyle habits and confidence in place. Once you see the light, the health and fitness mountains won’t seem so intimidating, fit people will not seem so perfect, healthy food will become more appealing, and most importantly you will look and feel the way you have always wanted. And that’s when you will realize it was worth all the hard work you put into it.
Dan Tatro, M.S.-CSCS, CEO Patriot Fitness Academy
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1. Hales C M, Carroll M D, Fryar C D, Ogden C L. Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults. 2020.
2. American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: executive summary. Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight in Adults, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998; 68 (4): 899-917. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/68.4.899
3. World Health Organization. Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. 1997.
4. Kluwer, W. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 11th ed. 2018.