Why Your Focus Shouldn’t Be Fat Loss Even If That’s Your Goal

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Stop Dieting For Fat LossI’m a decades-long dieter that tried just about every diet in the books to lose weight and most of the time I wasn’t very successful at it. I now work in an industry where people are very focused on how they look, their body fat, muscle definition and basically their body. I definitely don’t fit into the fitness model category, but hey I got a late start. 😉 I willingly got on stage more than once to have judges look over my body and tell me what they felt was lacking.

You’d think that would send me over the edge and so focused on fat loss that I didn’t care about anything else, but you’d be wrong. Yes, there are times when I want to lose fat like getting ready to compete or after a bulk cycle but I’ve learned to not make that the focus. Body fat is very hard to measure and is downright inaccurate. It’s pretty rare that you ever need to know your true bodyfat anyway. It’s more for bragging rights.

Trainers pinch skin folds in different places so those measurements vary even with the same person. Scales and bod pods vary based on hydration levels and several other factors so even they can’t be relied on. If it’s a number that can never be right, it’s kinda silly to put stock in it. When you focus on fat loss, it can be very self defeating. You workout to burn calories which burns fat. You eat at a deficit and you eat healthy. You lift weights and do cardio. You do everything right.

Sometimes the scale moves and sometimes it doesn’t. You have no way of knowing what is happening under the surface. Maybe the scale didn’t move because you put on muscle this week and offset the fat loss. Maybe it’s water retention. Maybe the stars aligned and your body didn’t burn fat. Who knows, but it pisses you off. It makes you feel like your efforts did nothing so you may as well have had half the package of cookies.

In fact, here is a package of cookies now so it’s go time. Then the next day you freak out that you’ve undone things and you decide to buckle down and drop calories, or increase cardio, or maybe both. You workout like crazy and eat even better. That may work until you have another week where the scale doesn’t move and you repeat the process.

Not much fun in eating, workouts or even life in that. It’s nightmarish. You might even be inclined to just bag it after long enough of the hamster wheel. Yeah, I’ve been there and can tell you firsthand how much it sucks and impacts you daily. So what’s the answer? Try changing the focus and just have fun in the process of losing fat.

At my first competition, the judges told me I needed to come in leaner and add muscle to my lower body, specifically my butt. I could have turned that into a “your butt is flat and your body is fat” moment and focused on dieting to fix it. Instead I took a different approach. I picked my next contest date pretty far off in the future. It was a date in the realm of possibility, but I didn’t commit myself to it. It was more of let’s see what we can do by then mindset.

I kept an open mind and approached it with the intent of doing it but used a wait and see approach. I thought about what people with lean, strong glutes did in their workouts. Many deadlifted quite a bit of weight, so I set my goals to become a much better deadlifter. I structured my workouts to include a few variations of deadlifts along with a focus on accessory lifts that would assist in gaining glute strength. Hip thrusts, lunges, step ups, and various exercises.

I had fun with my workouts, and made the focus on performance and deadlift progress. Every week I tried to lift more weight or do more reps. I celebrated and fist pumped when I crushed it. If I fell short, I looked at what I could do to fix it. Maybe I needed to sleep better or lighten other exercises so I had more energy for deadlifts. I was in a calorie deficit to lose weight during that time, but I didn’t pay attention to the scale.

I focused only on the mirror and getting better in my workouts. Something interesting happened during that time. The fat came off gradually and the mirror began improving. I didn’t pay attention to the ups and downs of the scale because they didn’t matter. The scale had no impact on my deadlifting ability, but my deadlifts definitely had an impact on my backside, body fat, and muscle gain.

I started to look at how I felt in the gym during workouts. If I ate junk, did it impact my strength? Were there foods that helped? If eating something made me feel more energetic and stronger, I noted that. If eating another made me feel ugh, I ate it less often or not at all. When you have energy and feel great, you tend to hit your workouts hard and that pays off with strength and fat loss.

With the guesstimated contest date in the future but no firm commitment, there was no pressure to hit a weight or body fat by a drop dead date. There was no freaking out that I wasn’t changing fast enough, or I needed to do more, or I wasn’t going to make it in time. In fact, I didn’t even pay the entry fee until about 6 weeks out when I was within spitting distance of a decent stage shape.

The result was that I was able to improve my muscle mass and butt, get down to a lower level of body fat than I ever thought possible and compete again. I also did it while enjoying the process because how fat or lean I was and if the scale was moving wasn’t in the picture. In fact, I probably had steadier progress because the scale didn’t drive me to pound down a box of cookies and backslide. I also ate more for performance which in turn helped the fat loss cause.

If you’re focused mainly on fat loss and stuck in a cycle of calories, eating good foods and not bad foods, cardio, and working out for calorie burn, consider changing the focus. Fitness should enhance your life and make it better, not punish you for failure and falling short. Pick a performance goal that you’d like to work on or improve, and structure your workouts around that. Maybe you want to be the best bench presser ever. Or you want to squat your body weight. Or do a set of pull ups.

Structure your workouts to get you towards that goal and focus on that progress and those numbers. The body fat and scale typically take care of themselves in the process. Think about the last time you saw someone with a lot of bodyfat pump out a set of pull ups. It’s possible but not common. You’ll find it’s much more rewarding to enjoy the process, the workouts, and life while gradually reaching your underlying goal.

I know what it’s like to diet and have most workouts be miserable, and what it’s like to feel exhilarated as you leave the gym and excited at what you’ve accomplished. I specialize in ending the diets and making your workouts more effective with my online coaching programs. If you need help figuring out a performance goal or mapping out a plan to get you there, let me know at adrianne@growthstimulustraining.com. Assessments are always free and I’d love to talk about what we can achieve together and create a love of being fit in life.

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