For this instalment of "But Why? Wednesday", we're going to talk about why we don't do "weight loss" or "body transformation" challenges and try to shed a little bit of light on the reality of such incentives.
You can't transform a body in 8 weeks. Not really. You can't transform a body in 10 weeks, you can't even transform a body in 12. True transformation involves years of work both physical and mental. You need to change your lifestyle, the way your brain and body communicate, how you move, why you move, the way you see food, the way you measure health, the way you measure happiness, the kinds of goals you set, the friends you keep, your priorities and most importantly the way you see and love yourself. Cutting calories and going to 4 HIIT sessions a week, for 8 weeks, ain't gonna do that.
"But Matt!" you exclaim "I did an 8 week challenge and I looked the best I've ever looked! I love 8 week challenges!" That's great, but what happened after the 8 week challenge? Were you able to maintain that look? If the answer is yes, then you are the exception, not the rule. The answer for most people is no. The answer for most people is that they got great results but they weren't able to keep up with it, returned to their normal lifestyle and are now unhappy with how they look again. Furthermore, the answer for most people is that they have gone back to the same challenge (or a similar one) multiple times for the same result. Explain to me how that's any different to yoyo dieting?
Even worse, the implication from many of those organisations running the challenge and the fitness industry at large is "Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can't give it the discipline to keep the weight off." I mean, it's not their fault you can't stick to the plan right? Or is it? If the diet and exercise regime they put you on were actually sustainable and healthy in the long run, why does it only go for 8 weeks? If it were something you could do for the rest of your life, why is it not longer?
Here's a little something I'll let you in on. Weight loss and body transformation challenges are marketing tactics. They are a way for gyms to broadcast the results of their clients with the message of "YOU CAN TOO!!!". More insidiously, they are designed to get people hooked on a look that they can't reasonably maintain. They do this so that when you look in the mirror 12 months down the track and feel like a failure because you don't fit inside some arbitrary stencil of beauty, you remember the gym that gave you such amazing results in JUST 8 WEEKS!
In fairness to many gyms that run these types of challenges, most of them aren't sitting around with curled up moustaches and top hats laughing maniacally at the silliness of the greater unwashed. I believe most of them offer these challenges as a way to get people motivated and ultimately try to generate some extra buzz, loyalty and therefore extra dollars because heck, they need to eat too. I think most of them don't even stop to think about why they are such a successful marketing tool, they just do them because "that's what everyone does, right?" The real shits in this scenario are the gurus that hatched these schemes and understand fully what these challenges represent: an ongoing money grab at the expense of false promises and reinforcing an unrealistic body image.
We run 8 week challenges ourselves but they aren't for weight loss and they aren't for "transformation". We run Movement Goal Challenges where our clients are asked to take a skill or movement they would like to learn over an 8 week period and then we show them the progressions they will need to get closer to that skill. We do this for two reasons, one is most definitely to generate some buzz and interest from our clients but the second reason is so that when they get to the end of the two months they will either have a new skill or at least the knowledge of how to acquire it. The ability to teach yourself something stays with you, weight loss challenges rarely do.
I understand the lure of transformation challenges, I really do. As a very skinny guy growing up, I desperately wanted to be more muscular.That's another rant for another day though, suffice to say I'm not a quick fix kinda guy. Next time you or someone you know is tempted to go in for an 8 week challenge, just remember, real results aren't quick and quick results aren't real. In the case of true transformation and sustainable weight loss, slow and steady really does win the race.