“Luck is the last dying wish of those who want to believe that winning can happen by accident. Sweat is for those who know it’s a choice.”
Suggesting that achieving our goals is up to us if only we work hard enough sounds motivating on the surface, but really it makes no sense. So, what, the 99.2% of players in the U.S. Open main draws who walked away without a title did not realize all they had to do was work hard and choose to win? Outcomes that rely on factors beyond our control breaking our way are not automatically there for the taking if only we put our mind to it.
Where that quote originally comes from is not clear to me, but I know I first heard it from a personal trainer who cites it as one of his favorite quotes. According to said trainer’s Facebook page, he now employs a certified “Weight Loss Specialist.” Awesome.
Here is the problem: If a supposed specialist is giving you the information you supposedly need to lose weight, and achieving your goal is framed as a choice that is entirely in your control and can be attained through hard work, and you do not achieve your weight-loss goal, then who is to blame?
If we mislead people into believing that weight loss is entirely up to them and they do not achieve (or more likely maintain) it, they typically turn their frustration and disappointment on themselves with berating thoughts like, “I have no willpower,” “I need to be more disciplined,” “I’m such a loser,” and “I just need to work harder next time.”
Behaviors that in and of themselves were beneficial to health independent of weight loss, such as being physically active or eating fruits and vegetables, are abandoned because they did not lead to weight loss. Restriction gets taken up a notch. They pursue an even more rigid diet and/or intense exercise regimen, not realizing that these behaviors themselves can make weight increase and/or lead to health issues. A colleague of mine calls it “paradigm blindness.” In other words, many people do not realize that their presumed solution to being “overweight” actually exacerbates the condition, so they keep adding more of the supposed solution to the ever-worsening issue.
I used to help (and I use that verb loosely, as I was actually part of the problem even as I thought I was part of the solution) people with weight loss earlier in my career too, but that was before I knew better.
- Virtually any diet will create short-term weight loss and subsequent weight regain.
- Approximately 95% percent of people who intentionally lose weight will ultimately put the weight back on, even when they maintain the behaviors that created the weight loss, and most of them will end up heavier than they were at baseline.
- Weight cycling (i.e. repeatedly losing and regaining weight) is associated with the conditions ranging from depression to diabetes.
- Weight and health are not synonymous. Research that has adequately controlled for behaviors (i.e. physical activity, smoking, fruit and vegetable intake, etc.) has found that the behaviors are the best predictors of health risk, regardless of weight.
Well-constructed research, my clinical experience, and the experiences of many of my fellow dietitians teach us that weight loss is typically not in one’s control. Sure, our behaviors do matter, but other factors, such as genetics, environment, medical conditions, and personal history, are either partially or completely out of our hands.
The paradox is that any true “Weight Loss Specialist” would know that nobody by that title actually exists. Healthcare practitioners are supposed to help people with, you know, health, which is why Joanne and I take the focus off of weight and instead focus on behaviors that can actually make a difference.