I’ve been personal training obese clients in London for over a decade now, and over that time I’ve built up a lot of experience around what works and what doesn’t. If you’re obese, you need to read this.
Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery)
Forget weight loss surgery. You can beat obesity into submission with healthy eating, exercise, and positive mindset. Weight loss surgery is not the answer. It doesn’t make you stronger, it doesn’t make you more disciplined, it doesn’t teach you health eating. Sure, you’ll eat far less after weight loss surgery, but that is a very different thing from eating healthily.
You have to really want to lose that excess body fat. That means taking responsibility for your actions, being prepared to make sacrifices, and to become disciplined in your approach to eating and physical activity. None of those things will happen without first cultivating a positive mindset. I strongly recommend you buy a book called Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, and read it carefully. It will set you on the right path.
Crush the misconceptions
Part of achieving a positive mindset is to crush all the misconceptions about obesity. I read an article recently by George Monbiot (The Guardian, Wednesday 12 August 2015) which was full of misconceptions. As a personal trainer, some parts of this article made me cringe, although to be fair there were some paragraphs at the end which I strongly agreed with.
I’ll cover the parts of the article I agreed with before moving on to the misconceptions. Monbiot talked about our “obesogenic environment”, ie all those elements of our society which make it harder to maintain a healthy weight. A prime example is junk food advertising to kids - high sugar foods branded and marketed as cool and life enhancing – such as the grotesque spectacle of McDonalds and Coca Cola sponsoring the London 2012 Olympics. Monbiot criticised the government’s voluntary (“and therefore useless”) code of conduct with the food manufacturers, and called for new laws to ban the advertising of junk food, thus “restricting the pushers”. As a personal trainer in London I welcome this bold suggestion.
However, the first half of the article was littered with misconceptions. “Obesity is an incurable disease. So why is the government intent on punishing sufferers?” There’s so much wrong with this statement. Obesity is perfectly curable, I’ve helped dozens of obese clients lose a lot of weight. The notion that government advice to eat more healthily and take more exercise equate to “punishing” sufferers is ludicrous. All successful strategies involve both stick and carrot, telling home truths and facing up to reality. Portraying obese people as powerless victims is not helpful. Victim mentality is the enemy of taking responsibility and taking action.
Monbiot goes on to say “Once you become obsese, biological changes lock you into that condition,” and he cites more fat cells, neural pathways of reward, dopamine, food addiction. As a personal trainer my response is: sure it’s a challenge, but you’re not locked in, it’s reversible, as millions of people around the world have proved.
“If you lose weight, the body perceives that it’s being starved,” the article continues. Correction: if you fall for extreme commercial diets, ie starvation diets which deprive you of essential nutrients, the body perceives it’s being starved. But if you eat healthily, the body does not perceive it is being starved, you simply lose weight steadily and keep it off.
I always advise my personal training clients in London to get checked out by their GP before starting an exercise programme, and I liaise with their GP to assess any risk factors such as heart conditions or joint problems.
The key to an effective exercise regime is that it is regular, progressive, and varied. This is why hiring a personal trainer is a smart move: you get the most effective and safe workouts possible.
As any personal trainer with nutrition qualifications will tell you, eating healthily is not about eating less of everything. Sure, you need to eat a lot less processed junk food (ideally none), but you need to eat a lot more of one particular food type: vegetables. This is the nutritional magic bullet if you are obese. Make veg the dominant component of your meals, the other components being high quality protein with every meal, a small quantity of complex carbs, some good fats (again in small quantities), and lots of water between meals.
For example, a healthy meal would be:
1 salmon fillet
Half a sweet potato
Broccoli (a fist size)
Stir fried red peppers and onions (a fist size)
If you’re obese, take a look at the people around you, the people closest to you. Are they helping or hindering your weight loss? Make clear to all family and friends that you are going to achieve a healthy weight, and you need their support.
One of my obese clients married a woman who was slim and sporty, and she was a huge encouragement in his weight-loss efforts, which made my job so much easier. Another of my obese clients made great progress with me, then married a woman who was herself obese and bought/cooked him a lot of unhealthy food, and his weight piled back on. So be careful who you bring into your life.
That’s why my social network Fitness Buddy is so powerful. You can find like-minded people in London who want to lose weight, and encourage each other along the way.
Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London who specialises in helping obese people achieve a healthy weight.