There have been numerous articles posted on this website that expose some personal situations I’ve endured. One of the most popular was My Experience with Disordered Eating. I didn’t expect that article to receive such a huge response in addition to the emails and messages from other women and men sharing their stories and thanking me for revealing mine.
I was once hesitant to share personal experiences regarding my less-than-positive strength training or nutrition endeavors, because I didn’t know if anyone could relate, or if anyone would even care. However, it’s been my experience that many other individuals have gone through similar circumstances. It’s because of that fact I’ll continue to share events I’ve personally endured.
With that in mind, I want to discuss the fat loss mindset with you today. Letting go of the fat loss mindset is something I had to battle for years.
Before I explain what I mean by “letting go of the fat loss mindset”, you should answer a few questions:
- Is fat loss the main goal of your strength training, cardio, and nutrition efforts? Let me rephrase that – have you been training and eating with the goal of fat loss for an extended period of time, as in several months, or perhaps even years?
- Are your workouts fueled by the “I want to lose fat and look better” mindset?
- Are your daily food choices driven by thoughts like “I shouldn’t eat that” or “that will just make me fat”?
- Are you constantly concerned about being in a caloric deficit each day by restricting even healthy foods and getting in “extra” workouts?
- Do you weigh yourself on a daily basis, or several times per week, in hopes of seeing a smaller number? Definitely read this => Stop Weighing on the Scale.
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, allow me to propose you to why you can benefit from changing the fat loss mindset.
I can tell you honestly that a couple of years ago, I answered “yes” to every one of those questions on a daily basis. This was during my disordered eating battle, and for a couple of years afterward.
Everything thing I did and every thought about training and nutrition revolved around fat loss. Day in, and day out, all I was concerned with was “burning fat”. I was doing this even when I was 125 pounds with body fat in the mid-teens.
This fat loss mindset had a vice grip on my mind.
I could never just have a fun workout. Every workout I did was super intense, and I never missed a single one. Even when I was fatigued and exhausted, I would still train to my limit.
On top of that, I would do high intensity cardio, and low intensity cardio.
Every time I sat down to eat a meal I thought about how it would affect my physical appearance. I could never eat something “unclean” without being riddled with guilt immediately afterwards, and sometimes the next day.
Time to Let go of the Fat Loss Mindset
Unless you have a lot of excess body fat to lose, you should not be focusing on fat loss for extended periods of time. If you have excess body fat, I definitely encourage you to get rid of it. But don’t “hate” yourself for how you look now.
Focusing solely on fat loss for an extended period of time is mentally draining, and, at some point, you’ll have to transition to training and eating for maintenance. You can’t, or at least you shouldn’t, be concerned with losing fat every day for the rest of your life.
There was a time in the not too distant past when my thoughts and intentions were plagued with the notion that I “had to get leaner”. Day after day I focused on what I could eat (or not eat as I explain in My Biggest Nutrition Mistake) and how I should train to achieve that goal. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and I was always conscious of how I could improve my physical appearance.
Finally, I became fed up with my obsessive mindset and asked myself a few questions.
- Why did I feel the need to get leaner?
- What would getting leaner achieve?
- Would I finally be “happy” once I achieved the desired state of leanness?
I quickly realized that if I wasn’t happy with myself at my current physical state, I wouldn’t obtain happiness once I reached my “ideal” level of physical conditioning either. I knew this because it was repeatedly my experience that once I reached that “ideal” level (lower bodyweight, lower body fat, etc), I discovered something else that needed to be improved or remedied.
This is something I see more often than not, especially with women. They proclaim that, “If they can just reach their goal weight” that they’ll finally be happy with how they look. Well, even when they reach that “goal weight”, they are still not satisfied.
After I asked myself those three simple questions listed above, I realized that I was putting too much mental and physical effort on something that wasn’t truly important. I was already very lean and stronger than ever. Why did I feel the constant need to be “leaner” or “better”?
I think part of the reason was because of my previous disordered eating battle. Plus, I’m a perfectionist by nature. I always have been. In college I wanted to make an A in every class; I managed to do so. Anytime I’ve participated in a sport or other activity, I expect nothing short of perfection from myself.
I carry that same attitude into my training, nutrition, and performance goals. Once I realized the situation, and how I had allowed it to take control of me, I made some changes to my training and mindset.
- I stopped training for fat loss
- I stopped comparing myself to other women
- I decreased my strength training to 3 or 4 days per week
- I started to appreciate myself for what I had already accomplished instead of thinking something was always in need of improvement (yes, this was difficult, but I was vigilant, and still am today)
- I set positive, performance oriented training goals (increase my deadlift, perform 12 chin-ups, etc)
Once I stopped training for fat loss focused on performance and getting stronger, my obsession with being as lean as possible slowly dissipated. I started to enjoy training again because I was excited to beat my previous performance. I wasn’t worried about burning calories – I was getting stronger. To my surprise, I even lost a few extra pounds of fat over the next several months. I think part of the reason is because I was no longer stressed out all the time!
Should You Change the Fat Loss Mindset?
If you’ve been training and eating specifically for fat loss for an extended period of time (and you don’t have much excess body fat to lose), then it might be time to let go of the fat loss mindset.
Over the next week I urge you to be conscious of your thoughts and what you say about, and to, yourself. How do you talk to yourself when you’re trying on clothes? What do you say when you see yourself in pictures? Do you have more positive or negative self thoughts?
Do you constantly think about, and train and eat (or not eat) for, fat loss?
Once you’re aware of these thoughts, it will be much easier to address them. I suggest using the following recommended reading articles to help you out.
Please note: there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to improve your performance or appearance. If you have excess body fat to lose or you want to look better in your swimsuit this summer, I applaud your efforts. However, when those goals and desires are driven by negative motivation and go on for extended periods of time, it’s not a great way to go about things. Furthermore, it can become counterproductive when you’ve already attained a lean, strong, and healthy body but you simply won’t stop short of “perfection”.
Be sure to check out Part 2. Letting Go of the Fat Loss Mindset Part 2.
Here are some additional articles you should check out. These will help you transition from the “fat loss mindset” to a more positive, rewarding state of mind that focuses on positive motivation.
- 6 Sane and Simple Rules to Lift Like a Girl
- Numbers Don’t Define You
- 5 Problems with Rapid Fat Loss Methods and Quick Fixes, and What to do Instead
Check those out and you’ll be able to ditch the fat loss mindset, for good.