I know! You must think I have gone insane, but hear me out for the next few minutes and you'll see I have a point here. Recently on The Personal Trainer Development Center there was an article published titled,"Is Exercise for Weight Loss Really Effective," by Eirik Garnas of OrganicFitness.com. It was a well written article with lots of supporting evidence cited for claims made and discussed. It took an evidenced-based look at what the literature really says about this question. All of which I appreciate and respect, but the article for me made me think about this question from less of a scientific and research oriented perspective and more from a philosophy and coaching perspective.
It made me think long and hard about whether or not training a couple days a week and attempting to watch what you eat is actually an effective plan for weight loss. Are these two behaviors really the only think we need in order to lose those 20 pounds? Is there an ingredient or variable out there that might just be more important to these weight loss goals? Are we missing a piece to this puzzle? Perhaps, even the largest piece?
The more I dwelled on these questions and the more I have reflected on my own experiences with helping people lose weight, both the failures and successes, I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that in fact exercise and nutrition advice isn't in fact enough for losing weight or accomplishing much of any kind of physical goal.
I believe as an industry we are largely missing the target on this one. We are leaving unaddressed the biggest piece of the problem. Leading us to spend most of our time and our client's time spinning our wheels.
So the answer is no. Exercise is not effective for weight loss unless we first address the reasons why someone has gotten themselves into the position of needing to lose weight.
We have to first address the person's psychology. We have to address their behaviors and thoughts.
And we have to do this in order to make sure that any kind of exercise program someone undertake's or nutritional changes someone attempts to make can actually be done with enough consistency to have an effect.
I believe that this starts with trying to develop small habits focusing on one at a time. In addition to trying to foster the individual's intrinsic motivation using the assumptions of Self-Determination Theory as our starting point.
This is were as a trainer I find my scope of practice is to limited to address at times and why it is definitely beneficial to develop relationships with mental health professionals who may be able to work with my client on their issues.
But I also feel that there are many clients who fall in the grey area where they aren't dealing with psychological issues that are pathological, but are holding them back from making their new nutrition and exercise habits effective which I do see as part of my scope of practice.
I think eventually we will see personal training grow beyond just coaching people on exercise and nutrition. It will be about overall lifestyle coaching.
Happy moving and heavy lifting!
Practical, Purposeful, Effective Training