The Battle of the Bulge; The Danger of the Quick Fix

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BY SEAN GARRETT

Man, I am so proud of me right now!

Recently I completed a 12 Week fitness challenge with the team at Definition Fitness Training. It was tough few months of controlling my nutrition, training my body to the point of exhaustion and sacrificing that many boozy nights out that it almost brought me to tears! Though a few of my friends were more than happy to take advantage of my taxi services for those 12 weeks.

But to see my body fat percentage go down to 10%, which was a loss of 8kg of said fat and gain 4kg of muscle was oh so worth it.

Now this isn’t just some fad that I’ve just jumped into. I’m in/have been in this for the long haul. This just didn’t miraculously happen overnight.

Dear readers, it may shock you to know that I, once upon a time, was overweight.

Yes it’s true and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was one of the fat kids. Not morbidly obese, but just pudgy enough to get the occasional fat joke tossed in here and there. I’ve battled with my weight for the majority of my life. I was active enough – I’ve played Rugby League for 15 plus years and I started going to the gym in my late teens. However I could never just lose all that fat that made me depressed every time I got out of the shower and looked in that God-damn mirror (and for a brilliant body image rant, check out my fellow contributor, Alice’s piece here.)

Well, almost three years ago I did something about it. I didn’t SAY I would do something, I DID something. I could bore you with the details of what I did but I won’t, the important thing is that I lost 15kgs in the space of three to four months. You couldn’t believe how happy it made me (and still does) when I was complimented on the changes I had made in myself and how good I looked. It was also the greatest birthday present I could give myself on my 21st Birthday. Only recently did I decide to take it to the next level and that’s where my current results come into the equation.

I would say that the results speak for themselves

So you can imagine my frustration and sadness every time I hear of someone’s woeful tale  of not being able make a start or not doing anything about their health because “Well, it’s too late, I’m already like this so why bother”; or give up because the latest “quick-fix” turned out to be just another fad.

That’s crap. It’s downright bullshit.

There is no, I repeat, NO QUICK FIX to becoming a fitter and healthier person. You have to be committed for the long haul and realise that the first few months are going to be slow and they are going to be tough. You’re not going to be able to run 10km or bench 100kg if you haven’t exercised properly since high school P.E.

This brings me to the most recent quick fix to have completed its latest cycle, which is The Biggest Loser. Now this show has its good intentions, I’m not denying that, but it does have a couple of serious issues that I would like to address. First being the trainers.

I’m assuming that most people are aware of how the trainers approach the contestants, that being the good old “hard but fair, tough love approach”, which I have no problem with, as long as it stays within reason. My issue is with the level of intensity the trainers use. Let’s look at an example from the most recent series.

Kevin was the heaviest contestant on The Biggest Loser worldwide, weighing at 254kg. He couldn’t even put on his own socks…

His first training session with a trainer saw him on the treadmill and he started at a walk. Okay, sounds good so far. He then picked the pace up a little bit to a faster walk. Okay, were still going strong. It’s clear he hasn’t moved this much in one session in a long time, so he’s showing obvious signs of stress. Again, he’s told to pick it up to a light jog. He’s really starting to huff and puff but these things don’t come easy so he keeps at it.

This is where the trainer starts telling him to sprint…

Really? You’re going to make the guy who broke into a sweat walking to the gym do a 100% intensity sprint? You got to be kidding me. It probably doesn’t help that you’re threatening to kick him out if he doesn’t improve.

You are accredited professionals. You of all people should know what these people are capable of in their current condition. Sure, motivate him if he’s not trying his best but don’t kick him out just because his 254kg frame is capable of a light jog. It is not good for him and it’s not any better for the others to push them to the point of vomiting.

This isn’t the only case of my questioning the trainers’ judgment. Here is a lovely little quote that was blurted out during the show:

‘Why are you panicking over having a workout? I’m scared of war, I’m scared of this and that, but a workout?’

How, how is this meant to motivate someone? How do you even get to war from workout? Can someone explain it to me? Because I fail to see how this kind of motivation is meant to be successful in the long run. The trainers I’ve known and worked out with have never used this kind of motivation, purely because it’s demoralising. Guys, you’re there to help, not point out their obvious failures. They know that already, that’s why they’re there!

Most people don’t respond well to being berated when working out

Now I mentioned before I trained myself to exhaustion/vomiting level during my 12 week challenge, so you may be wondering why I’m advocating the opposite now. It’s because I’ve been conditioning myself for a while, so I can handle the strenuous training session every so often. It will do these people, or anyone else starting out, no good now, or in the long run to train at those levels of intensity.

The next thing that I want to address is the support that is given to the contestants after they have left the show. This is the big issue, as The Biggest Loser advocates some pretty dangerous lifestyle choices to begin with.

The aim for the contestants is to lose as much weight as possible in the week. They’ll do that until they leave and then what? More often than not it’s straight back to their old life of fast food and bad habits and lo and behold, they’re back to where they started, sometimes worse off than before.

This is the main danger when consorting with any crash diet or quick fix weight loss solution, you may see short term results and feel great for that month or two after it ends. But without that continued support and education from external sources they’re just going to go back and feel even worse. During my challenge, the head trainer who was running it said this:

‘It’s not just about working you guys hard at training and giving you all this nutritional information. It’s about teaching you all about setting good habits that will last the rest of your lives, so you’re able to go away and maintain the results you’re going to get’

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

You have to set the right goals for what you want. If you want to be a ripped supermodel, then be prepared for high intensity workouts 5 times a week and clean meals of only protein and salads or vegies. If you only want to lose a few kilos of fat, push yourself to go to that extra gym session or walk and maybe switch out those soft drinks for water. The little things can make a world of difference.

Finally, HAVE FUN! All these fixes make exercise and fitness the most serious thing in the world. It isn’t. It’s a great way to meet new people or, if you’re not that social, grab a friend and do it with them. If you come into it with a positive attitude, then all you’ll get are positive experiences and positive results. I know I did.

There is no such thing as “I can’t do it” or “It’s too late”.  You can start doing something whenever you want; you can be a 20 year old like I was, middle aged or elderly.

The important thing is that you try.

Sean is a final year Computer Science Student at UOW. He’s maintained his results for the past three years and couldn’t be happier. All he needs now is to find the self-confidence to meet girls when he’s out. You can catch him rambling and ranting at the world on his Twitter page.

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One thought on “The Battle of the Bulge; The Danger of the Quick Fix

  1. I totally get you about the fitness and trying to lose weight. I told myself at the beginning of Yr 12 I would lose weight and look fantastic for uni and I went to a gym and did it. I’m now a first year uni student and pretty damn happy with my body. The one thing I hate is how hard it is for me to stay on the wagon. I fell off at the beginning of this year and only got back on in May and gah, it’s hard to get my fitness levels up again.

    Btw, congrats on pushing through!! 😀 I couldn’t do the 12 week challenge (there are so many out there now) mainly because (TMI??) when I’m on my period I abhor doing any exercise but light stretching.

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