Fat and flabby triathlete, kind of an oxymoron, eh? Yet how many times have you heard a fellow triathlete complain about his or her weight? I know I’ve certainly been guilty of this. Well, how much of this is unfounded (kidding with oneself), vs. a more realistic more deep-seated problem? Since weight loss is such a significant issue when it comes to athletic performance, what exactly is the psychology behind it?
If you ask me, weight loss begins in the mind. For most people the mind is the most difficult obstacle to overcome. If they don’t prepare themselves mentally then the physical side to this equation simply won’t work. In other words, people tend to put so much pressure on themselves to succeed that when they don’t (which is more often than not), they turn back to the biggest obstacle facing them which is? Food, of course.
According to Dr. Roger Gould who is considered by some as one of the world’s leading authorities on emotional eating, people eat (emotionally), for a number of reasons including depression, to avoid rejection or confrontation, to protect oneself from fear of failure, feelings from childhood and, yes, fear of being thin…
Now I wouldn’t say that I have an eating problem by any means, though I have become somewhat obsessed with my weight purely because of athletic performance; at just over 200 lbs, I am big in the sport of triathlon/Ironman. The bigger you are the harder it will be to cover 140 miles and the more energy you’ll have to put out. It’s not emotional just mental…Is there a difference? I think so.
But I know I’m not alone in this thinking. At least with the athletes that I see on a regular basis. I knew nothing about nutrition and athletic performance. Well, I knew that the heavier I was the slower I would be but that was it. I didn’t fully understand the cause and effect of eating certain types of foods.
The interesting thing about weight loss is how both genders tend to view it differently. Men will likely exercise more rather than cut calories to lose weight; think of all of those guys who obsess about going to the gym on a daily basis yet then go out for beers and burgers afterwards because they just “worked out.” As they get older, they’ll often use a medical experience such as a heart attack as a self motivator. Women, on the other hand, are often more motivated to lose weight out of concern for appearance.
Why do most diets fail? For me it’s at times been simply due to the enormous amount of work and preparation it takes to stick by it. The shopping, weighing, preparing, timing. After a week or two of this it simply becomes more of a hassle than anything. Yet going back to the beginning of this post, I think the majority of diets fail because people are unwilling to deal with the root cause of the problem; the emotional well being caused from a real life experience.
So how does one get motivated to diet? As a triathlete it seems pretty easy. If you have a race goal, tie your weight loss into your training for that event. Losing weight equals free speed. Now if you’re simply starting out and training for say a sprint triathlon then this might not be as easy vs. someone who might be tackling a six month training regimen for the first Ironman race. Mentally you know that your race may only take you a couple of hours versus a whole day. In this case start small. Look for little victories and work up from there. For example, instead of eating that whole chocolate bar at one sitting divide it up over a few days. Instead of having a beer or glass of wine every night, hold off until the weekends instead. Instead of waiting in line at Subway or a sandwich shop at lunch with all of your co-workers, try going to a salad bar. See if you can do any of these suggestions for a few days (or weeks), in a row.
Finally, the key to healthy weight loss is being able to forgive yourself for slip ups which undoubtedly will occur. Now I’m not saying that you should go out and eat Twinkies, but rather don’t be so hard on yourself if after going out for dinner during the week you’re with friends and you have a spoonful of a dessert that’s put on the table in front of you for everyone to enjoy.
The psychology behind weight loss is just as important as your mental outlook to lifetime fitness in general. If you lighten up a bit in the long run your goals will be that much more achievable.
Reprinted with Permission – TriDigest – Charlie Abrahams
If you are ready to START AGAIN!, CONTACT ME – Lane Paschal – NASM Weight Loss Specialist