Massive weight loss can be achieved. After years of being a fitness trainer, I can honestly say that I wish I had every obese person in the city working out at my gym. Fitness trainers have the know-how and drive to give your life back to you. Just meet us halfway.
I’m going to lay out the full picture of what massive weight loss looks like from start to end. This could be 50 pounds or 250 pounds. The process is the same.
What Does the Doctor Say?
Before you start on any weight loss program, it is a good idea to meet with your doctor. You should let the doctor know that you are going to get on a diet and exercise program under a fitness trainer. If you have 50+ pounds to lose, the fitness trainer would likely ask for this anyway.
The doctor may have some simple guidelines to give the fitness trainer. If he does, have them put in writing or give you a written “Okay to start a fitness and exercise program under a certified personal fitness trainer.”
As a fitness trainer, I always loved having an open line with the doctor. They usually loved what I was doing for their patients and nothing but good things to say. I would run the type of exercise by them that we were doing and depending on the client and their own medical history, I would get a “Just check their blood pressure before and after” or “Make sure her blood sugar stays above ____ amount.”
Doctors know that exercise and diet will handle most of their patients problems and will support it. Just establish a line with the doctor and you’ll be set.
With anyone who has significant weight loss, I would collect the following data:
- Blood pressure
- Measurements around various parts of the body
- Performance (can be as simple as “can they walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes and still hold a conversation”)
- Take a before picture – from the front and a profile
- Body fat % (if you want, most are inaccurate)
- Current complaints (back pain, shoulder pain, shortness of breath, etc)
I basically collect any and all information I can at the start. If they are willing to go pay for a full panel of blood tests, then get them to do it. Hell, I would do a CT scan and MRI of their full body just to have as much information as I can. I personally go over their entire medical history and ask them about every complaint they had. If it was a knee pain, I ask them where and I look and see if it is still there and make sure the person knows to tell me if it comes back. And that it is okay to tell me if it comes back.
This experience is somewhat uncomfortable for the person. It is not flattering to have the existing scene shoved in their face. They know it and that’s why they want a change. So I keep it very light. I stay optimistic and somewhat cheerful and interested. All of these measurements are very useful and should be taken with accuracy.
These are the measurements that are going to show how much progress was made. This may very well take more than an hour and there might not be any workout to be had that day.
Clear Statement of Goals
Once I’ve gotten the raw data and numbers, we can then start working out goals. Everyone is different, but I figure out how much is a healthy rate of weight loss based on all factors involved. I graph it so that the person can see the progression over time. Big dates come up like the end of the year or their birthday and we work out milestones that are realistic and attainable.
99% of overweight people I have worked with have tried and failed to get control of their bodies time and time again. Setting a goal, reaching it and celebrating that fact is a truly rehabilitative experience. Do not make less of it and don’t skip over it, whether you’re the trainer or the person losing weight.
Average skinny people think that overweight people don’t want to lose weight. I’ve done my own survey and it just isn’t true.
So we set realistic goals. These goals have to do with everything from being able to walk a mile without stopping to going three days without cheating on the diet to losing the first five pounds to losing the first 100 pounds. A trainer has to train the person in front of him. Everyone is different.
I usually really take some time to get to know the individual and what this action means to them in their life. They always want to lose weight, but a bigger motivation is usually “I want to be around and able for my family.”
So get that all out of the way. Write it down, set performance goals, weight goals, “put on my size ___ pants again” goals and get started.
The First Workout
The first workouts are the easiest thing in the world for the individual. We are developing routines here more than stressing the body. You could say “Well, you hardly got his heart rate up.” I would say, “Yeah, but he met all of the staff, figured out where the locker room was, did a drill of putting all of his exercise clothes on, drove himself here after work and he found out how to start and stop the treadmill.” I consider that a major success.
Sometimes this reach to better one’s life is tentative and it must be nurtured with care. If they accidentally cause a scene or feel embarrassed or lost over something, they are likely to stop right there. Little things are amplified. This is first day of school stuff I’m talking about here.
I can’t possibly give specific advice here when I’m speaking to everybody. But I typically tell them to eat low-glycemic diets. I do not recommend anything extreme.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. If they hit it hard and go from drinking 3 liters of Coke a day, they’re going to have headaches like crazy.
The easier it is to step into this program, the better. Have them back off of the 3 liters, but let them know that stopping is going to make them feel like crap.
They’re already going to be feeling funny things in their body from using it more. Maybe soreness, maybe areas they haven’t felt in years. For goodness sake, just give it to them on a dose that they can tolerate.
To be honest, any structured meal plan would work with someone who has 100+ pounds to lose.
I just try not to lose anyone on the transition.
Getting in the Groove
I focus a lot of time in teaching new movements. I will take the squat and dissect it into each of its parts, show the person the full move and show them the variation I am having them do until we get some weight off. I literally grab two 50 pound dumbbells and do a squat to show them what they are carrying around and how much harder it is for them to do a body weight squat than it is for me.
This isn’t done to make anyone feel bad. I do it to make them feel okay with doing an easier gradient.
We take our time and make small gains, but the person becomes more proficient in the basic moves. Their coordination and balance get better. A good trainer will note that without making the person feel dumb.
And we inch up that massive ladder one rung at a time.
As a trainer I have always wanted my clients to be honest with me, so I’m honest back. If they look like shit that day, I tell them. Usually they’ll explain to me that they were up late or something silly and I’ll take that into consideration for the rest of the workout.
But this also goes for acknowledging gains. Say it like it is. Don’t give false compliments as it does nothing for either of you. It makes the person question whether you’re blind or just a liar.
So I tell them when it is bad and I tell them when it is good. I don’t embellish either way.
I treat them with the upmost respect. It takes a lot of confront, guts, fortitude or whatever you want to call it to haul a 250+ pound body into the gym and say “Let’s do this.”
So when I see an improvement in range of motion, strength, flexibility, endurance, agility, coordination or if they’re just looking like they have more energy, I tell them.
It is a fitness trainer’s job to observe his clients.
Making Measurable Progress
As a person loses weight and gains muscle, they will start to move faster and with more confidence.
Some will throw away their clothes that are too loose and go buy ones that fit. They will take their wins and continue on. Others will wear their big baggy loose clothes as a constant reminder of how far they have come.
I even had one woman ceremoniously cut off an inch of her belt and nail it to the wall every time she moved it down a notch.
I usually have them follow up with the doctor to monitor any existing medical conditions. At this point they’ll usually come back and give me a rave report about what the doctor said.
Many times their A1C will be down and they’re now out of a pre-diabetic or diabetic situation. Blood pressure is coming into range and they are able to start lowering or getting off medications. Resting heart rate is lower. There are all sorts of metrics that can be used to show progress.
Refer back to the original goals. Make it visual. Say we were here, we are here, and we are going here.
And you continue the program.
The Truth About Massive Weight Loss
There is only so much exercise can do. It doesn’t burn excess skin. Your body grew the extra skin so it would have room for the fat. The fat is gone and it just doesn’t shrink back to its normal size.
This is a very real problem for some. They can get it handled with surgery if they have very strong image goals, or they can live with it and be happy that they are around for their families.
I’ve always left this choice to people and told them that my scope ends with weight loss. A fitness trainer is not in the field of cosmetic surgery.
Reasons Not To Lose Weight
This is actually one of the most common reasons that people don’t want to lose weight. Excess skin.
A few reasons I’ve heard over the years:
- I don’t want to be all flabby
- My boobs will look deflated
- My husband is overweight and doesn’t want me to lose weight
- I’ll look all wrinkled and old
- I don’t want to starve myself
- I’ll look stupid in the gym
- Nobody wants to see me work out
- People will make fun of me in the gym
- People will make fun of me for even trying
- I don’t want to start and fail again
- I’m just going to waste more money on something I can’t handle
I could continue for hours listing out excuses.
If you are overweight and want to lose weight, make a list of your own excuses. Then throw it in the trash and go to a gym. You’re not coming up with anything new or original. Everyone has the same thoughts.
And the super fit trainers on the floor have more of an understanding of your position than you think.
Just take the first step and go and talk to one to see what he or she can do to help you.
Most people in America are overweight to one degree or another.
I see obese people around and wonder what I would have to say to them to rehabilitate their drive to get control of their bodies again. I have gotten some interested and trained them in the gym.
There is a sense of profound satisfaction when someone reaches a goal of 50 or 100+ pounds of weight loss – both for the trainer and the client.
The possibility of getting to that point is worth going for, even if you fail five or ten more times in the process.