On any given week, I respond to a number of questions from my clients who are constantly trying to improve their physiques for either health or aesthetic purposes (frequently both).
As the adage goes, there’s “no such thing as a stupid question” and I generally agree.
A question that a client might ask is in reference to where they feel they’re currently stuck. As if, in finding the solution they’ll achieve the results that have been eluding them or they can overcome a given plateau.
However, many of the questions I get don’t actually get to the heart of the problem. It’s not that they’re bad questions or stupid questions or anything of the sort. They just aren’t the types of questions that can give you the sustainable solutions or make the dramatic shifts clients might be looking for.
For instance, these types of questions might be:
-Are artificial sweeteners keeping me from losing weight?
-Should I be doing fasted cardio for better fat loss?
-Is inflammation the reason I can’t lose weight?
-Is my metabolism broken?
-Why is my neighbor seeing such great results and I’m not? (I’m doing way more than she is!)
-Should I do a juice cleanse to reset my body?
-Do I need a probiotic to lose weight?
What many people tend to forget is that the solution to better weight loss results depends on factors that are less sexy to talk about, terribly hard to market and actually require self-awareness, candor and “homework”.
I wanted to spend some time this week to offer you better questions, more effective questions and ultimately more enlightening questions that can help you with your weight loss goals.
I’ve opted to break down the questions into a handful of different categories. You may need to revisit these questions from time to time if your weight loss has stalled or before you jump to the next ill-fated diet.
Below, you’ll find questions relating to food intake, stress management, your social/support circle, mental/emotional status, sleep habits and methods of exercise. The list of questions is by no means exhaustive and you may find that a question I fail to ask below leads to a question better suited to your particular set of circumstances.
There is no one question that will solve the riddle of weight loss for you. You will likely have to answer several depending on where your life, body and mind are right now. It might even be helpful for you to answer as many of these questions as possible on the first go-round and then see where changes might need to be made.
Due to the nature of some of these questions, in some places, I’ve combined several questions under one bullet point to help you drill down for more specifics.
It’s my kind suggestion that you write the answers down to the questions you feel speak to you the most, date them, and refer back as needed. Life continues to evolve and questions you need answers to today may be different six months from now.
Questions About Food Intake
-Do you know how many calories you need to eat per day to lose fat? If so, how many?
-How many days in a week/month can you successfully hit that caloric goal? If that total is lower than you’d like, is your calorie goal too low? Have you considered raising it by 100 calories per day for better overall adherence?
-If you’re not currently tracking your food (as this method is not conducive for some people emotionally) have you tried taking pictures of your food for a visual daily journal?
-What is the easiest change you can make to your diet that would almost guarantee fat loss?
-Aside from water, what drinks do you consume which have calories? (Don’t forget to include creamers and sugars in coffee/tea, alcohol, protein shakes, juice, pop, energy drinks and tonic water).
-Do you currently measure your food using measuring cups/spoons? Do you need to start doing so for better accuracy?
-Do you currently weigh your food using a food scale? Do you need to start doing so for more accuracy than cup/spoon measurements?
-What time of the day do you find it more likely that you will snack, graze or nibble at foods? Do you track that? How many calories would you estimate occur at those times?
-How frequently do you get second or third helpings of food? How can you reduce that number?
-How frequently do you eat dessert?
-Do you currently measure your alcohol intake? Can you calculate how many calories that is on a weekly basis?
-How many times per week do you eat “fast food” or purchase food through drive-thrus? Can you reduce that number?
-How much water do you drink on an average day?
-Do you have any trigger foods in your home/office? Can they be removed?
-What foods do you find you have no control over when you eat them and are more likely to overconsume? Does your family or the primary grocery shopper in your family know this? Are there substitutions?
-What foods can you successfully moderate in your diet?
-What foods do you need to temporarily/indefinitely abstain from?
-Do you ever sneak foods? If so, what foods do you typically sneak and how often does it occur?
-When was the last time you intentionally ate “at maintenance” and not on given ends of a spectrum of either dieting or “splurging/cheating/bingeing”?
-Do you find that best-selling diet books and food documentaries easily sway the way you choose to eat? What leads you to believe these are accurate sources of information?
-On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being “Not noticeable” and 10 being “Intolerable”, how is your stress level currently? Why did you select that number?
-When you’re highly stressed, do you use food/alcohol as a coping strategy?
-What other skills, hobbies, distractions can you use not related to food or alcohol when you are highly stressed?
-Have you considered speaking with a qualified counselor to help you with your stress levels?
-Take stock on the areas of your life that contribute to your stress. Is it professional? Is it personal? Is it possible to change those areas so they can provide you less overall stress?
-Do you frequently find that your stress level “deserves” a food or alcohol reward? Why do you feel that way and what do you use to reward yourself? How often does that happen?
Your Social/Support Circle
-Can you make a list of the 5 people you spend the most time with?
-Do all 5 of these people know how important your weight loss goals are to you?
-Of those 5 people, who is the MOST supportive of your goals?
-Of those 5 people, who is MOST likely to sabotage your efforts?
-How can the most supportive person be of more help to you in times of weakness related to your goals?
-How can the person most likely to sabotage you be more aware of their actions?
-What specifically is done in your circle of 5 that is most likely to sabotage your efforts? How can that be reduced?
-Do you currently feel emotionally prepared to diet for weight loss?
-Why do you feel you need to lose weight at this time? Is that your goal or something an external source has asked of you?
-How frequently do you weigh yourself? Is that a positive indicator that you are making progress? If you were to weigh yourself less frequently, how else could you determine that you are on the right path according to your goals?
-Do you often consider other variables to your health that may be affected by your current weight? For example, do you consider having more energy, sleeping better, having an improved libido, feeling less joint pain, or not feeling out of breath when you take stairs as indicators that things are moving in a positive direction? Do you celebrate those non-scale victories?
-How does social media (Facebook, Instagram, news outlets, Snapchat, YouTube) affect the way you perceive yourself?
-Are there any people/sites you follow that make you feel unworthy or unattractive? Have you tried unfollowing them?
-How often do you find that you think about food, read recipes, share recipes on social media, and compare your calorie needs versus someone else’s? Does that seem like a healthy/reasonable amount of time? Do the recipes you share align with your specific goals/needs?
-If you have a history of dieting or cycles of yo-yo dieting, have you spoken to a qualified therapist to see why you have not been able to succeed at weight loss and weight maintenance?
-How does your upbringing influence your relationship with food?
-What is the narrative you tell yourself about how your cultural heritage affects your relationship with food?
-Do you frequently find that you blame others for your food choices? Do those people know that you feel that way? How do they respond to your feelings?
-Do you have a consistent sleep schedule (Going to bed and waking up at the same approximate time each day)? If not, what would you attribute that to?
-Do you sleep in a cool, dark room?
-Do you give yourself 30-60 minutes without electronics before you go to sleep?
-Do you take any sleep aids? If so, what do you take and do you find that they give you restful sleep? Do you know that certain sleep aids may need to be discontinued temporarily because the body can develop a tolerance to them?
-Have you tried a “brain dump” before bed? (This is simply a few notes of things that are pressing on your mind which may need to be done the next day).
-Have you considered that alcohol intake is preventing you from deeper sleep? (Many people claim that alcohol helps them fall asleep but they are unable to achieve deep sleep after drinking).
-If your partner/significant other mentions that you snore, have you considered being tested for sleep apnea?
-Did you know there is a correlation between a poor night’s sleep and poor dietary choices the day after? How can you improve that?
Methods Of Exercise
-How do you currently exercise? How many days per week do you do that?
-Do you find that exercise leaves you energetic or do you typically have a lot of soreness and fatigue afterwards?
-How often do you perform high intensity exercise?
-How many calories do you believe you are burning when you exercise?
-Do you have a tendency to eat more on the days that you exercise as a reward for a hard workout?
-How do you currently scale up your method of exercise? Do you have quantitative data to show that you are getting stronger, or faster, or that you have an otherwise measurable proof of better endurance?
-Do you feel that exercise is an efficient fat burning tool? If so, do you use your diet to complement that?
As you can see, when we (as coaches) talk about successful fat loss, the advice of “eat less, move more” is accurate but nuanced. Our relationship with food, our social circle, the way we handle stress, the way we manage our sleep habits and how we train all have a direct effect on how we eat, what we eat and how much we eat.
These questions are designed to help you understand where the pitfalls may be and ultimately carve out a more specific and more successful path to your fat loss goals.