Weight loss challenges are a terrible idea. Don’t get me wrong, they come from a place of trying to help. The awful comes from how they are executed and what the focus is. So why do we do them?
Maybe the better question is: how do we make our challenges better, and healthier, for our participants?
Why Do Weight Loss Challenges Work In The First Place?
If you’ve ever been incentivized to do something, chances are good you ended up doing it. At the very least, you probably ended up doing it for the duration for which you were incentivized. Maybe with cash paid out in victory, maybe with health insurance incentives, maybe solely based on bragging rights with your co-workers.
Caloric deficits are vital for weight loss. At the very least, it is a huge part of the weight loss journey. Just not the only part of it…
You can do anything for a fixed amount of time. This is a big reason why this stuff works.
One key way to make sure people stay on track is to create accountability. How do you create accountability? Perform weigh-ins, check-ins, and have a leaderboard so people are motivated to stay on track when they see how their competitors are doing.
What Makes Weight Loss Challenges So Bad?
Have you ever done a weight loss challenge? Did you find that, 3 months after the completion of the challenge, you put that weight back on? Maybe even worse, your bodyweight was actually higher after the challenge than it was before it started?
Here are some thoughts:
- Did you have a plan for after the weight loss challenge? Or did the challenge organizers provide you with what to expect after?
- As weight was likely the only metric measured, you developed habits strictly geared at losing weight – doesn’t matter if they were good habits or not
- It is also likely this challenge altered, maybe even ruined, your relationship with food and exercise in a way that is hard to come back from without guidance
- You went back to what you were doing before the weight loss challenge started
- It is also likely you had no guidance or support from a professional who knows what they’re doing so you don’t fall back in a big way
Make Weight Loss Challenges Better
In order to make sure you are not damaging your body in the long run for short term losses, here are a list of 6 things we like to see happen with weight loss challenges to make them, well, better:
- They contain some kind of support system that goes beyond the challenge
- They focus on better food habits rather than “let’s lose weight as fast as humanly possible”
- Along the same lines, there is someone meeting with you as the challenge concludes to help you in retaining some of the habits you picked up along the way
- They encourage you to stay away from the all or nothing mentality
- They measure, or encourage you to measure, the meaningful things like body fat, blood markers, and weight loss
- They are, or they want you to find, a nutrition coach to help guide you when the challenge is completed
Maybe you’re in a nutrition challenge. Maybe you’re getting ready to finish one. Or, maybe you’ve caused yourself more damage since completing one.
No matter what you are in the middle of, right now, find yourself a legitimate nutrition coach to help you navigate the common pitfalls associated with challenges. There are many and they are robust!