5 Reasons Performance Goals Are Better Than Weight Loss Goals
One of my all time least favorite questions that I get as a coach is “How do I lose this right here?”, as the person who’s asking is pinching a part their thigh, under arm, belly, etc. I always feel like even the best answer to this question will result in a fumble, because there is no answer, really. It becomes more of a redirection when I respond with “Well, tell me first, why do you want to get rid of that?” The answer to this question is usually a fumble as well because, like, isn’t it obvious why they want to lose it? It’s fat! Who would want that?
I know, I’m in an industry that prioritizes weight loss as a selling point. I have had multiple people let me know how much money I’ll lose by not trying to target people for weight loss, and not trying to sell some kind of perfect system to make your body look some kind of way. Well, let me preface this whole article with this: I don’t give a fuck about weight loss. I mean that in the nicest way possible. What I give a fuck about is changing women’s lives. I care about teaching women how to make healthy choices that are right FOR THEM so that they can be empowered to change their lives. I’m into selling lifestyle changes, education and tools for understanding yourself, and empowering the individual to be the expert of their own body. I’m not into advocating shame and dislike for one’s body just because it doesn’t look like someone else or because it doesn’t look the way we want it. I am not, and will never be, about that.
When weight loss is the focus, it’s usually because there is a deeper concern or need going on. Why do people gain weight in the first place? Unhealthy habits that stem from either lack of knowledge, or making yourself a low priority to take care of. Sometimes it’s just physical neglect, but sometimes there are deeper issues going on as well. You can lose weight, make your body look a certain way, and still be unhappy with your life choices and your mindset. So, what I really hope to do through my business and my particular skill set, is to change women’s relationships with their bodies, provide an enlightened perspective, and improve the quality of lives through athletic development. Chasing weight loss is trying to treat a symptom, when really there’s a deeper that may need to be addressed so that you don’t just lose weight, you change your entire life to happier, healthier, and more fulfilled. I believe that an athletic experience is the way to change your life. Ask any ex-athlete how impactful their athletic experience was and you’ll find out just how deep of a life change it is. If you eat, train, think, and behave like an athlete, your life will change. Period.
It’s not like weight loss or wanting to lose weight is a bad thing you should avoid at all costs. However, let’s acknowledge first that for many people, especially women, the weight loss pursuit can become very mentally and emotionally unhealthy, very quickly. Beyond that, even if you don’t have a tendency towards body dysmorphia or other related disorders, weight loss and food are SO emotional. It’s a roller coaster, and some days the scale makes no sense at all. Letting that little number on the scale make or break your motivation is super unreliable, and even if attained, holds no promise for meaningful happiness. No one is going to make the progress they truly and deeply want on that scale of sadness roller coaster.
So what are your other options, if not weight loss? My alternative suggestion is to focus on performance goals or performance routines. Example, show up to work out five times a week for three months. Start working on getting your first pull up. Sign up for a competition and start training for it. Make a goal to back squat a certain amount of weight within 6 months. By focusing on these performance goals, you step off the scale of sadness roller coaster, and are able to develop a routine of hard work. You begin to develop a new relationship with your body and shift in your perspective. Rather than having an unhealthy blame and shame relationship, it turns into a healthy, less emotional, working relationship. Give your body what it needs, know how to take care of it, and it gets you where you want to go.
So here are my clean and clear reasons to switch from focusing on weight loss to focusing on performance goals.
How long ago did you learn how to ride a bike? If you hopped on a bike today could you still ride it? When your body learns a skill, it doesn’t forget how to do it. It may get out of shape or not be as strong, but once it’s learned, you have it forever. It’s called muscle memory. And it’s lasting. Learn a new way to move your body, become stronger at doing it, and you’ll never forget it. Take deadlifts for example. Deadlifts are basically just learning how to pick something up with proper form. When you’re 80 years old, will being strong at picking stuff up help you? Abso-friggin-lutely. You may not always retain the same level of strength, but you will never lose the skills that you learn by focusing on your performance.
When you start to workout and learn new skills, this weird thing starts happening where you build a list in your mind of all the things that you can do really well and/or easily, and things that you need to work harder to develop. Some things just come more naturally, and some things require more work. This mindset of building a list of things that you can do really well and easily creates a different perspective. We all have tough days where we feel like giving up because we can’t do anything right/well/perfect; maybe even we experience feelings of worthlessness and like there’s no progress, and no point. These are the most important days that you can always revert back to the list of strengths and remind yourself that yes, in fact, there are lots of things you’re good at naturally. What an empowering mindset! You can always revert back to the list and look at all the amazing and difficult things you CAN do. You’ll begin to see that your short comings are not set in stone, they’re just skills you haven’t learned yet. What an empowering way to see yourself and your life!
3. Increased chance of success
When you set a really well structured performance goal, and devise a plan of action, your chance of success will skyrocket. As long as your performance goals are not being set in order to fill an emotional need, the up and down of daily emotions can be set aside, and you will have an increased likelihood of showing to workout. Food and weight loss are tied into the daily ups and downs of our emotions, and therefore we are less likely to stick to a plan of action when our emotions dictate our motivation. Motivation must come from the mind and a deeper set of values. Performance goals tap into those deeper core values within us, and as a result gives us a way to dig and find a deeper sense of motivation that is more consistent from day to day.
Of course your emotions will try to mess with you every single day. Especially when outside factors induce higher levels of stress. The athlete that finds a connection to deeper values in order to stay motivated knows that it’s not about the capacity in which you show up, it’s about the fact that you show up. Even small efforts exerted over long periods of time will produce a desired result. The deeper your roots of motivation, the more likely you are to achieve success of your goals.
When you focus on performance, you begin to develop a self awareness about how your body feels and moves. It’s deeper than just a greater sense of proprioception. You begin to notice feelings of muscle activation (or lack thereof) and when you have quality movement versus when you don't. Even more, you develop an awareness of good pain and bad pain. Good pain being the burning of the muscles when they work. The bad pain being aches and twinges that can be precursors to injury. You also begin to notice that some days you feel more sluggish or slow, so you know not to over do it. The end result is that you are able to keep your body safer because you know it in and out. You know how to move it well and safely, and you know when you need to back off and take a rest day. Keeping your body working like a well oiled machine is a part of the lesson learned from performance goals. You begin to view your body through a lens that prioritizes how well it can function and for how long. Knowing these things about your body provides you a level of intimate protection that no coach or doctor will ever be able to provide. You are provided a way to keep yourself safe and healthy from the inside out.
5. New relationship with your body
Want to know how to look in the mirror and like what you see? If you hope to look in the mirror and see all the things that society tells you should see, you will always be disappointed. You need to change the idea of what you’re expecting to see. Furthermore, you need to learn to disconnect your value as a person from what you see in the mirror. Those concepts are not all related, no matter how much society or the fitness industry tell you that they are. Your body needs to become its own separate entity from you as a person. You have a body. You are not your body. By setting performance goals, and focusing on how your body performs, you will 100% change the relationship you have with your body. By seeing what you body can do, training it to do new things you never thought it could do, focusing on keeping your body safe and healthy, will generate an entirely new concept of how to look at your body. You will feel respect, wonder, and love as you realize it doesn’t matter what the scale says. You’ll look in that mirror and love your body, imperfections and all, because Look. What. The. Fuck. It. Can. Do. Your body is nothing short of amazing and miraculous. Challenge it. Work with it. Push it hard. And you will be speechless and amazed by what it allows you to do throughout your life.
I leave you with these last questions for you to ponder:
How would changing the relationship with your body change your life?
What would you gain from changing your perspective to performance rather than looks/weight?
What will you lose or miss out on by staying where you are?