Aside from being a coach, I am a psychologist who specializes in working with clients struggling with weight loss and obesity. The work with my clients is focused on the thinking and behaviour patterns that lead to obesity. Making Crossfit work for weight loss requires a different approach than for your average or athletic member. Of course they can benefit, but we must account for their starting points, physically and psychologically.
Although every individual is unique, there are some common themes that affect a great majority of overweight people. An awareness of these and how they might sit easily or awkwardly in the box will be the key to achieving weight loss success with Crossfit.
1. Weight Loss – “I’ve tried every diet and nothing’s worked for me.”
Looking for the ‘magic feather’- The famously common phrase I hear at the first consultation: “I’ve tried every diet and nothing has worked for me.” Maybe you’ve heard this one. Maybe you’ve uttered it. It reminds me of the scene from Dumbo where he’s convinced holding a feather makes him fly. Later he discovers that he does the flying, not the feather and he lives happily ever after.
What we know about weight loss is similar to what we know about all physical fitness adaptations: that it happens because of a multitude of small, consistent changes over time. There is no ‘magic feather’; no quick fix solution solution.
There is actually no diet or exercise plan that “works”. New members come along who might see Crossfit as the next possible miracle solution. But being surrounded by athletes whose level of “buff-ness” seems beyond the realms of possibility can either inspire the overweight member or feed the assumption that this is the holy grail – the magic feather that will now solve all their weight woes.
The truth is that nobody, even the “uber-buff” six pack doing muscle ups has found the magic solution. Instead lots of discipline, mistakes, planning, preparation and learning has paved the way. These same principles also hold true for any successful dieter – in or out of Crossfit. If you are trying to lose weight or you’re a coach supporting your members, you’ll want to fight against the magic feather concept at the box. For Crossfit to work for weight loss, we have to guard against looking for short term solutions.
Losing weight for a holiday or wedding are doomed to failure in the long term. Partly because they probably include drastic, unsustainable changes to diet and exercise which might leave the hopeful dieter starving, sore and possibly injured. Next stop, binge town, drop out and diet failure. At the box, these people will come religiously and then not at all. Encourage instead, the concept of small changes and building skills and strength gradually over a long period of time. Every step is a useful one, even if we don’t see the results immediately.