What Really Holds You Back - Exploring Common Barriers to Weight Loss

In the field of weight loss, success is rare. However, what is even more rare is an understanding of the real barriers to success. While many studies, questionnaires and focus groups have attempted to identify what inhibits weight loss, unless we actually follow the person and observe him in every aspect of his life, we cannot know what really prevents weight loss.

While many people would consider this idea impossible, this is exactly what a residential fitness camp does. Also known as a weight loss camp, or retreat, a residential program houses the clients and monitors them as much as 12 hours per day. The clients are observed and monitored by fitness professionals during the day as they progress from one exercise component of the program to another. Most weight loss camps also have the clients meet weekly, or twice per week with a nutritionist, and a select few of these programs have the clients meet weekly with a clinical therapist. The clients are provided all of the meals they will need while in the program, and given an apartment style room to stay in.

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In order to comprehensively measure the client's progress, and detect any deviations from the menu, the athletic camp will have the clients weigh in every week, and sometimes twice per week. What really separates fitness camps from typical weight loss programs, is that the residential setting allows the client's behaviors to be monitored all day, every day. What comes out of this monitoring? Watching the client for the majority of every day for 30, 60, or 90 days allows the team of fitness professionals, nutritionist, and clinical therapist to determine what really holds the client back-not just what the client says holds her back.

What this essentially means is that the underlying causes of the client's lack of success, that she is often not consciously aware of, become evident. Through the close examination of the client in every possible situation, the weight loss camp notices all of the small, seemingly insignificant, deviations in her behavior, that serve as minute indicators of her real personality. The client's real personality is often that which she does not consciously present to the world, and is often a much clearer picture of the type of person that she is.

As clients, and people in general, frequently are very selective in what they present to the world, what is often observed by others is an ideal version of the actual person. In the case of typical fitness programs as oppose to fitness camps, this selective presentation can often mask the client's real personality, and deceive fitness professionals. Obviously, when this happens, not only is the client in denial about the real causes of her failure to lose weight, but she is also deceiving the fitness professionals. Without having a complete accurate picture of the person they are attempting to help, even very sincere attempts to help her lose weight will be ineffective.

There can be many reasons that the client will avoid presenting an accurate picture of herself to those offering to help her. For one, many clients have attempted weight loss many times, and remain unsuccessful. These repeated failures have resulted in a client who can be very defensive about the amount of pain these failures have caused her, and all of the behaviors she has developed to compensate for this pain. For example, the client would most likely be incredibly uncomfortable telling anyone, even a fitness professional, that she binge eats at home alone, especially after attempting to starve herself thin, or that she has lied about her food intake to family and friends.

While the client may be very defensive and protective about discussing her past weight loss attempts and failures, she may also not be fully aware of the reasons she is engaging in these behaviors. In the case of the client who has masked her behavior to the outside world for many years, she has probably also masked her behavior to herself. What this means is that she has lost sight of the real reasons she may be engaging in the self sabotaging behaviors that cause her to fail at weight loss. Clearly, in either one of these cases, the real reasons for the client's lack of success remain unclear, and untreated.

This is where weight loss camps become invaluable. Because the client is monitored for so many hours of the day, held accountable to the program through weekly weight in, and in the some cases, meeting with a clinical therapist weekly, a truly accurate picture of the type of person she is can be developed. While some clients may continue to attempt to mask their behavior, it is the very comprehensive programs that recognize that through a very diverse approach, the client's real personality will be clear. For example, many weight loss camps will include many activities that the client would have previously avoided. Imagine, for example, the 44 yr old mother of three playing flag football, kayaking, or doing a three-hour bike, hike, bike ride. Inevitably, all of the person's fears, insecurities, and avoidances will come out, regardless of her attempts to hide them.

When this happens, the team of fitness professionals, nutritionist, and clinical therapist can interpret these behaviors to gain a collaborative understanding of the real personality of the client. Once this real personality is understood, a clinical approach will allow for a thorough understanding of all of the same fears, avoidances, and insecurities that will lead to the client's lack of success at weight loss. From that point, the team can then comprise an effective strategy to treat the real reasons of the client's lack of success. Often, this approach means a complete lifestyle change for the client, often including not just her behavior around food and exercise, but also the way she views herself as a person. For the 44 yr old mother of three, out there throwing a football, sprinting and dodging opponents, the experience go far beyond just weight loss.

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