Why we need to move from short-term goals to overall health and fitness

By helping fat loss clients switch from a short-term aesthetic to a sustainable fitness mindset, you will profoundly enhance their lives, writes Mark Moon.

Mark MoonAccording to World Health Organization statistics, more than 1.9 billion adults globally are overweight. Obesity rates are also at an all-time high. At the same time, we are witnessing a pervasive societal preoccupation with body image, fed by social media, celebrity obsession and industries that play on the fears and insecurities of those without ‘bikini bodies’.

Even if we realise that the images we see on social media and in magazines have been filtered, photoshopped or heavily prepped for, and present body images that are unsustainable (and in the case of digitally altered ones, physically unachievable), they still impact how we think we should look.

This combination of an overweight society fixated on unrealistic body ideals has resulted in a market of individuals demanding a quick fix to a problem which is deep-rooted, not just in diet and exercise, but in mindset.

By becoming so focused on immediate, aesthetic goals, some of the more important elements of good health and fitness have got lost. While aesthetic goals still have importance and can give some short term satisfaction by boosting self-esteem, this focus does little to improve long term health or help in the fight against global obesity.

And although we may point to the media as chief cause of body insecurity as well as short-term fixes, could we, as fitness professionals, also be part of the problem?

With many of us having active and sporting backgrounds, has our perception of what constitutes realistic goals for the general population been skewed? Do our high standards of fitness improve the health of the general population or set them up for failure? And does an obsession with extreme results in record time improve the ability of the general population to set goals, or distort them?

It’s a tricky situation of extremes at apparent loggerheads with each other. So what can we do about it?

Are you telling clients what they want, or what they need, to hear?

When an overweight prospective client voices their desire to get a bikini body, do you tell them what they want to hear in order to secure them as a client, or do you tell them what they need to hear – the unsexy truth about setting realistic and sustainable goals? Do you ask them if they just want the body for the summer, or if they actually want it all year round? Do you ask them why they want to achieve their stated goals? That is, not just that they want a bikini body, but the reason why they want it. Does the goal intention stem from a place of fear, or of love?

If you can help clients establish a mindset of having a fit and healthy body all year, and place awareness on their ‘why’, you can have a much more profound impact on their overall health.

Fitness is a feeling, not a look

I have always said ‘fitness is a feeling, not a look’. An obsession with how they look has for many people overshadowed their awareness of how they feel. Nothing is more rewarding than watching a client transform from dragging their feet, head down, shoulders slouched, to walking with their head held high, a spring in their step and a huge smile on their face. You just can't measure that kind of change on a scale – it comes from within.

So how do we go about changing clients goals from being short-term aesthetic ones, to long term sustainable fitness ones? The answer could lie in a lesson we all learnt in the 7th grade, about understanding the difference between a want and a need. It could be true to say that when your needs are met, your wants have a better chance of becoming reality. No one needs washboard abdominals, bigger biceps, or a more rounded booty: we want them. What we do need though is clean healthy food, water and regular exercise. If you focus on meeting the requirements of your needs, there's a good chance your wants will make a welcome appearance.

Setting an action plan requires identifying the differences between short-term goal orientated training, and everyday health and fitness. It requires educating the general public about why a specific training style that suits one person may be completely unsuitable for another, and it requires reducing the confusion caused by conflicting health and fitness recommendations.

I believe that by moving away from targeted goals, and instead refocusing on establishing a base of overall fitness, long term weight management, positive mindset and good health, we can start to impact the global obesity and overweight epidemic. By being more mindful of the process, and not just a short-term outcome, we can move towards sustainable fitness and wellbeing.

Mark Moon
With 20 years’ fitness industry experience, Mark specialises in group fitness and personal training as well as custom diet and exercise plans for personal clients. markmoonfitness.com