As a coach, I think one of my main job functions is to call bullshit. It is also my job to be tactful and this is probably one of the occasions that I failed with the latter.

The first few months of training is generally an overwhelming time. For beginners, coming in to lift weights, learning a new vocabulary, seeing a bunch of people move much better than them tends to keep them in a shell. Even folks who are used to some form of physical activity, strength training generally tends to be something new. So, during this time, we try not to bombard them with too much information or changes. We make it known that lifestyle and nutrition work is important, to accelerate the progress towards their goals. But we generally give them time and space to just ease into the groove.

Photo by Nastya Kvokka / Unsplash

I had a client who was extremely out of shape. He was about 50 kilos overweight. He came regularly to class, which is a huge positive signal. Around the 2-month mark of training with me, now that he was in tune with what our training methodology was, I initiated a chat about lifestyle and nutrition. He had made it clear that his goal was fat loss and that he was already working on it and training with me was just the activity portion to check off.

Since he had not seen any visible progress after 3 months of regular training, I wanted to touch base and encourage him. I asked him if I could take a look at his food journal and sit down with him and analyse why he was not seeing progress towards his goal. He was a bit reluctant - telling me he had it under control. I backed off and as I was walking away, he proceeded to tell me that he was doing this intermittent fasting thing and was eating 1200 calories a day (a ridiculously low number) and he had it figured out.

This, unfortunately, was surprising to me. Because 1+1 = 2. If you are lifting weights regularly (which he was) and walking regularly (which he assured me he was) and being in a calorie-deficit (1200 calories for a 100+ kilo person is a severe deficit, one I wouldn't recommend), well, then the scale should be moving pretty quick.

The math simply did not add up. The 1200 calories of consumption was also too low a number that I could not let go.

So, I went back to him and told him something was off. Because here's the deal - if you are eating 1200 calories a day when you need to eat 1700-2000 calories, you will lose 2 kilos a month. If you are active 6 days of the week, then it will be even more. The law of thermodynamics holds true for the most part.

There are generally two reasons why this could happen i.e. not seeing the commensurate results to go with what he was doing in the kitchen. One, there's a deeper health problem that's not been diagnosed. Or two, he was lying to himself.

I told him this and was reasonably gentle about how I put the second point across. I acknowledged and congratulated him on what he was doing well - showing up. I told him that we could look at the journal again, and he could share his meal photos with me as well and we could get to the bottom of it.

Instead, he took it personally. He was affronted that a smart person such as himself was questioned on what he was doing. My blunt approach did not do me any favours as well. He did not take me up on my offer and shunned me.

Ah well, you win some, you lose some. In hindsight, I could’ve been softer in my approach. Maybe I could’ve been more tactful. But I’ve also seen conversations like this go the other way i.e. when I am too tactful, and folks don’t seem to understand that there’s a problem to be fixed. This has led to much unhappiness later - folks run out of juice when they don't see results.

Photo by Jared Schwitzke / Unsplash

I think one of my main job functions is to call bullshit. If I see you being dishonest to yourself, if the math doesn’t add up, if you are bullshitting yourself - I’ll call it out.

About 80% of my successful student outcomes happen as a result of this crucial conversation. Folks who were just phoning it in flip a switch. But occasionally, a few get annoyed and walk away. I guess that's par for the course.

Don't bullshit yourself. You are the easiest person to fool.

You are precisely where you are because of what you ate. You are precisely where you are because you moved much less than you should.

That's fine. It happens. It can be remedied. By action. And by being honest.

If something doesn't work, move on. Do something else. But stick to it for at least 6 weeks and measure what is important to you.

If you have been doing intermittent fasting and nearly starving yourself for 6 months and aren't seeing progress - well, time to cut your losses and dig into what's missing.

Let go of your ego. Instead, listen to that deep voice inside you that is telling you something. Great progress is made or lost on whether you have the courage to do that or not.