We’re seeing a lot of promotions on the internet that go a little something like this: “Lose 5% body fat following our program or your money back!”
Now, don’t get me wrong. This could be a generous offer. What’s better than getting something for free, right? I also certainly wouldn’t want to take anything away from someone who has taken this offer and worked hard to reach that goal.
Let’s take a step back and look at what losing 5% body fat really looks like.
First: let’s put the “five percent” in perspective. If I told you I’d give you 5% off the price of your gallon of milk, would you think that’s a good deal? Probably not, right?
By this logic, signing up for a fitness challenge to lose just 5% body fat seems like a no-brainer. Easy. Done. A few workouts a week, eat right, and everything should just fall into place, right?
The answer: It depends. First, how “difficult” It will be to reach this goal depends what your body fat percentage is to start out with. The lower your body fat is to start out with, the higher the tradeoffs will be. For instance, for a woman who is currently 17% body fat, her entire life would have to be restructured to get to 12%. She would need to follow a meal plan to the gram. Her lifestyle is likely to cause riffs and tension within her personal life, as socializing around food becomes harder. She would need to train up to 10 rigorous exercise sessions per week.
OK then- how about a little something less extreme then? How about a male looking to go from 35% to 30% body fat? Here, the tradeoffs may appear less insane, but let’s not downplay the significance of major lifestyle changes. He will need to exercise three times per week, and stick to this schedule. This may require him to say no to other commitments. He will need to eat fewer processed foods. And he will need to be consistent enough with these principles (and many others) that his identity will start to change. He will feel resistance coming from within himself. He will feel old habits creep up. He will need to fight hard to let go of his ego and allow change in. His friends and family will need to adjust to this new person. He may feel like this is too hard.
As you can see, even in the “less extreme” example, losing just five percent of your body fat is no small feat. I am not saying it can’t be done. We have helped individuals who have done this and more. As you can see in the pictures below, even small changes in body fat percentage result in very different looking bodies. The reality is, changing the physical state of our bodies is a slow process. No one wants to talk about that.
One thing the fitness industry does really well is promise EVERYONE that they too, one day, will become Super Lean, as long as they continue to follow X diet or X exercise program. As you can see in the infographic, the tradeoffs of varying degrees of leanness are real. More on these unrealistic expectations here:
For example: suppose you lose 5% body fat in three months, wouldn’t it follow that you would lose another 5% body fat in another three months? The answer?: Not likely, except in the most dedicated and precise of cases. As you become leaner, the costs of continuing to lean out become increasingly higher. You will need to do more and be more aggressive in your approach as you move toward increasing leanness. (These boot camp style programs aren’t designed with progressions and periodization so your physical fitness also stalls body composition changes, but that’s a post for a different day.)
This is why so many of these programs have great short-term success rates but the long-term success rates tend to lag behind, because people become frustrated that the healthy habits they worked so hard to form are no longer “working.”
If you are ONLY chasing a number on a scale, one of two things will eventually happen: you’ll reach that number and then wonder, like a dog that caught its tail, “now what?” Or, you won’t reach that number because the sacrifices required to get there have increased tenfold since when you started.
This is also why body fat is *one possible* measure of success that we use at Clan Strength, but not the only measure. There’s also, ohhh I don’t know, everything else related to your humanity and lived experience as a human being, unrelated to a plastic scale:
– Noticeably improved physical fitness
– Healthier relationship with food not rooted in guilt or punishment
– Stronger (whether for you that means deadlifting 300lbs or hoisting a suitcase into the overhead bin without knocking out your seat mate is your business)
– More energy to do the things you love and the things you never thought you could do
– Improved sex drive
– Improved ability to define what matters to you most in life, create boundaries for upholding that, and hold the line
– Better sleep
– Decreased risk of metabolic disease (aka live longer)
– Healthier muscle mass (as weight loss is often coupled with loss of muscle if not done properly)
– Decreased pain as a result of incorporating functional movement into your daily life
– Healing wounds and traumas to align yourself with a more loving version of you
As you can see, we are not really talking about trivial stuff here. Now let’s return to our original example and explore the reverse possibility. Suppose you take the offer, but you don’t lose 5% body fat in the allotted window. Are you more likely to see yourself as a failure? Are you more likely to resent yourself and your body? Are you more likely to revert to old, comfortable habits, because nothing that you do matters anyway? Most likely…yes, you are.
We don’t play games like that with your self worth. And we don’t play fast and loose with your mental, emotional, and physical health in the name of reaching a certain number.
Because I know someone will ask, yes, you can lose weight following our program. We’ve helped many do just that. This is not meant to invalidate anyone’s goal to lose weight. But weight loss is not the same as healing, and there is soooo much more LIFE to grab onto than that. So let’s go reach for it.