Why Extreme Weight Loss Sets You Up for Failure

Here’s what to do instead

Our content strives to support, inform, and motivate you to meet your health goals. We want to be your trusted source of expert- and science-backed info dispensed in simple, actionable ways. Read our Editorial Guidelines.

Why Extreme Weight Loss Sets You Up for Failure
Source: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

We’ve all been there… fresh off your tropical beach vacation that began with some super extreme, fast weight loss diet all in an effort to rock your favorite swimsuit. The InstaModel you follow online said the diet would be super easy and you would feel and look incredible. 

But, nobody bothered to tell you that as soon as you return to your regularly scheduled life, you would feel miserable, quickly put the weight back on, and even worse, do real damage to your physical, mental, and emotional health. 

Extreme weight loss measures like this are the ultimate catch 22. For the price of losing those 15 pounds in two weeks, you sacrifice any opportunity for a dependable solution to build a better you. 

But you’re not alone. Most of my clients have come to me after repeated rounds of extreme weight loss tactics. They’re tired of doing the same thing over and over again, not seeing results, and feeling terrible throughout the process. Even worse, those RWL (rapid weight loss) tactics generally include practices that are not only unsafe, but could also be potentially life-threatening in some circumstances. 

These are the facts: To build meaningful long-term success that allows you to go on every beach vacation feeling like a million bucks, you have to build sustainable lifestyle habits that promote daily movement and an enjoyable, nutrient-rich diet.

How Jenny Evolved From Fad Diets to Fitter (and Richer!) 

All too often people can get caught up in drastic weight loss tactics because they’re told by “health entrepreneurs” that there’s a quick fix. Before they know it, they’re caught in a repeated physical and psychological downward spiral that can set them up for negative long-term effects, such as malnourishment, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, weakened immune systems, osteoporosis, and even disordered eating. 

Take Jenny, for example. She came to me a little over a year ago. Her goal was to lose weight in a challenge she was having with her family members. The prize was only $100 but Jenny was determined to lose more than her sisters and cousins so she could win and hopefully feel better in her body. She had been on and off fad diets, juice cleanses… you name it, she tried it. But she never saw long-lasting results or felt good on any of those weight-loss journeys. 

Jenny was frustrated and thought that if she had a coach to motivate and push her she would finally get those results, keep the weight off, feel good in her skin, and walk away $100 richer. 

After we worked together for 6 months, Jenny dropped three sizes (from a 16 to a 12/10), got stronger, has more energy throughout the day, and is sleeping better. And she won that $100. 

But, Jenny’s results didn’t come without struggles. We had to work together to: 

  • change her mindset around fitness and nutrition 

  • put workouts together that she enjoyed doing while also focusing on daily movement

  • incorporate her favorite foods into her diet while making sure we were getting quality nutrients to fuel her training sessions 

  • change her “all-or-nothing” mindset to “every little bit counts.”

How to Change Your Mindset About Fitness & Nutrition 

Ditch the idea that you have to wait for the “perfect time” to start your journey Life is messy, life is complicated, and there’s no such thing as the “perfect time.” If you continually push off starting, you’re never going to reach your goals. Jenny didn’t initially join me when we had our interest call. I had to continue reaching out to her for at least six weeks to see if she was ready to trust me and take that leap. She finally told me that she was “tired of waiting” and was going to “take a chance” and “just do it.”

Ditch your timeline 

There’s no such thing as a “quick fix” when it comes to fitness and nutrition — especially if you want long-term results. And it takes time to create sustainable habits that will get you to your goals. It’s not going to happen in two, six, or likely even eight weeks. You have to ditch the timeline and focus on what you can do consistently on a daily basis. 

While Jenny’s main goal was to lose more weight and win the $100, over time she started to realize the other changes that were going on. She fell in love with the process and even after her weight loss challenge with her family was over and done with, she stuck to our plan and has made leaps and bounds ever since. 

Jenny no longer chased a goal weight but instead focused on how she feels in her clothes, and the strength and confidence completing her workouts gives her. 

Move your body in ways you enjoy

If you’re starting your fitness journey, it’s imperative that you find ways to move your body that you enjoy. It’s going to help you be consistent. And building consistency over time is what’s going to help you practice the habits that will get you long-term results. 

Jenny hated running and any other source of cardio, but that’s what she thought she should do to lose weight and get the body she wanted. And she felt like she was stuck in a revolving door of trying to “like running” and forcing herself to do it to lose weight. But she kept ending up back in the same spot… giving up and not enjoying moving her body.  A review of research showed that ways of thinking and behaviors that encourage eating less and increasing physical activity and — importantly — maintaining a balance of both predicted successful weight loss maintenance. This is why it’s important to enjoy the ways you move. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna give up and not get any activity. Consistent activity is the key to earning long-term results. 

Jenny and I discussed starting a strength training program so that we could get her stronger, build the lean muscle she needed to get her “ideal body,” and give her a way to enjoy moving her body so she could show up and put in the work consistently. 

Over the course of the first few months, Jenny came to love strength training. She straight up told me that she never saw herself as someone who would ever enjoy working out; she just wanted to feel good in her body and in the clothes she wore. But now she: “looks forward to her lifts every single night.” They help her destress and decompress from her day. 

Fuel your body & enjoy your favorite foods 

Why Extreme Weight Loss Sets You Up for Failure
Source: Nguyễn Mẫn / Pexels

Quality nutrition is often the missing piece in any fitness journey. Of course you can see tons of progress in being active consistently, but if you aren’t also focusing on your nutrition you’re missing out on the full benefits of your workouts. Ensure that you’re consuming quality nutrients on a daily basis and incorporating your favorite foods. This is the key to getting those long-term results. Yes, you can have pizza, ice cream, and wine and still lose weight! 

Learning that there are no foods that are “off limits” is the final piece of the puzzle here. As soon as you tell yourself you can’t have that, your body goes into a scarcity mindset and instantly wants to consume all of that one thing that’s available. And that’s when you start to feel yourself lose control around certain foods or start binging on the weekends because you can only stick to your diet during the week. 

All foods fit. Strive to find the balance that fuels your goals and provides you enjoyment. For Jenny, it was about feeling fueled and satisfied during her long work days so she had the energy to crush her workouts after. She found balance during the weekends when she and her husband would enjoy trying new restaurants in the area. 

Jenny loves food but wants to make sure she isn’t negating her progress and routine during the week. We do this by focusing on generalized movement on the weekends, getting quality nutrition early in the day and hydrating — but not obsessing about whether or not the foods she enjoys are “good” or “bad.” 

Being aware of how you fuel your body is important; consume nutritious foods but also enjoy the foods you love. Knowledge is key and balance is important. 

How to Build Resilience

Why Extreme Weight Loss Sets You Up for Failure
Source: RODNAE Productions / Pexels
  1. Ditch the “all-or-nothing” mindset. This means thinking that if you can’t get your full workout in on a busy day, you should just skip it. Or, if you have a few too many glasses of wine at dinner, you’ve completely wrecked your diet and are starting at square one the next morning. Something is better than nothing. And learning how to navigate the busy days, the fun times out with friends, the spontaneous coffee dates — it’s all a part of the process.

  2. No one is perfectand life isn’t always conducive to the ideal setup it takes to reach our goals. Learning to navigate these obstacles is what determines whether or not we stick to the journey and see results. This was a huge hurdle for Jenny to overcome, especially when work or sickness would get in the way of her workouts. Teaching Jenny that it’s important to listen to her body when it needs rest or downtime was crucial. Pushing through illness or injury is going to set you back in the long run and wear down your body more than it already is.

  3. When family or work gets in the way of your workout, reframe it. See the positives in the situation and make the effort to prioritize it the next day. Now, Jenny doesn’t fret if we have to move around her schedule because of family events, vacations, or even sick days. She knows we can plan ahead and prioritize workouts around her schedule and that when she does get sick, we can easily jump right back into her routine when she’s better. 

If you need some help kick-starting your weight loss journey, reach out to a certified personal trainer and weight loss expert. With personalized guidance, you can learn how to be resilient like Jenny.