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Why weight loss challenges are detrimental to your goals

In Fitness by Rachel Smith

We see a lot of fitness businesses successfully marketing 10 and 12 week weight loss challenges.  People pay money, get some support, and have a period of time to lose the most weight possible to win a prize.
Why do we have a problem with this?

Let me list the reasons!

1. Weight loss is not synonymous with fat loss.

The real goal behind “losing weight” is to lose excess body fat.  If all you are using is scales to determine whether you have reached your goal, you are ignoring the weight of muscle, bones, water and organs!  If you aren’t using a correct measuring method, how do you know if you’re reaching your goal?  That’s like having a goal to be more productive and measuring your whole company’s productivity to see if you were more productive!
By the way – the lighter your bones, the less dense they are!  Helloooo fractures and osteoporosis!

2. Losing water weight is potentially very dangerous

The easiest weight to lose over a fast amount of time is water.  Bodybuilders do it all the time, as do elite athletes when they need to get in a certain weight class.  They generally have experience doing it, and while they recognise that it isn’t healthy and doesn’t improve their performance, they also only do it for short periods and are sure of their ultimate goal, of which losing water weight is just a stepping stone.  Losing water weight can lead to cramps, fainting (due to decreased blood volume), disorientation and some very serious health consequences if done to extremes.  Water also carries electrolytes in your body. Have you ever used potatoes or lemons to create a battery?  That works because there is liquid and ions present.  If the lemon was dry, you wouldn’t get any energy from it.  Likewise the potato!

3. It takes time to develop new habits and it should be done for the right reasons – not to win money

Anyone can lose weight quickly if they have enough drive to do so.  Starve yourself, exercise hard and dehydrate for a few days.  But does it teach you anything, other than ways to quickly drop bodyweight?  No!  The point should be to improve eating habits and exercise habits for a lifetime!  And it should be done because you WANT a healthy and happy body and mind for life, NOT because you want a quick buck.

4. It encourages weight gain prior to the competition in order to make it easier to win (can anybody say, “Biggest Loser”?)

As silly as it is, some people specifically gain weight prior to doing a weight loss challenge.  That way they have more weight to lose when the challenge begins, which improves their chances of winning.  Is that the point behind a weight loss challenge?  No, it isn’t.  Enough said.

5. The people who go on these programs are often given unsafe or incorrect dietary advice or dramatic calorie restrictions.

Not that I’m the first person to say that all nutritionists and dieticians give correct advice, because often they are taught based on outdated science which was fabricated by the food industries themselves, but I am very alarmed by people giving dietary advice based on specific calorie restrictions, low fat recommendations, low salt, high water, low protein, and low this, low that, high this, high that diets.  People should be very careful when receiving dietary advice from others, including myself.  If it doesn’t seem right for you, and you don’t feel awesome on the diet, it’s probably not right for you.

6. People may choose to use unsafe supplements or meal replacements as a way to quickly lose the weight without addressing their normal eating habits

Needless to say, weight loss supplements, particularly meal replacement supplements, are not sustainable and are not a real way of addressing your lifetime goal of having a healthy bodyweight without feeling like you are missing out on the stuff you want to eat.  The best weight loss supplements are those that DON’T hype you up on caffeine or impair your absorption of nutrients and DO naturally address the issues behind your weight gain.  But you still don’t stay on them forever!

7. Gaining muscle is a great goal for attending gym, and muscle can be lost on such a program

Some people join gym to GAIN weight.  And that’s great!  You can change your body fat percentage by increasing muscle bulk.  And the goal isn’t to lose as much fat as possible anyway, unless you’re a bodybuilder.  Your goal should be to be healthy for life!  If your primary goal is to lose weight, you can lose muscle and still win, but end up as weak as an 11 year old afterwards.

8. Isn’t the ultimate goal to be healthy anyway? Many people can be skinny without being healthy, and health is what really should be addressed.

I don’t know how many different ways it can be said… be HEALTHY, not skinny!  THAT is priceless!

Having said all that, if you want to learn more about a HEALTHY gym challenge that will mitigate most of the dangers of weight loss challenges – Click HERE!!

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About the Author

Rachel Smith


Rachel completed her Bachelor of Physiotherapy from the University of South Australia in 2006 and left private practise to open BodySmith Fitness with her husband, Matt Smith, in 2014. Rachel was awarded her Black Belt and Diploma from the Japan Karate Association in 2012. Rachel spent 6 years in competitive Olympic Weightlifting and in 2006 was ranked 7th in Australia in her class. Rachel spent 10 years in Gymnastics growing up, which set her up to springboard into her other pursuits. 😉 Rachel has extensively researched Health and Nutrition and this is her passion; to help people in their Fitness journey.