Ok, as it happens, I was asked this question in my business network group this morning. One of the members of our business network group approached me and asked me about what I do in the Personal Training sector.

His inquiry couldn’t have been more timely, because I was just going over this very point with a client of mine the other day.  My client asked me, about how the wording is different, he said “you use the word Foundation instead of Challenge”.  “How come you used the word “foundation” as opposed to challenge like all the other fitness programs out there?”  My initial thought that first came to mind was, “you know, people that want to get back into shape and are ready to make some changes in their lives, understand what they’re up against (to a point) and know that changing one’s body for the better, is challenging enough without having a program label defining  it as such”!   Having said that, I wanted to take the very familiar and somewhat overused contemporary format of introductory programs, (21 Day Fat Loss Challenge) and make it more educational, empowering and sustainable.  After using the traditional format myself, I discovered that the “Foundation” principle seemed to work much better based on what we want people to get out of our programs. In fact, we’re going to use the house analogy just because you were expecting this?  The strength and security of any house lies in its foundation.  The stronger the foundation, the more secure and stable the house is.  The purpose of this post is today is delineate the key differences a Foundation-oriented body transformation, vs a traditional Challenge-oriented body transformation.








Having run the “challenge programs” myself,  and as mentioned before, joining a fitness or body transformation program can be intimidating enough. After interviewing several of our participants from our earlier challenge programs a few years ago, I learned that challenges don’t always deliver on their promise, or guarantee.  Of course they can be great “quick-starts” and maybe light the spark of motivation and re-commitment for some people, but when your time is up, its up!  At the end of the 21 or 28 day Challenge, you may likely be no further ahead towards achieving your health and fitness goals?  Sure you managed to lose some pounds and a few inches because you bumped up your average activity level dramatically compared your average daily exercise output.  It stands to reason that the “Energy-Model”  or Law of Thermodynamics applies well hecanstockphoto4378207re.  Energy loss must slightly exceed energy gain if one is to lose weight and fat.  So, if we increase the energy-output side of the equation and change nothing else ( I.e. insignificant changes to nutrition)


you can expect to lose some weight. The same goes for the “energy-in” side of the equation.  If you suddenly drop your daily calories down to half of your optimal intake, then you will lose weight. But, this transient weight loss simply reflects how the body responds to energy fluctuations. Of course there are far more factors that affect your energy balance than how much food you eat and how much exercise you do at the gym. Energy balance is influenced by many factors including environmental factors, genetic factors, hormonal responses, digestive/absorptive capacity and more. These factors work subtly to influence how much you eat, how much you move, and how many calories your body requires during all activity.  And so, if we only consider the energy-in energy-out parts of the equation,  you could be on this  metabolic “teeter-totter”  for years. As we focus our gaze onto our local fitness-industry landscape, it is a common practice for local gyms to primarily use an “exercise strategy”  to achieve results along with offering a meal plan. If you’re considering one of these programs, you may want to note if they asked you if you may be an “emotional eater, do you have food addictions, or do you crave refined carbohydrates and sweets all day long because you don’t get enough quality sleep? I will explore more limitations of meal plans a little later, but suffice to say,  pre-fabricated meal plans don’t take into account the particulars about you! And they don’t ask a lot of questions?

Sure, they may be able to get you to lose 10 or so pounds in a month via the energy-in, energy-out formula,  but is that program “weatherproofed” to ensure your results don’t backslide, or stall due to the rapid rate of weight loss.  For your information, usually rapid weight loss results mainly involve the loss of water-weight, some glycogen stores, a relatively small proportion of fat or triglyceride stores, but these losses come at a price. Rapid weight loss programs won’t necessarily tell you that you may also lose lean muscle mass and bone mass within that same 10 to 12 pound loss.  canstockphoto3363494

As a rule, an excellent rate of fat loss can be expected at .05 to 1% of body fat every two to four weeks.  An average fat loss result can be 0.5% of body fat every four weeks, and a slow rate of fat loss results in losing less than 0.5% body fat every four weeks.  These numbers are based on averages and don’t represent the maximum range of average results.  Case in point, if your currently sitting at 30% body fat, and you’re losing 1% of body fat per month, by the end of a year’s time you will be at 18% body fat, which is defined as “athletic”.  I hope my example has shown that the “means” has justified the “ends”? That said, if the multi-factorial regulation process that was mentioned earlier isn’t taken into consideration during your program, results can be fluctuating at best to down right stalled.

Programs that purport weight losses vs. true fat loss results may not qualify each composite level of tissue lost during your Challenge program. In other words, how do you know when you step on that scale after your 4 week Challenge, what tissues from your body, contributed to your weight loss?  Unless that facility possesses very expensive DEXA  scan body composition technology (which most gym or fitness facilities don’t)  you really won’t know what proportion of tissues have been sacrificed for your weight loss.

So, it would seem that “rate of fat or weight loss”, is a better determining factor for success!  This rate of body transformation has been proven about 45,000 times by one of the most successful online nutritional coaching companies in the world, and they are  Precision Nutrition (PN).   PN has successfully completed 45 thousand successful body transformations over the past 12 years.   I’ve been using PN’s methods, practices, principles, etc for nearly 11 years and am proud to fly under their flag!

What it really comes down to is “sustainability”!  Can you sustain the results you’ve achieved in a four week, two week, or three week Challenge?  The evidence says maybe, but not likely if you aren’t practicing good nutritional habits and getting your mind around small, positive, and steady changes in your lifestyle and eating habits.      A Foundation program will establish your readiness, willingness and able-ness…to take on the project of transforming your body.  As mentioned above, by setting up a proper foundation, you can then build from this point and beyond.  Even though the Challenge proposition may be enticing for some people, who are motivated by being “self- competitive”,   its important to understand that the principles of a challenge program compared to a foundation program are fundamentally different.

The Foundation program assesses where you are at with your current eating and drinking habits and endeavors to help you improve from there, at your own pace.  The Challenge program’s deadline ( 21 days? ) typically asks for your subscription to their way or definition of being fit.  By serving you up with a  “Meal Plan” this is where the autonomy of the participant in a Challenge program is usurped or just taken out of the equation.  In my opinion, the program who are delivering the meal plan are presuming quite a bit.mealplans

These presumptions may include that they know your preferences, schedule, budget and individual nutrient needs around food and drink.  Meal plans have been proven to work with a very low percentage of people who comply regardless of what they’re instructed. So, it could be an easy choice or difficult choice, “do you want to eat someone else’s idea of what they think you should eat or drink, or would you like to work with your own preferences and make them a little better”?   Based on the feedback we’ve had from many clients I’ve personally worked with and people we’ve interviewed, most people would prefer the choice to choose their own meals, and what they are familiar with. Having some guru shove an 8 week diet plan into your schedule and budget may prove itself to backfire?

In contrast, the Foundation principle of a body transformation establishes your starting point and asks three important questions?

  1. How ready are you to change?
  2. How willing are you to change?
  3. How able are you to change?

There are no right or wrong answers. But it’s important to know where you’re starting out.  How ready are you to change?  Think about  what brought you to read this post here today?  Are you sick of the status quo? Or are your old routines still working pretty well for you?

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Too soon! Not ready yet!” and 10 being “Totally ready! Bring it on!!” how ready, willing and able are you to change your existing nutrition and health habits?  This is the first of three questions. If you’ve participated in a Challenge program before, were you asked these questions?  Based on the people we’ve worked with, many of them said that it was presumed that their answers to the above questions was in the affirmative.  No further qualification was necessary according to the facilitator of the program. Now the last time I checked, the human experience and mindset is one big “Grey Area”  and everything isn’t just black and white.

We understand that when a mind is considering change, it has to allow for the time, and acceptance of taking on new things. We like to add things in versus subtracting things out of a lifestyle.  For example, practicing one simple habit at a time until you master this habit. Does this seem like the long way around your body transformation?  What do you consider the long way?  (I’m going to insert a little rationalization here). Perhaps its taken you a certain number of years to accumulate the weight you’ve gained and body composition, correct?   It stands to reason that your body’s rehabilitation period and reversal of your weight gain can take at least 12 to 18 months.  Depending on one’s goals as mentioned earlier, losing 1% to 0.5% of body fat per month is a great pace of specific weight loss.So which itinerary would you prefer?  Going from one  21 Day-Challenge to 14 Day-Challenge in the hopes of losing your weight and maybe sense of direction?

Chasing a dream and executing a plan to accomplish that dream Involves two different narratives. Narrative one, using a proven, curriculum-based map to help you arrive at your body transformation destination. This curriculum guides your path towards success and destination due to its intent and empowering nature.  Or narrative two, by jumping on a series of 21 or 28 day Challenges every other month in the hopes of firing up your motivation and metabolic engines enough to string together enough “weight loss challenge points”  to finally arrive at your goal?    I’m sure that the folks at Precision Nutrition would agree my saying that any successful body transformation should teach things self-discovery, learning about how food and drink affects you, and how you can incrementally implement small changes over a period of a year in order to galvonize new behaviours and habits that will improve your nutrition, lifestyle, and yes I’ll say it again  your “mindset”!

Wouldn’t it be nice to:

  • Be free of obsessive calorie counting or “macronutrient math”?
  • Keep your eating simple?
  • Make measurable progress?
  • Take things one easy step at a time?
  • Get support all along the way?
  • And not having to follow someone else’s meal plans or assumptions about you?

And isn’t that the opposite of what you’d expect a body transformation program to be?

Participating in Challenge programs has its pros and cons. They can motivate you, get you excited about changing your status quo, and take you into their community and support you. But, when it comes to learning the life skills, habits and behaviours that will enable you to gain and sustain the results you earnestly achieve on your own, the Challenge programs fall short.  And in our opinion, this  learned “self-sufficiency”  is priceless!  We literally embody the “foundation” concept within ourselves, body, mind and spirit so that once we’ve completed  our body transformation journey, the changes are real, permanent, and all the credit goes to you!

Thanks for reading.




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