10 pitfalls that cripple weight loss, and 5 critical coaching mistakes that may be affecting your child.

Do you struggle to maintain or lose weight? If so, you are certainly not alone. Obesity is prevalent and reaching epidemic proportions in our society. Why are so many people overweight? Can we blame our genetics? Are we really plagued by slow metabolism? Is fast food to blame? Perhaps it's time to face the reality and impact of our own beliefs, thoughts and actions.

I advise scores of women in our camps each month that losing weight is like starting a new business. It takes careful planning, proper public promotion, consultation with the appropriate experts to set up the structure of the program and, most importantly, a tireless dedication to finish the task despite the guaranteed peaks and valleys along the way. Unfortunately, many people expect rapid results, and once they realize the flaws in fad diets or quick fixes, they become frustrated and look for the next overnight solution.

Losing weight and getting fit is challenging. It requires hard work and sacrifice. You must be willing to examine what you are doing now and make changes, sometimes big changes, to see results. To get what you don't have you need to be willing to do what you have not yet done.

Let me point out the following critical obstacles that often block weight loss success for many clients. The list below identifies 10 major reasons people fail to attain their desired weight.

1) Unrealistic expectations -- As mentioned earlier, people are impatient and want instant gratification. Often, clients are motivated by special events, such as weddings, reunions, or office bets with coworkers. Once the event passes, the desire to maintain change is lost, or the person may miss the deadline altogether. The answer is to set realistic goals for losing 1-2 pounds per week, understanding that it takes time and you may not lose weight every week. Be patient and stay the course as the weight did not come on overnight.

2) Scale obsession -- How many of you get on the scale every morning? Weight will fluctuate by 1-3 pounds at times based on water retention, dehydration, and too much overindulgence. Gradual weight loss is best, and those who don't see positive change each time they get on the scale often get emotionally distraught and frustrated. I recommend weighing yourself once per week on the same scale, on the same day, and at the same time of day to ensure accuracy and reliability. This might be tough, but it will disappoint you less and provide a clearer picture of your actual progress.

3) Skipping breakfast -- You probably have heard that "breakfast is the most important meal of the day." This is true because it kick starts your metabolism, provides fuel for activity, and also reduces the urge to eat unhealthy snacks before lunch. If you are rushed in the morning, buy healthy items such as fruit, yogurt, granola bars or protein shakes that can easily be consumed on the way to work or at your desk.

4) Failing to pack your lunch I firmly believe that packing a healthy lunch on a regular basis is essential to avoiding weight gain. If you don't, it becomes that much easier to grab fast food with coworkers or order in fare that is high in calories, hydrogenated fats, and sodium. You also are more apt to order dessert when eating out.

5) Eating too few meals per day -- Yes, it's true that you should eat 5-7 times per day, but the portion sizes must be appropriate. Eating every 2-3 hours will prevent significant hunger pangs and eating binges, by keeping your blood sugar more level. More importantly, it speeds up metabolism and caloric burning throughout the day.

6) Poor grocery shopping -- I stick to the mantra of "If it's not in the house, you can't eat it." Always prepare a list of foods before going to the store, and never go shopping when you're hungry. This strategy will help eliminate unhealthy temptations and stumbling blocks. Another key tip is sticking to the periphery of the store as the more healthful food is located there as opposed to the inner aisles.

7) Not drinking enough water -- Drinking water helps our muscles maintain cellular volume and flushes our system of waste products. It also prevents dehydration and excess water retention (water weight).

8) Lack of specific goals -- Most people say they want to lose weight but have no specific goal or measurable target. As such, they wander aimlessly with the intention but no concrete objective to focus on. So set a goal and write it down.

9) No written plan or strategy -- To exact measurable change in life, you need a plan of action. Develop steps to arrive at the desired weight loss goal and seek accountability and help accomplishing these steps as needed.

10) Negative beliefs, thoughts and self-talk -- This may be the biggest reason people fail to meet their goals. How many times have you started a new workout plan or eating program with the thought that "this will never work?" Perhaps you sabotage your progress with doubt, fear, insecurity, or the belief that you cannot possibly maintain the results long term. Regardless, your thoughts become your reality. End the negativity and believe in yourself.

The weight loss formula is a simple. Write down your goal(s), acknowledge any obstacles, develop a written plan, set a timetable for achieving the goal and then find the needed support and help to make it happen. Are you ready? Put away the excuses and seize the moment today because in the end you are responsible for your outcomes. If you want a different outcome, you must change your mindset and take a different action.

5 critical coaching mistakes that may be affecting your child

Over the past 20 years, I have learned, experienced and witnessed how coaching errors impact athletes. Writing as an athlete, I have firsthand experience with politics, injuries and poor coaching. As a physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach, I have worked with athletes who were impaired, limited or injured by coaches ranging from the youth level to the professional arena. Keep in mind it is not my belief these things are done to intentionally cause harm. The purpose in writing this is to spread awareness and be an advocate for positive change. Below I've outlined the critical mistakes I see many coaches make that lead to overtraining, injury and an even an athlete's withdrawal from sport.

Critical mistake #1 -- Coaches rely upon past experience (taught by their coach/mentors) or other successful teams' programs to condition and train their own team.
I consider all athletes to be individuals first. What one can do is not necessarily a skill or ability that another has. Often, coaches forget to evaluate their own players' skills, abilities, and personalities to adequately determine what training and conditioning program would be best. They may use a college program or simply model what they did when they played. One size fits all is not going to work for all athletes, especially the ones with imbalances, prior injuries or even a predisposition to injury.

Would you use a strength program that the Columbus Crew uses for its players for your U12 soccer team? I hope not. We should and must train children differently than adults. We must learn to train and condition based upon age specific capacity, medical history and developmental maturation.

Critical mistake #2 -- Coaches fail to observe and link performance trends to their training methods.
If you notice your son's or daughter's team playing very well in the first half of the season and then suddenly losing more often, if they appear fatigued or suffer more injuries in the second half of the season, there is a strong possibility they are overtraining. I have worked with runners, soccer players and swimmers who have fallen victim to this. Physical training should be purposeful and prepare athletes to excel and peak later in the season and not just the beginning. Sometimes this even involves addressing mental fatigue and finding ways to take a fresh approach to training to stimulate performance and effort level.

Critical mistake #3 -- Coaches use physical conditioning as punishment for poor game performance.
In the previous example, I spoke of fatigue with improper conditioning. Does it make sense to add in more running, sprints and senseless conditioning to improve performance? If teams are losing, they are losing for one of two reasons: inferior skill or poor conditioning. Most of the time, winning and losing is based on skill, execution, and coaching strategy. Therefore, more time should be spent on technical and tactical practice and not conditioning that will only negatively affect performance in the next competition.

I remember running endlessly on Monday afternoons following Friday night football losses my senior year. Guess what? We did not win one game that year. No one wanted to go to practice after a few games into the season and I can tell you all those wind sprints did not help us block, tackle or catch the ball any better. If your team is in poor condition, you may be saying the running should help, right? No. You condition in the pre-season and maintain or slightly improve it during the in-season. You can't truly get in shape in the middle of the season. In-season recovery is critical for high-level performance.

Critical mistake #4 -- Coaches fail to recognize early warning signs of an impending injury and do not encourage ongoing communication among players.
All athletes want to play. As such, they often refrain from telling the coach or athletic trainer they are having pain. Many overuse injuries (tendonitis, patella-femoral pain, Osgood-Schlatter's, etc.) start as small aches and pains. The athlete may appear to run slower, put forth less effort or not perform at the highest level possible. Many times, coaches brush off these things (especially true with the top players) if the players say nothing is wrong.

Coaches need to remember that players are fearful of losing their starting spot if they do not practice or play. The coach needs to encourage players to openly communicate and recognize that just because an athlete does not have a broken bone or torn ligament, that the injury may still be substantial in nature. Furthermore, to combat the fear of reporting an injury, they need to reassure athletes that prevention and early intervention is the key to reducing such injuries and maximizing playing time. I see many players who play hurt for fear of losing their spot or letting down the coach/team. Eventually, this lack of communication may lead to a much bigger injury.

Critical mistake #5 -- Coaches fail to admit they need help.
As a sports performance and injury prevention/return-to-play expert, I am most disappointed with coaches who are not receptive to learning how experts like me can enhance their training, preparation and performance. I train the athlete and not the sport. Many coaches are arrogant, territorial, and protective of what they do, remaining unwilling to accept feedback or advice from the outside. While some may have extensive training or experience with strength and conditioning, most do not. Utilizing a respected professional to help them build a solid training model will reduce injuries and improve performance.

In my opinion, there is a growing need for better coaching education and affiliation with conditioning experts, specifically in the youth and adolescent markets. Many schools have great athletic trainers to treat injuries, but better conditioning programs will help to reduce injuries and increase playing time. With the proper approach, we can make sports safer and happier for all involved. If you have questions about your child's conditioning program, please contact me directly at bschiff@thefitnessedge.cc.


Brian Schiff, owner of Fitness Edge, is a nationally-known sports and fitness training expert, specializing in injury prevention and return to play for professional and amateur athletes of all ages. Fitness Edge now offers Adventure Boot Camp for Women in Dublin, Westerville, Upper Arlington and Grove City. www.thefitnessedge.cc.