You Don’t Have Enough Discipline

I doubt I’ll ever run out of content for this site.

Between my interactions with clients face-to-face and online, my continuing education, what I learn from coaches who inspire me (and those who don’t), there is no shortage of information to share with you.

Sometime recently, I saw a post by a coach who I’ve actually met in person. I like this coach. They’re nice, professional and very good at the arena of fitness/nutrition that they work within. So much so, that if I ever dabbled in that demographic, this would potentially be a coach I’d reach out to for pointers.

However, one post in particular struck a nerve with me. This coach shared the sentiment that maybe you don’t need weight loss medications, you just need discipline.

The world of social media being what it is, I’m certain there was context to that post that may have slipped my radar but I took it at face value and thought I’d use that for a post of my own on Instagram.

I stand in firm disagreement.

Let me start here: Do I believe that improving your health requires discipline? Absolutely.

Do I believe that someone who may be considering weight loss medications has a lack of discipline in their lives? Not exactly.

Quite the contrary, having coached so many people with fat loss, I find many who succeed to be quite disciplined for a certain amount of time and under a certain set of circumstances. Invariably, a lot of other challenges flesh themselves out.

What I don’t try to do is beat them over the head with more talk about discipline, motivation, and “trying harder”.

So, what kind of things might someone struggle with who can’t seem to stay in a caloric deficit consistently enough to reach their goals?

Here’s a not-so-comprehensive list:


-Chronic stress

-Feelings of guilt

-Feelings of shame

-Too conservative of a deficit

-Too aggressive of a deficit

-They may not be scheduling diet breaks

-They might be a trauma survivor

-They may engage in chronic, intense exercise

-There may be an unreported or unregulated problem with the thyroid

-There may be an unreported or unregulated problem with their “hunger hormones”

-Lack of sleep

-Lack of protein in the diet

-Lack of fiber in the diet

-Micronutrient deficiencies

-Lack of self worth

-A poorly regulated food environment

-Not having a strong support system

Sure, some people can thrive in the face of these challenges and white-knuckle their way to the finish line…but at what cost?

And how long are they able to keep the weight off for before they rebound and regain?

The post I made definitely brought out some of the population who would disagree with my stance.

Many wanted to reiterate that all you need is a calorie deficit to succeed.

*Cue shock and awe*

Things got so nasty on the post that one of my industry friends, Dr. Jose Greenspon (an obesity physician in Kansas City), jumped in the fray:

“It is infuriating to see people fat-shame [those] struggling with obesity on social media for lacking discipline when in fact many things contribute to obesity aside from ‘lack of discipline’. Aside from the many hormonal and genetic predispositions that have nothing to do with lack of discipline, have you considered that obesity and depression coexist in over 60% of severely obese patients? Have you considered that childhood sexual, physical and/or emotional abuse are quite common in people who struggle with obesity? Did you know that obese females are more likely to be sexually assaulted because they are unlikely to report, oftentimes resulting in a spiral where they self medicate with food?”

Bravo, Jose, bravo.

I have to think back to how much I thought I knew when I first started in this industry and how much I know now. Truth be told, the more I learn, the more ignorant I actually feel.

Which means, there’s still more to learn and more to coach.

Sadly, the keyboard warriors on the internet can talk all they want about just needing more discipline to reach your goals. It’s not that they’re wrong, it’s that discipline is one piece of a big, messy puzzle.

If you’re struggling, perhaps you know whether discipline is a missing link or not.

This past year has taught me to champion those who choose weight loss medications just as I would champion someone who chose gastric bypass surgery. Not as a first line defense, but a necessary tool if need be.

The human body is complex enough, the human brain…even more so.

I write this post for two different readers:

-For those are struggling to succeed with their fat loss goals, realize that you have tools to help you so you can struggle less and start succeeding more.

-For those who believe it’s just a matter of discipline, please take the time to educate yourself so that your opinions do less damage to those who hear it and read it.

(Photo courtesy of Brett Jordan)