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January 15, 2010

Heidi Montag Syndrome: Do You Know When To Stop?

Heidi-Montag-Before-And-After Picture Credit: The Huffington Post

Seeing Heidi Montag's before and afters kinda bummed me out.  I mean, for someone who looked like Heidi's before picture to feel bad about the way she looks is really sad.

She didn't realize she was already "done". 

But it's not just Heidi Montag, this problem is WAY more common than it seems.

Sure, my clients don't usually get plastic surgery, but it's easy to get carried away with weight loss.

If a girl has been overweight all of her life, and then suddenly she starts losing 1-2lbs per week, it can get addictive.

Suddenly you start getting new compliments, you may start getting way more attention from the opposite sex, you can wear clothes you've always wanted to wear.

Lots of new things that feel really good. 

Once you get a taste, you want more.

Sometimes You Need Hard Numbers
To Know When To Stop

Here is the problem: You actually don't have any idea of what you look like.

Sometimes you feel fat and gross, sometimes you feel skinny and hot, and neither is entirely connected to reality.

We alternately stroke ourselves or beat ourselves up.  It's a rare individual who really "gets it" that they look good.

This is part of the reason I take body fat measurements.  On one hand, I want to make sure we're making progress.  On the other hand, I want to have hard numbers to be able to tell someone when to stop.

You're Already A Rockstar, There Is Nothing To Left To Fix

If I have a female client under 19% bodyfat, I let her know that she's done.  She's a rockstar and she's hotter than 95% of the women in America (ok, if you live in Malibu, take a trip through the middle of the country sometime).

I've taken female clients down to 16% bodyfat or even 14% bodyfat, but I'm letting them know every single session that they're already a rockstar, there is nothing to left to fix.

This is hard to accept.

Really.  People have a hard time with being done.  Especially if they weren't the hot girl all their lives.

I actually start the process waaaaaaay before 19% bodyfat. 

26% Once a girl hits 26% bodyfat, I'm letting her know that she's totally healthy, and that even though TV tells us that a girl that's at 26% bodyfat is pretty average, the reality is she's ahead of 80% of America.

23% Then at 23% bodyfat, I'm letting her know that she's really in shape now - she's officially a work out girl and she's ahead of 90% of the girls in America.  She's fit, lean, and there is nothing left to "fix". 

If she wants to be a rockstar, we can take her to rockstar, but she's already awesome.

21% At 21% body fat a girl should know she's really ahead of the game.  Girls should relate to themselves as being really, really hot at 21% bodyfat, and should feel really, really good about that.  Along with that, by this point my clients have completely transformed their relationship to fitness - they're stronger, healthier, doing pull ups, kicking ass, and relating to themselves as an athlete.

19% At this point you have achieved rock-stardom.  You're done.  We shift the context to fitness related goals - what ever fun/cool thing you've always wanted to be able to do.  You may get leaner from here, but it's not necessary, and it's not the goal.

Once you are at this point, then my job is to remind you - over and over again - that you're done.

It's Really Sad That Heidi Would Look At Herself
And Think She Was "An Ugly Duckling"

Lets get real, love her or hate her, you have to admit that she looked like a life sized barbie doll.

If there is a TV standard of perfect bikini blonde, she was already it. 

But she didn't relate to herself that way.  She couldn't see it.

She was already beyond perfect, and now she just looks like a porn star.  

She'll ruin herself trying to look "better" because she can't tell when to stop.

It Happens To Guys Also

I've had a bunch of guy clients lose like 60, 70 80lbs. 

The thing about a dude who was 70lbs overweight is that skinny always sounds good.

But a dude who is way too skinny looks even less attractive than a girl that's way too skinny.

Most of the guys I've trained for major amounts of weight loss, at some point I had to tell them "Look dude, you've gotta stop.  You're already really really skinny, you're getting to the point where you'd actually look better if you were a little bigger."

This is usually met with stunned disbelief.

It's Ok To Be Done

"You've got to know when to hold 'em.  Know when to fold 'em.  Know when to walk away, know when to run" - The Gambler, by Kenny Rogers

If you look long and hard enough, you can always find something else that's "wrong". 

So just stop doing that.

Hit your body comp goal, then shift your whole focus to something else.  Like learning kettlebells!  Or dominating your Ultimate Frisbee league.  Whatever.  Something fun and athletic.

I just interviewed Ms. USA 2010 Taryn Bagrosky (video coming soon) and one thing she said that really hit me: She said that this year, the year she won, was the first year she was really focused on enjoying the journey more than anything else. 

She's always thinking about how good she is going to feel TODAY, just because she got her workout in.  She's always thinking about how good she's going to feel TODAY, just because she ate healthy stuff.

And when I asked her if she has goals to get any leaner, she said: "Not really.  I do fitness, and the judges really want us to still look feminine, so it's really not about getting leaner anymore.  It's about learning a new move to do in the routine or someting like that.  Something fun."

Josh Hillis RKC Kettlebell Instructor Josh Hillis is a level 2 kettlebell instructor (RKC2), Certified Personal Trainer, Performance Enhancement Specialist, Movement Reeducation Specialist, Movement Integration Specialist, author of The Stubborn Seven Pounds and head coach of Josh Hillis Platinum Coaching Club - the most powerful system for continued fitness success there is.

And now a word from our sponsors: Today's blog post was made possible in part by:



Usually you talk about how to lose the fat and better ways on how to do it. How refreshing that you talk about what to do at the finish line.

I, once, didn't realize I was doing more than I should have at the finish line when I was finally thin from being obese. And to be honest when I saw that I weighed in dangerously thin, I honestly wanted to keep going, but I had to force myself to stop.

I'll admit that I have been whining about feeling "fat" even though I'm not - just 8 months preggo. Some friends tried to make me feel better by saying that breastfeeding will make me go lower than my pre-preg weight and couldn't understand that I was in the perfect weight range for my body, the point is to be healthy and strong, not to go for as low a number on the scale as you possibly can.

Thank you for posting this! I almost went into this cycle of not feeling good enough even though I've been making progress. But it's nice to actually enjoy the other forms of progress, like being able to reduce weight on the assisted pull-up machine and not the weight loss.


Hey Josh,
This article is great! I'm going to email it over to many of my girlfriends who are at 20% and insist they should be 15%. It's nice to hear that at 21% a woman is way ahead of the game. Please continue writing these kind of articles. I think it would really benefit a lot of women!

Great article, Josh. I'm at about 16% body fat, but after having 2 children via c-section, I can tell you that there IS something to fix! Two somethings and a stomach if you know what I mean. However, it's depressing to see someone who 1) doesn't even look that different in the after (except for the ginormous boobs) and 2) is so young! What will happen when she decides to have kids of her own and her body is wrecked? Well, I guess at least she already has a surgeon that she trusts.

I can say for sure that if my body weren't altered by the stretching that comes with pregnancy and nursing, you are 100% correct...nothing left to fix.

Love your posts! Thanks!

You're sending kind of a mixed message here. In that 'before' picture where you refer to her as a "life size barbie", she had already undergone numerous plastic surgery procedures. before that, she looked like this: left picture. Plastic surgery at a young age really skeeves me out.... using it to ease the affects of aging, or dealing with a long-term insecurity, or rebuilding a disfigured appearance is one thing, but in the picture you posted she already had breast implants and a nose job and god knows what else.

Please be aware of the message you are sending... that is all.

This is a great article Josh! It makes me so sad to see women never happy with themselves, no matter how beautiful they may be (and other attributes like intelligence apparently not even in the running!) I work hard to raise my two girls to value being strong, tough and capable (and smart! always smart :-) ), something which only gets harder as they get older. I'm trying to be more of a role model on the fitness-level lately (dare I say, I model the thinking part quite well already...), and luckily they see their father valuing fitness very highly indeed, often using parkour to vault himself over anything in his path LOL.I have found that not having a TV helps an inordinate amountas it keeps them from the deluge of damaging media messages - when they do watch DVDs or such they are things I am ok with, and definitely commercial-free experiences. I could, however,kill my well-meaning mother-in-law and a friend'smom for giving them Barbie dolls...let's just say they are the bane of my existence in the past few weeks. However, it does give us a chance to discuss the messages that are out there, and how silly it is that women would be told to "be pretty" and not lift heavy things and be doctors and such - my older daughter is incredibly proud of her strength and made a point once to tell me that she "works out" so that she can be strong and someday lift and carry "someone" if they were hurt and can't walk!

This is an awesome article Josh. Very nice the way you illustrated the point. You are absolutely right about how sometimes women take it to the nth degree. This especially when it comes to weight loss. There is nothing wrong if they are doing it the healthy way but when they try unhealthy means is when it really starts getting crazy. Dangerous diets and pills. More people should read this article.


Making progress on assisted pull ups is the best thing ever!!!


I know right about the 15% thing. There are a lot of bodybuilding-ish sites that kind of lean that direction - leaner is always better.

I think it cool for a girl to be lean and sporty but still look like a girl.

You're totally right.

The point is that you are TOTALLY lean enough already (double high five!)

As everything that stretches out being pregnant, that is a different story. It makes me think of all the things that moms give to bring kids into the world and give them a great life. It blows my mind.

Reminds me: If you haven't seen Holly "The Fit Yummy Mummy" Rigsby's blog, she's got the best mom's fitness site in the world:

Hi Alexandra!

Yeah, this was her second time around. I thought she was beautiful before her first round of plastic surgery.

And I wasn't endorsing becoming a life sized barbie doll, I was just saying that if that's why she's after, she was already there!

I used to knock plastic surgery, but then I thought about when I got braces. I got braces because my teeth looked really bad, and I wanted them to look better. And I'm really really happy I did.

So I don't look down on Heidi at all. It just makes me sad she can't know herself as someone who's pretty already.

Cynically, I wonder if Heidi was less dissatisfied with her body and more dissatisfied with her level of exposure recently. It doesn't seem like her musical debut last fall didn't go as she hoped and I hadn't seen her face on the supermarket tabs for a while there. She seems too careful with her fitness routine to do a high profile weight gain/loss boondoggle like Jessica Simpson, so...

That's so totally normal.

It's cool that you caught it and stopped yourself!

Yeah, being pregnant is just pregnant!

Go mom!


RE: "...and made a point once to tell me that she "works out" so that she can be strong and someday lift and carry "someone" if they were hurt and can't walk!"

Thanks Paramjit Sidhu!

I totally appreciate that!

I know right? Wow, that would be sad. I heard her album sold like 650 copies... There are local bands her in Denver that do more than that.

While i agree with you on the 'Heidi Montag Syndrome', i don't agree on the 'ahead of the game' analysis.
currently the quality of the 'game' is so low, that you are relatively quickly better looking than 95% of the people. funny you mention malibu though ;)

it is the same with ie. schools. being better than 95% at the University of Bridgeport is different than being in the top 5% at MIT.

what is the bodyfat % of a toned female like her: ?
does she fall in the 19-21% range?

I would guess that Zuzana from would be even lower. 16% maybe? Possibly even 14%

She looks awesome, and it's inspiring. That being said, I've found that most women are really stoked with the way they look up in the 19-20% range.

For example, if we say that Zuzana is at 15% bodyfat, we might also say that Gretchen from The Real Housewives of Orange County is at 19-20%.

In other words, you don't have to look like a full on fitness model to be a hottie.

i am sorry, i haven't seen your answer until now, your blog didn't show it until today.
thanks for the answer, appreciated. i really thought it is lower than 14% but good to know it isn't freakish low ;)

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