Thomas Barisich: “Move!”

Move! This especially applies to those people who want to lose weight. Everything you do will burn calories. The more active you are, the more calories are burned. So, without telling you to do some kind of sports — just move. Avoid the elevator, go for a walk, play with your kids or your dog. Find yourself […]

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Move! This especially applies to those people who want to lose weight. Everything you do will burn calories. The more active you are, the more calories are burned. So, without telling you to do some kind of sports — just move. Avoid the elevator, go for a walk, play with your kids or your dog. Find yourself in more situations that are not sitting in front of a computer or chilling on the couch. Each activity will help you to lose weight faster and to get a healthier body and mind in general. Believe me. I’m a passionate PC Gamer. I know about both worlds and I know what a 20 min walk with my dog can do for me.

So many of us have tried dieting. All too often though, many of us lose 10–20 pounds, but we end up gaining it back. Not only is yo-yo dieting unhealthy, it is also demoralizing and makes us feel like giving up. What exactly do we have to do to achieve a healthy body weight and to stick with it forever?

In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve A Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently” we are interviewing health and wellness professionals who can share lessons from their research and experience about how to do this.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Barisich.

Thomas is a former police officer from Austria who started a Crossfit Gym back in 2013. He’s a certified strength coach who coached over 400 people , from your regular office guy to high-level athletes. Thomas’ goal is to teach people that fitness, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle isn’t something you have to force yourself to do. If it’s done right it is something that is fun and makes life easier and better.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

“My childhood took place on a tennis court. My parents owned a tennis club and I basically had no chance to not get into this sport. It turned out that I was pretty talented and managed to always be one of the top 10 tennis players my age in Austria. But then there was this big thing called “puberty”. And man it hit me hard. I lost my focus for quite a while and if you’re trying to be a professional at some point, those years are so important. I couldn’t catch up with all those boys who continued their way to go pro and finally stopped trying to make a career as a tennis player. But my whole youth is the reason why I will always have the desire to coach people. As a young kid I saw how big of a role a coach can play for your development. And I think this also applies to grown up people.”

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

“I don’t think that there is a single person that inspired me to do what I’m doing today. I think the combination of being a police officer, competing in Crossfit and caring about the people around me are all parts of who I am today. Coaching is all about listening, understanding and taking the person and his or her needs and wishes seriously. I’ve seen people with so many issues, so many people that struggle with their life and their health and I wanted to be part of a solution for those people. I knew that I couldn’t change the whole world for the better, but I knew that if I can lead some people to a healthier lifestyle then it can mean the world to them. And that’s the reason I decided to quit my job as a police officer and start my career as a Crossfit coach.”

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

“There are many people who helped me on the way but if I had to pick one person that made all this possible, then I have to mention my mum. Starting a business from scratch with no income, no background in finances and business management is a pretty risky thing. My mum worked as an accounted which helped me a lot in the early days. But it was the sum of all those little things she did. She did all the things that helped me being able to focused completely on my business, my coaching, and my clients. Without her I’d still might be struggling with burnout syndromes today.”

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Not really a funny mistake but something that happens to a lot of coaches I think. It’s all about preaching water and drinking wine. I think I know a lot about overcoming injuries or preventing them before they even happen. Still, throughout my career as an athlete I had to deal with some major injuries that I could have had avoided easily, if I had followed the same recommendations I give my clients all the time. We coaches are not indestructible either and I often find myself struggling with my own guidelines.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“I’m not really into life quotes. They sometimes simplify life way too much and some cheesy life lesson quotes can lead some people to stupid decisions. But if there is a life principle I would go for, then it would be to surround yourself with good people who have the same goals as you as often as possible. Especially in this fitness bubble I live in, it’s so important to have people around who inspire you. People who can help each other to reach a specific goal. People who don’t understand your dreams and believes might often belittle your ambitions. Not because they are bad people, they just can’t resonate with your passion. Sometimes this is enough to stop your “drive” and your “momentum”.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re planning a nutrition challenge for a big company here in Austria. Giving your employees the chance to work on a healthier lifestyle as a company will be a big factor in the future. I know that this is already happening in a lot of companies in other countries, but Austria is always a bit behind when it comes to innovation.

So, we already have an extra Crossfit Class for these employees and now we’re giving them the chance to learn something about nutrition and dieting. Furthermore, the company is offering them at least one healthy meal in their canteen per day.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field?

Besides many certifications as a strength and nutrition coach, the thing that qualifies me as an expert the most is my experience and practical application when it comes to training and fitness. I’ve been coaching well over 400 people in person, from all age groups and fitness levels. So, I don’t solely know a lot about the things I’m coaching in theory, I’ve tested them myself and by coaching them to all kinds of people and by now I know if they work or why.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about achieving a healthy body weight. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Healthy Body Weight”?

For me there is no exact number on the scale when it comes to a “healthy body weight”. Bodyweight per se is no good or bad thing. There are healthy people weighing 200lbs and there are people who shouldn’t weigh that much to stay healthy. There are many other factors that determine your overall health. But your bodyweight can be a good indicator to guess if those other factors are affected.

How can an individual learn what is a healthy body weight for them? How can we discern what is “too overweight” or what is “too underweight”?

Do you feel good? Can you move well? Can you do your everyday tasks without being in physical discomfort? When was your last health check at a professional’s? What does your blood test look like and what about your hormonal balance? What about your own perception of your bodyweight. Do you feel comfortable in your own body? How does it affect your mental health?

So as you can see, there are a lot of things to consider here. The only thing I can’t give someone is an exact number.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons why being over your healthy body weight, or under your healthy body weight, can be harmful to your health?

Most of the physical issues are in correlation with being overweight. Important health markers like blood pressure, high cholesterol, fatty liver etc. may have a major impact on your overall well-being and can lead to a high risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes etc. But also being underweight can lead to dangerous changes in you hormonal system and a weak immune system. A fact that is often neglected is that a too high or low body weight can also lead to serious mental health issues and moreover contribute to develop eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

In contrast, can you help articulate a few examples of how a person who achieves and maintains a healthy body weight will feel better and perform better in many areas of life?

Just think about all those activities you miss out just because you’re too overweight or you don’t have the energy or power to do them because your seriously underweight. Just think about being healthy and not having to fear drastic medical issues in the near future or going to the doctor twice a week to get checked for example. That’s what it feels like being able to obtain a healthy bodyweight.

Ok, fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Do To Achieve a Healthy Body Weight And Keep It Permanently?”. If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1. Be clear about your eating habits and learn about your nutrition

It’s hard to change something when you don’t even know that it’s wrong. Think about all your food choices. Learn about the ingredients. Google them. And with that I don’t mean that you have to start being a nutritionist, but the basics about food and nutrition in general aren’t too complicated to get into. And if it’s too hard for you then ask for help or get a nutrition coach for a month. You don’t have to get coached your whole life if you don’t want to, but you have to learn about the nutritional basics to make educated decisions.

2. Gaining/losing weight is all about calorie intake and calorie consumption

Gaining or losing weight is no rocket science. You will gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn. You will lose weight if you do otherwise. You will maintain your weight if those numbers are balanced. There are exceptions to this rule if there are any medical issues like problems with your hormonal system or your metabolism, for example. But be careful about using any guessed or self-diagnosed health issues as an excuse. Many people are not seriously affected by medical restrictions when it comes to their exercising. They’re mostly simply not following the rules above!

3. There are no bad foods

Most diets fail because they force you to sacrifice all the things you love to eat. But if you look back to point 2 — there is no reason to do so. Eat whatever you want, just be aware that there are limitations for certain foods, otherwise you won’t hit your caloric goals. Of course there is food that is healthier than your favorite chocolate bar. It doesn’t really matter how you hit your min or max calories when it comes to your weight. Still, I highly advise to eat your greens and fruits — especially because you can eat a lot of them since they are low in calories and filling at the same time.

4. Move!

This especially applies to those people who want to lose weight. Everything you do will burn calories. The more active you are, the more calories are burned. So, without telling you to do some kind of sports — just move. Avoid the elevator, go for a walk, play with your kids or your dog. Find yourself in more situations that are not sitting in front of a computer or chilling on the couch. Each activity will help you to lose weight faster and to get a healthier body and mind in general. Believe me. I’m a passionate PC Gamer. I know about both worlds and I know what a 20 min walk with my dog can do for me.

5. Do resistance training

Resistance training is still one of the most undervalued things when it comes to a healthy body. Not only can it improve your body composition, bone health and density and many other important health factors, it can also improve you caloric expenditure. Bigger muscles need more calories, so you burn more calories even when you’re not doing anything. Sounds awesome, right!?

The emphasis of this series is how to maintain an ideal weight for the long term, and how to avoid yo-yo dieting. Specifically, how does a person who loses weight maintain that permanently and sustainably?

I think if you follow those rules above, it will be relatively easy to maintain your weight. The hardest part is to get that whole thing going. If you gained some knowledge about your nutrition, if you know that you don’t have to cut out all of the good stuff you want to eat, then you’ve accomplished a lot.

Most diets fail because they force you to do things you don’t want to do. It’s all about adherence. Don’t eat low carb if you love carbs, for example. It’s not about going on a specific diet for 4 weeks. It’s about to establish good sustainable eating habits that work for you and your everyday life.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to lose weight? What errors cause people to just snap back to their old unhealthy selves? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

The biggest mistake is to think that you have to eat a certain way to lose weight. That there are diets that are superior to others. I don’t blame people to think that way. Social media is full of “experts” and gurus who advocate a certain diet and claim that this is the way to go. But the truth is that there are no good or bad diets. There are some that fit your food preferences better and some that don’t. Everything comes back to the adherence. If you’re forced to eat things you don’t want to eat or don’t fit your lifestyle, then it’s probably a bad diet for you.

All that comes with misinformation or not enough nutritional education. This leads me to another point that is a common mistake. I call it the “salad trap”. People automatically assume it’s healthy because it’s a a salad. But they don’t know about how much calories this salad might have due to the amount of oil for example. And of course that’s just the case with salad. Not knowing what I’m eating right now and having a false assumption that this is totally fine is a very common mistake.

How do we take all this information and integrate it into our actual lives? The truth is that we all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

The best advice I can give is to have a plan and learn about the things you do. Most bad food choices happen in certain situations when we don’t know what do to or when we’re not prepared . If you’re at work and you don’t have a meal with you or you don’t know what to buy in this situation, chances are good that you try out the new Chinese restaurant across the street where everyone else is ordering for lunch. The more knowledge you have about nutrition, the more you can make educated decisions without having to plan everything. If you’re not quite sure about something then make sure to be prepared. And don’t think that there is no room for error and it’s all for nothing if you fail from time to time. It’s a progress and the goal is to get better from time to time. In that way you will find a healthy way to establish tasty eating habits. It’s all about finding YOUR best way to eat. That takes time.

On the flip side, how can we prevent these ideas from just being trapped in a rarified, theoretical ideal that never gets put into practice? What specific habits can we develop to take these intellectual ideas and integrate them into our normal routine?

Just don’t follow a random meal plan that isn’t tailored to your lifestyle and preferences. It mostly won’t work for you.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would support every movement that increases nutritional knowledge. There are many good influencers who do that on social media but in the end I think that this has to be something that is taught in school by experts! If young kids know how to handle their food choices and know about the basic nutritional facts and how to apply them — GAMECHANGER!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Obvious answer here — Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s from Austria, I’m from Austria and we could talk about Politics, Fitness and “Kernöl” 😉

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m the author of where I’m blogging about fitness related topics and you can also get in contact with me via my Instagram @adventures_of_a_human_panda

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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