I like to start with the good stuff, so let’s do that: as a society, it’s fantastic that we’ve gotten more conscious about health and fitness. We are slowly waking up to the fact that our sedentary-junk-foody-sleepless lifestyles (
are fucking with our bodies) may not be the most ideal way to survive (for a more classy way of putting it). We are building a culture that attaches value to investing time, effort, and money in getting fitter and healthier.
All of this is awesome, agreed. But there’s a darker side to this drive towards fitness: our issues with body image.
Fitness and health have somehow (thank you, media!) gotten associated solely with looking a certain way – thin people are fit; overweight people are not. Not only is that is factually incorrect on many levels, it also drastically limits the definition of health and fitness.
Fitness is not a reflection of your weight on the scale. Your waist-size is not an indicator of overall health. So it’s totally worth your time to look at yourself as more than just what you see in the mirror.
To associate health and fitness solely with how thin a person looks is like judging a buffet based on the starters alone. It’s reductionist, narrow-minded and misses the point entirely!
So in a culture that places a premium on aesthetics and looking a certain way, how do you break away?
Set performance related goals instead of (or along with) aesthetic ones
99% of the trainees I’ve coached have walked in with predominantly one goal in mind.
While wanting to lose extra fat is a totally legit goal (and don’t let anybody judge you for it), the issue with that is that it is uni-dimensional. You could get thin in a bunch of different ways, including but not limited to, crash dieting, going on a juice fast, taking an extra large dump before weighing yourself, sucking your stomach in when you stand in front of a mirror. All of these things will get you thin, but none of them will get you healthy.
Now consider the following list of goals instead,
Working on all these goals simultaneously will ensure that you become a stronger unit overall, while losing whatever excess fat you may have. Squatting close to your bodyweight requires a decent amount of lower body strength, while doing push-ups and pull-ups requires that you don’t weigh more than what your shoulders can handle!
Fat loss and aesthetic changes are simply good by-products of a well-rounded fitness plan.
And throw your weighing scale away
….while you’re at it!
You don’t need to weigh yourself everyday, or even every week. Exceptions to this rule are if you are working on a short-term fat blitz, or working with a coach who has a very particular reason for having you track your weight.
Your bodyweight is actually a measure of water weight, body fat, and muscle. When we say we want to lose weight, what we actually want to do is lose body fat, while maintaining or increasing muscle mass.
However, you could see a drop in body fat and an increase in muscle mass and this could actually cause you to stay at the same weight. So according to the weighing scale, you haven’t really progressed or gotten fitter. While in reality, you’ve lost extra body fat while getting stronger in the bargain!
Moral of the story : your weighing scale doesn’t show you the whole picture and is only one limited measure of fitness.
Choose your coach and gym well
Does your coach talk only about making aesthetic changes? Does your gym have more mirrors in it than actual squat racks?
Because the coaches who teach you, and the environment you train in can heavily influence your relationship with your body, you want to make an informed decision here. If your coach regularly talks about BMI, weigh-ins, and focuses more on how you look than on how well you are moving, you are probably better off without them. And if your coach makes you feel bad or ashamed about the way you look, they certainly aren’t worth your time and money.
Choose a coach who wants to make you stronger instead of just smaller. Choose a professional who places a premium on improving foundational movement quality, building total body strength, while also ensuring that you enjoy doing these things!
I hope this prompts you to begin exploring a more holistic, well-rounded approach to fitness. You’re worth more than a number on the scale, or a size in the mirror.