Bikini season is here and people have started flocking to the beach on weekends. Society puts a big importance on how we look in our swimsuits (and how we generally “look”!!!), so there is gossip about who’s worked hard at the gym this winter, who hasn’t, and so on. Like this is some kind of measure of a person’s worth. I hear a lot of women contemplating for some time now on what bikini type they’re going to wear this season and how they’re going to look in it.
This spring I’ve had several new clients who approached me with the request for help to “get ready for the summer season”. There is nothing bad with people using this time of the year as a motivation to push themselves a little towards eating better and working out more consistently.
What is bad is some peoples’ philosophy behind “getting ready for the summer season” (or “getting rid of that flabby part of my body”-thing).
Some of the people I now coach initially approached me with the idea that fitness is some kind of punishment. They came to me thinking that I would be willing to be their bugbear until they “hit their health and fitness goals”. They asked for punishment when they would slip up and wanted me to be their policewoman so they can “behave”.
My week with a few of them would start like this:
“I ate too much at that dinner table on Saturday night, now I need to starve myself for the rest of this week”. “I’ve had way too many treats over the weekend, let’s make this weeks’ sessions more intense so I can burn them off!”. Or “I didn’t do my cardio today so I am not having anything for supper tonight”.
Besides my clients, I have many friends who don’t have a healthy relationship with either their nutrition or their exercise regimen or both. Women, most notably, are in a very vulnerable position and at times in danger of developing obsessive habits and other undesirable consequences, all whilst they are trying to control the way they “look”.
If this all sounds familiar to you in any way, you are not alone!
First, let’s get something straight here: if you have excess fat on your body, yes, it’s good for you if you lose it. Why? Because losing it will decrease your risk of developing many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. Not because it will make you “look” better and not because it will make other people accept you. You need to start coming to terms with the fact that you are absolutely fine the way you are.
By all that, I am not saying that it’s wrong to want to improve your body. Each person is entitled to do whatever they want with their body and for someone who is blessed with a healthy relationship to it, there’s nothing wrong with getting a “bikini body”, a “six pack”, or with hitting a “25% body fat goal”. I am not talking about “right” or “wrong” goals or behaviours here. I am talking about the intentions behind a goal or behaviour.
This blogpost is intended to speak to the hearts of people -especially women- who, in a quest to maintain a healthy focus on improving their body, slip into an obsessively negative attempt to “fix” something that is “wrong with them”. To all you ladies out there, please don’t make another summer of your lives miserable!
Fitness is about improving your health markers; for example your blood profile, your BMI, your glucose levels. Fitness is about feeling better and it’s about increasing your energy levels.
Fitness is about gaining something: gaining the energy to do more things in a day and feel less tired. Not losing something, like fat off your belly or thighs. Fitness is gaining. For example: two months ago I moved from where I was staying. I have been strength training for a long time now, so I have developed the capability to carry stuff from my place to my car and then another place all by myself and still be able to do my lessons and work-out (moderately) at the gym during a certain week, versus not being able to do the slightest manual labour or being left with a sore back and legs after doing it…This is fitness. Fitness is what you can do with your body, not how you look. Fitness -for the average person- is about gaining the strength and endurance to carry out their everyday chores and still have some energy left. For people who work in an office 50 hours a week, fitness is the return to the old days where humans had to chase for their food and walk to fetch water to bring to their table for dinner. These people need fitness to gain their mobility back, because the work they choose doesn’t let them move at all, they’re stuck in front of a computer or a meeting room chair all the time!
Having a “good-looking” body is the result of fitness, not (just) the goal of it.
In the process of feeling better whilst moving our bodies, we also become better and look better. Not vice versa!
Working out with the intention to “fix” how your body looks comes with a lot of baggage. Fitness becomes a punishment and then comes guilt, shame, self-loathing and decreased self-esteem. I know women who are constantly striving to look like someone else. When they improve something, then something else is wrong and they go into another loop of decreased self-esteem. They are treating their bodies poorly and critiquing them every single day. They are going under the knife or other less-invasive methods to get rid of body fat around parts of their body, instead of making small, little changes to their lifestyle and having patience to see how their body will bloom, instead of being punished. I know women who think about food and exercise 24/7 until they are so miserable that they give up any effort of becoming healthier.
Want to never be satisfied with how your body looks no matter how much success you have in the gym, how much weight you lose, how much muscle you build, how strong you get? If you can relate to all of this, I invite you to please have a sneak peak on the other side of the coin. You are much more than how your belly or your arms look and certainly much more than whether you have a gap between your thighs or not. You are built in a certain way and whatever you desire to do about it, you’re off to a better start if you learn to accept yourself as you are.
If you want to transform your body, yes you can. Just make sure you’re doing it the right way. Don’t go too fast, don’t be too impatient. Don’t punish your body. Living in a healthy body is a life-long apprenticeship, how can you ever expect to master it in a few short months? Don’t make looking better put you in a situation where you feel bad. Don’t spend every waking moment thinking about food and what’s in it, being overwhelmed with guilt and shame whenever you slip up on your diet, or binge eat every weekend because of all the crazy rules that you’ve followed for the whole week. And for god’s sake, don’t kill yourself in the gym!
Start by being nice to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when someone is mean to you all the time. Appreciate yourself for who you are.
After you do that, stop wanting to have a coach to belittle you and to tell you how wrong you are. There is a better way to learn. A more empowering way. Find a coach who uplifts you and who is kind to you and your body. Find a coach who is supportive to who you are, right now. Such a person can take you all the way where you want to be.
Changing these little things will set you up for a healthy long-term relationship with your body.
Talk to you soon,