Or maybe it isn’t?
One thing I’ve learnt in my career as a personal trainer is that we all want what we don’t have or think we don’t have. 99.9% (if not a 100%) of the time we want to change something about our appearance: get thinner calves, tighter thighs, flatter stomach, fit in a size x dress, you name it.
By the way, what I think is alarming is that this “grass is greener on the other side” doesn’t only happen with appearance goals, it happens in all aspects of our lives. We constantly compare ourselves to people with “better” jobs, “higher” salary, “more” friends, “more” power, “higher” reputation, “more” Facebook friends, “more” instagram likes, and so on! How totally absurd is that? And what do we make of the time we spend on this planet if we always think that someone is in a better position than we are? Instead of living life feeling happy and grateful of who we are and what we have, we fantasise about what we “could have” or “should have”, comparing ourselves to pieces and bits of other peoples’ lives -whilst knowing nothing about them!
But let’s just stick to the health and fitness goals for now. While I have nothing against setting goals, I think there should be something more satisfying than “appearance” goals to work towards. Exercise is meant to be something we do because we want to empower ourselves, feel stronger, protect our heart and bones, push ourselves past our limits, feel good! Something we do because we want to live longer and be able to go places in a healthy body. And yet for many, exercise is something that simply burns calories, so it’s always tied to burning last nights cocktails or the upcoming dinner.
And then there’s food. “Good” food and “bad” food. Every week starts with calculating what and “how much more than I should have eaten at that dinner table on Saturday night”, checking out what the scale says and feeling guilty. We’ve all been brainwashed that some foods are good and other foods are bad, when in reality, it’s the amount of food we eat that makes all the difference. Balance, people! This is the key. Balance. Instead of putting foods in a “good” and “bad” box, you should allow yourself to eat at least a little of what you want when you want it. Don’t make food the enemy. It’s better to have a little than deprive yourself of it and binge at the end of the week because you are obsessed with the fact that a little piece of chocolate is what keeps you from having the 6-pack you’ve always wanted.
So, let’s see how you can break the unhealthy chain of comparing yourself to other people, wanting to change your imperfect self all the time, exercising only to punish yourself for the food you have eaten, exercising to punish yourself until your thighs or stomach look just the way you want them to, and so on.
First things first. The body you want needs to be “the best version of YOU”. Not the best version of somebody else. Taking into account your genetics, body type and “problem areas”, define a realistic goal which you will be happy with. Be gentle with what you tell yourself. Your body is always listening to your criticism and it will only improve the way you want it to if you treat it well and fairly.
Your goal can’t just be a number on the scale. You can’t let the scale be the only measure of progress. Focus on getting fitter and stronger, building muscle and changing your body composition (i.e. how your body looks) instead of merely dropping a few (or many) kgs.
Stop obsessing about your problem areas. Love your body for what it is. Love it because it carries you to wherever you want to go each and every day. Love it because it fulfils your every desire. Love it because it’s the only vehicle you have to explore this world.
Enjoy your meals. Consume your food to nourish and comfort your body, to make it stronger. Eat well in order to fuel your workouts and support your everyday life. One “bad” meal won’t make you gain a kilo, just as one “good” meal won’t make you lose one.
Exercise because it makes you feel strong and alive. Because it strengthens your heart and lungs and because it keeps you healthy. Because it makes you more able to move better in order to enjoy all the things that you want.
Learn to deal with your emotions. Don’t punish your body with either exercise or food when you’re dealing with something difficult. Instead, learn to speak up for yourself, deal with that issue that has been bothering you or buckle up in order to meet that project deadline.
Stop being obsessed with being perfect. You’ll never be perfect and actually, the reason you’ve not yet reached your deepest desires and your life purpose is the fact that you’ve always been putting yourself down with negative self talk. Love yourself for who you are right now. Work on learning what it actually is to be human. Learn to be grateful for your body and how to take care of it the best way you can. If you want to improve it in some areas, do so with love.
Don’t try to be like someone else; even if you do get there, you won’t be happy. Try to remember that other peoples’ lives are usually not what they seem. “Greener” is never what you think it is. And if you want to find out for yourself, try to get to know these people you find yourself feeling jealous of, because they have that “little something that you don’t”. You will discover that some of them would very much want to be like you. Yes, you!
Don’t think you would be happier in any other circumstances than your own. Live every moment of your life feeling gratitude for where you are in your journey, even if it’s not where you want to be.
And: don’t ever forget to smile 😉