The Gift of: Your (Beautiful) Body Story

I wrote this blog post about 6 months ago. I thought it would be worth sharing again, especially for newbies to the blog:

A wise person once said: You Don’t Have a Body. You Are a Body.

In light of my occupation as a personal trainer and bodybuilder, I started to take a second look at the entire fitness industry in light of this statement.

I think too often we focus on the negatives of our bodies. “We hate our own bodiliness,” was something a wise person once said recently (actually it’s the same wise person I just mentioned. I can’t help it, I love wise people.)

I tend to agree that there is an almost universal negative attitude towards our bodies.

I’ve spoken to people on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to what to do with “this body.” I’ve noticed 2 types of people:

The Hater

We hate our body and we do everything possible to hide it, to lie about it, to use it, and abuse it in an effort to make it appear acceptable, perhaps even attractive according to outside influences or societal standards. This becomes an obsession to the point that we become envious of anyone who has the body that we desire so much. This also could lead to despair as we try over and over to attain this “perfect body” with little to show for it. We devalue our bodies and think ourselves unworthy.

The Lover

We love our body so much that we become vain to the point of over exposure. We boast and brag and show off, becoming completely obsessed with maintaining this “perfect” physique. A narcissistic attitude takes over. We believe our body is something to be worshiped by those who hate their own bodies (and we know there are plenty of those).  We also become very frustrated by anyone who isn’t like us. We don’t understand how they just don’t “get with it” and aren’t in love with fitness and health like we are.

But there’s some good news, kind of.

Perhaps the overwhelming majority are those in the middle:

The Love/Haters

These folks have a love/hate relationship with their body. They struggle just like everyone else with maintaining their weight but they don’t obsess over it. They “watch” their diet but they don’t write down what they eat and they most certainly don’t count calories. They like what they see in the mirror but they don’t love it. There’s always room for improvement but they probably only get to the gym once or twice a month.

If there’s one thing all of these people have in common, it’s that they see their bodies as Objects. Things. Possessions.

But what if you looked at your body as a way to tell a story. That certainly changes things doesn’t it?

You can either tell a good, honest story, or a story of lies and deception.

Some examples, since this is a difficult concept:

I’m a smoker and I go to my doctor for a checkup. The doctor tells me that I’m showing all the signs of lung cancer and that I had better cut back or quit on the smoking if I want to live longer. Meanwhile, I’ve seen this same doctor light up a cigarette outside the office and I see a pack of cigarettes in his pocket. That doctor is lying with his body.

Or:

I go to a used car salesmen to try and find a good deal. He sells me this great looking car, I take it for a test drive, the price is right and I drive off the lot but not before he shakes my hand and tells me I made a great decision. Meanwhile, he goes back to his desk and laughs to himself because he knows he just sold me a lemon. By shaking my hand and sincerely telling me I made a great purchase, he lied with is body, as well as his words.

Or:

In the gym, let’s say I take some video demonstrating an exercise or I take a few pictures to put up on my website. When someone asks me how I manage to be so strong or in such great shape, I tell them “Hard work!” but in the meantime, I’m taking some performance enhancing drugs or steroids. I would be lying with my body.


 

So how do we use our body to tell the truth, specifically with regards to health and fitness?

 

It starts with honesty with ourselves. It’s EASY to lie to others. “Oh yeah, I’ve been sticking with my diet and my training. I’ll be ready for that 5k in a few weeks, no problem!”

Meanwhile, you know you’ve cheated on your diet, eaten ll the wrong things, splurged on junk food, and haven’t gotten a run in because you still haven’t bought a good pair of running shoes (or whatever the case may be).  But no one else knows that! So there’s no one to tell the truth to, except yourself.

If we can be honest with ourselves, by speaking the truth, by admitting our faults and our screw-ups, even if it’s in a journal or out loud to ourselves, it’s one step towards telling the truth with our bodies.

It starts when we stop thinking of our bodies as these “things” you have to deal with and work at and drag around. What a sad way to view ourselves. And we wonder why people are SO interested in the quick-fix diet schemes?


 

We need to re-frame our thinking to understand that our body is exactly who we are. It’s not something to be mocked, abused, degraded and devalued at the expense of others or in the name of vanity and pride. And certainly not the in the name of fitness.

Start telling your story with honesty. If we start there, it might become easier to view OTHERS in a more respectful way, not just ourselves.

If you are telling a story every minute of the day with your body…

What kind of story are you telling and what would you want people to remember about it?

The Gift of: Healing the Inside

While attending a Young Adult retreat recently I met a woman (I actually should refer to her as a “young lady” since I found out she’s 14 years younger than me) who mentioned her past life as a Crossfit athlete. Her and I bonded over the fact that we both have had a similar “departure” from the fitness world due in large part to the vanity that seems to accompany many of the wanna-be athletes who frequent the gyms these days.

This isn’t a knock on CrossFit by the way (although I do tend to enjoy giving them a hard time now and then). And it’s clearly not a knock on anyone who goes to the gym considering I am one of those people.

I mention this because I find it interesting to read stories of athletes and bodybuilders who didn’t get burn out per se, but they came to the realization that working out constantly and obsessing over their PR’s and what they ate and how much weight they pulled, pressed and pushed, or all their races they ran – none of it truly satisfied them. They thought they would find happiness at the finish line or after they crossed the stage and received a trophy or left the gym a sweaty mess.

They have since found that none of that really matters as much to them anymore.

The Thrill is Gone

I know I was super excited after I did my competition. I couldn’t wait to get in the gym and “bulk up” and hit some PR’s and lift some heavy weight and make progress.

It was fun for a long time. You could even say I made the gym my sanctuary.

But something isn’t quite right when even my independent, solitary-loving self felt like I spent more time in the gym and writing in my workout log than I did writing emails to friends or spent time with my family and friends. And I wasn’t even one of the “worst cases.” I have read and known many folks who became gym addicts and their relationships suffered.

What I find most interesting is that we can become addicted to something inherently good. Like an infatuation.

This desire to be strong, be fit and be a good athlete usually starts out all good. (Or, in some cases and I would actually say MOST, we give up after awhile or we get distracted by other life events and neglect our health).

But sometimes, and I would argue this is happening more and more, especially with social media – this desire to be healthy becomes an unhealthy desire for glory and praise.

You “Look” Amazing!

For me personally, it felt awkward to receive compliments from people. So many times my friends or even random strangers would comment on my blog or to my face, “You look fantastic!!! I want to look like that!” when referring to my before and after pics (I’ve taken them down, so don’t bother looking for them).

Why couldn’t I even accept a compliment of praise? For me, I felt like it was like people were congratulating me on how I looked and my appearance and it felt…vain. Fake. Like, “Why are you praising my body for looking this way?” I know this sounds strange and selfish and whiny – Who wouldn’t want to receive a compliment like that? But the keyword was “look.” I couldn’t get past that word. And to be complimented on my appearance was something I was not used to considering I never looked like that way ever before.

Of course I said thank you, I’m not rude. But still, it felt really strange and it was a feeling I couldn’t shake.

So imagine what it felt like when those compliments stopped after the competition.  I was bulking and trying to put on weight. I was somewhat relieved to not receive any more of them because then the pressure was off! But of course, looking in the mirror told a different story.

I cannot even begin to tell you the mind games the that went through my head. And I considered myself to have a good relationship with food and decent body image of myself.  Imagine what a professional figure competitor or bikini competitor goes through when he/she rebounds and gains a ton of weight too quickly! And we wonder why there are heartbreaking stories of these (mostly) women who can’t see their value anymore other than a body designed to win trophies or look good in photos. The bingeing and the dieting becomes obsessive and their health and metabolism is shot. And they take YEARS to re-cover.  Granted, this is a worse-case scenario but I assure you, the bodybuilding world is full of them.

Prioritize the Inner Self

I think the lesson learned is that we should keep our bodies healthy and in shape the best way we know how and dedicate a good amount of time to doing so. Perhaps invest in a Personal Trainer? 😉

But when the time spent in the gym or measuring our food or taking selfies (please don’t, just don’t) takes up the majority of our days, that’s when pride and vanity enter and that’s when I would suggest you take a big step back and re-asses your priorities.

I will tell you from experience, when outward appearance takes over your life, it does more harm internally than you realize at the time. And no one will tell you this – it’s something you will discover on your own.

My advice is to focus on mental and spiritual health before anything else. The physical stuff is easy to dedicate time to once you have the internal priorities set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repeat After Me

I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food.

I don’t buy junk food because I can walk past the junk food at the store.

I see the junk food but I don’t want the junk food.

I don’t want the junk food because I’ve had the junk food before…and it aint that good.

I don’t eat the fast food because I didn’t cook the fast food and I’m not entirely sure what’s in the fast food.

I didn’t cook the fast food so instead I eat the food I did cook.

I eat the food I cooked because it’s usually 100% better than the fast food anyway.

I drive past the drive thru because I spend enough $ on the real food.

I don’t get hung up about my weight because I don’t weigh myself everyday.

I don’t weight myself everyday because I don’t care about the weight that much.

I don’t care about the weight that much because I know I’m not a reflection of a number.

I don’t complain about my physical flaws because they can’t talk back to me anyways.

I appreciate the flaws I have because it’s a reminder I am not perfect and I’m human just like everyone else.

I drink water instead of pop because water tastes awesome to me.

I don’t buy the pop because I hate the taste of sugar coating my teeth.

I drink water because I listen to my body and it desires good things that give me energy.

I don’t  have the bad food or drink the sugary stuff too often (but I do sometimes and that’s okay!) because my body feels like garbage after I eat and drink that stuff.

And the more I eat and drink the junk stuff, the more my brain tricks me into thinking I want more of them…and then it’s back to….

…I don’t eat the junk food because I don’t buy the junk food…

Why are you doing this?

Consider this your pep talk.  Even if you don’t need one right about now, this is a great read for anyone to stay committed to their goal of getting in shape this year.  You know I hate the word “resolution” and I prefer the word “commitment” instead.  Just reading this should get you back in the saddle….back on the wagon (or off the wagon, however that saying goes)…whatever analogy you prefer. 

Just read it and go workout, go cook something healthy, go COOK period.  Do some sort of activity.  Inspire someone else along the way.  If you need a reminder of WHY you’re at the gym on a Saturday morning or a Friday night, remember this note from BodyBuilding.com’s CEO:

I’m angry.

 

I’m angry because fat doctors exist.

 

Every day they go into work and deal with patients that are in pain and dying from complications related to being obese. They see in gory detail what diabetics have to go through after their first amputation. They listen to crying fathers that had a heart attack while simply playing with their kids. They comfort family members after their mother died from heart disease, the nation’s number one killer.

 

And when they leave the hospital, tired from helping so many sick and overweight people, they eat junk food. They skip the gym. They take the elevator. They go home and sit on the couch. They are a terrible example for the people they are trying to help.

 

I’m angry because it’s considered kind if you bake cookies and cakes for your family.

 

If you help your family to die a little earlier, to be a little more depressed, to have to deal with low energy levels, to have to get on medication for high cholesterol, to be stuck in bad eating habits for life, then you are thanked and considered a good person.

 

I’m angry because you are considered a mean parent if you don’t give your kids candy and sweets on a regular basis.

 

Children went hundreds of thousands of years without candy, but in today’s society, it’s borderline considered child abuse to withhold it from them. You would go to jail if you gave them a single cigarette (which won’t do any immediate harm), but if you kill them slowly with sugar, you are a good, loving parent.

 

I’m angry at gyms.

 

They know you aren’t going to keep showing up. They count on it in their business plans. If you don’t show up for a few weeks, do you get a call? Do they even notice? They exist to help you get into shape, and they are purposely failing and it’s our fault. We demand the lowest monthly cost, so we get the bare minimum in exchange.

 

I’m angry with large health associations that don’t address the actual issues.

 

How is it okay to sell Jumbo Cookies Platters, which include a cookie recipe with brown sugar, on your site to raise money? You don’t get it. Most health associations are focused on treating the symptoms with drugs, rather than doing the hard work of prevention. They are afraid to tell their members to change their lifestyle.

 

I’m angry that food companies make their food look healthy.

 

High fat and high sugar products promote “whole grain” or “high in vitamin C” on their packaging, creating a false sense that these products are healthy. 100 Calorie Packs (which are just junk food in small packages) make you feel like you are doing the right thing for your body. Subway restaurant appears good for you, but most people pack on mayo, bacon, cheese and white bread and a side of chips to their “healthy” lunch. If you show up at the office in the morning with an Oreo milkshake, you are unhealthy, but show up with a Starbucks Frappuccino, which is basically the same thing, and you are just having your morning coffee.

 

I’m angry that the media is constantly bashing vitamins, protein powders, and nutritional supplements.

 

The studies that show they work are multiplying, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the news. Out of shape journalists mostly promote the ones that show supplements in a negative light. Consumers deserve the truth.

 

I’m angry with all of the hucksters selling their latest fad diet book or miracle fitness program.

 

Not a day goes by that I don’t have somebody ask me about some new diet program that was just released. They are looking for the easy way to the body they want, and they don’t want to hear that it takes actual hard work and lifestyle change. It’s not rocket science; bodybuilders have been transforming and preparing for contests for decades. We know what works. The infomercials try to sell us the quick fix, and once we get it into our heads that we shouldn’t have to work for the life we dream of, we keep searching for the next miracle.

 

I’m more than just angry. I’m sad.

 

I’m sad when I hear about somebody’s family member that died too young. I’m sad when I see the number of prescription medications that people are taking on a daily basis due to their lifestyle. I’m sad when I hear that obesity is continuing to rise. I’m sad that our children will be the first generation to live shorter lives than the previous one. I’m sad when I see somebody start a fitness program and give up within weeks. I’m sad when I see people I love struggling.

 

I’m sad that the couch is winning.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way. That’s why today I’m asking for your help.

 

Help me change it. Help me turn it around.

 

It’s possible if you understand that willpower doesn’t really exist. It’s not just about discipline and sacrifice. It’s about habit change. It’s about resetting norms. It’s about education. It’s about setting up your environment to make fitness easy. It’s about social accountability and helping your friends. It’s taking one simple step at a time, not setting yourself up to fail with drastic change all at once. It’s about setting goals and tracking your progress. It’s about long-term behavior change, not outcomes.

 

Don’t accept the things that make you angry in society. Don’t sit back and watch. Do something. Say something. Help someone.

 

Can you personally commit to health and fitness in 2013? Can you do it publicly to let others know that you are going to be part of the revolution? Sign our Facebook Commitment Wall Tab with me. Ask a friend to sign it. One person at a time, we can make a change.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ryan Deluca, CEO Bodybuilding.com

Although you don’t need to sign the Commitment Wall on Facebook, you can make a public commitment by using social media to declare that you are BACK AT IT.  Or even if you never stopped, just reinforcing your commitment to your loved ones and friends that you are STILL IN THIS is a great way to be held accountable.

never-give-up

Have an Attitude with Gratitude

choosing-to-be-positive

A few times today I either read a text or another blog post or a status update that had some distressing or discouraging health issues.  I took a step back and realized I am so very lucky to be healthy.

One person blogged about how she has all these symptoms that no doctor/endocrinologist/internist/GI can seem to diagnose.  Another status update came from a person suffering from Crohn’s who has chronic joint pain from her medication (she’s supposedly in her 20’s and feels ancient).  Ironically she’s on the same medication I’m on.  Then there was the picture of a fitness competitor who had a stroke last year (while on the stage by the way) and is 40 years old and still trying to live a healthy life.  She posted a pic of her wearing a heart monitor for the next 30 days so her docs can monitor her heart beat.  Lastly, got a text from Mom that her chemo is working and her doctor is hopeful and encouraged.

This last one of course made me feel great, but more importantly I’m feeling grateful.  Grateful that I don’t have these illnesses, these symptoms, these downright scary diseases that some people have.

However, everyone that takes their health seriously like these people, are fighters.  They aren’t giving up.  They aren’t asking Why Me.  They are fighting everyday.  So today, everyday, I will try to think of these people, even though they are strangers and faceless or I just see them on a social network somewhere. I will think of THEIR fight and how they are choosing to move on and live their life despite their health concerns.

Here’s to happy and healthy weekend!

-Michelle

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Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act…

Today I’m sharing a website that I believe everyone should bookmark, read, instapaper, tweet, like, share…whatever you prefer.  But instead of just skimming over it, really read it.  Read it and don’t even tell me you don’t get pumped up a little bit and WANT to actually live a healthier lifestyle just by reading it.

Being Healthy Is a Revolutionary Act: Renegade Perspectives for Thriving in a Mixed-Up World.

I came across Pilar Gerasimo’s article in Experience Life Magazine in February of 2011.  As an employee (Personal Trainer) at Life Time Fitness, I was able to receive this great wealth of information in my mailbox for free.  (Members received it too, for just a dollar or two extra a month).  I encouraged all of my clients and any member I came across to read it and take the information it provided as bible.  The authors that contributed to the articles were top-notch.  Plus I pretty much adhered and agreed with everything they preached – the workouts, the recipes, the training advice, the “real-world” pieces.  All great stuff.  Plus there’s something to be said for the written word on paper (or magazine form) that seems to be lost these days.  Sometimes don’t you just want to pick up a book or a magazine instead of a Kindle, or an iPhone or another electronic device??

Fast forward to the February 2011 edition.  The cover photo alone was enough to get me to begin reading Pilar’s article immediately.  It pretty much beckons to it’s readers “Come on, BE HEALTHY!”  But it was actually the title that intrigued me:  “Being Healthy is a Revolutionary Act.” 

Wow.

I mean, it speaks volumes doesn’t it?  It’s so true!

As I continued to read this article, I felt like I was getting pumped up to fight a battle or something, ha!  I mean, she really engages the reader to look at the world in a different way.  By the end of it, you really do want to put some armor on and suit up and fight the war on Health!  At least… for me.

As someone in the health and fitness field, it becomes almost like an order…like a frustrating and redundant order, telling people “This is what I want you to do to improve your health.  This is what you MUST do to improve your health.”  The resistance I am met with is almost like a war in a itself.

It’s almost as if many people don’t want to be healthy.  Maybe they don’t come out and say it, but so many times  I hear people say “No thanks” when offered something for FREE.  If it’s FREE and it’s for their HEALTH, they don’t want it.

The most recent example was just a month ago at our Free (YES FREE) Health Fair.  Our free services consisted of getting your glucose and cholesterol checked, blood pressure, body fat, weight, chiropractor screening, balance test, massage therapist and a sleep apnea questionnaire.  Everything you need to know right? All in one place.  All free, no strings attached.  We even gave all participants a free week of fitness classes.  Again, no catch.

We got a good turnout but what was so discouraging and  disheartening were the amount of people who passed by and said self-degrading or just plain negative things like

“I already know I’m fat.”

“Oh I’m a diabetic, my doc has me on meds.”

“No thanks I don’t want to know my numbers.”

“Why would I want to know how unhealthy I am?”

It was extremely discouraging.  My friend and I who were standing at the front trying to entice people to come in discussed this somewhat surprising reaction:

Does no one really care about their health? Is it really that unpopular to take try and prolong your life?

Of course this is a general statement and I know there are people out there who DO care.  Unfortunately a lot of people care too late.  They wait until they are on meds or until something unfortunate happens and then all of a sudden, they care.

As a trainer for 4 years I should be used to this type of mentality.  But it still irks me.

This is why I’m so glad the Revolutionary Act was created.  Being healthy shouldn’t HAVE to be a revolutionary act, but it is.  And it’s time people started caring.

For those that don’t, I try not to let it bother me.  I can only worry about myself.

I can only be the healthiest ME regardless of how unpopular it is.