We have seen it all, heard it all, and know all the excuses why you failed to lose the targeted weight last year, the year before, and all the preceding years. The reality is that it didn’t happen because you didn’t make it happen. That’s right, you sabotaged your own efforts, and you do it every single time; annually, and continuously!
Relax, no one is judging, so you can admit it…….to yourself at least. It was doomed for failure even before you began, because you really didn’t want it to happen, so you self-sabotage your programs. Why? Because you don’t plan them. In fact, the truth is that you have no plan, and what is worse, is that you don’t even have a clue about the factors contributing to your body politics and the challenge you face in reversing the habits you have spent a lifetime in developing; habits that have stuck to you like gum on your shoe sole on a mid-August afternoon.
You see, we are creatures of habit, and habits, like bad relationships, are very easy to slip into, but horridly difficult to get rid of – think lice, ugh!! Good, now that I have your attention and fear, let’s get to the bottom of this business of addictions.
I have been a regular and judicious client of a sports facility for decades – started very young as I was a chronic case of respiratory diseases: asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, the full gamut – so I began running in an effort to expand my lung capacity. It worked, but then I got hooked on exercise. Yes, endorphins, like any chemical has habit-forming properties, and thus are just as addicting as cocaine, alcohol, or marijuana.
Okay, so I just bored you with the details of my personal maladies simply to illustrate two points: (1) that everything we do in life has the potential to become addicting, even if it is healthy, and (2) that I have been on the inside of a great many gyms, and thus have observed a multitude of gym patrons over decades, so believe me when I say that I have seen more than my share of failed workout efforts, and that it will take more than a wish and a random weekly pop over to a sports facility for you to effectively achieve the fitness level that you desire.
As a health aficionado and an astute observer of human frailty, I will share a few pointers that I see are the most damaging, and run counter to your Sisyphean approach to the get-fit programs.
1. A vast majority of gym members, veterans and neophytes alike, spend their time at the gym engaged in 65% talk, 25% low intensity movement, and 10% miscellany. The result? No results. Here is the first thing that you should know about your workout: it is not enhanced one bit by sound-bytes. Your muscles do not care to be entertained by idle chit-chat. In fact, they will be better served if you were to focus on the muscle group you are engaging while you are executing a particular action, it can save you some injury and can also serve to enhance the experience.
So, how can you switch that annoying habit to something more productive? For starters, shoot for 25% yakety-yak (yeah, I get that we are gregarious creatures), 65% high intensity movement, and 10% miscellany (this includes stretching, which is integral); I guarantee you that you will then have something worth posting on instagram.
2. Now let’s address that low intensity workout. There is the age-old myth that ”as long as I am in a gym, I am losing weight,” so very often even though some clients do put in about four hours on the treadmill or elliptical machine, they are yakking with a workout buddy, watching TV, or gossiping or texting (still gossiping) on the phone, while deluding themselves that they are actually burning calories. Yeah!
Well, let me dispel the osmotic absorption myth: fitness and weight loss are accomplished through, and only through effort (a combination of elements, actually, not anything singular), discipline, and dedication, and not through osmosis. It is not something that just happens because you are in the general milieu of fitness mavens, or you are languishing in a work-out area.
So, mindlessly walking on a treadmill or pedalling a bicycle at a snail’s pace is the caloric equivalent to grocery shopping. And we all know how much grocery shopping helps you in losing weight! Wait, isn’t that what brought you in the gym in the first place? Sorry, just trying to keep perspective within view.
Granted, you may lose some(thing) weight by hob-nobbing with the experts, but that may happen only because being in that environment may inspire you to an action like, God forbid, walk a mile or so, or pick up a dumbbell, but that (my point exactly) involves muscle effort (I love it when I make my own point!), and it is the end product of that action, the actual breakdown of a carbohydrate molecule, which utilises a calorie in the conversion process that will get you closer (albeit infinitesimal) to your goal of weight loss.
3. Amongst the novel gym clients, there is the general consensus that they need a workout buddy. I hear this as often as I hear dancers say that they need someone to practice with in order to become a better dancer. Let’s examine this notion: have you ever tried partner tap dancing? No? How about ballet, no? Belly dancing?
I get it, dancing is not your forte, but those are all solo dances that will give you the integral foundation to master any and all of the other dances, so if you cannot perform those functions alone, and develop the necessary muscular skills, balance, and agility, how then can you hope to master a dance that will require you to maintain your own balance and negotiate your own space, while a partner, who is attached to you, is moving you at a neck-breaking speed in all different directions, amongst other dancers on the dancefloor? Getting dizzy just thinking about it, right!? Sweet! You are starting to get the hang of this solo practise business.
Now relate that analogy to your work-out, do you get the picture? Yes, I do understand that it does (for some) make it more scintillating to perform tasks while in someone else’s company (oh yeah, I am all for scintillating multi-tasking), however, although you are sharing those glorious moments with someone else, you are still performing the actions…..yep! you guessed it…..alone!
To be clear, YOU are doing the work, not your buddy, so if you are convincing yourself that you ”really want to get fit, and will, if only someone will tag along” for your entertainment pleasure, then you may as well shoot yourself in the foot (at least then the excuse will be valid), because we both know that waiting for ideal conditions it is a sure road to failure, as according to the old biblical reference (and I am sure that we are all familiar with ye ole Bible): he who watches all winds and waits for all conditions to favourable, will never sow. So grab you a hoe and get to hoe-ing. Rats! Maybe ‘hoe’ and bible should not be in the same sentence, right?……or even paragraph.
4. Okay, let’s psycho-analyse your thoughts for a moment, because all joking aside, it really is all in your head. Your approach to body politic and the aspect of weight loss is unnatural, thus it will always be unsuccessful. Your weight as it is today, is the result and manifestation of your lifestyle – what you eat and drink, how much you sleep, your job, your daily activities, and even your personality – it is not something that you just acquired like an ipad or a new beau.
Ergo, your current weight is the culmination and product of years of poor habits (acquired or cultivated). This includes and involves all your daily processes and activities, such as eating, sleeping, working, studying, thinking, and all your biological functions, voluntary or involuntary. These engrained paradigms are thus cellular, and cannot be topically ordered or rearranged.
Simply put, because your body has been programmed and calibrated for years to function a certain way, no amount of ”will power” or resolutions will get you stepping regularly on a treadmill, unless you reconfigure your entire mother board, and its train of attending elements.
Am I losing you? Okay, I will extrapolate. Your body is a whole unit with all the various parts being interconnected, thus the function or activity of every specific part affects the proper and harmonious functioning of the unit as a whole (now if you want to pay a M.D. or a Naturopath some $300+ consultation fee to tell you that, knock yourself out, but I am giving you that invaluable tidbit for free) so by approaching your weight loss or gain as a single, separate unit that needs to be addressed independent of your life in general, then you have already set your compass in the direction of futility.
Believe it or not, even your thoughts have the distinct propensity to affect (adversely) your stress levels, thus your heart rate, metabolism, and other enzyme production and functions. Clearly then, your weight is not independent of your lifestyle; therefore, if you decide to enroll in a gym and run one mile daily, or maybe do one weekly Zumba class, then return to your routinised lifestyle of eating the same amount of food, staying up late watching TV while nyamming on the potatoe chips (and taking an extra hand-full because you convinced yourself that you lost some calories while doing a certain Zumba move), then guess what? You would have accomplished nothing except becoming more adept at self-deceipt.
Oh, sure, you are thrilled because for the first week, the bathroom scale will register a loss of five pounds. Yippee! Well, newsflash – that is all water loss! Five pounds of weight loss is nothing to alert the media about unless it stays off for 6 months. And judging from the ebb and flow that I have witnessed at the gym over the last 20 plus years, the average new year resolution only lasts about 6 weeks (historically, the parking lot of every gym in the country returns to its normal status around mid-February, and maintains until the beginning of the following year), so don’t buy yourself that one-size-smaller-dress until you have gone past 6 months with your new-found weight.
5. Well, now that we have your psychological trappings all splayed out under the microscope, let’s dig deeper. You view your weight as a physical state, but it is not, your weight is a mental state, and this is why all the programs, diets, and exercises you have tried have been fruitless. The size you are, whatever it is, is that way because you have accepted it, and have accommodated it by adjusting everything (and everyone) around you to facilitate it. In other words, you have become comfortable with it, and as long as you are comfortable with ”seeing” yourself that way, no amount of diets, or exercises will change that.
Truthfully, you may not be happy with this status quo, but you have accepted it, resigned yourself to being this way, convinced yourself that you will always be that way, and have bought all the special chairs, clothes, paraphernalia, and all else to accommodate being that size. You have moreover adjusted your psyche to thinking that this is your destiny, and joined groups of like-minded people to celebrate (every weekend at the pub).
To boot, society has nicely aided you in this misconception (hey, what are friend for?) by normalising it, increasing industry to produce everything in a size double and triple something, and manufacturing all the pills, elixir, and joy toys to keep you exhilarated whenever you slip into the doldrums about your size (and that explains why the shopping channels are on 24/7) .
The medical professionals have even hopped on board to scare up a medical explanation for your condition. You have ”fat genes,” which means that you and your future generation until eternity are genetically predisposed to being fat. Who the heck came up with that? Even Trump is not that retarded! Here is my take: why don’t you check and see how your ancestors feel about that prognosis.
So with such a grand concerted effort and a warm welcoming committee from familiar faces, you work very hard to tell yourself that you are happy – by shopping excessively and eating everything in sight. Yep, everyone is happy as the capitalist ideology remains viable, healthy, and vivacious. And corporations laugh all the way to the bank, but meanwhile back at the ranch, you struggle for air as you attempt a simple task like geting off the couch.
Yet despite these setbacks, I still very often hear people say ”I am comfortable in my own skin.” Now, exactly what the heck does that mean? Oh, you are waiting for me to explain? Sorry, I have no clue. I don’t know, because I have never said it, simple because it sounds like utter nonsense to me, and I am not in the habit of repeating or endorsing things I don’t understand.
Here is what I do know, whatever our situation, it is a human penchant to strive for comfort. In modern society, we are taught that comfort and stability equates to success. Heck, you may have even heard about the ”fat, jolly woman (see how they plant all the negative images on the women? That is not a coincidence).”
I will wager that there is no such person, the fat, jolly person is the one who has tried unsuccessfully to lose the weight and have resigned themselves to keeping it, because (1) they feel that it is just not possible to do (2) they fail to understand how they are sabotaging their own efforts (3) society has taught them that it is okay to be fat by accommodating them in every possible way (4) society has normalised it so that there is now company in the misery.
To be clear, corporations benefit immensely from the misery you feel about your (secretly undesirable) size; trust me, they have done the research.
The truth is that fat people are not happy. Inside every ”fat” person, burns the dream and desire to be thinner, to be the ”cute, skinny, energetic cheerleader” they once was in high school. How do I know? Great question. The answer – empirical study (ah, the beauty of an education).
For years, I have observed and examined the symptoms: (1) the hate stares at the ‘’skinny’’ girls (2) the obsession with looking thin (3) the love/hate relationship with food (4) all the diseases related to adolescent eating disorders (their relationship to food) (5) the billion dollar industry dedicated to making women thinner (6) the other gazillion-dollar industry (media) that influences body politics, and it goes on…….ad infinitum.
The extant point and common denominator here is this: If you are truly happy with yourself, then food, weight loss, and Jenny Craig should not be the dominant subject of every conversation; it should not be at the forefront of your mind. Science (and psychology) has proven that, as humans, the elements that take centrestage in our consciousness (our obsessions) are those aspects on which we place a high value.
For example, a person with a loaded bank account does not spend their waking moments in wondering where to get their next meal, but for someone in the favelas of Brazil, that is a constant occupation. Similarly, a student with a full ride scholarship does not pay the least bit of attention to registration and deadlines, but the student who pays out of pocket must not only be concerned with finding the funds to pay the fees, but must also be acutely aware of the penalties for being tardy.
Alright, perhaps some of you did not quite get those references, so let me paint that picture more vividly, with brushes and colours that will span all gaps – gender, geographical, generational, and cultural. Do the men with sizeable willie wonkers talk about it at every turn? No! The only ones who boast about the size of their junk are those with the very short trunk (sorry to let the cat, uh, rat, um, whatever….out of the bag fellows, but I am known to get a bit gossipy when I am striving to make a point). Heck, many of them even buy motorcycles and vehicles with engines sizes that compensate for the discrepancy. But I am not one to cast aspersions.
So moving right along, my (well-illustrated) point here is that when someone is truly content with their lot, it is not a subject that is at the forefront of their mind, instead, it becomes more banalised in their daily life. And what that means is…… yes indeed, it would not occupy first place on the resolution list every year……Good, now you’re starting to get my drift!
Since I have now successfully swayed you towards the side of reason (yes, I know I have lost a few of you, but I have faith that you’ll catch up), here is a new year’s resolution that is actually within your grasp, and one that can actually help you to lose some weight. It is a very simple one; Resolve to stop denying the suppressed and unvoiced desire to be thinner than you are, and stop fighting with yourself, because that is the root cause of your disharmony, and malcontent is a proven impulse to……eat! You see now how it all relates? Darn skippy!
Now for the fix: Paradigm shift! Change your perspective, use a different approach, take that ”weight loss” thing completely off your list for one year, and you will achieve several things: you will effectively save yourself some grief, allow the regular gym enthusiasts to find their parking spaces uninterrupted, and heck, you will even pocket some dinero.
Even better, if you donate some of that to a starving child in Afghanistan (or Walla Walla for all I care), you gain bonus points with Saint Peter, get a tax write-off (miniscule) and will still get your ”feel good.” So how, you ask, can all this be accomplished? Very simple – reduce your sugar intake.
Breathe! Don’t go into cardiac arrest on me (well, you may eventually anyway if you continue your old eating habits!), I didn’t say eliminate it (not yet), I said reduce. And just for the record, by sugar, I am including starch, which is complex carbohydrates, which break down into simple sugar in the stomach, during the digestion process. And by starch, I mean rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, and even bananas. We can address the sodas later, I don’t want you going into severe withdrawal symptoms.
Just think about the benefits, a change of perspective does not require a trip to the gym, nor does it involve spending money on gym fees, special weight loss diet, supplement powder, or any of the other hyped-up miracle potions or accoutrement that you see on late night TV (for only 19.99 per month). Make that one, simple change in your life, and watch the weight drop like flees off a dying cat (sorry, not the best imagery, but I never promised that I would paint a beautiful picture).
Now if you can do that for six months, I can guarantee that there will be a definite weight loss, and it will be significantly more than five pounds. Assitionally, it will stay off for much more than 24 hours; in fact, it will remain off long enough for you to buy that size 6 dress you have dreamt of since you recovered from the post-partum blues of your first-born (I am not excluding the men here; they get post-partum blues too).
Agreed, this is not world peace, nor is it the end to all your weight foibles, but I can assure you that it is a healthy start in the right direction. And once you have successfully altered your mental approach to food, and your perspective on your body image, you will see, with clarity and astounding filters, all the other contributing aspects of diet, sleep, and exercise.
Then you will very soon find yourself being released from the tenebrous Socratic cave of delusion, and entering into the illuminated pantheon of the fitness meisters.
Okay, so you will lose a few (quasi) friends. So put on your big girls’ (boys’) pants and get over it. Life is about choices. And just in case you were wondering, how did your life get here in the first place? You made that choice.