You’ve set yourself a clear goal to reach your health goal in six months. You’ve know that the biggest road block is your appetite for sweets at work. You’re motivated, committed and maxed out on willpower. Until the first busy afternoon at work when your stress levels are through the roof. You start fancying a thought of a sweet sweet chocolate goodness. You try not to think of that vending machine loaded with chocolate bars. Or that bowl of chocolates in the break room. But no matter how hard you try the chocolate goodness creeps back in your head until it become impossible to resist. So you give in and make the vending machine sing, but only today. Because tomorrow you’re stronger, more motivated, even more committed and full of willpower. And then tomorrow afternoon rolls around and you repeat the same cycle. Same thing happens over and over again. Why is that and what to do about it? To find an answer we have to revisit a couple of studies from the past.
Every now and then I like to take a look back and see how my thoughts have evolved on some topics in the fitness industry. My opinion is that it’s crucial to learn from one’s mistakes to better yourself as a coach and a trainer (or as a person). Looking back now I can say that, yes I was wrong, but at the time I coached my clients as best as I knew. It’s just that opinions change as we grow. And it’s given that in the future I will look back at some of the things I believe in now and realize I’ve changed my mind about them. That’s all good and I am always willing to have my beliefs challenged if it helps me going forward. …
And my personal favourite “Sweat is just your fat crying”
So when it’s all cheesy sayings and good intentions, why is it that fitness inspiration aka FITSPO is rubbish and why do I believe it can and probably does cause more harm than good?
A few years ago after eating and drinking my way through the cold UK winters with reckless abandonment, I was messing around on social media when I came across my first FITSPO post. There she was, a wonderfully tanned and oiled woman wearing nothing but a six pack telling me that I too could look that good if only I would remember that “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going”.
I looked at those well-toned arms and shining six pack and I was suddenly transported back to my teens, the days where I represented my country in my sport and back to the days where I too looked fabulous, although not that tall, in an outfit that teeny tiny. The problem with that picture was that while it did inspire me to want to better myself and get back to the way things were, it also sent me quickly down a dangerous path of obsession, frustration and alienation.
In next to no time at all my days became a routine of 5.30am fasted cardio followed by tiny portions of “good foods” during my working day with more cardio after work and a minuscule dinner of more “good foods”. No eating after 6.30pm mind you and DEFINITELY NO CARBS AT NIGHT. Friday night drinks with my mates became a huge stress in my week. If my fiancé suggested pizza for dinner I’d practically combust with pent up worry.
So, was it all worth it? Did I get my six pack back? Nope. But I got slimmer right? A little bit yes. Was I happier? Nope. Was I healthier? Definitely not! The truth is that while fitness seems to be the in thing these days, what’s also tagging along for the ride is our obsession with perfection. Social media and in particular FITSPO is the fuel feeding those perfectionist flames. These perfectly styled photographs and catchy sayings aren’t telling us the full story.
They’re not telling us about the sheer amount of sacrifice (I’m talking socially as well everything else) it took to achieve such results, they’re not telling us about the other 9 months of the year when the model doesn’t look like that, they’re not telling us that the before and after photos were taken on the same day, just with better lighting and a better fitting outfit and they’re certainly not telling us about the fantastic effort of the guy playing around with photoshop to get such a great shot.
Our fitness inspiration should come from things that truly make us feel great, not from random pictures made in three minutes using the latest meme app. Our motivation should be more about our long term health and wellbeing than just our aesthetics.
Yes we should eat right and yes we should exercise but we shouldn’t feel the need to slave away for hours a day on next to no sustenance. Instead we should concentrate on moving in any way that brings us joy and eating good quality whole foods because they make us feel good inside and out.
Back to my story and fast forward 3 years. Now my life is full of real health and fitness inspiration and motivation but it’s not the sort you find when you do a Google image search. My fitness inspiration comes from beautiful long walks coastal walks with my fiancé, messing about on my skateboard or paddle board and lifting heavier weights than I ever thought possible.
Food for me is about trying new flavours and playing around with recipe ideas and my health motivation is about being the happiest and best version of myself for decades to come and sharing that with the people I love. That’s FITSPO right there and that’s something we can all achieve if it’s what we want.
Bec Sharp is a Sydney-based strategic psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist and performance coach. She likes water sports, cats, AFL, cricket and weights and is obsessed with cat videos. You can find her at The Sharp Mind and on Instagram.
Thoughts on… Part II: Fitness for Life, Busyness and Sticking with It
So you started working out and might feel like you just don’t have time for it in your busy schedule. The truth is that most of the times when starting a new habit something else might have to give in order to fit something else in. We as human beings have a habit of cramming our life’s full of “stuff” and usually something has to give. And it won’t necessarily be easy to give up.
So you’ve started your new training plan and you are working on the daily habit to improve your life. You’re losing fat, getting stronger and feeling better. Things just seem to fall into the right places. Sure, it’s a bit of an effort to keep up with it all but you can push through. It should get easier eventually, they say.
It’s a no secret that I like to emphasize clients to work on a one habit at a time to eventually get them to their goals. Sometimes the habit might seem trivial but it’s all about focusing on each step and building a list of successful habits overtime that will align with where you want to get to. It’s all about knowing your destination and adjusting the road as you travel to get there.