This has proven to be the single toughest fact to share with people; when it comes to diet, exercise and all aspects of your health you are an individual.
Sizes, body type categories, body weight, body fat percentage even height, age, sex and so forth…are only to help define you. No single measurement, personal judgment or classification should explain you. In fact, as seasoned Fitness Clinicians™ we know that even when we consider the sum total of all our clients measurements this represents just a small aspect of what makes them who they really are.
Before we try to explain why we are far greater than the sum of our parts, lets try to figure out why everyone seems so hung up on comparison and narrow self-definition.
So many of us fall prey to the ‘bad photo’ syndrome. You see a photo of yourself which is unflattering and it bruises your self-image. Technically this is totally ridiculous for more reasons than we could possibly want to list. A photo is dependent on angles, lighting and resolution. It provides no natural depth and is a two-dimensional often cartoonish representation.
Moreover, a photo only catches you at one brief moment in one position. Aesthetics is based on many interactive elements of symmetry and proportion and well who doesn’t have a bad side/bad angle lol! The modern world of ‘selfie’ addiction is based in part on the discovery that if you manipulate the basic elements of photography and take enough photos, some will turn out in a way you like. The fun part is they may look good to you but be a poor representation as far as ‘realism’ is concerned.
The point is we sure tend to jump to conclusions about ourselves. This appears to be because of a strong desire to compare and measure up to outside ideals rather than self-knowledge/self examination. It makes some sense though because it is just so difficult to get a true metaphorical snapshot of ourselves. You will never get to see your self 3 dimensionally. You will never get to observe your self as you act and react in real everyday life.
When addressing your fitness and health if you continually categorize and compare you will face repeated disappointment. If you focus solely on copying others to make changes for yourself you will fall short time and again. If you accept and understand your uniqueness you can then mix a little of what you see here with a bit of what you learn there. You can combine and fine tune things until you provide yourself with a self-suitable formula.
People tend to be heavily influenced by those around them and the culture they are immersed in. This happens in ways and at levels most are not even fully aware of. When you look to enhance yourself physically, it is a natural mistake to follow the crowd but as the old saying goes; ‘playing basketball will not make you tall’.
Joining runners or Pilates or playing tennis because you want to look and move like what you see their strongest proponents being is futile, just like eating like a super model can be disastrous.
An analogy can be found in the superficial as well as the serious. You may see an outfit that looks attractive to you however in your size it doesn’t convey the same effect. Most often it isn’t just the size that is the issue but that the style doesn’t suit you personally. In many cases even if you change your own size to fit in, it ends up looking awkward, unnatural and forced let alone uncomfortable.
More to the point of health, consider medication and all medical treatment. These things need to be person specific with the exacting measurements and combinations of things highly individualized. Just your vision alone requires your own personal prescription. In fact it is nice for us to see that the medical community is increasingly acknowledging the great need for ‘individual’ base lines. That personal blood pressure, HR even cholesterol levels vary amongst the population. That what are markers of health in one person, aren’t always for others. Ironically we may be getting back to just how important such things as family history and lifestyle are.
We deal with this whole issue daily, what allows one person to lose fat and build muscle fails for another. Lets go back to the basketball example:
Certainly no one believes playing such would increase your height but you may think it can be the place to go to become a better jumper. The truth is the only significant thing basketball will do for you physically is making you a better basketball player. If you are a complete couch potato then playing it weekly will improve your fitness but only in the sense of something rather than nothing. Copying someone who is already naturally good at something just doesn’t work.
You just may not be designed to play this particular sport and no matter how hard you try your body will not change into a really strong B-Ball player. The same goes for general fitness. One persons diet style can be almost completely inappropriate for another. Likewise one persons exercise program can be next to useless for another. Even when we put two similar people through the same exercise we always have to tune several elements to fit. The exact angles used, the exact amount of resistance, the speed of movement, the amount of time spent performing the exercises…these types of things vary widely. Even for the same person over time as they progress and change so will the details.
The conundrum remains though, how to affect the strong urge to compare and copy. Of course it helps to compare and pick up things from others but where and when do you draw the line?
We have years of experience facing this dilemma and by dilemma we mean communicating with clients lol. Everyday it is common for people to ask us ‘what do you eat?’ ‘when/how do you exercise?’ The hint of an answer comes next. Where everyone seems keen to try new things and mimic others approach they avoid or dislike talking about their own personal situation. People want to know what others do but appear reluctant…to say the least, to look at and discuss what they do/have done.
A meal record that details what you have actually ingested over let’s say a week is invaluable information for a Fitness Clinician™. When you record things over time you can spot honest patterns which can be easily tweaked to help you become healthier. Eating is so habitual and natural a thing to do that we often forget how much detail there is to it. When seeing your full week in review things will appear quite different than you thought they were.
The odd thing is though, we have noticed that people swear they would rather have a specific meal plan to follow rather than enhance their own actual way of eating. It is odd because every time the result is the same, the plan is dropped over time and old habits are reverted back to and most if not all positive change is lost.
We think this may be the result of a lack of acceptance that each and every one of us is human and thus must respect human limitations and understand human physiology/biology but that we are also all individuals.
It is appropriate to want to change because you don’t like the way you are but not because you dislike who you are.
This is a primary…well plain old super important point. Consider that if you are working hard to change and take care of yourself but what and who you compare to is just too different than you – this fuels failure. This because it makes the work you are doing seem slow, ineffective and thus tougher than it actually is.
The problem arises from what you have and haven’t done in the past because of the physical condition that you are in. If you have shame about not looking better, moving better, working harder, being short tempered due to fatigue and aches/pains, lacking energy and enthusiasm and the list goes on…these things breed self loathing. The answer is to change these things because they don’t totally define you. You are not your unhealthy behaviors. These are just expressions of little parts of you over time and under pressure.
Again the way you are is not an exact reflection of who you are. You can adapt and learn and change. The take home of this article is that you need to address who you are to make proper choices about the way you should be. We aren’t really talking about just introspection though. We are talking about plain old letting yourself be what you are and taking sensible note of your base traits.
Don’t get the wrong idea though, you can expect great things however the route to change is to be found through your own personal map. Following others is easy, finding your self is not. By all means be a joiner and try different things but do so in an exploration of how you individuality react and make permanent note of this. Forget just doing something for a while to see if it works for you. If what your doing isn’t invented specifically for you it will fail sooner or later. Instead pay attention to how you respond and consider and compare it to other things. In time you will spot connections and patterns which do represent a real, non-superficial you. You will eventually become adept at knowing what are better choices for you.
Always remember, if what you are doing isn’t working then something needs to change. Sounds ridiculously simple but it takes practice because living habitually is easy, living in earnest is not. Also completely flush the idea of giving up…for the main part it is a cop out. You may need to stop rushing or pressuring yourself so much but stopping forward momentum immediately causes backslide. Besides when things in your health really mount up and go wrong you won’t likely want to give up and will wish you never did.
And while we’re being personal know a few things about us. We are in decent shape because we have a detailed idea of what works for us rather than some special formula bottled up for sale. Furthermore, like most we have plenty we still work at improving. Over time we have come to enjoy self discovery rather than feeling it is a tedious task easily ignored.
The actual secret is no one knows your password it’s private but if even you don’t know it…[insert favorite unlocking metaphor]. Lets just say don’t get locked to any canned format. Get in to experimenting a bit and for goodness sake take note of things. Having simple but cumulative records of what you have done, what you ate and when, what these things made you feel like etc., are invaluable. This is your life which is flying by, this is your quality of life and potential.
Your days are numbered…you are not.