My years as a personal trainer have taught me that the only way to get in shape and stay there is by doing more of what you love.
I'm a personal trainer who used to be fat: not obese, but girl-next-door, chub-a-muffin fat. Actually, I'm still fat by personal trainer standards. I wear a size 8, which pretty much disqualifies me from gracing the cover of any fitness magazines, but I'm cool with that. I know, by now, that the fitness industrial complex doesn't want anything to do with me.
I'm calling them on their bullshit.
I'm tired of clients walking through my door, broken and defeated after years of deprivation and manipulation of their bodies and appetites. It's heartbreaking to witness the wasted time and energy. There is no grand solution. There is no magic pill. There is no ultimate diet or fitness routine, and there is no specific number on the scale that will magically spawn happiness.
You can't get a body you love by doing things that you hate.
I don't know about you, but I've hated every diet I've ever tried, running makes me feel like a beet-faced asthmatic, and fitness classes make me feel like I've landed in a Funny or Die skit.
There is absolutely no point in chasing the dangling carrot of effortless weight loss that's forever jerked just beyond our grasp. In case you haven't noticed, the "solutions" that fitness expert-y-type-people are offering tend to lead nowhere but up on the scale and deeper into the muck of low self-esteem and destructive eating.
As long as your weight-loss plan is based on restriction, deprivation, and forced exercise, it will fail in a spectacular blaze of late-night, sugar-rush, salt-lick insomnia — because it will lead to a life that is simply…no fun. And that's a bummer, y'all. So you'll quit. As well you should.
We are a nation of believers. We want to believe that we can do it this time! "I found the answer! Watch me soar!" Until we come crashing to our senses, back to earth and our elastic-waist pants.
The whole pursuit is mind-numbingly boring.
I'm done stripping my body of nutrients and stripping my mind of its autonomy. I'm done trying to contort my body into a twisted value system based on arbitrary, unattainable standards of skinny = power. My body and mind are valuable and beautiful for what they can do, not for how tiny they are.
When I see skinny ladies on the front page of a magazine or walking around at the pool, I wish those skinny-minis love and happiness and hope that their bodies come naturally to them, just as naturally as mine comes to me. Nobody's body is more or less beautiful than anyone else's. We are all beautiful, powerful human beings with extraordinary strength and talent to offer the world, no matter our size.
What matters, all that matters, is that we feel wide-awake, alive, and light on our feet. As long as we're moving toward those goals, we are heading in the right direction: toward better and away from worse.
Health isn't about fitting into any kind of mold, and I'm not just referring to body shape and size. There are a million brilliant ways to go about taking care of ourselves that have absolutely nothing to do with boot camp or calorie-counting. There are a million different ways to get to the top of a mountain.
Defy the urge to follow the next fitness craze you hear about. Defy every weight-loss plan, scheme, or routine that crosses your path. Respond only to the ones that you're aching to try because they access some part of you that's crying out to come to life.
Play basketball. Take an elderly neighbor's dog for a walk. Stretch before bed. Take up Tai Chi. Throw a dance party in your living room. Eat ice cream every single night before bed if that's what you want because, after a while, you might just find that healthy decisions during the rest of the day come a whole lot easier, knowing that your sweet treat is waiting for you in the evening. Guilt-free. So here is your assignment from a personal trainer:
Stop making declarations about when, what, and how much you're going to eat or not eat. Stop doing workouts that bore or annoy you. In fact, stop doing every single thing you hate in pursuit of weight loss.
Your passions — your sense of play and exploration — are the only things that will lead you to a healthy body you'll love so much that all hell could break loose, and you'd find a way to salsa on a street corner because it keeps you sane.
Forget it. Forget the whole thing, all the shoulds and shouldn'ts. Sit with your body just as it is, for a week, or a month, or a year, and see how it actually feels. Take a minute to think about what you truly enjoy that also happens to get you moving. Forget about trying to cut out grains, or dairy, or sugar, or whatever it is you're currently trying to deprive yourself of. Figure out what makes you feel better when you eat it and what makes you feel like crap — and listen to that.
The only way to a body you can love is by doing more of what you love. As often as you possibly can.