I've worked with all types of clients over the last 9 years, but most of them have these common goals:
Feel better, lose weight, improve their health, and look better.
Having goals is great and gives us an opportunity to change ourselves for the better! It’s where we all start - with an idea of how things can be BETTER.
So where do most people start looking for inspiration?
Social media, Google, or often celebrities.
Fitness influencers make it seem so easy to do it all and have a six pack year round. They also often make it seem like it doesn’t take a ton of energy and effort to get to where they are.
We all know that social media is a highlight reel that doesn't actually reflect what people's real lives are like. At first you find these images inspiring and you feel empowered to be just like them. However, this comparison comes at a real cost.
Within minutes of scrolling, you go from “Yeah this is so inspiring!” to “why even bother?”
Improving your health and fitness can feel out of reach, when what you see looks so effortless and so “perfect” and you don't know where to start.
With out a real sense of the tradeoffs and important skills involved, we soon begin to feel like we can’t ever make meaningful change. We get stuck in the fear zone and quickly return to comfort.
Unfortunately, comparing ourselves to the people we see in magazines, or on social media where everything seems perfect, is a recipe for turning back.
Assuming that doing exactly what someone else has done will work for you is a sure fire way to get frustrated and possibly give up.
Don't let this happen to you!!!
The truth is that being a “fitness inspiration” is a full time job, and often goes down the rabbit hole of mostly working to please sponsors instead of helping the followers. Ever notice how your favorite influence also has 'favorite' products? Products that they only started sponsoring AFTER they became influential? It's unlikely that product had anything to do with how they look how they look and it won't help you achieve your goals either. But they sure do help influencers make money from creating content based on personal testimony and not science.
There is also the unseen time cost. The work of being a fitness influencer ( or just trying to stay super lean) can take the place of other important aspects of a person's life, such as family and socializing, and can have unintended consequences for your long term health (such as metabolic dysfunction and depression), despite what it looks like in the photos.
Leaner does not equal healthier.
But what about professional athletes you say?? They are the optimal example of health and fitness, right??
In the case of professional athletes, it also takes a WHOLE TEAM of professionals devoted to managing every aspect of that person's life. From nutritionists, trainers and therapists to PR and image management. Living this lifestyle often comes with major drawbacks.
Being on the extreme end of anything is rarely a path to optimal health and in most cases athletes careers are relatively short because the level of performance and output is UNSUSTAINABLE and take a toll on them physically and emotionally. The whole team working for the athlete is there to help them perform the longest at their peak that their bodies will allow before they inevitably need to retire due to injury, burnout or just plain ageing out of their sport. Athletes accept these trade offs because they love competing, but make no mistake, adjusting to life after extreme achievement comes with it's own challenges.
Check out the average career length in just the NFL:
So if it’s a full time job to achieve these levels of performance and leanness, AND it's not necessarily healthy/sustainable long term, what SHOULD you do to improve your health and fitness in the real world?
START WITH YOUR MINDSET
Evidence shows that feeling guilt and shame around your choices are two of the WORST ways to create lasting habit change.
Focusing on the aspects of your health and fitness that you CAN influence empowers you to continue making changes.
Focusing on what you can’t control is the fast track to quitting.
Try making a list of small things you know will help move your fitness/health in the right direction.
Tracking water intake
Tracking sleep quality and quantity
Tracking protein and vegetable intake
Notice how I didn’t say “Find an extremely restrictive diet and get to WORK!!”
Start by assessing your health foundations so you can identify small meaningful steps to take action on.
Let's be honest: most of us can't devote 40hrs/week to our health and fitness, nor do we have a team of professionals dedicated to making all of our 6 pack dreams come true.
There are some people out there who can go it alone and a career as a fitness influencer might be right for you!
For the rest of us, we need something we can actually put into practice around the rest of our lives.
Check out this cool infographic from Precision Nutrition to learn more about the tradeoffs of being lean and help you find your fitness sweet spot.
Hopefully it will help you get a clearer picture of what level of lean is right for you! Once you do, be sure to listen to our podcast full of real people making real change, sustainably.