So I had a post all set up, but then I read about NEDA’s Proud2BMe campaign, and I knew I had to post something in that vein. So please excuse my rant. Hopefully some parts will make you think, and other parts will just make you giggle.
“Are you tired of feeling like you can never measure up? According to mainstream media, we should be spending our time chasing “perfection,” snarking on others, and placing our self-worth in our looks. We’re over it!”
We’re told on a daily basis to never try to be something we’re not. Who we are makes us special. We are all unique snowflakes.
And while I think many of us can embrace this concept for our personalities, morals and weird quirks, I’ve noticed a trend in health and fitness that likes to pretend that the idea of uniqueness doesn’t exist.
As far and the media and popular culture are concerned, there are 3 recognized body types: skinny, fat, and fit; 3 types of physical activity: cardio, weightlifting, and being sedentary; 3 types of eating: vegan, caveman, and the “standard American diet” (namely, fast and processed foods).
Yes, this sounds like a gross over-generalization, and it is, but think about it for a second. How often do you find yourself pressured to fit yourself in to one of these categories, or a sub category therein?
“What do you eat?” “What’s your secret?” “What do you do?” “Oh, you’re one of THOSE…”
The truth is, there are so many options out there when it comes to our health. I think, to a degree, that there are literally more than we know what to do with. And how to we respond?
To embrace the theme of over-generalization, lets look at it in 3 ways: try nothing, trying everything, AND FREAK OUT.
Not wanting to get left behind, the try anything people jump on the current trend and give it a shot, regardless of how logical it sounds (master-cleanse anyone?).
The try nothings are generally comfortable with what they’re used to, and keep on keepin’; this can be both negative and positive.
The, the freak-out-ers will likely read about as much as they can until their head explodes, trying to incorporate different pieces of different programs and diets and lifestyles, make lists and notes and pinterest boards until they finally crack, but ultimately nothing seems to work and they exhaust themselves to failure.
I’m a freak-out-er.
But what our society, and specifically the media need to accept, is that just as there’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to master your health and fitness.
I finally had this idea drilled into my skull during out interview with Adam Bornstein, editor of Livestrong.com. He kept coming back to the idea that people need to figure out what works for them specifically.
Yes, I already know individual body chemistry plays a huge role in how food is processed; that’s how I got supplements to fix my imbalances and become more human. But I still had it in my head that there’s ultimately a “right” way to eat and exercise that everyone should follow, and because I wasn’t, I was failing.
Since I am not a registered dietitian or even certified as a trainer yet, New York respectfully abstains from having a firm position on that. While there are basic principles I think everyone can benefit from (eat real food, move more, etc.), ultimately we need to look at our body chemistry AND our lifestyles to figure out what works for us.
If you like eating throughout the day, there’s a plan for that. If you prefer 3 large meals, there’s a plan for that. If you like carbs, there’s a plan for that. If you hate eating salads at every meal, there’s a plan for that. See where I’m going with this? No matter your preference, there’s an app for that.
And the same goes for exercise. Don’t like running? Don’t run! My body actively rebelled against me during my running training and I ignored it like an idiot. Switching over to heavy lifting was the best choice I ever made; but it’s not the best choice for everyone. My boyfriend hates the gym, but he’s active by playing sports and biking. There are always options that will fit into doing what you like to do. And that’s key to long term success: find a healthy way to live your life that makes you happy.
Note that I did say “healthy.”
HFCS and uber processed foods may make you happy in the short term, they won’t make you healthy in the least, so be smart and have stuff like that in moderation.
Not everyone wants to be some super athlete health-nut, and everyone doesn’t need to be. But we owe it to ourselves to take care of the bodies we have.
So if being vegan works for you, keep doing it! If you loved the Whole30, great! But if you’re ready to throw tofu at the next person who looks at you sideways, or the thought of zucchini pasta for one more night makes you want to punch someone in the face, for god’s sake, FIND.SOMETHING.ELSE.
A friend of mine is doing lean gains and seeing amazing results. My mentee/surrogate little sister/love of my life is a vegan. My boyfriend follows a “real food” mentality of eating. I’m loving backloading. There are plenty of options out there! Don’t pick and choose a plan because you see it working for someone else.
Just because Miley got skinny going gluten free does not necessarily mean you will.
Hell, you may even transform into a cranky pants monster like the world has never seen!
Some people (like me), may see results cutting out gluten because of a pre-existing intolerance, but it is not the new quick road to health/weight loss/nirvana fix that everyone is looking for. Same goes for different exercise programs like p90X. Some people get hot doing it, others…
So eat a steak. Get a runner’s high. Stir fry some tempeh. Lift heavy things and put them down. Bake some cupcakes. Practice your mudras. Go for a walk. Drink a protein shake. Hit things. Make your own cheese. Dance your ass off. Hell, twiddle your thumbs! Just make sure to eat food and keep moving; find a plan that sounds like you, just maybe with a few healthier tweaks.
You’ll be happier and healthier for it.