My Fit’s Not Fittier Than Your Fit…And A Trick To Keep Your Fit in Focus
This blog post is brought to you courtesy of the Dairy queen Reese’s Cup and Reese’s Pieces Blizzard. Two peanut butter candies in one Blizzard? Come on Dairy Queen. That’s just cruel.
At the risk of using an ambiguous word like “things”, one of the weirdest… things… I’ve discovered over the course of my fitness aspirations is that somehow it all becomes a contest that nobody signed up for. Even when I wasn’t trying for it to become a contest it became a contest. Let me give an example. I finally make it in to my office out of the classroom to eat lunch one day after I felt as though I could successfully handle being around the donuts without turning into a raving lunatic. (If you’re wondering how long that might be, I can safely say it was a really, really, really long time. Give yourself at least a month and a wide berth from donuts if you’re on a diet – the mere sight of them is enough to turn any solid food regimen in to the very jelly that fills those little jerks.) I sit down with my four ounces of chicken, one cup of broccoli and half cup of brown rice. If you’re thinking “Gee, how did she remember what she was eating?” It’s because I ate it every. Single. Day. But I digress. So, I’m eating my lunch when a co-worker offers me a selection from the boxes of Little Debbies that he brought in that day in honor of Tuesday. My refusal sparked a barrage of…weirdness. All I said was, “No thanks, I can’t eat that until March 12.” This of course springboards the next question – “Why can’t you eat it until March 12?” When I told the present officemates that I was embarking on a journey to compete in a fitness show, you know, spray tans and sparkle bikinis, the responses were so astounding that they forced me to recognize that there was, and is, a conditioned human response to any statement related to training goals. Select any of the following and with a few minor changes, you can probably find a similar pattern in your own life, as well – on either side of the coin.
“Well, I could never do that. I like my ice cream too much.”
“I have the kids, now you know. No time to work out.”
“I train for marathons, so I get to eat whatever I want.”
“I go to the gym, too!”
“I have some workout DVDs at home and that’s good enough for me.”
“I do the treadmill twice a week.”
“I heard that was really unhealthy. Are you starving?”
“You’ll probably think it’s stupid, but I go to yoga twice a week.”
Sound familiar? All I can say is this. It is not a contest. My “fit” is no more fittier than your fit. And guess what? Your fit isn’t fittier than mine, either. At this moment, I just so happen to be refusing Swiss Cake Rolls – right this second. I would never presume to ask someone to defend their fitness routine to me, nor would I judge anyone for holding themselves to a different set of standards. Yet we all seem to put ourselves in this position when we meet face to face with someone else’s standards. Here’s the deal – we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. It’s like there’s somehow this predetermined threshold of “fit enough” that no one has ever really defined unless they compare it to someone else’s “fit enough.” We need to just stop. There’s no need to defend our fitness routines, our diet, our lifestyles – to anyone except ourselves. If you find yourself making these kinds of statements to others who you have somehow built up in your mind as “fittier”, just quit it. I am here to say, scout’s honor, that I give zero crap (in a non-judgemental way, not a judgy way) about the popcorn you ate last night or the workout you missed last week. Did you enjoy that delicious buttery goodness? Did you get the other stuff done that you needed to get done instead of your workout? Great! Please stop thinking that others are somehow judging you negatively for that. Did you miss your target goals for the week? Crap, I hate when that happens. Just stand up and move forward. Trust me, I won’t regale the story of the “Tot-chos” I ate last night. If you’re wondering why you hear both the word tater tot and nachos combined in the same word, I have news for you – your hypothesis is probably correct. At the risk of losing credibility rest assured, it happened. It happens to all of us. It honestly scares me when I hear people defending their workouts, food habits, mindset, without any prompting from me. We’re all fighting the same battle. We’re all up against the same odds. They only get harder when we divide ourselves into little fitness armies. It’s time to all get on the same team, but it’s more important to put ourselves on the teams of people we have somehow mentally lost out to in the fitness wars.
On the flip side, I’ll also take a second to defend the sport that I’ve grown to love. People have a tendency to make assumptions about fitness competitors that we didn’t ask for, too. We get called out for being too obsessed with vanity. We get told from afar that we aren’t healthy, that we’re all going to get metabolic damage, we’re all juicing, and that we’re all “too skinny.” (Please for the love of God, don’t call me – or any fitness competitor – skinny.) There are rumblings that our muscles aren’t functional compared to other athletes who “do functional exercises.” We get gossiped about that we’re all weak and dehydrated on stage, ready to pass out from the exhaustion of removing excess water from our bodies. In fairness, the week leading up to a competition is not the way to consistently diet and exercise. But I will also equate it to a basketball player who refuses to leave the gym before shooting 100 free throws the night before a big game (I’m looking at you, Tom Izzo.) Sometimes you put in some extra work to accomplish a goal at the expense of other personal needs. This is the choice of fitness competitors, and it doesn’t have to be the choice of everyone. In fact, I know many fitness competitors don’t cut water or do anything drastic the week before a show. As a fitness competitor, my goals the week of a show are different than they are the other eleven weeks I’m preparing for it. And you know what? That’s okay, too. Your fit isn’t fittier than mine just because I make some changes during my “peak week.” So we can stop with the fit shaming, too.
It’s hard to feel like we belong anywhere when we divide ourselves into different fitness armies. Before I started a consistent diet and workout regimen, I was running. But I ran slowly, so I didn’t feel like a runner. There were so many others faster than me that I felt as though I couldn’t put myself in the same category. When I started going to the gym instead, I took one look at the weights and all of the muscled, hard-bodied folks milling about amongst the machines and felt like I didn’t belong. I looked over to the cardio machines at all the lean men and women on the treadmills…and I didn’t belong there, either. It wasn’t anything anyone said or did to me. I mentally put those ideas of inadequacy in my own head. This was a larger hurdle to get over than the actual act of moving weights. I’ll be honest, it happened again to me even last week.
The bottom line is that in order to get in to “the club” you just have to be doing your best to take care of yourself. You don’t even have to be winning at it. Although winning feels much better we can’t all win all the time. If you find yourself defending your weekly diet and exercise, ask yourself if the person you are defending it to asked for you to defend it to them. If they didn’t, then it’s (possibly) a sign that you’re not happy with yourself – that you could be doing more. It could also be a sign that you’re insecure about all of the work that you do complete on behalf of yourself. Give yourself some credit. Stand up. Dust your butt off. Keep moving forward. It’s all any of us can do, so we might as well do it with one another rather than divided amongst ourselves.
Quick tip from above: remember how I said to random work colleague that I wasn’t eating Swiss Cake Rolls until March 12th? Use this technique! It’s a great distractor. People listen to deadlines and specifics, and they focus on them. Want to know what’s extra brilliant? The human race is so self-absorbed that we will forget the details in lieu of a general summary statement. When I say, “I’m not eating X or Y food until March 12,” that puts the person off from continuing to offer that kind of food until March 12. After all, once March 12 hits, you’ll be head first in dessert nachos like the rest of humanity. (Oh. You haven’t heard of dessert nachos? If you’re on a diet, don’t look them up. Just trust me when I say they are every bit as awesome as they sound and they involve sopapilla, ice cream, and chocolate sauce. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.) So by naming a specific food and a specific date, you’ve provided your “attacker” with details that are too trivial for he or she to keep track of. To simplify, they then automatically put donuts, cookies, and all other “naughty” foods in to the same category as the recently offered Swiss Cake Roll, and then they promptly forget the date that you told them because who remembers dates of anything anyway, especially some arbitrary date some person in the office mentioned in passing that only matters to that person? The next time you’re in the office, the statement then becomes, “Oh, yeah. You can’t eat this.” Yup. I can’t. Rather, I won’t, but don’t use that phrase unless you want to come off as a self-important prat. Then they’ll ask you when you can eat “bad” food again, and you can choose to say the same date you used before, or push it out another two months – trust me, no one cares enough to remember. The other fun psychological trick here is that the person offering now has been given a future date in which you might say yes again. So, the refusal feels temporary, but in all actuality, it’s as permanent as you want to make it.