Tonight, a beautiful friend told me they were on a diet, which was making them sad. As someone who loves exercise, used to be in and around the industry, generally tries to eat good food, I’m used to people telling me about their health and fitness goals, which I LOVE to be supportive of.
But it’s not my first time at the rodeo, and I know that just as in almost any aspect in life, your underlying motivations and thoughts are the single biggest factor that will determine success. So I ask why. Why are you on a diet?
“I won’t find a husband as a fatty”.
Cue sad face ?. And because I want to continue to support my friends and family in whatever it is they are trying to do to improve their health and fitness, and because I want this to be the LAST time I waste ANY more energy on the word “diet”, here follows my rant:
I’m going to offer you some unsolicited advice as someone who wasted the better part of a decade trying to look a certain way, starving myself, dieting, developing an eating disorder, even becoming a fucking fitness instructor and personal trainer because I was so desperate to look a certain way.
You think that a certain number on the scale, or pant size or some abject measure will make you happy. You think it will be the magic key! The key to your best life – best job, best social life, best partner. If you can just get to that certain size or shape, you’ll finally be happy.
I get it. I’ve been there. Dear god have I been there. It’s an easy and alluring trap.
In fact, the ginormous fitness industry, diet industry, plastic surgery industry all sell the allure of how much your life would improve.
If you could just add/loose/gain/shape/tone/bulk/cut/smooth that pesky body of yours.
And funnily enough, they have the product that will do it! But hurry and buy now! Because once this miracle product is sold out you’ll forever have to live with yourself… Ok sarcasm over 😉
I’ll give you the secret. I’ll give you the answer. I’ll save you the years of torturous diet, exercise and self hate I went through:
It’s not going to happen.
Your body might change. It might not. I can’t tell you if you’ll be successful, and the vast majority of the medical community can’t either, because diets are stunningly unsuccessful interventions from a medical perspective. I’m sorry if this message is hard to hear.
But, here’s what I can absolutely guarantee for you: Your best health, happiness, life, job, partner and body will not come from a diet.
It won’t come from starving yourself.
It won’t come from hateful, punishing exercise.
It won’t come from looking a certain way.
You cannot achieve happiness with hate. You can only achieve happiness with endless amounts of generous and patient love. And the only way to achieve this, is to start with yourself.
It will come from loving, appreciating and nourishing your body with the food, exercise and rest it needs.
They don’t work
But here’s what does work:
Listen to your body
Respect it’s needs
Eat good food
And then: Sweat. Stretch. Do yoga. Lift heavy things. Run. Enter a marathon. Rake some leaves. Dance. Walk up a mountain to see what the other side looks like. Run up some stairs just because you can.
Do pushups and chin-ups and squats and sit-ups because NOTHING empowers your body, mind and soul as much as being propelled by your own strength, endurance and mental stamina.
Move your body not because it’s something that you need to punish with brutal exercise regimes, but to celebrate the AMAZING things it can do, and, (here’s the kicker), when it does this, it rewards you with waves of feel good happy brain chemicals. Thank me later.
And also, move your body because it can achieve incredible feats, and when you do this, it will help you realise all the other amazing things you can do in life.
What I loved about my brief time being a personal trainer, was seeing people experience success in the gym, a perfect squat, an unassisted chin up, or running on the treadmill for the first time, and then they get out of the gym and this success spills over into other aspects of their lives.
Seriously, try it. Success is catching. This is what your body can do. Be impressed.
And then, eat amazing food! Eat, because your body craves nutrients. Give it what it is REALLY telling you. Eat simple, local, beautiful food because you’ll feel amazing!
Beautiful filling proteins, free range and organic if you can, rich delicious fats from whole dairy, nuts, avocados and oils, satisfying beans, legumes and pulses, fresh crunchy vegetables, from crisp salads to hearty winter vegetables, tasty complex carbohydrates like brown rice, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, muesli, beautiful artisan grain breads that give you long lasting energy and clear thinking.
And then sometimes, eat sugary, processed junk food. Why? Because it’s a birthday party, or a celebration, or a commiseration, or it reminds you of something or someone nice, or gives you pleasure, because sometimes, food ISN’T JUST about nutrition, it can be about enjoyment too.
And I’ll give you another hot tip for free: If you listen to your body before and after these kinds of indulgences, you’ll soon realise it’s not your bodies preferred fuel. Yes, the experience can be pleasant, but it doesn’t want to do this very often.
And just like that, you’ll have two powerful realisations: 1) healthy food isn’t an experience of deprivation, it’s reward, and 2) junk food isn’t some big, scary thing to spend inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to avoid.
And just like that, you are eating intuitively. You’re welcome.
And rest. Reflect. Be still and count your breaths. Sleep as much as you can. Read. Do what relaxes and soothes you. Spend an entire day in bed. Have down time and up time and nothing time and outrageously self indulgent you time. And have plenty of it.
So this is my formula for bodily happiness: Listen to your body. Respect its needs. It will tell you if you just start to listen. Enjoy your body as it is now. It’s bought you this far, and will hopefully be taking you further in the future.
And if there are people in your life who think you need to look a certain way? Whether it’s magazines, toxic people, that “Clean eating” Instagram account you really don’t need in your life, or even friends or family: Allow them to self-select out. No excuses, no explanation needed. Bye Felicia.
Don’t diet. Don’t miss life!!
Oh, and I’ll add a quick caveat here for women, or anyone who thinks they need to be a certain shape to “fit in” clothes;
If you’re trying to fit into certain outfits, or brands, or want to look different, BUY BETTER CLOTHES! Don’t be uncomfortable. Be confident or be sexy or be professional or be fun or be formal or be informal… Wear things that make you feel how you want to feel. There are clothes out there that can do this.
*In case it wasn’t obvious, clothes are also a metaphor here. I see many people trying to change their body to “fit in”, be it friendship circles, the “cool people” in the gym, or the “hot people” at the club, or anything else that you’re trying to “fit in” to/with.
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