What health and fitness looks like
I’m going through slow changes, which probably aren’t a surprise to any of my readers, but to say it openly: I’m still shy about the way I look, even though I know I shouldn’t be – these waters run deep.
But I’m making progress: rather than submit to the pressure and starve myself thin, or do like so many others: quit the fitness industry in shame, believing I’m a failure because ‘the ideals’ are not realistic or maintainable – rather than all that, I’m consciously promoting myself as a fitness ambassador who says it’s okay to have a belly. It’s one thing to say – it’s okay for you guys to be fat. It’s another thing to say it’s okay for me to be fat too – even though I work in fitness. Even though people are going to judge it. It might or might not look like much, but it’s never an easy step.
Many trainers are very insecure about their bodies. They have this idea of ‘perfection’, as if it’s a static, absolute and tangible state, and this idea that they need to look a certain way. And only then will they be able to publish that DVD, open that gym, whatever.
Clearly, I think it’s crap. It’s not your job to look any way at all. But it’s one thing to say, and it’s another to bare your belly for inspiration. As a trainer, it’s your job to teach, and instruct, and if you want to ‘be a role model’ – because hey, that comes into it too – I still get ‘the fantasy of being thin’ thing arising from time to time, but I’ve been around long enough now – my job as a role model is to boldly say that you don’t have to be a dick about your body or other people’s bodies to set a good example for the kids. You don’t have to harm yourself in the name of health.
We’ve all seen the ‘you need to be thinner’ examples in fitness. You need to be more beautiful. It doesn’t inspire – it marginalises. You only need to motivate and encourage people to do things that aren’t fun. If it’s fun, you’ll naturally challenge yourself. You’ll naturally play and experiment in the gym. It’ll do your mind and body good, and you won’t need to be encouraged to do it.
When you train freely, you become free. When you train for strength, you become strong. When you train for joy, you become joyful. And when you train to please others, you never please yourself.
I’m about setting the example that you don’t need to be obsessive to be healthy and fit and strong. And as long as you’re chasing some other idea of beauty, you’ll never appreciate what really makes you shine. You don’t need to be different from what you are to be worthy of respect. You deserve respect right now. Respect is a human rights issue – it’s not something you earn or lose. Disrespectful people have no respect for themselves. They always need to qualify, to compensate. It starts at home. If you want to learn respect for others, don’t ask them to qualify. Start by having respect for yourself. It’s not achievement or character-bound: respect belongs to all of us.
It’s an eternal truth: in an attempt to seem autonomous and rebellious, people strive to do what they’re told, to be what they’re told.
Want to be rebellious? Have respect. Be yourself, and be proud. This constant pressure to be thin hurts all of us – more than it helps. I’m part of the movement that says that’s enough weight prejudice, that’s enough weight stigma. Fat hatred doesn’t make people thin, it makes them sick. People pretend like that’s some strange new idea – but it’s old, old news.
Celebrate yourself as you like, as you are. Be rebellious – be free from shame.