A long time ago, I used to avoid chocolate. Like many, it was mostly a weight-loss thing. And I was disciplined about it and all that stuff, there were months at a time when I didn’t eat any.
But after a while, I noticed by avoiding chocolate, I wasn’t losing any weight. And when I did eat it, I didn’t gain weight either. So, why? Of course, this is because what you weigh comes down to an infinitely more complex equation than plus or minus chocolate equals blah.
So then the inescapable question, the choice that remained was this: whether I include chocolate in my diet or not, it’s not a weight-based decision. It’s not about desired weight outcomes. So what then? What do I base my decisions upon? Actually it opened up a whole world of possibilities. What I eat – what we eat – if our decisions aren’t based on shame, fear, or prejudice, what then? Desire? Even that shifts. When you’re not afraid or ashamed, your desires shift too. I started to trust myself.
Training is just as weird as nutrition. We always turn it into some other thing, almost irrespective of what’s actually happening. At the core of it, it’s simple, boring sometimes, satisfying maybe, but all this 12-week transformation quick-fix propaganda? It’s bullshit.
When you’re dissatisfied with your body and you’ve internalised the prejudice, it’s actually quite easy to force your own ass to the gym, to go rage-curl like a boss, pump your guns and it’ll make you feel like a badass, but the irony is this: what makes you feel powerful is your buying into the structures that made you feel powerless in the first place.
And where the hell does that get us, in the end?
It’s easy to train because you feel angry, powerless, or unfulfilled, but when that’s the reason you train, be careful. Are you buying straight into the structures that made you rage-filled in the first place? In the short term it can be satisfying, it can actually be incredibly useful, depending on the context. Depending on your own personal shit. Exercise can be great for you for any number of reasons, but in the long term if you’re only feeding the beauty standard, it feels somewhat futile and hollow. If that’s what motivates you, it feels like selling out. Like betraying your principles for popularity.
You don’t need to buy anything. I don’t want that relationship with training or nutrition. It may feel useful in the short term but I don’t want fear to dictate what I eat and I don’t want to rely on rage-shame to get my ass to the gym. And then we talk about hard work and sacrifice, as if the gym is important. But what’s important is you.
Benching until your chest is burning so hard you can’t feel any of your other feels – that’s actually the easy part. I saw a clip recently about a guy who squats heavy every day – he’s in a concrete gym, wearing two hundred bucks of athletic apparel, and he’s talking about discipline and suffering. Yeah it’s hard, but the reality of the situation is, that’s not suffering. It’s fucking privilege is what it is. If you can afford to train like that, it’s not because you’re a badass, it’s because of privilege. Most of us aren’t in a position where we have the luxury of making that choice. I don’t mean to be a dick; I’m sure he’s working hard, but he’s also lucky.
I’m happy to say this shit doesn’t motivate me anymore. I still need to work to stop myself buying in sometimes, but that crap is not what gets me to the gym. And as such, I can work training into my life more comfortably, I can dedicate to it the effort it warrants, but shit isn’t getting out of hand. I can think more clearly about the why – what do I actually want to get better at? What do I need to practice? And my choices aren’t dictated by prejudice. So when it comes to the nuts and bolts of training I’ve got so many more options now about how to train, how to approach progression, how to feel my way through certain things, when to train and when to rest, when to work and when to play – I’m not so easily seduced by false promises anymore. You’ll respect yourself when you’ve lost all that weight! No, actually you’ll respect yourself when you learn some damn self-respect. It’s different. And you can’t cheat that; you don’t learn self-respect by abusing yourself.
Anyway, a lot of people aren’t messed up about this stuff like I used to be, but then, many are. The reasons behind things matter. They make things different; they change the things in question. While you’re at rest is when you actually grow stronger. The training is the stimulus, and at rest the body responds and adapts. There’s an analogy there. You work on your shit, you rest, you recover. In future, if you have invested in your recovery, you’ll be able to take on more. You will have progressed in some way. Sometimes what you need to do is not train.