What I like about training with weights is that it makes you focus on building, not breaking down, on nourishment, not deprivation. When you’re looking to get strong, to build muscle, or to develop in any other athletic capacity, the focus is on building, on developing, on creating, it’s not on stripping away, diminishing, or reducing yourself in any way.
This is so meaningful to me, because deprivation has been an alarmingly prevalent theme. And I’ve had enough of it (enough of deprivation – get it? See what I did there? The jokes are only going to get better) – I’ve had enough of believing I don’t deserve, and of feeling shameful about my desires.
Here’s the interesting thing – the desire to be thin. Don’t we deserve to get what we want? Yes. We also deserve not to feel like we must be diminished in order to qualify. We deserve to be free from hatred and prejudice. Focusing on getting thin is something of a panacea.
We also deserve to be healthy. But seriously – what can you control? How thin do you have to be – how much exercise do you have to do – to make yourself resistant to disease? There’s no amount. And too much thinness, too much exercise, that’ll only make you sicker again. Where’s that sweet spot I was promised, where I’d be healthier? And does it come with abs?
I’m bigger than ever before, and I’m actually healthier now, at an obese weight, than I have been since I was eleven. Here’s the sweet spot of health – I’m obese. My insulin sensitivity is excellent, my hormonal function is spot-on, my metabolism is all kinds of firey-goodness. And I’m strong, vibrant, energetic and robust.
Now that I don’t diet, I don’t get sick. My immune function is as good as it ever was.
We need more food than Jenny Craig would have you believe. We need to eat plentifully, without guilt. Because all food prolongs life. That’s what food does. It’s not food that kills you – it’s food that keeps you alive.
The inability to lose weight is a sign that you’re not eating enough.
You might need to think about that one for a while though. It’s counterintuitive.
So: if in doubt, eat more.
Someone once said they love weightlifting because it’s the one exercise that adds to the body, instead of taking away. And I’m not even talking mass-gain, I’m talking strength and athleticism. It can be extrapolated to include all forms of resistance training – yoga and other bodyweight-based systems – because when the emphasis is on your development, it’s not on your inadequacy as a human being.
Trying to strip away fat through exercise – all it’s based on is the idea that you shouldn’t take up the space in the world that you do. It’s a thoroughly negative experience of training: to try to diminish oneself.
Working for your progression and development is not to be confused with being inadequate. Why do we always think we need to better ourselves?
You don’t need to make yourself worthy – you don’t (in any way) need to be any more, or any better than what you are. What I hope for you, is what I have been working on for myself – I hope that you can love and accept yourself just the way you are. Without feeling you need to be different, to be ‘made better’, or to be purified by sweat and hard work.
I hope you can love yourself unconditionally – not only when you’ve been good. Not only when you’re thin, not only when you exercise, not only when you’re healthy, privileged or worthy - but more than anything else, when you really feel like you need that love.
I hope you can accept yourself, even though you’re not the person you want to be, you’re not who you thought you were, or you discovered (through some rude shock) that you too are human.
I don’t want you to be thin.
I don’t want you to be athletic (in either function or appearance).
I don’t even care if you exercise, and I certainly don’t care about what you choose to put in your mouth. That’s your business, not mine. And in case there’s any doubt - what you eat is keeping you alive. Keep doing that.
So what do you do if you just want to be fitter? If you want a positive experience of exercise? If you want to be more mobile, and feel more at home in your own skin? Simple. You do what you enjoy. You do something satisfying, and you do it until you’re satisfied.