During my first year of college I was involved in a speech class project that’s purpose was to illustrate the influence that media and advertising had on image and self-worth in modern Americans. Needless to say that there was some obvious finger-pointing and blame placement involved and I sat there with my group in front of my class barely able to contain my disgust and rising anger. My growing fury however was not at the advertisers and media outlets though but at two members of my group. These two women both extremely overweight and chronically depressed used the next 15 minutes of our allotted time to pretty much blame everyone, thing, and group in the world for their weight gain and poor self-image, everyone except the two people most responsible; themselves.
When the time came for me to speak I shredded my prepared speech and gave an impromptu talk about the dangers of blame-shifting and the complete lack of personal accountability plaguing our nation today. I argued that if the media truly was capable of not only influencing our buying decisions and trends but of forcing us into actions and lifestyles we did not choose that it portended a truly diabolical scheme of mind control and we should all be wrapping our heads in aluminum foil. It astonished me that according to these two women that my desire for fitness and a healthy lifestyle was according to them shallow and unrealistic, that I had succumbed to the mind control so to speak and was now but a puppet and a slave to the advertiser’s unrealistic portrayals of the human form.
When exactly did it become socially unacceptable to desire a better version of you? More specifically why is it that more and more I find myself having to apologize for not being overweight? That my fitness drives and dedication to a healthy way of living is somehow inconsiderate to those who choose to sit on a couch all day? There was a time in this formerly great nation that we lauded those who went beyond the everyday and strove for more. We celebrated those individuals who pushed themselves and accomplished the miraculous. Today we ridicule them and proclaim loudly that it must be a fluke, a hoax, airbrushed, steroids, aliens, God’s favoritism, and any other excuse to justify not doing a thing to improve our own lives and get off the couch and do something. We tear them down and sneer at people we should be respecting and dare I say it admiring.
Go to your local bookstore’s magazine section. Pick up that one with the ripped man/woman on the cover, the one that look’s carved out of stone. Do you know the difference between the cover model and the average person who reads a fitness magazine? I can sum it up in one word: lifestyle. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight for the sake of just losing weight you have illustrated my point for me. The people you see on magazines and even in movies aren’t fit because they lost weight they’re fit because they changed their lifestyle or live by one that prohibits weight gain. Its choices made every day in what they eat, what they do, where they go, and how they think. It’s about discipline and there’s nothing easy about it. It’s easy to say that stars have personal trainers, and dietitians that do it for them and make it easier. That kind of thinking really is just more excuses though. Yes many celebrities rely on professionals to help them maintain a healthy lifestyle but in the end it stills come down to the individual’s desire to see results and heed the advice they’re given. The same advice that stars pay people thousands a year for is readily available online and for free.
I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad or call you lazy or undisciplined. I am however trying to break the pattern of how many of us have been thinking. Reading my blog you might wonder, what weight loss has to do with being successful, running a business, or even founding an empire? The short answer is it has everything to do with all the things I just listed. How you treat yourself and what you expect of yourself is directly tied into how far one will go in life and accomplish. In 2007 I weighed in excess of 215 lbs. I was going nowhere, my relationship had just imploded, I was depressed, and even suicidal. Things changed for me and not entirely by my own will, but they changed. I was forced to examine my eating habits, exercise more, and change my attitude about a lot of things in life that I had taken for granted. Now in 2011, I weigh168 lbs, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. My mind is sharp and my life is taking off. It’s not easy; I have to work at it every single day, and all day. I watch what I eat; I avoid sugars and hollow carbs. I make sure I take in a good proportion of protein and healthy fats. I eat fruit often and vegetables every day. It’s not a diet in the conventional sense and some of the things I eat and the frequency in which I do it would shock most conventional diet wisdom.
Moving beyond eating habits and exercising; which I try to do at least five days a week along with hiking and other sports, I also carefully monitor my thoughts. To over simplify I think thin to stay thin. Most fad-dieters want to lose weight but they can’t get into the mindset that makes such a goal possible and permanent. If you are overweight, and want to slim down, and be healthier but aren’t willing to adopt a healthy lifestyle and stick to it then you are wasting your time. Even the phony infomercials with their gimmicks and miracle answers, point out in fine print that they’re products should be combined with an exercise routine and healthy diet. What does it tell you when the same people promising a quick solution to a problem tell you it takes long-term changes to see lasting results?
You need to acquire the skill of seeing things from someone else’s perspective. Instead of ridiculing that crazy person you see jogging down the sidewalk in the middle of winter, trying getting into they’re head and think like they do. Healthy people don’t fill their diet with garbage pure and simple. They take the stairs or walk when most ride or drive. They exercise when they’re bored instead of flipping on the TV. They find ways to make eating natural foods tasty and fun. You know there was a time not even a hundred years ago when our foods all came from nature and we ate a huge variety of vegetables, grains, fruits and meats. When was the last time you tried something different? When was the last time you actually used the miraculous piece of bio-engineering that is your body in a way it was meant to be used. Here’s a clue you were not made to be in a reclined or in a sitting position for the majority of your day, it’s why we stand on two legs and have narrow hips.
Look and listen and I promise to end this here. Dieting is a stop-gap solution to a problem that requires long-term discipline, dedication, and action. Weight loss in and of itself is an empty promise. You can go on numerous crash or fad diets and you will see results, but if you don’t make permanent and lasting changes to the way you live and think then the weight will come back and along with it the depression, sense of powerlessness, and poor self-esteem. If you want to love yourself and be happy with whom you are then show it by giving yourself a real gift of health. If you can’t be serious about making yourself better and being good to you what good can you do for anyone else?