Careful what you promise
As is so typical for this time of year, Medium and media in general are both flush with articles about body overhauls.
We are as nation obsessed with our bodies, and so when the New Year rolls around, by god this is the year to do it right. Whatever IT happens to be. Lose weight, exercise more, yadda yadda.
For those of us with more than two decades under our belts, we don’t write as many resolutions as much younger folk, if for no other reason than we’ve been known to greet the New Year by writing about losing weight while wielding a donut in the other hand.
Boy is my hand up. You learn to develop a sense of humor about the whole process.
Not just that, but after a while the get-thin-quick schemes are the same as get-rich-quick schemes which are the same as pretty much all schemes for that matter.
Get lathered up, rinse, repeat.
One of the reasons I write about fitness after fifty is that I land in that very narrow category of folks who dumped one hell of a lot of weight a very long time ago and have managed to keep it off. For anyone who, like me, has tried every diet under the sun and the moon included, not only have I completely trashed my metabolism (it’s very slow, trust me, after what I did) but I will never quite be able to eat the daily recommended for my age and weight.
Look, I’m thin, and muscular, but given my activity level, any dietician would recommend easily twice the calories I consume right now. I can’t do that. Because once you’ve exorcised (note I did NOT say exercise) that extra poundage, the body makes the decision to slow down and begins the lifelong negotiation to get it all back.
I can attest. However I’ve been successful for 33 years and counting. I rise a few pounds from stress, it goes away. I drop a few pounds on a trip, it comes back. The difference is that not only is it manageable, it’s not something that determines my daily happiness. Being fit does. Having strength and mobility and flexibility add to my happiness, for I have options one hell of a lot of folks don’t. At any age. I’ve been willing to do the work. And no, it’s not fun to be this disciplined. But I don’t care for the alternatives.
By now I have more than thirty years’ of practice. I didn’t dump 80 lbs just last year. And therein lies the issue I have with
LOOK AT ME I JUST REMADE MY BODY AND YOU CAN TOO!!!!
First of all, that’s a ridiculous promise. The writer doesn’t have a clue what’s going to work for anyone but himself. But that clickbait title got him more than five thousand views. Because we are gullible, and we want easy answers, and look if it worked for him, then…
It won’t necessarily work for you or me or anyone else.
Besides, Sparky, let’s see that body in another year. Or five.
While the article had some good advice, what was suggested assumed a number of things: that you’re young (being white and male don’t hurt either), have enough money to afford the suggested foods and gym membership, and haven’t spent a good part of your life on yo-yo diets which have already fucked up your metabolism.
Which, kindly, given that some 40% of us in America are obese, is probably most of us.
I can understand both the enthusiasm of the author as well as the eagerness of the readers to find THAT MAGIC THING THAT WORKS.
There is none. There just isn’t any one thing, or any one program, that works. Period.
Some years ago a good friend of mine, a fellow professional speaker, finally decided to get serious about his obesity. He had an enormous waistline and his friends and wife were concerned. He had a great fondness for grazing at all-you-can-eat smorgasbords. He turned that energy towards the Body for Life program.
Phillips’ website featured endless Before and Afters. We LOVE Before and After photos. We wanna be that After. My buddy threw himself into it. He made one fatal mistake. He was in his mid-sixties. He decided that he was going to return his much-abused, badly out of shape body to his early twenties. So he carried around a photo of a professional body builder and told all of us that this was what he was going to look like in twelve weeks.
I don’t need to tell you what happened. His program stalled when he realized that not only was that completely out of the question, he couldn’t cope with the fact that even after having lost a very respectable fifty pounds, he would never, ever sport a 32" waist again. He gave up, dumped the effort. Last time I saw him he was even bigger. He wanted an After he couldn’t reach. And my guess is that if you and I researched all those other Body for Life Afters, a good portion of them didn’t find that After was Forever After either.
Having unrealistic expectations is guaranteed to torpedo you.
And, for those who have lost a huge amount of weight, this happens. You come face to face with acres of rippling skin that used to stretch over all that fat, and now it just hangs. And, as the article points out, the BIG JOY doesn’t happen. Because the weight isn’t the issue. Never was. My life didn’t suddenly improve when the 80 lbs went away. That would be another twenty-four years later. And, these days, I have some sagging, which is a prime indicator that my skin was once full of a lot more of me. You ready to sign up for that? Yours could be sooner or later. No guarantee it will ever get better. Either way, it depends.
Man I hate to bust 5000+ bubbles, but Dude, all you and I can do is speak to what works for our unique bodies. Telling people to work out certain body parts on different days? Well, kindly, that may not work for folks’ work schedules, maybe they can’t spring for a gym membership, perhaps they are infirm or obese or whatever and the exercises are just way too far out of the realm of possibility, or to get started requires a $100 an hour personal trainer.
I could go on. Again, as with everything in life, it depends.
Anyone can sustain high enthusiasm for a short term result (as in, getting laid) but when it becomes real work (as in, giving her an orgasm), ZZZZZZ.
If you’re easily discouraged, and you have the expectation that your yeoman’s effort should result in a six-pack and you’re not a natural mesomorph, this could be a very frustrating journey.
I don’t argue anyone’s right to brag about getting fitter, dropping the flab and being able to pose prettily for the camera in front of a karst outcropping in Thailand.
For my health dollar, that’s no different from posting a fitness model on the wall at 24-Hour and implying that you, too, can look like this airbrushed dude who does nothing other than work out full time to look like that.
People who write these articles are justifiably proud and they want to encourage others. However it strikes me as irresponsible to imply that just do this and you will get that. Because our bodies don’t work that way .
It might be kinder and more responsible to ask a different question set , which could include:
- Why do you want to get FIT (as opposed to losing weight)?
- What is that going to look like (for you, your age, your lifestyle)?
- How are you going to measure your fitness?
- How is that going to improve your quality of life?
- What are the limitations you’re currently dealing with (money, time, age, infirmity, obesity, access to facilities, etc.)
- What can you, and are you willing to do to overcome some or all of those limitations in order to get fit(er)?
- What is the cost of not getting fit?
- What will being fit bring into your life that you are willing to fundamentally overhaul your lifestyle in order to have (time with the grand kids, the ability to play a sport, be able to walk after a bad accident)?
- What changes are sustainable for the foreseeable future?
- Are you willing to do the hard work of maintenance, upkeep and research that it takes to stay fit over your lifetime, with all the changes and adaptations that will require?
Because those, and other tough but essential queries will cut the eyeballs down to the few who really will be inspired.
There are some basics, which are perfectly outlined here. But there is also this, which is essential for those who are currently carrying a great deal more weight. The human body is a quirk machine and as such, Diet #1 is perfect for Billy Bob and for shit for Norma Jean. For damned good reason.
Bottom line, this whole fitness thing is such a unique journey. There is no one body style that is perfect, only what you have, and the best fitness you can hope to achieve based on your work ethic. And, finding something you enjoy.
There is only ONE version of you, and because of that, only YOU can determine what works for you. You can hire help via a nutritionist, a dietician, a doctor, a trainer. But ultimately, no matter what magical formula some happy dude or dudette on Medium or elsewhere used, it is meaningless when it comes to determining what is going to work for you.
On one hand that really is how special you are.
On the other hand, what a goddamned pain in the ass.
Just ask me. I’ve had 33 years of practice. I wouldn’t tell you to do it my way because I’m all I can fit in this skin suit. There’s no room for you in here (there used to be, but I like the extra room in the hips). You gotta figure that out your own.
And besides, I really am not terribly interested in anyone else’s Big Success Story until they’ve kept it up like my Medium Peep Katie Andrews, who went from 425 to 160. Now it’s been years.
That’s what makes a success story. Sustainable. Enjoyable. A lifestyle.
What worked for Katie wouldn’t work for me. Or you. Or likely anyone else. We all have to tweak constantly as we evolve.
Damn, man. It all comes back around to much the same thing.
So yes, I did transform my body in a year. Thirty three years ago. And no, I’m not telling you my diet or exercise plan. Trust me, you would not do what I do to be able to do what I do in the world. Very few people would (and besides, I wouldn’t wish my injuries on you).
What I do is fun for me and looks like torture to any (sane, sober, otherwise competent) human being.
This is your body. Your year. Your journey. Wanna be fit? Stop reading other peoples’ stories and go write your own.