I don’t exercise to get small.
I don’t eat in order to sculpt my body at all.
Haha, accidental rhyming alert!
I’ve been musing on this a while, because there’s seems to be a new slant on fitness appearing in the mainstream more and more lately. It’s always been there, but it certainly appears to have moved from the sidelines to centre-stage.
That said, you still might have missed it, so I shall explain.
The fitness/nutrition industry has always had a thing about helping people get smaller. That much is obvious, right? A lot of folk want weight loss, or to be able to get into smaller clothes without having to breathe in.
It’s totally understandable then, that the products and services created would help a person achieve that.
Also understandable - although not defensible - are the extreme products that spring up, which promise that this desired smallness can be reached at warp speed - cos we are not a patient people, on the whole - and those which promise not just small but teeny-tiny. Remember that whole size 0 thing? That’s still a thing.
Having the “correct” body image is still a felt pressure. The media persist in favouring women who happen to fit a body ideal that does adhere, on the whole, to the concept of being small and dainty. Feminineness is tiny-ness in all the right places. For guys, bigness is not just tolerated, but welcomed - but it has to be the right kind of bigness. You are allowed to be big in muscle, but that’s about it.
Any kind of bigness is not generally acceptable in women, muscular or otherwise. Even writing that sentence, I can feel myself resisting the dictatory feel of it. And that’s where the kickback in the fitness industry is coming from - women who want to claim that kind of muscular size for themselves, and not be judged for it.
That’s pretty ace. It’s good to see. It’s mind-expanding, culture-exploding and empowerment-inducing. It’s about power and strength and all the things that go with it - capability, self-reliance, resilience - all good things.
It’s still not quite broad enough, yet, though. If this is about fullness of expression of your very own, completely unique, beautiful in its own way “youness”, then what will be truly awesome is when the general prevailing mindset is:
“This is me. This is my physicality and that may well be VASTLY different to yours. In that, I am perfect and so are you.”
This focus for women getting bigger is a step towards that because when the pendulum has swung so far to the one side, you kinda need a big swing back the other way to have any hope of reaching middle.
How do we get to the middle for our own selves? Let’s be honest, if we wait for the mainstream to go there first so we can follow, we’re going to be here all night. To get to the middle probably goes like this:
don’t focus on the goal - bigness, smallness, quickness, leanness, whatever - because, let’s be honest, that's OUTSIDE of your control.
Focus instead on committing to a process and refining that process as you learn and grow. That process IS in your power to control.
What is that process? It’s taking action care for your health every day. Exercising in a way you enjoy. Eating good quality, real, healthy foods. Taking time to recharge, sleep, play, laugh. Consistently making efforts to invest in your health in all the ways that matter.
Not in order to get big. Nor to get small. You’re going to pass the honour of deciding the ultimate destination over to your body. You pioneer, you!
Don’t be fooled into thinking your brain is the only intelligent being, the only one that’s capable of calling the shots. Your body is intelligent to the power of eons of years of wisdom. It knows how to be a healthy being, it knows how to look after itself, way better than your brain with its partial knowledge gleaned from a book here and a blog there.
If you’re struggling to get your head around that, think: what controls your hormones? Your movement? Pain? GI health and digestion? Appetite signals? The beating of your heart?
Your body has intelligence we can’t even sense most of the time, but without it, we wouldn’t last 5 minutes. And yet we continue to imagine that our brain, which leads us repeatedly down blind alleys, gets caught up with wrong ideas and ego-driven nonsense, is the best driver of our bodily health.
It’s easy done. We’re used to thinking and goal-setting with our brain. Make a break with this tradition and try putting your body in charge. Let your brain act in service of your body here.
Commit to the process of caring for your health through movement, food, sleep, etc. Do the very best you can for yourself, on a daily basis, and trust your body to deliver a fine outcome that suits you beautifully.
I speak about this having done the opposite for many a year. Thinking about getting bigger and stronger in more recent times, but certainly having focussed on getting smaller in the past. Both of those require me to train in a way I don’t enjoy, and usually lead either to injury, frustration or both and more.
Now, I just focus on getting enough quality movement each week, exercising in a way that floats my boat. Balancing higher intensity work with easy, playful sessions; aiming for 3 hours a week with as much additional walking as I can squeeze in (some dog-related, some not). That seems to keep my mood in check, my mobility good, my strength enough to pick up and carry what needs to be picked up and carried, and my stamina solid enough to do the workouts I ask of my PT clients*.
If you are feeling resistance to this idea of letting go of allowing your brain to set the agenda, I leave you with this question. In terms of the results that’s bringing you, the level of satisfaction with your health that has given you, how’s that working for ya?
If not so well, mix it up. Change something.
*not that I train with my clients. It's hard to coach effectively when you're blowing out of your a** (a phrase I learned from my PT!). But I do like to be able to do what I ask them to be able to do, for the most part.