More Than a Body

Avoiding Weirdness

Over the years, one of my greatest challenges as a gym owner, exercise scientist and conditioning coach has been to help my clients keep the ‘body stuff’ in perspective. Many of you will know exactly what I mean. Either first hand or as an observer. On the one hand, I want to help people create fit, strong, functional, high-performance bodies but on the other, I don’t want them to become body-obsessed, insecure, weirdos who can never be lean enough, fit enough, light enough or sexy enough. And yes it happens.

A lot.

One mindset is healthy, logical and empowering while the other is unhealthy, emotional and disempowering.

A Fine Line

When it comes to the sometimes-tricky matter of managing our bodies, the gap between discipline and obsession, self-control and self-abuse, productive and destructive is often a very small one. A fine line. I’ve seen many people turn a healthy behaviour (regular exercise, for example) into a totally unhealthy addiction in a relatively short amount of time. And as we all know, chasing acceptance, approval and connection through our physical appearance is slippery and never-ending slope. We never get there.

Wherever there is.

Self-Esteem

When an individual’s self-esteem and identity are totally dependant on their physical appearance, insecurity and anxiety will be the result. Healthy self-esteem works from the inside-out because the body is not the person but rather, the temporary home. Some people erroneously believe that where they live is who they are. To recognise this and to consciously move beyond this paradigm is one of the greatest challenges of our appearance-obsessed culture.

Your body is to be valued, appreciated and cared for. It’s an amazing gift.

But it’s not you. :)

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 3:43 am

Acceptance, approval and connection are very important, we all have different strategies to get them. Becoming body obsessed is just one way, I guess a relatively straightforward one as differences in weight and fitness are easy to quantify (and to change).

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Anthony Spark March 22, 2013 at 8:37 am

Love your work, Craig.
I’m fairly comfortable with being less than perfect in the body department, however working in the fitness industry there is enormous pressure on some of my peers to train themselves to perfection and to trash-talk themselves for skipping a training day or eating a muffin. I think is one of the reasons most of the population don’t exercise on a regular basis and most don’t belong to a gym. The obsessive nature of extreme exercisers creates an ‘us and them’ mentality.
From the outside, the ‘exercise junkies’ looks like a pretty unhealthy place to be, so why would anyone want to join them?

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Anonyfem April 1, 2013 at 10:46 am

Anthony, what you say resonates with me. I’m in the fitness industry but have come from a different direction to the people that are normally employed in gyms and other aspects of the industry. I’m older than most PTs, have been severely overfat in the past and carried the mental and physical issues that go with that. I was the type of person we should be encouraging to get into exercise, but also the person that would not start because I wanted a trainer who at least had some idea of what I was going through. I now love my body. For others it may not be ideal, but for me it is perfect. It does what I need it to do and will only get better. Personally, I think I’m the ideal person to get into a gym to use my experience to encourage and motivate the ‘too old, too fat, to unfit’ brigade to exercise. Instead, when I go to interviews I get these patronising, sniggering little shits (that’s putting it nicely!) telling me what I can’t do. Obviously to me, I don’t fit into their concept of what a PT should be and look like. It’s a lose / lose situation for both them and potential clients. Thankfully, I’m having a great time training a wide range of individuals who are not so shallow, and are gaining benefits from the knowledge and experience that I can give to them.

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Anthony April 9, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I wish you well on your career. I believe the PT industry needs more trainers with life experience and concern about more than having the best calves in the gym (let alone their clients calves)

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Karen March 22, 2013 at 8:49 am

When you have a healthy level of self esteem then you find it easier to actually forget about yourself and your body.

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Claire March 22, 2013 at 9:26 am

We tend to focus too much attention on our bodies. We worry about how our bodies look all the time. It is amazing to see how much obsession there is about our bodies and also how much we tend to equate our success, effectiveness and well-being to our physical experience.

Claire

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Blythe March 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

Hi Craig,
I love this post. So very true. I think focusing on what our bodies are capable of is a far healthier way to monitor progress than scruitinising ourselves for how we look in the mirror.
Thanks for all your posts! :)

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JP March 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

Criag, best advice you could give anyone. However I dispear that the message will not be headed by the majority because of this conformist society we live in.

Just be yourself people and enjoy life because one day you will wake up and there will be no more time left to do what ever it is you want to do.

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Trolley Wife March 22, 2013 at 11:40 am

I love this post to pieces and totally agree with you.

Having said that, I probably have had the odd worry as I head down the middle aged life pathway ( Oh fart bingle- I need to stand on my head and let gravity pull the otherway), however I am aware of what you say and think it is very important that women in particular think about this.

At least 50% of women I know are lugging away at a frenetic pace of excercise activity, with cosmetic surgery, diets of all kinds. I agree it is a massive challenge to find the right balance. I think if we concentrate on health not looks, you’ll lookd and be happier anyway. Think about others more than yourself can also help.

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Amy March 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Avoiding weirdness huh? I think we are all a little weird about certain things. When you are confident and secure you will spend far less time focusing on yourself. I love the Dove soap commercials about “being comfortable in your own skin”. Trying to sell a product, yes but it’s a great message.

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Anonymous March 22, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Unfortunately I obsess about how I look, whether it be having a bad hair day, worrying about the ugly freckles on my legs (i never wear skirts) or worrying about losing the last 3 kilos I need to lose after having a baby 12 weeks ago. For me, it never ends, I have to agree that it is unhealthy but how do I change it?? I definately dont want to pass these thoughts onto my children.

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chebbieanne March 23, 2013 at 12:19 am

I love bodies, how they work, what they can do and how you fix them when they break or wear out or get sick but even though I have known many I have never met one that I would truly swap with mine.
Oh we have had our moments, some good, some not so good.
We have nearly broken up a couple of times but we always get back together. Our relationship is deep but there have been trust issues from time to time. I have starved it and over fed it, left it idle and over trained it. Yes I have pushed it to the brink – but I have always been forgiven eventually! It is not a one sided relationship there has been payback – It has given me pain many times to try to draw attention to my poor management style. Once it even tried to turn the motor off – now that really got my attention! So harsh!
We have grown old together, created new life – believe me that stretched our relationship, we partied hard and paid the price- many times. Oh the things I have made it do!!! “Its OK” I would say trying to trick it. Liar that I am.
We have loved and laughed and wept and played. I have torn it, broken it, poisoned it and stressed it to breaking point but we are still together. I just know I would die without it!!!
After all that we have been through together I try not to criticise the way it looks or works because one day it really will stop forgiving me.

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Mel March 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm

After spending the last 6 days with my back out and being barely able to move and in so much pain, I have come to a much much greater peace with my body. I am so grateful for my body and the way it help me live my life. I have missed out on really important things over the last few days because I just can not stand up for long. When I am healthy again I will not spend anytime running my body down for the way it looks but will spend my time rejoicing that it works and works well and loving it for it.

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Tri-hard March 23, 2013 at 5:39 pm

After dropping 65kg through healthy diet and exercise, I was doing really well. My exercise was mainly gym work and some outdoor running, but then I got into triathlon. It is a fine line and I see now that it was some time ago when I crossed over to the dark side. Obsessed with times, splits, pace and transition, I’ve become not only exercise addicted but a bloody bore! Trouble is, clawing my way out of this hole feels impossible. Taking time off feels wrong on every level and yet I know I need to. I don’t want to deal with feeling guilty for not training. Any tips on how to find my way back to the light?

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Susanna Brown March 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm

For once I have to disagree with what this post saying which is true because I am really obsessed with how I look.

My fashion sense, my ego and my emotions for the particular moment. Say I put a up a pound, I feel bad about myself for letting it happen to me.

I know this is a problem to me but like someone said earlier, this is how the conformist society look at people.

Thank you. One day when I come to my senses and some kind of event happen to me, I will come to treasure what this post is all about.

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Shawn Ryan March 30, 2013 at 5:06 am

This is a great post about a pretty big problem in our society. So much pressure is put on our physical appearance, it is easy to forget that taking care of our self esteem is really what is going to keep us feeling good about ourselves and motivated to stay in shape in a healthy way. If you watch shows like The Biggest Loser, it really is more about breaking the people down mentally and building up their spirit and self esteem. I wish more people would realize this.

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