These words don’t make sense

In this post I’m going to talk about three phrases that are a little bit silly. They are ‘to lose weight’, ‘to be fat’, and ‘to be skinny’. Let’s start with losing weight.

Now, it’s true, I do see a fair few people around me that could benefit from shedding a few kilos, and most people seem to be happy when they see the number on the scales go down. But it’s not like “Oh my God, I’ve put my weight down somewhere and I can’t find it!” Technically, you don’t ‘lose’ anything, you burn off some of your body fat as a result of eating less junk food, moving more, eating healthier food, stopping comfort eating, lifting weights, balancing out your hormones, or any other of a host of reasons. Usually, you make a diet or lifestyle change for the better, you shed some excess body fat, and you feel better for it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve lost weight. Muscle is a lot denser than fat, so one kilogram of muscle takes up a lot less space than one kilogram of fat.

Say you cut some sugary junk food out of your diet which will stop you gaining more fat, and then you do some resistance training which will stimulate your body to grow muscle, as well as mobilising some of your fat stores and using them as energy, but the number on the scale goes up. You look different: you have less wobbly bits and more firm bits, you feel different – you’re noticeably stronger and everyday chores are so much easier, you feel better because you have more energy and you love the way your body looks and feels. Your silhouette is more shapely and you’re actually occupying less space, yet you haven’t lost any weight – you’ve actually gained some because you have more muscle now than you did before. Wonderful muscle that looks lovely and makes you feel strong and capable and needs to be fuelled with food even when it’s not working which means that you can eat more good food without worrying about it turning into fat. But you haven’t lost weight. Can you see how ridiculous this is? If you’re still not convinced, read this article and take a good look at the pictures.

Now, let’s move on to ‘being fat’. Technically, this doesn’t even make sense. It’s not like being an astronaut, or being an introvert, or being awake or being asleep. Nobody can be fat. We’re all human beings with a greater or lesser amount of fat on our bodies, but we’re people first – our percentages of adipose tissue should be way down the list of what makes each of us unique. And we all have some fat on us; whether it’s subcutaneous fat that lies between our muscle and our skin or visceral fat that sits around our organs, we all have it, and we can’t control where our bodies put it.

What we can control, however, is how much or how little of it we have. Now, I think it’s important to mention here that you can have a generous amount of fat on your body and still be healthy; if you eat well, move your body, feel good and are able to do all the things you want to do then what does it matter? Who am I to say that there’s anything wrong with that? There’s not. But if you’ve got a generous amount of fat on your body because you live on junk food and spend most of your day sitting, and you don’t feel good and can’t do half the things you’d like to be able to do… Well that’s a problem. And if you fit into that category it’s up to you to change. Your health is your own responsibility and it’s never too late make a change for the better. And if you’re raising children it’s absolutely your responsibility to teach them about good food.

Okay, on to ‘being skinny’. If someone says you’re healthy you probably have a good level of health, if someone says you’re wealthy you probably have a lot of money or other valuable assets, if someone says you’re skinny you probably have a lot of… skin? Is it because you’re just skin and bones? Even the Oxford Dictionary defines skinny as being “unattractively thin”, yet for so many women being skinny is their number one goal in life.

When I talk about goals with my clients I ask them what they’d like to be able to see or feel or do that tells them that their goal has been achieved, and more often than not feeling better or doing more is a more meaningful affirmation than simply seeing a change.

So yes, you can have a slim body but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be healthy, or happy. You could even have a slim body with a generous amount of fat on top and a stingy amount of muscle underneath. Or you could stop worrying about whether you’re too fat or too skinny and just be yourself.

For me, I want to feel good and healthy and strong and have all the energy I need each day to be able to do the things I want to do. And so I eat accordingly, so that I have the energy to do these things. And I move my body in a way that makes me feel alive and strong without exhausting me. And it’s a work in progress. And it probably always will be.

people like people like themselves

When I was thinking about starting a blog, my rationale for doing so was based around a feeling of having a head full of knowledge and information and ideas and thoughts and experiences that I wanted to get out. I wanted an outlet for writing creatively, but I also liked the idea that my words might help or inspire or motivate other people. I guess, in a way, I was wanting to connect with other people like me.

I spent a fair amount of time browsing other people’s blogs before I found any that caught my interest. None of the blogs I currently follow have anything to do with health or fitness. The blog posts that really glue my eyes to the screen talk about the stuff under the surface: doubt, fear, self-analysis, self-acceptance (or lack of), sexuality, abuse, failure, relationships, friendships, and just how shit life sometimes is. This is the stuff that really gets me going. The blog I currently enjoy reading the most is written by someone of a different gender, generation, geographic location and sexual orientation than me. I have nothing in common with this person; yet his writing speaks to me in a language I understand: the language of a thoughtful introvert.

They say the sign of a true friendship is one where months or even years can go by with little to no contact, yet when you get together it seems as if no time has gone by since you last met, and there are no feelings of guilt for not keeping in touch or expectations around what you should have accomplished or achieved since last time.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of spending a few days with some people I did a year-long outdoor course with 13 years ago. Some of them I’d caught up with over the years and some I hadn’t, and the range of paths we’d each gone down was vast: from working in the outdoors to running businesses, raising families to working on farms. Yet there was no judgement whatsoever, nobody was better or worse than the next person because of what they had or hadn’t achieved. Mostly we just laughed a lot and reminisced about the good old days of pooing in the bush and wrapping canoes around rocks.

So much of life is about ambition and success. How much money we make, what car we drive, how nice our house is, what new gadgets we own; trying to project an air of success by pushing our successes on others. This isolates people. It doesn’t help people know that they’re not alone, it doesn’t tell people that it’s okay to feel like shit every now and then, and that feeling like shit is part of life and is equally as important as feeling awesome. It’s the shit that defines us more than the successes do. I think so anyway. It’s also reassuring to know that the people we perceive as being successful don’t always see themselves that way.

What is success anyway? I guess it depends on what your goals are. One of my benchmarks for success is waking up early, without an alarm, feeling rested and ready for the day. Whatever happens after that is of lesser importance, but it’s bound to be good. Waking up late, feeling tired and grumpy is usually the precursor to a shit day for me. So you can see, money and material gains aren’t necessarily measures of success in my book.

I’m not really that concerned with how much money you make, but I do want to know about the mettle of your character. I want to know if you treat other people the way you’d like to be treated even if it doesn’t seem to be paying off right now (trust me, give it time and it will). I want to know how you respond to adversity and hardship, not how many properties you own or how expensive your clothes are. I want to know whether you’re willing to address the unresolved stuff in your life, or if you’re pushing it back to the darkest recesses of your mind in the hope that if you ignore it for long enough it’ll go away. I want to know if you learn from your mistakes, or are you continually repeating the same behaviours expecting to get a different outcome.

I think all each of us ever wants is just to be accepted for who we are, and to be comfortable with who that person is. We just want to be liked, by other people, like ourselves.