The 'leanness fantasy' is sold to us on a daily basis and makes us believe that our lives would be so much better if we could just lose the last 10 pounds. Don't believe me? Look at the model in the picture above. How many of you had the following thoughts (subconscious or not):
"I want to look like that. She must have the best life. I bet she has 5 hot European lovers and drinks green juice all day while making a career being an Instagram model". (Okay maybe not your thoughts exactly, but you know what I mean ;) )
We often believe this fantasy without even questioning it, and manipulating our bodies to look a certain way is what we feel like we must do. But why?
"I need to lose 10 pounds"
"I need to drop 3 % body fat"
"I need to get a bikini body for summer"
These are comments I hear on a daily basis. Last year alone, diet products were a 63 billion dollar industry, so to say that we are bombarded with the goal of leanness would be an understatement. If nothing else, my hope is that this post makes you ask yourself why next time you put your life on hold until your goal of leanness is reached.
The ‘leanness fantasy’ reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Dale Partridge.
“Stop waiting for Friday, for Summer, for someone to fall in love with you, or for the dream job. The lie that success is at the next place, next idea, next opportunity, or even the next person. Until you give up the idea that success is somewhere else, it will never be where you are”
This idea really resonates with me so much not only in the work that I do with clients, but personally (Just replace 'success' with whatever you think is waiting for you once you achieve 'blank' aesthetic goal).
For many years, I was working to achieve and maintain a specific number on the scale. I told myself once I got there, then I would have amazing confidence, figure out what I wanted to do for a career, and have an amazing social life.
Did any of that happen?
Not at all. Of course, I did reach the arbitrary number on the scale I aimed for, but in order to get there, I had zero energy to do anything other than watch Real Housewives. Not exactly the goal I pictured in my mind. Also, if I wanted to stay at this weight (which was completely unnatural for my body) it would mean spending hours in the gym and passing up all opportunities to go out to eat or drink, socialize, etc.
I encourage anyone who has this ‘leanness fantasy’ to really ask yourself why you want whatever aesthetic goal you so desperately desire. This is something I often do with my clients. I simply ask “why” over and over again until we reach a conclusion (or they get annoyed with me :)) Our conversations often go like this:
Me: your adrenals are shot, you need to incorporate more rest, relaxation, and less intense work outs
client: I can’t do that! I don’t want to gain weight!
Me: (that is unlikely, but...) why?
Client: I don’t want to get fat!
Me: (again, not going to happen simply from resting, but...) why?
(at this point they usually start getting frustrated with me, like, “duh? no one wants to gain weight?”)
Client: I don’t know, I just don’t!
Clearly we didn’t come to any real conclusion here, but I think it is so important to continue to ask yourself WHY you have certain goals for yourself. Do you really want six-pack abs because it will make you 'healthier'? Or because society has conditioned us into believing that is what's beautiful?
Realistically, most of us are not elite athletes or training for something that would require us to be certain body fat percentage. Yes, we want to be metabolically healthy, but research shows that this is not something that can be judged based on outward appearance or body fat percentage. (In my years as a personal trainer, some of my most metabolically unhealthy clients had very low body fat percentages - see resources below).
So why does it matter if we put on a few pounds if it means we are healing our bodies? IF this happens, it is usually temporary, and if it is not, it often is a sign that your body needed a few extra pounds to function properly (often the case with active women).
At this point I think it is important to really look at what ‘gaining a few pounds’ means to you. Are you afraid of it because of how the media portrays weight gain? Are you afraid of becoming ‘fat’ because somehow our society has labeled it the worst thing a person can be? Are you afraid you boyfriend, spouse, friends won’t love you anymore? Are you afraid of being viewed as ‘lazy’?
Once we can get to the root of WHY it scares us to gain weight, or stop working out so hard, or resting, we can dissect these feelings and begin to question their legitimacy.
Think being fat is the worst thing a person can be?
REALLY? Worse than being hateful, pessimistic, or rude?
Afraid of gaining a few pounds and people noticing your weight gain?
I guarantee people are too concerned with themselves to notice, and if they do, so what? They would also notice if you got a hair cut, or a tan. Change your perception about what ‘weight’ means to you and your whole outlook will change.
Afraid your boyfriend won’t love you anymore?
Get a new one. You deserve better.
Afraid of being viewed as ‘lazy'?
If this is you, you are probably very Type A, perfectionist and always on the go. Am I right? A lazy day once in a while is completely normal and necessary. Plus, your loved ones will probably be thrilled that you want to hang out and go to brunch on Sunday rather than to the gym.
Oh and my favorite...
Afraid of putting on a few pounds for ‘health’ reasons?
I challenge you to do some research about what it means to be metabolically healthy, and how society skews our perception. Leanness does not necessarily equal health, just as being overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy.
Health At Every Size
and some of my favorite bloggers that preach this same message:
To bring this all full circle back around to the Dale Partridge quote, I think this 'leanness fantasy' is often another way for us to put off our dreams or goals (at least it was for me).
Let me tell you from experience, once arrived at the magical aesthetic destination you set for yourself (IF you ever even get there) it still won’t be enough. The perception is that when our bodies reach perfection, we will be gifted with self- confidence and happiness that we assume comes with having a low body fat percentage. The truth is, once you reach your ‘goal’, you will still be the exact same person that you’ve always been. Until we focus on improving self-confidence, happiness, a great social life, or whatever your REAL goal is, changing your body is not going to do that for you.
So why do we look to change our bodies when what we really want is joy, fun, health, confidence, (insert fantasy here)?
Physical change is concrete; we know if we diet, restrict calories, and work out harder, the weight will come off. Confidence and self worth on the other hand, are much harder to measure and impossible to fake.
The moral of the story is, don’t wait until you achieve XYZ to do the things you want to do, wear the clothes you want to wear, or be the confident person you think is waiting on the other side of leanness.