One of the fantastic things about social media is that we have direct access to the lives of those who have chosen to publish them. This means that we can see what our favourite #fitspos and athletes and bodybuilders eat, how they train and what they do. We can watch them in their day-to-day lives and really get familiar with their lifestyle, learning from them and using them as a resource to help us become healthy or strong or whatever our goal may be.
The dangerous thing about this is that we forget that a large proportion of these people are professionals. That this is their job. We forget that they need to take this a lot more seriously than 20 year old Suzie who just started an Instagram page to track her progress and get some ideas on how to lose a bit of weight or gain a bit of muscle.
Of course a bikini competitor needs to weigh her food and track her macros and can’t go skipping gym sessions every weekend for a night out. Competing at a level like this, be it athletically or aesthetically, leaves very little room for flexibility with diet or training. This is why they train week-in, week-out, sometimes several times a day. This is why they have food plans and they track their macros and calories meticulously. These people lead a very extreme lifestyle because this is the process that they need to undergo in order to nourish and train their body for the performance that is expected of it.
But let me get this clear.
20 year old Suzie isn’t a bikini competitor.
20 year old Suzie is a young woman trying to improve her lifestyle and get in better shape.
She doesn’t need to be living like they do. She doesn’t need to be counting her calories. She doesn’t need to be getting up 20 minutes earlier every morning so she can weigh out her oats and chicken for the day, or shovelling a whey shake down her throat at 11pm because she didn’t hit her protein macros.
20 year old Suzie needs to live her life because she’s 20 YEARS OLD and should be eating and doing whatever she wants. And this goes for all of you: regardless of your age, regardless of your goal. This is your LIFE, not a competition. What on earth are you training for that you can’t skip a gym session now and then to hang out with a buddy? Or you can’t allow yourself a slice of cake ’cause it doesn’t fit your god damn macros? Are we serious?
Committed or obsessed?
The most important thing you will learn when you get involved in fitness is knowing the difference between commitment and obsession.
Commitment is being dedicated to something. Obsession is being dominated by it.
Commitment is getting out of bed at 6am a couple of days a week to squeeze in your leg workout because you’ve got no other time in the day to fit it in. Obsession is spending the whole day being angry and disappointed with yourself because you slept in one day and missed it.
Commitment is choosing to eat the majority of your meals from home-made, whole foods and leading a balanced diet and not eating chocolate and cake every time it’s offered to you. Obsession is refusing to go out to restaurants because you’re afraid of what you’ll end up eating, or deciding you will go and then beating yourself up for the next 3 days because you ate a brownie for dessert and you think it’s going to ruin your progress.
Commitment does not mean permanence. It does not mean set-in-stone, irreversible, constant, unalterable. Commitment means consistency. It means regularity, stability. It means dedicating yourself to something for the majority of the time, but not to the point of obsession.
And so long as you are consistent with your consistency, you can be flexible with it.
What I mean by that is, so long as you adhere to the rules 80% of the time, you can do what you want with the other 20. Of course, progress will only come if you stick to your set plan or program, but not to the extent that you sabotage yourself because it’s preventing you from living a normal life. That’s how you end up quitting.
I want to tell you something which is absolutely crucial for any average fitness-doer like myself to realise, so listen up:
You are training for a lifestyle, not a competition.
You don’t have a deadline.
If you are consistent with your training and diet, a day off is not going to hurt you.
If you train 4-6 times a week, missing a session will not set you back.
If you eat high-protein, good carbohydrates, healthy fats and a tonne of vegetables every day, eating a burger and chips and 3 desserts one Saturday night will not set you back.
If, however, it’s the other way around, and you’re missing more sessions than you are attending and you keep eating the wrong kind of food, of course you’ve got to be stricter with yourself. Days off won’t do any harm so long as they’re not becoming the norm, so long as it’s not been 2 months of “days off”. I can eat pretty much whatever I want, take a week off from training and nothing happens because I have been consistent with my training and my diet for a very long time and this gives me freedom. This gives me flexibility, and this is what you should be aiming for.
Mindset Comes First
So for all of you who are dedicated and committed, who are genuinely working really hard, sticking to your diet plan, hitting the gym as much as you can: please trust me when I say you can relax. When I say that you can breathe. When I say that you don’t need to be weighing your god damn ketchup and tracking it in your macros. I’m guessing that you’re doing this to generally improve yourself, to lose or gain weight, to become a better person. So why are you getting obsessive over it?
Do not let it engulf you. I see really young girls posting long paragraphs underneath their selfies trying to justify their week off from their normal diet and training because they were on holiday. Explaining how they’re worried they’ve lost their booty gains after not training because they’ve been sick. (see How to Stay in Shape When You Can’t Train). And I get that you don’t want to lose your progress and everything you’ve worked hard for. I get that. But what the hell made you think that obedience to your training and diet is so critical that you can’t enjoy time off, or take time off when it’s necessary? A week, two weeks, a month even is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Trust me when I say it won’t mess up your progress, but getting crazy about it will mess up your mind.
So take some time to think today.
Are you committed? Or are you obsessed?
How healthy are you really?
And if you find that you don’t like the answer that you come to, it’s time to change your mindset.
Get committed babies, don’t get obsessed.
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