Health and fitness does not mean being skinny.
There’s a standard in today’s culture that ties health, fitness and beauty into being lean. A toned body is a healthy body, right? A flat stomach and 6 pack abs is the epitome of fitness, right? Everybody wants to be skinny, right?
Not so much.
For a large majority of the population, having a flat stomach is unrealistic. And for some people, to be this lean would be down right unhealthy!
It’s a funny thing, cultural norms – they shift like the wind. It wasn’t too long ago in our past that being overweight was considered beautiful.
<p>Bathsheba at Her Bath by Rembrandt (1654) depicts the Biblical story of Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite at the moment she was seen by King David from the roof of his palace. The painting is today displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris.</p>
Some cultures still view the “well fed” as upper class simply because they have enough money to eat. This is a common perspective in much of Latin America.
<p>Woman with Fruit by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. This bronze statue sits in the plaza at Hay Market in Bamberg Germany. Botero also has a 14 piece exhibition on Park Avenue in NYC. His work is world renown and his style is referred to by his critics as "fat figures"</p>
However, in the USA (and other countries too) the lean, toned and fit body look is rewarded and sometimes people are shamed when they don’t look the part. This happens online, on TV and in magazines.
The “health industry”
The “health” industry (which includes fitness, nutrition, supplement and pharmaceuticals), Hollywood and advertisement agencies have all made huge profits selling an image!
Women especially, are air-brushed and photoshopped to unrealistic standards, which pressures young girls into looking this way too.
And what happens to the girls that don’t look that way?
My guess is feelings of inadequacy, shame and embarrassment.
That’s not good mental health. (Like I said, down right unhealthy for some.)
Women are not the only ones who are targeted with unrealistic standards. Men have desires to be superheros, star athletes and have sex appeal as well.
The health industry has distorted what it means to be healthy. They have preyed upon people’s insecurities and promoted an image, rather than actual health markers like blood pressure, cholesterol and resting heart rate.
Instead of fitness goals or a desire to be healthier, most people who exercise have weightloss goals.
It’s more about being healthy…
Some people need to lose weight; their health depends on it! Morbid obesity is a life-threatening condition. “Body acceptance” in the face of heart disease is foolish.
But if your health markers are good (without medication) and you can pass basic fitness tests (strength, endurance, cardiovascular, flexibility), if you live a relatively happy life and don’t suck as a human being; maybe you should stop stressing over your belly fat?
Train. Eat healthy. Drink water. Brush. Floss. Practice good hygiene. Be respectful and have integrity. Spend quality time with your loved ones. Be cool to people and animals. Read, learn, grow and try to give back to the community.
Do these things and it really doesn’t matter if you don’t look like a model.
Everybody is different
Some people can indulge and stay relatively lean. The younger you are, the easier it is, but even in children you can see dominate body types emerging.
Each one of my children have a different body type (even the twins!), and they all eat the same things. My wife and I eat pretty much the same (albeit me much more). If anything, she is more likely to have pancakes and half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; whereas I’m at the gym eating protein bars and tuna fish out of the can.
Jess stays at about 135lbs (even after having 5 kids). I’ve been about 245 for the last 20 years, unless I made specific attempt to lose or gain.
For me to get any leaner than a 4 pack, I pretty much have to eat nothing but egg whites, chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice for about 6 months. Then I’ll be lean and ripped.
And you know what?
I’ll be the most miserably irritable “fit” person you’ll ever meet. I will have celebrated with no birthday cakes, laughed over zero drinks and had no dinner dates with my lovely wife.
It’s just not realistic for me to get that lean right now. Or maybe I just don't care enough. Either way, I'm ok with it.
I was born a 10lb baby and 24” long. Growing up, I was always the biggest (maybe second) kid in class. At age 14 I wore a size 14 shoe and was over 200lbs. Never obese, but always overweight.
Even as an adult who eats healthy and works out almost everyday, I’m still overweight.
Never in my life have I had 6 pack abs, a flat stomach or even a belly that I wasn’t self conscious of.
Now that I am coming up on 40 years old, I realize that those years to be in “the best shape of my life” are drawing to a close. What I mean by that is I’ve got maybe another 10 years of “V-Shaped” torso potential ahead of me, and that’s IF I care enough to get there!
I know what it takes to get in GREAT shape, it's what I do for a living, but for me personally, it's just not at the top of my priority list right now.
I love training. Lifting, running, jumping, throwing, boxing, yoga; I LOVE it! It’s my life.
You know what else is my life?
5 little kids who love ice cream and a wife that I drink martinis with.
We are a fit and active family who eats pizza and hotdogs.
Not everyday, but probably once or twice a week (at least for the kids).
We eat our vegetables, drink a lot of water, cook almost every meal at home and try to avoid trans fats, refined sugars and processed carbohydrates, but we are also the type to have poolside pitchers of beer and snowballs for the kids.
We must consider the WHOLE person when we set our fitness goals, and that means their lives outside of the gym.
Don't get me wrong
If your weight is causing you health problems, then yes, absolutely, you should lose weight.
If the sacrifices you have to make are worth it for you to be leaner, then yes, you should lose weight.
But if the pain of dieting is greater than the glory of being skinny.. then is it really worth it?
I am not suggesting people should quit trying to eat healthy and give into every craving, indulge at every social gathering, partake in every opportunity to drink, and just live fat and happy.
What I am saying is that a person can be healthy, fit and overweight.
I am an unapologetic example of this. At 6' 1" and 260 I am considered obese, yet at this bodyweight I have perfect blood pressure (124/72), outstanding cholesterol (131), a resting heart rate of about 58, I can do 10+ pull ups, squat 400+lbs and run a mile in 8:11. I don't take any medications, I haven't had a sick day in about 9 years and even though I work about 50 hours a week, I still have enough energy to play with my kids (and sexy wife)!
So what if I'm a little fat?
The real reason a flat stomach is unrealistic for many people comes down to genetics.
Not everybody is built to have a flat stomach.
Nobody is born with one and senior citizens don’t have them (don’t make the exception the rule). So age is a factor too.
Some people throughout childhood and adulthood have flat stomachs, some do not.
Of course lifestyle choices like diet and exercise play a major role here, especially in terms of body fat, but fat isn’t the only thing that determines the shape of your midsection.
A person's anatomy is unique and hormones will influence a person’s body more than could easily be explained in words. Testosterone, estrogen, insulin, leptin and ghrelin (appetite regulators) are all part of individual anatomy and will be swayed by who you picked as your parents.
Coritsol, the stress hormone, will even affect bodyfat distribution. Here is an interesting study that shows a higher hip-to-waist ratio is directly related to higher stress in women.
You're still in control!
But all of this information is worthless though if it is used as a crutch or a reason to give up.
No one can determine their potential in advance. No one can choose all of their life circumstances.
What we can choose is our ATTITUDE, in any situation.
The right attitude will keep us moving forward, it will allow us to accept what cannot be changed and find solutions to what is in our control.
Genetics only affects our bodies, not our minds.
But like the body, what you put into your mind will affect how it performs.
Rid yourself of negative input from your environment. News, gossip, hate, fear, anger; from people, places or things. Be very careful what you consume and participate in on social media. We have entered the age of outrage where everyone seems to want to be upset about something all the time.
That's not good for your health or your outlook on life.
Focus on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Phi 4:8
The truth is there are many reasons why people are fat. It's outside the scope of this article to try to discuss them all. Also, I don't want to give people a pass on working out or eating healthy.
My aim has always been to promote health & strength, not a body-type, be it skinny, fat or muscular.
Another truth is I was hesitant about making this post because its a sensitive topic for many. Not just fat people, but the fitness industry. MY industry has a choke hold on this topic and a lot of trainers sell "fat loss" as their flagship service. I anticipate that will get push back from them over this.
I don't care.
I'm strong, I'm healthy and I train other people to be the same.
My hope is that people focus more on the inside than they do the outside.
Look at your heart. Literally and figuratively.
Does your heart beat well? How’s your cardiovascular fitness?
Do you have love in your heart? For yourself, and others?
Score good in these categories and you’ll be healthier than if you had a 6 pack.
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