Nutrition, Aesthetics and Reality
This week’s trainer talk on Tuesday really got me thinking about the topic of genetics and how that transfers into the realm of nutrition. As a nutritionist and an aspiring registered dietitian who works around people who eat, sleep and breath fitness on a daily basis, I can’t tell you how times I hear people talk about looking like someone else. They have a goal in mind in terms of their own physique and how they want to look but the biggest problem is that they completely disregard one major issue with a goal that is tailored to something that someone else achieved and that is the obvious but not so simple fact that they are not that person. They are their own unique individual with different genetics, different anthropomorphic metrics, a completely different metabolism, and moreover, a different brain.
All too often in life we constantly make comparisons to other people about what they do and the goals that they achieve and while this can be a good way to keep us on our toes about our own accomplishments and constantly striving to be the best person that we can be, it is imperative that we tailor these goal to us as individuals and shy away from constantly comparing ourselves and our achievements to others. This is a perfect recipe for utter disappointment. Unfortunately, in today’s society, this is way easier said than done. All one needs to do is spend five to seven minutes scrolling through anyone’s Instagram of Facebook feed to see how much we are bombarded with the photos and videos of men and women who are in amazing shape and are walking around and performing rigorous exercise sitting anywhere between six to nine percent body fat for men and ten to fourteen percent for women. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this media frenzy that isn’t talked about, mentioned in the comments section, or highlighted in the most recent ab selfie of your favorite “fitstagram” model.
One thing I have learned in my thirty years of existence is that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. This certainly extends to the health and fitness industry. Clients who work with me always hear me mention something that I like to call “statistical outliers.” These are the Rich Fronings, the Phil Heaths, the Lance Armtrongs, or the Arnold Swarzeneggers that we know or see in the media all the time. At their prime, they can perform amazing feats of endurance, fitness, aerobic capacity and all around brute strength. They can also do these tasks by being and maintaining an extremely lean physique. But what isn’t mentioned in the headline of the magazine article or in the bio of the photograph is the fact that Rich Froning’s genetics are elite. He has been athletic his entire life or that Phil Heath cycles on and off steroids leading up to his stage performance for the Mr. Olympia title every year. Lance Armstrong is even a perfect example of this. While it was never proved that he took anabolic steroids at any time he was caught blood doping and was subsequently stripped of his medals.
Where am I going with this you might ask? Well, ultimately what I am trying to bring to light is the fact that these people who we often see in the media and not only compare ourselves to but strive to look and be like leads us down a, endless path of unattainable perfection. To piggy back off the statement coach Jarrett made during the trainer talk, it is a very hard pill to swallow for some people to realize that not only do you simply not have the genetics to maintain a sub nine or eight percent body fat physique year-round, but there is way more to it than that. The vast majority of these people who you see are usually taking drugs. There are a lot of drugs specifically anabolic steroids that not only can drastically increase muscle mass in users but also can give them an advantage for nutrient partitioning or how calories are used by the body i.e. muscle and glycogen or fat storage. There are also other more extreme methods that some of these people are using daily in order to maintain the physique that they have. While I am not using this as an opportunity to make the statement that every high level Crossfit athlete has special genetics, or that every physique competitors out there is taking drugs or using crash/ fad diets to get them show ready, I am saying that this stuff is rampant and when you actually do the research, there are even a lot of competitors who are willing to openly discuss their diet regimens or even steroid use if applicable.
So, to tie everything back in, I employ everyone to make a conscious effort to shift your thinking. As opposed to looking at that photo of your favorite athlete or someone you follow on Instagram and think to yourself, “wow, I would love to look like that,” or “that’s who I want to look like,” perhaps we can try and view these people are simply what they are. Noah Ohlsen is an elite level Crossfitter who has a very low body fat percentage and a lot of muscle mass. But in order for me to ever look like him it would take years of dedicated work and even still, I doubt I would come close to his overall physique. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be the absolute best version of myself. That doesn’t mean I can’t be the leanest I have ever been while still performing well during workouts or that doesn’t mean I can’t gain five to ten pounds of solid muscle in a year or two’s time. Just because I originally set an unrealistic goal doesn’t mean that I am a failure when I don’t attain it, or that I am doing something wrong. Perhaps what is wrong is not my effort or my program, but my outlook or my original goal. While as human beings we will always compare ourselves to others for the rest of our lives, I think that if we can let go of making our goals about attaining what other have and about attaining the most that we can have as individuals, we will start reaching more of our goals and ultimately live a happier life.
Remember, your happiness should never be tied to what other people think of you, how many reps you got on that workout, how lean and shredded you are or how many pounds of solid muscle you have on your body. As long as you are doing everything you can to be the absolute best version of yourself, I guarantee you that you will start reaching more of your goals and everything else will start to fall into place a lot quicker than it was before. Being extremely lean means nothing if you aren’t happy and I guarantee a lot of people who have this goal of reaching a certain body fat percentage who get there often wonder why that didn’t make them happy. I was one of those people at one point in my life and it wasn’t until I let go of any goal oriented comparison to others that I not only became happier, but I also started to slowly but surely reach my own personal fitness goals which is still and always will be an ongoing project. But that’s the fun of it all. If it was easy, or if we had everything we ever wanted we wouldn’t be in this amazing community of people striving to be better every single day. As I always say, eat food, lift heavy stuff, enjoy life and you will be happy. Happy Thursday Triumph family.
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