Although the concept of loving your body is always in style, techniques for making the most of what you’ve got tend to come and go. The good news is that if a trend doesn’t last, it probably wasn’t sustainable (ie. safe) or effective to begin with. Here are 3 health and fitness trends that are well past their due by date and should be chucked out in 2018 and some alternatives that will never go out of style.
Trying to mould and shape your body in to something that it’s not.
Should be replaced with: Learning to accept your body for what it can do, and whatever it ends up looking like as a result.
In 2017, we’ve seemingly upgraded from doing the hard work of counting calories and exercising to change our waist circumference like you would have done for 2016’s A4 paper challenge (can’t even deal.) and are instead using waist trainers to create the Kardashian-style hourglass figure. The idea is that you wear it for certain amount of time every day and, eventually, your body ‘moulds’ itself in to a slimmer figure. Sounds too good to be true, right?
It’s because it is. Spot reducing doesn’t exist. You can’t reduce the collection of fat in one particular area of your body. Plus, what do you think happens if you keep wearing it for an extended period of time? Think crushed organs, compressed lungs and fractured ribs as worst-case scenarios. Some people can get away with wearing the waist trainer without any real harm done, but for real long-term weight-loss, you’re better off going elsewhere.
Then you’ve got the ‘ab crack’ which has come to join the ranks of the ever lusted after ‘thigh gap’. The ‘ab crack’ is usually developed by those who spend hours in the gym with strict diets and is not attainable by the majority of the population. Or it is a result of a condition called rectus diastasis.
If you have a desire to look a certain way, that is fine. Whatever floats your boat. For a lot of people though, many of these ‘ideals’ will be unattainable, even with a low body fat percentage, no bodies look alike—this is usually influenced by genetics, not how much you do of a particular exercise or the calories you consume.
What I have an issue with is when there is no respect for the above and not looking a particular way is met with either public or inward shame and hate.
I distinctively remember a conversation within the last 12 months with a dear family member that went a little like this:
Family member (FM): ‘Jeez, you’re looking big (referring to my muscles)’
Me: ‘Yeah, I know’
FM: ‘So… when does it stop?’
Me: ‘I’m not sure it does. If I’m training what I enjoy and am eating foods that best fuel my body then I need to learn to be OK with the way I look. Otherwise, what’s the point?’
This conversation was a real test for me, and not something that I woke up one day and felt comfortable having. It’s a process. My body is capable of doing a whole bunch of cool things and to be able to do all these cool things, it needs to look a certain way. The way it looks because of the training that I do and the food that I eat. You may not love the way you look, but you need to learn to damn well appreciate your body for what it can do and stop trying to make it in to something that it isn’t. You also need to come to terms with the fact that family, friends and complete strangers are always going to have an opinion on what you should look like and I encourage you to believe that you are the ‘ideal’ body type when you’re eating the right foods for your body type, doing a variety of training you enjoy, and just doing you.
Measuring your self-worth and success by numbers you see on a screen.
Should be replaced by: Measuring the quality of your health, your relationships and your self-acceptance.
My BMI tells me I’m overweight. I’ve weighed 47kg and I’ve weighed 64kg. I’ve eaten less than 1000cal/day and over 2500cal/day.
I remember a moment in my cycling career when I was on a training camp and as part of the camp, we were required to weigh ourselves every morning. Because of the nature of the environment that I was in, I felt as though my weight was the only thing that I could control and so I told myself that I’ll control my weight (ie. lose weight) and that will make me stand out and be a better cyclist on this camp. The weight came off little by little every day, but having my mood dictated by the number I saw first thing in the morning on a scale was debilitating and in hindsight, heartbreaking.
Having the number go down on the scale made me a better cyclist up to a point, then it started working against me but by that stage I was too far deep to rationally understand that.
The problem isn’t the number, it’s how we use it. Similar to what you’ll experience in business, we often use the wrong metrics to measure success. If you’re not a professional athlete, ultimate success isn’t how many calories you eat, a number on the scale or how many kilos you put on a barbell. I get it, high blood pressure can be represented by a number, as can many other indicators of ‘health’ and I’m not saying disregard numbers completely. Ironically, for someone who loves a good spreadsheet and targets, I believe that success in life doesn’t have to be measured in numbers rather those numbers need to be supported also by feel.
How happy are you? What are your relationships like with others? And yourself? How healthy are you, physically and mentally? How alive and present do you feel in your every day life?
Those are the measurements of success I want to hear about. Those are the measurements that are truly worth giving a sh!t about.
7-45min workouts designed to burn fat and ‘tone’ your body.
Should be replaced with: Paying more attention to the food you’re consuming and training what you enjoy, through full range of ‘natural’ movements in a variety of disciplines.
In the good old days, we exercised as a means to hunt or gather ‘organic’ foods. We would break out a sweat finding food and undertaking daily tasks, and playing as part of life in the village. Today we don’t break a sweat ‘hunting’ for processed foods at the supermarket. Quite frankly, many of us don’t break a sweat at all all-day unless it is deliberately planned as part of a ‘workout’.
Because of the modern day lifestyle, which for the most part involves us being seated, we have to incorporate deliberate activity in to our days to prevent many common mental and physical diseases and illnesses that ironically, this new lifestyle has supported in creating. We’ve also been conditioned to think that the main purpose of a workout is ‘to burn fat’.
I’ve lost count of the amount of ‘burn fat in as little as 7min a day’ or ‘You need to exercise in this particular zone to burn fat’ gimmicks I’ve seen over the years. And they are indeed just that – gimmicks used to sell you the idea that you need to exercise to burn fat. Which is ironic, because you can work hard on a stepper for 60min and consume the amount of calories you supposedly burnt off during that time within 5min of eating afterwards.
Because what we often don’t want to recognise is that it isn’t the lack of exercise that is making us fat, rather it’s the processed foods we are consuming in excess. If the goal is fat burn and weightloss, exercise alone is almost useless to achieve this. You cannot outrun a bad diet.
Before you come to the conclusion that you never have to do any form of physical activity ever again, let’s make one thing clear: No matter the effect training has on your waistline, it does your body and mind good. Training comes with a number of health benefits including keeping blood pressure in check, reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart attacks. A number of studies have also shown that people who train are at lower risk of developing cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’. Training is the good guy.
So in 2018, how about we stop exercising purely for fat loss, and exercise because we enjoy it and we know that it does wonders to our physical and mental health. How would this change your current training regime?
Exercise is something that we just do as humans. I wouldn’t be nearly as committed as I am to my training if I viewed it purely as a way to burn fat. I couldn’t imagine having that as my thinking for the rest of my life either. How depressing.
What if instead you thought of training as a means to living a longer, healthier life and doing a whole bunch of cool shit while you’re at it.
What if exercising was exploring the world on a bike or hiking? It was a means to build community and make new friends? It was a way to strengthen the physical body, and the mind, to enable you to get the most out of yourself and your life?
This sounds far more appealing to me than thinking about how many calories I’ve burnt walking 60min on the stepper and what that will enable me to eat afterwards.
We need to understand that we are all unique and lusting after an unrealistic ideal or thinking you need to perform a one size fits all training approach is ineffective and a waste of a life. In 2018, I’m urging you all to ignore the fad social media trends and instead focus on long-term health and performance.
Be healthy, be active, be you. Whatever that looks like for you.
© Mus Musgrave / mus.fitnessphoto