By Tia Norris, February 2020 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.
Sometimes, in the pursuit of getting healthier, people can pick up some dangerously unhealthy relationships along the way. From obsessive tracking, to varying degrees of self-sabotage, and yo-yo exercising or dieting, almost everyone I work with accidentally acquires one of these toxic relationships with diet and fitness in time. The keys to change are: first, recognizing the problems as actual problems; and second, committing to better behaviors and thought patterns going forward. Here are four of the most toxic fitness relationships I see, and how to break up with them forever.
1. Obsessive weighing, or playing the numbers game at all
I have a saying as a trainer: “if you play the numbers game, you’ll never win.” Read this twice: the scale is a second tier, or even third tier, assessment of progress within fitness. Too many people place a tragic amount of emphasis on the number of the scale; when, this number is not only extremely variable but it also doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to transformation. Here are some things that greatly affect small variances in your daily weight: caloric intake, sleep, stress, sodium, water retention, hormones, activity level, weather conditions, altitude conditions, bowel movements, and so much more. … Your weight will fluctuate naturally every day according to this long list of contributors, making the scale weight a somewhat unreliable measurement! Moreover, don’t neglect the fact that as you get stronger and fitter, you’ll be building muscle along the way. Most often, clients like the way they look with more muscle and less body fat — and most often, that physical transformation does not translate into much loss, if any at all. Let go of the scale and instead focus on progress pictures, strength achievements, energy levels, clothes fitting differently, and other positive measurements.
2. Perfectionism and the elusive, invisible standard
Too often, people begin a fitness journey with goals that are far too aggressive, and those that will take a long time to fully achieve; but, alongside their aggressive goals, they assign a ridiculously short time frame to achieve those goals. They think they should already have it; they think they should already be further along, faster, stronger, bigger, smaller, fitter; and then they criticize themselves so unduly harshly for not hitting the goals, albeit unfounded goals from the start. Beware the perfectionistic thinking patterns; seek out a coach or an expert who can help you to set realistic goals, and then be patient with yourself. Getting fit, and strong, and lean, and fast, takes a long time! Settle in for the long haul and set your expectations accordingly … it’ll save you a lot of stress and heartbreak down the road.
3. Senseless comparison to others
Expanding on #2 above, for the love of God: stop comparing yourself to others. They are on their own journey, at their own stages, with their own strengths and weaknesses and struggles that you most likely aren’t taking into account. You don’t need to be as fit, as strong, as lean, as fast, or as whatever as those around you – all you need to do is be the best that you can be at any given time. Ask yourself: are you doing your very best on your program at this moment? Do you devote as much time as needed to your exercise? Do you make time for recovery, mental health, massages, and other self-care? Do you maximize your efforts on meal planning, tracking, clean supplements, and efficient timing? If you aren’t doing your best, then find ways to get to your best. If you are doing your best, then you can’t possibly be further than you are at this point – accept that and let the rest of the comparisons GO.
4. Extreme fad diets, calorie slashes, cleanses, and other quick fixes
I can’t possibly roll my eyes any harder at people who believe that this shit actually works, long term. Sure, these extreme measures will shock your body into submission for a short while, but of course, they’re not sustainable, period! Accept the fact that changing your physique takes a long time … and if you can truly wrap your mind around that, then ask yourself if the sharp calorie cuts and all-juice diets will really last for months or years at a time – all of them will fail the test of sustainability, therefore making them poor strategies for real, lifestyle-type of adaptations. Any diet that eliminates an entire macronutrient will not work. Any diet that drops your calories below what you need to technically metabolically survive (your BMR; look this up) will not work. Any diet that has you not eating much, will not work. Small changes over long periods of time are the best bets!
Most of these toxic relationships can be solved easily, on principles: be patient, be kind to yourself, and focus solely on yourself. Cut through the BS of the diet industry, supplement marketing, and false promises… put in the work, over and over, to see the results. Break UP with these toxic behaviors, and make smarter plans to truly get healthy from the inside, out this year!