I’ve had this nagging feeling for the past several months that, until recently, I haven’t been able to adequately identify, much less one with whom I could come to terms. It’s been like an itch in a part of my body because of age, busted shoulders and disuse, I can no longer reach.
This is a trend I’ve seen coming for some time but just simply couldn’t recognize, either because I didn’t comprehend the signs or didn’t know what I was looking for. Of course, as the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20 and I can clearly see many of the markers identifying this phenomenon now. However, because of my extreme proximity to this trend due to the association of my profession with it, it caused a kind of blindness of which I was sadly not aware or intelligent enough to recognize.
Please forgive me, as I’m not intentionally being cryptic or deceptive. You too are probably familiar with this trend and may even be deeply vested in its continuation and perpetuation, or even its promotion, and not even realize it.
So what am I going on about?
I can only describe it thus: Performance And Excessive Appearance Obsession Syndrome, or PAEAOS for short and pronounced “pay us”…
It is often characterized by, but not limited to:
- An unrealistic expectation of outcome and “return on investment” with respect to exercise, nutrition and body functionality
- A desire to look a certain way, despite not having the genetic, emotional, mental or physical capability to do so
- A distinct misunderstanding of one’s bodily capabilities and limitations, especially with respect to exercise
- A need to be distracted from current reality or personal situations
- A feeling of inadequacy on some level
- A lack of appreciation and satisfaction in whom one is and what it is they have accomplished to date (in other words, gratitude…)
- A desire to “be like ______” (fill in with the name of any individual who you admire) without knowing or understanding anything about this person other than what is revealed in a photo, article or video
- A misunderstanding of exercise, physiology or nutrition because of the volume of misinformation available in print or video format at our very fingertips
NOTE: Please forgive me if these observations sound condescending, insignificant, trite or as if I’m pointing fingers. That is not my intention at all.
In my 30+ years of experience in dealing with people, I’ve seen these attitudes and approaches play out time and time again. Since I primarily work with women, it is you that this particular article is directed.
Remember, I love you and I’m only saying this because I give a damn…
With that said, here now are some dilemmas and fixes on these issues, from my own personal perspective.
The Dilemma: #1 – Appearances Can Be Deceiving
I have yet to meet a single woman who has approached or hired me for my services who was satisfied with their appearance as they were currently.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.
In many respects, satisfaction leads to complacency and complacency leads to disuse, disease or worse. Thomas Edison is famous for saying, “Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied (person) and I will show you a failure.”
However, there is a distinct difference between the satisfaction of one’s current standing with respect to health, fitness and wellness and an unrealistic or misdirected desire for a perceived and yet unrealistic level of satisfaction from the same criteria.
Let’s take for example two ladies I know. One I’ll call Mary and the other I’ll call Brenda.
Mary is 48 years old, happily married with three kids, a good job, a nice house with a big yard and a car that is 3 years old. Mary is about 5′ 6″ tall, 152 pounds with about 26 percent body fat level and is in very good health and physical condition.
Brenda is 50 years old, happily married with three kids, a good job, a nice house with a big yard and a car that is 4 years old. Mary is about 5′ 4″ tall, also about 150 pounds with about 35 percent body fat level and is in very good health and physical condition, but is plagued often with injuries and physical setbacks.
Neither of these women is ever satisfied with their current appearance. One understands and accepts that she has other priorities beyond herself and so, most of the time at least, does that which is necessary for maintenance of good health, overall fitness and wellness. When she doesn’t she takes (in my opinion) extreme measures to get back to some self perceived level of “looking good” again. This often takes the form of an extreme calorie restrictive nutrition regimen and an increase in moderate forms of “cardio”…
The other woman swings like a pendulum between compliance to a program and rash behavior bordering on dangerous and sophomoric. Long marathon type runs, “Spartan” events and “doctor” advised and monitored nutrition programs.
I’ll let you guess which one is which.
I’ll also let you guess which one has any level of long term success…
When asked what their particular goals are with respect to appearance, they both have a specific celebrity they each desire to resemble, which I personally find really sad, since neither of them has the physical dimensions (height) or age (both celebrities are much younger) of the individual they wish to emulate.
Not to mention, neither of these celebrities in and of themselves really resembles the on screen or print character they portray. We’ve all seen those photos of certain personalities without their makeup, right? I remember Cindy Crawford, speaking about a photo shopped image of herself in a magazine, saying, “Even I don`t look like Cindy Crawford in the morning.”
Again, I’m not placing blame or pointing fingers, I’m merely making an observation. The influence of media (in all of its forms) has long had a negative influence on women’s perceptions of themselves. I wish more could affirm, and sincerely mean, what Judy Garland stated many years ago: “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
I once read a study from several years ago that asked 5000 women (half the women were white, half the women were black) to rate themselves on appearance on a scale from 1 – 10. Here’s how the percentages played out:
- Of the white women, only 3% rated themselves as a “10″
- Of the black women, 38% rated themselves as a “10″
If beauty is truly “in the eye of the beholder”, and by proxy very subjective in nature, the question then becomes, are there 35% more black women compared to white women rated at a “10″ level walking around today?
Or are there just 35% more confident black women compared to white women?
I have my opinion, but I’ll let you ponder it yourself.
The Fix: #1 – Appearances Can Be Deceiving
Do you remember the scene in “Pretty Woman” where Vivian, the character portrayed by Julia Robert’s, is telling Edward, the character portrayed by Richard Gere, about her life, and Edward pays her a compliment only to have her downplay it?
If you don’t have people in your life who love, honor and cherish you enough to be paying you compliments, about anything, but especially your appearance, for that I am deeply grieved.
If you grew up in a home where you were never or rarely appreciated and respected enough to receive compliments on your appearance, performance, achievements, intelligence or anything else for that matter, again I am deeply grieved.
Appearance is fleeting and temporary. Physical appearance cannot measure or quantify ones level of compassion, capability, love, strength, perseverance, objectivity or anything else for that matter.
Beauty really does come from the heart, and oftentimes the hearts with the most scars are the most beautiful.
Please read this next portion as often as you need to in order for it to truly sink in:
You are wonderful, just as you are.
You are more than the color, shape, texture, tightness, looseness, abundance or lack thereof of the tent draping your body known as skin or that which lies underneath it.
Neither are you what you do or have done.
You are also not what you have never done or left undone.
Those are behaviors.
Behaviors can be replaced, changed or continued, provided they are serving you and others.
You are beautiful, just as God made you.
Your experiences shape your thoughts.
Your thoughts shape your decisions.
Your decisions shape your actions.
Your actions shape your life.
You see, you’re in charge of your life.
If there is some facet of it that you do not like, make a goal and change it.
However, please do not make the mistake of thinking that in order to make the change that there is something you must DO.
Rather, think in terms of who you must become, and your actions will follow.
Jim Rohn said, “The major reason for setting a goal is for what it makes of you to accomplish it. What it makes of you will always be the far greater value than what you get.”
Also please realize that there are a myriad of people who care about you just as you are. They admire, cherish and love you. It is for these people that the beloved Dr. Seuss wrote, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
And with respect to changing your life he wrote, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”
You’re a beautiful person.
I know it and believe it.
If you don’t have a solid group of acquaintances and friends who feel the same way, maybe you need to become something more and attract a better group of people into your life who feel the way I do about you…
The Dilemma: #2 – Exercise As A “Fix It” Tool
The associated subtitle to this dilemma could be “The More Is Better Mentality…”
Don’t you just love those “motivational posters” encouraging you to do more and more to achieve the body and look you so desperately desire and deserve?
I hate those damned things. This guy does too…
Here’s my favorite, however…
Most ladies I know have it all wrong when it comes to exercise as an effective agent to the answer to their health and/or fitness goals. Of those who actively participate in cardiovascular or weight bearing exercise, they generally reside in one of three camps:
- “You’ve got to be ready for anything, so train to the max every time you’re in the gym!”
- “If I just train hard enough (or long enough) I can have the body I want!”
- “I’m just here to do a little work and to talk to and see my friends.”
Many people, including myself, have written quite extensively on the subject of the negative effects (both health and fitness related) of duration based training versus intensity based training. You can view the articles I’ve done here, here, here, here and here.
When I meet with a prospective new client, one of the first questions I ask is “What do you currently do for exercise?” The answers seemingly always fall into one of two categories:
- “I don’t do anything” or “I haven’t done anything for weeks/months/years.”
- “I’ve been doing _____ and ______ (fill in these blanks with anything from Zumba to Crossfit to P90X) and I run _____ miles ____ times per week.”
Neither of them is satisfied with either their appearance or results they are currently achieving, hence the reason they are a prospective new client…
In each of their desires for improved health, fitness and wellness I pity the second type person the most. You see, they’ve bought into the “more is better” mentality that is currently so pervasive throughout the land.
And what is worse, oftentimes trying to convince them that “less is more” is like putting lipstick on a pig and entering it in a beauty contest.
It just don’t work…
Some are willing to listen, but many, despite the crappy results they’ve achieved from such behavior, the amount of pain and discomfort they are in and have endured, are so deeply entrenched in this mentality that they can’t see their way out of it.
I would make the argument that, for 99.9% of the people in this category, more exercise is NOT the answer to their desire for a more lean, health or fit physique. In fact, I’d say pretty confidently this is probably the exact opposite thing they need because that’s where the injuries come in.
And I have the numbers to back up what I’m saying…
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) a study finds that from 1990 to 2007, nearly a million Americans wound up in emergency rooms with weight-training injuries, and that annual injuries increased more than 48 percent in that period.
While roughly 82 percent of the 970,000 people injured were men, according to the study, the annual number of injuries in women increased faster (by 63 percent, compared with 46 percent among men) perhaps because weight training is growing more popular with women.
Women were more likely to injure their feet and legs, and women had more fractures.
Overexertion, muscle pulls and loss of balance accounted for about 14 percent of emergency room visits. This, in my opinion, probably relates to fatigue during long duration bouts of exercise. Subsequently more than 90 percent of the injuries occurred while using free weights rather than weight machines.
According to the NEISS, the number of reported exercise related injuries to women in 2007 was 110,457.
In 2012 that number jumped to 205,231.
That’s an increase of 94,774 injuries per year that were substantial enough to record. That’s also an increase of almost 95%.
Hmmm…I wonder what level of misinformation, influences and impressions with respect to exercise caused all of these extra injuries?
More is not better, ladies. Alright?
The Fix: #2 – Exercise As A “Fix It” Tool
Exercise is a necessary and wonderful component of life.
Exercise is not the “end all, be all” of life. There are only two requirements of an exercise program that matter:
- You must like it and do it. The greatest exercise program in the world is the one you’ll do
- It must be, and continue to be, effective without causing harm
Consequently, exercise is a three step process:
- Repeat…for the rest of your life.
And by the way: No one gets better, stronger, leaner and more healthy by how hard they train. We get better, stronger, leaner and more healthy by how well we recover from how we train.
More on this in a bit…
Exercise can make us feel better, look better, have more confidence and live longer.
It can also make us feel horrible, look terrible and even severely injure or kill us.
“Everything in moderation!”
I hate that phrase. Seriously…I do.
Moderation is for wussies. Moderation is average, and average is as close to the bottom as it is to the top. It’s the cream of the crap. The book of Revelation 3:16 puts it this way, “So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth..”
Exercising for a specific purpose, and I’m talking about fat loss and physique development now, should be consistent, specific, brief and intense. You should also be able to recover from it.
“So Uncle Steve, how hard should I train?”
I am fortunate to have a good friend named Jill Mills who twice earned and was awarded the title of “World’s Strongest Woman”. Jill is an elite athlete of exceptional quality and beyond compare. She was blessed by God with a superior physique capable of lifting mass quantities of weight, enduring punishing training sessions and recovering from them.
You are not Jill.
You cannot or could not endure that which she is capable. Of that I can guarantee.
And that’s O.K.
Here’s how I know this: Estimated Probability of Competing in Athletics Beyond the High School Interscholastic Level
You see…the odds are stacked against you.
So then, why do you think you can train like her, or any other elite level athlete on a daily basis and expect to do well in the long term?
If the most strenuous portion of your day, generally speaking, is taking groceries from your car into your home, you do not need to be able to stop a speeding locomotive or leap a tall building in a single bound to be healthy, happy and fit.
Again, we need simply to ask the question: “Who do I need to become to achieve MY goals (not someone else’s perception or interpretation of your goals) for a lean, sexy and more muscular physique?”
Here’s a simple three step process for answering the question:
- Stop “doing” so much exercising. Stop trying so hard to achieve something that, really, isn’t that hard to accomplish. Focused effort in a few key areas, a few times per week, can give you a really phenomenal physique. Really.
- Keep your routines simple, basic and short. There are really only 5 basic movement patterns in the body that you need to concentrate on: pressing, pulling, quad dominant, hip dominant and loaded carrying. If you’ll pick one movement per category and perform it 2 to 5 times per training session, 3 to 5 times per week, magic will happen. This is something we focus on daily at the Firestorm fitcamps!, by the way…
- Repeat the process for the rest of your life.
Don’t complicate it. Keep it short, sweet, simple and to the point. Simplicity is a wonderful thing.
There’s more, much more, to life than hanging out in a gym and exercising for hours on end…
The Dilemma: #3 – Self Imposed Stress Levels
Stress is a killer. We all “know” it, but sadly many of us do not take the necessary steps to circumvent its negative and deleterious effects upon our lives.
I did a video awhile back for my AMinuteOfPayne website entitled “Stress Is A Choice” in which I make the assertion that “stress”, or the feeling of being stressed, is a self imposed state of mind.
- You cannot buy it online
- You cannot purchase some at a local convenience store, grocery store or department store
- You cannot accidentally ingest it while eating or drinking
- You cannot “catch” it from another person in the same manner you would a cold or the flu (although you can be “infected” with it of sorts, through negative attitudes and influences from another)
Stress can cause a myriad of negative health responses in the body ranging from a loss of appetite, fat gain (or loss), a loss of mental, sexual and physical performance all the way up to death.
Sounds so inviting, doesn’t it?
For the purposes of this article, I’m relating stress merely to the expectation or perception of the physical appearance of a woman. More specifically to the individual’s own expectations and perceptions of herself.
Far too many women obsess over their appearance to the degree that it drives them a little bonkers. I’m not going to elaborate too extensively on this because frankly, if you will read articles and watch the video at the links I’ve provided you’ll draw the conclusion that you need to get a grip on this now, if not sooner.
The Fix: #3 – Self Imposed Stress Levels
As a male (and I’m an expert here as I’ve been one for nearly 54 years now) I can assure you that guys are merely concerned with two or three things about you:
- You find us interesting, funny and admirable
- You find us capable and have confidence in us and allow us to provide for you and to be your “knight in shining armor”
- You respect us
Sounds pretty selfish on our parts, doesn’t it? That’s because it is…
You see, guys are pretty simplistic when it comes to a woman. I’ve said it often and it bears repeating: A man wants to be a woman’s first love and a woman wants to be a man’s last.
How much of what I just shared pertains to you or your physical appearance?
Sure, your appearance matters…a little. But not in the way you may understand it.
And if your man truly cares for you, he will do things and act in ways that convey his love for you so that you will want to look good for him.
And if you’re married or dating the kind of guy who doesn’t act in such a manner, please get a copy of the book “Avoiding Mr. Wrong And What To Do If You Didn’t” by Steve Arterburn.
It might just save your life and marriage.
Dilemma #4: Nutrition
I’ve purposely saved the biggie for last, so that it is the last thing you read and, hopefully, remember the most…
I’m going to say this in as few words as possible, so the harshness of it is over quickly, and you can get on with your life. Your situation may be boiled down to one or more of the following scenarios.
- If you’re fat and unsatisfied with your appearance or health it’s because you either eat and drink too much food and/or calorie laden liquids or the quality of your food and drink is crap
- If you’re fat and unsatisfied with your appearance or health it’s because you have not fully taken responsibility for your situation and dealt with it appropriately. You have not come to terms with the fact that, on some level, you are either accepting things the way they are, condoning things as they are or promoting things as they are and thus keeping them that way.
- If you’re fat and unsatisfied with your appearance or health it’s because you do not have, or have not sought out, the effective and proper information and strategies that will get you where you want to be.
- If you’re fat and unsatisfied with your appearance or health it’s because you are making excuses as to why things are the way they are and not getting out of your comfort zone to do something about it. The definition of insanity is doing the same things, in the same manner, and expecting a different result.
- If you’re fat and unsatisfied with your appearance or health it’s because you are scared to take the steps necessary to make the changes you say you want.
I’m going to refer to Jim Rohn for the answer to all of these 5 scenarios:
“If you could do better, should you? It’s not a bad question to ask. If I could do better, should I? If I could read more, should I read more? If I could try more should I try more? If I could expand my business and help more people, make my enterprise more successful, should I do that? And there’s always the contest of how far to go and how much to do….If you’ve got one little successful business going, should you double it? Should you triple it? Do not let expansion absorb all of your time or take away time that you should be devoting to in your life: your business and your friendships and your family. It is a never ending challenge: priorities and reordering priorities in your life.”
Fix #4: Nutrition
I stated earlier that “The greatest exercise program in the world is the one you’ll do.” That also applies to nutrition. The greatest nutrition program in the world is the one you’ll follow.
Why do we as humans complicate something that should be so simple?
Are you aware that humans are the only creatures on earth that have to be taught how and what to eat?
I have a really simple explanation for you with respect to eating for complete health, fitness and wellness.
Eat it like God made it.
Thank you, I’m here all week…
Seriously. It’s that simple.
If it is a normally eaten food source that walks, swims or flies or grows on a plant, tree or in the ground…eat it.
The popular saying is that “If it grows on a plant, eat it. If it was made in a plant, avoid it.” The late great Jack Lallane is famous for saying, “If the hand of man has been upon it, avoid it.”
Here are my simple and effective “rules” for eating to live rather than living to eat:
- Eat single ingredient, whole foods, like God made them. An apple is an example of a single ingredient food. Not an apple pie…
- Portion sizes matter. You can determine your portion sizes by looking at your hand, and here’s where and how to do that: Your hand is your measuring cup
- Be mindful of your activities and what you’re doing when you do it. There are often several reasons why your fat loss efforts aren’t producing the results you want. Here are 4 good ones.
- Do not beat yourself up if you screw up. When you get a flat tire, you don’t trash the entire car and go buy a new one, do you? No, you change the tire and get back on the road. A screw up is merely a flat tire. Change it and get back on the road.
- Decide who it is you want to be and focus on that. The mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Focus on what you want, rather than what you do not want. Always tell yourself that which you do want, so that you have that positive mental image in your mind, and your powerful subconscious mind will orchestrate your habits (eating, sleeping, training, etc) to achieve it.
- Repeat these habits daily, for the rest of your life.
- Get a new perspective on food from my friend and colleague Molly Galbraith by reading this great article here: 7 Food Epiphanies
Here’s the bottom line:
You can have, do or be anything you want in life.
It’s totally at your command.
Whether or not you accept it and undertake that challenge is up to you.
Please decide today NOT to train so hard, diet so strictly and worry so much about your appearance, health and fitness.
And at least now you have some tools to help you along the way…
P.S. Here are some of the articles and sites I used to research this message…
Bureau Of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/home.htm
Stress and Fat Gain: http://stress.about.com/od/stresshealth/a/weightgain.htm
7 Food epiphanies http://mollygalbraith.com/2014/07/7-recent-food-epiphanies-that-set-me-free/
1 – http://www.builtlean.com/2010/08/03/ideal-body-fat-percentage-chart/