One of the biggest reasons we struggle with food

In my last blog, changing the way we think about food, I discussed how the idea that healthy eating is a black and white issue leads to an all-or-nothing mindset, ignoring our bodies’ signals, a lack of self-trust, and a lot of food guilt and stress. (If you haven’t read it yet, you can jump over HERE real quick and do so.)

With this being such a big issue in our culture right now, I can’t help but wonder, how did we get here?

I’m sure there are multiple layers to such a complex thing as the human psyche. In my last post, I mentioned diets and food zealots, but what I think what it all comes down to is something I felt needed it’s own blog….

The Attainment of Perfection

“What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”

In college, my diet wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of what we think of today. I was simply really good at listening to my body. I had gotten to the point where it felt automatic and easy and I was maintaining a good physique. Then I was told that the best way to eat was to have 5-6 smaller meals every day and that you should never get to the point where you are feeling hunger.  So I decided to try it. Long story short, it worked for a little bit, but then my body stalled and after that, it reversed and I actually gained some weight. I did it for years, but it never got to the point where it felt easy for me and gradually I trained myself to almost completely ignore most of the signals my body was giving me. Now, I’m practicing and getting back to what works best for me.

So you might be wondering why I would ever change up my eating in the first place! Looking back, that’s what I had to ask myself and here’s what I came to:

I had swallowed the lie that if I could just find and stick to that perfect diet then I could have a perfect body. See, even though I was in probably the best shape of my life, all I could see were the “flaws” and the parts that still didn’t look like the picture perfect image I had in my head. If I’m being honest, I think that deep down I honestly believed I would be prettier and happier and that then, and only then, would I be really worthy of calling myself a fitness professional.

Yikes, right?? 😉

Like so many trainers that I know, when I first got into fitness, magazines seemed like one of the best and easiest places to get information. Well, when all you ever see in magazines is perfectly proportioned girls with glowing skin and not a dimple or blemish in sight, it’s hard not to think that it’s the norm and even easily achievable.

Here’s the thing about magazines:

*They use a few of the best pictures chosen from hundreds or even thousands of takes. Pictures that have been taken with the perfect lighting & angles, make up, professional stylists and photographers, and Photoshop to top it all off.

**Then they tell us what these women eat to look like that by giving us an example of ONE DAY. One day, folks. First of all, do you guys know anybody who eats the same thing every day?? If you do, you should tell them to go see a doctor because chances are they are probably really deficient in some important nutrients. Second of all, if I’m being featured in a magazine and they ask for my diet, you better believe that I’m going to give them an example of what my best day looks like!! (Celebrities are just people too, so you better believe that they struggle with self doubt and insecurities just like the rest of us.)

***Then they tell us that we can look like that if we can just eat these foods or do these 4 exercises every day.  food guilt

As if we’re a bunch of Mrs. Potato Heads that can just pick and choose how we want each part to look…. with just 4 simple moves, of course.

bikini body

 

I’m not trying to blame magazines for all our problems, but to think that we are not influenced by this stuff is only doing yourself a disservice.

“In 2014, Media Dynamics, Inc. revealed in a study that a typical adult’s daily consumption of media has grown from 5.2 hours in 1945 to 9.8 hours in 2014. Our media consumption per day… In that 10 hours a day that we’re in this media consumption, the study summarized that the number of ads adults are now exposed to across the five media outlets (these are the five major media outlets: TV, radio, Internet, newspaper, and magazine) is about 360 ads a day.” ~Matt Chandler

360 times a day we are exposed to ads that portray a very narrow definition of both beauty and health. Ads that tell us that we need to look a certain way to be able to wear a bikini and to be considered beautiful and for men to want to have sex with us. These lies are toxic to our souls and yet, in this day and age, it’s everywhere we look and it’s the very air we breathe. So, even though we know it’s an illusion, we know about Photoshop and we’ve seen the before and afters, we still secretly hold out hope that we will one day look like that. And we believe that the only way to get there is by eating these good foods and not those bad ones.

The truth is that this idea that there is a perfect diet that leads to the perfect body really only leads to discontentment. We spend years, if not a lifetime, on and off of different diets as we cycle between trying to achieve perfection and frustration when we can’t. Those who have attained it, soon realize it doesn’t deliver all the things they’d been promised. A perfect body doesn’t fulfill us, which is why 99% of women, no matter what shape or size, have body issues!

The media tries to tell us that health looks like a flat stomach, slim thighs and a firm butt. The truth is that, depending largely on your genetics and body type, the healthiest version of you might not be the leanest.

When a perfect body is the goal, your life will be enslaved to the never-ending search and marked by anxiety, frustration, and discontentment because it’ll never be enough. And one day you’ll look back and realize you spent way t0o much time focused on the wrong things and not enough time just enjoying food in a healthy way and learning to love and appreciate your body for everything that it does for you.

“Trying to be perfect is trying to fail.” ~Jill Coleman

Don’t worry, I’m not just going to leave you hanging. Check out part 3 HERE, for my personal insights and my definition of normal eating. 🙂

So You Wanna Look Like A Superhero… (part 2)

In part 1, I talked about why it’s unrealistic and detrimental to your body and mind to compare yourself to anyone or expect perfection, but what can we take away from our actor friends? The obvi answer is that while they might not look like the perfected version we see on screen or in pics, they do still have to get into good enough shape to look fit!  So what’s their secret?! The answers might surprise you….

When asked what she did to get in shape for Black Widow, Scarlett Johannson’s typical reply is, “I workout like a dude.”

To help Anne Hathaway build muscle and learn to ‘move and react like a cat,’ Anne’s trainer put her through ‘grueling’ routines of squats, lunges, strength training, kettlebells, and intensive circuit training, including ‘box jumps, pull-ups and handstand push-ups.’

Jennifer Garner was known for getting up early to get an hour of full body circuit training in before shooting began.

Jessica Biel’s trainer puts her through circuited weight training and they end with high intensity cardio work, like sprints.

superhero women

So let me break down for you what all of these ladies do to get into awesome shape.

They Strength Train.

You’ll notice, in the picture above, they all look great. That’s 4 different body types that all did strength training and none of them look “bulky”. Whether it’s body weight exercises or with weight, all of these ladies are doing one variation or another of the same big movements:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pushes (push ups, bench press)
  • Pulls (rows, pull ups)
  • Core work (planks)
  • Hinge movements (deadlifts, swings)

I’m gonna give you a trainer secret right here. Take a look at any athlete, actor, model, trainer, or fitness enthusiast’s workout and you’ll usually see a common thread woven through all their workouts. It’s these movements above and it’s because they work.

lifting

Jennifer & Jessica- lifting weights

Sure there’s always accessory stuff as well. Sometimes to zero in on specific areas, sometimes to keep it fresh and keep the body guessing. But the above exercises are the foundation. Get really good at them and you’ll be well on your way to a stronger, leaner, fitter version of yourself.

They Include High Intensity, Explosive Cardio.

Kettlebells, running sprints, metabolic circuits, these are all versions of high intensity, explosive interval training. Interval training is simply alternating between high and low intensity exercises. The idea is to jack up your heart rate with super higher intensity moves (like sprints, swings, or box jumps) for a shorter period of time, then you alternate between rest and really high intensity work. This is the ideal cardio to rev up your metabolism and fat burning potential.

This type of training is a great substitute for long slow cardio. Even though it’s more intense, it’s been shown that more people stick to it because it takes less time and is more effective in burning fat while keeping muscle tone and improving heart health.

Jessica Biel running sprints

Jessica Biel running sprints

 

They Do Full Body Circuits.

Splitting up the muscle groups and working a different one each day is a body building tactic. Since most actresses and women are just looking to get stronger and more toned, full body circuits is the more efficient way to train. Circuits usually consist of 4 to 10 exercises that you do back to back. Each exercise works a different body part and you move quickly from one exercise to the next with little rest.

The reason most trainers use this is because it’s an ideal way to get the heart rate up and improve strength and muscle tone all in a small amount of time. Again this has major fat burning potential by taxing the whole body and the cardiovascular system at the same time.

They Kept Their Nutrition In Check.

Rarely do you hear an actress talk about getting in shape without mentioning a strict nutrition plan. None of these ladies would have gotten the same results without watching what they ate. Now this goes back to what I was saying in part 1 about having a specific end goal. It is always easier to be really strict with your nutrition when there is an end in sight. (When you hear most actresses talk about it, it would seem they eat pretty healthy on a regular basis but they go really strict when preparing for a movie.)

The point is, if you want to look and feel fit, you must take a look at (and most likely change) your eating habits. Start by keeping a food journal. Nowadays that is much easier with all the apps out there like Calorie King or My Fitness Pal. Sure it’s still kind of inconvenient, but you don’t have to do it forever and it will help raise your awareness so that you can start figuring what needs to change. Most women will realize they are eating too many fats or carbohydrates and not nearly enough protein. But try it out for yourself and see!

In short, for best results your workouts should prioritize full body strength training. Shorten your cardio sessions but bump up the intensity. Start that food journal! And if you feel completely lost or feel like you’ve tried these things without any success, hire an expert and do what they tell you to do. (Trainers are another thing the Hollywood types have in common. ;))

There’s still no quick fix, even for the rich and famous. (OK, no natural quick fix.) But if you’re willing to work at it, you can look and feel amazing! Most importantly remember: Start small. Focus on one habit at a time and make it so easy you can’t fail!

Just another example of actresses lifting some legit heavy weights and not getting big or bulky. (Skip to 1:10-2:05 for the good part.)

So You Wanna Look Like A Superhero…

As some of you may know, I love a good comic book film. Recently I went to see the new Captain America movie. (Which was AWESOME, by the way.)  But I got to thinking: Nowadays, I often get clients who have goals centered around wanting to look like a certain movie star. I think it’s safe to say that most of us struggle to not compare ourselves to them, but it’s hard, right?! We see them everywhere we go!

cap america

But before you start using them as your standard, here are a couple things to keep in mind about actors:

1) They have serious motivation! Imagine yourself, scantily clad, up on a massive big screen, being seen by millions of people. Now that is some serious motivation.

2) They know months ahead of time when they are going to have to film even a 5 second shot in less clothing. So they have motivation and a specific timeline. They know exactly how long they have to get into tip top shape and they can be really strict because there is an end in sight. Notice all the articles titled: “How so-and-so slimmed down for the role of ____”?  This would imply that they don’t always look like that. And this problem is not limited to actresses anymore. When was the last time you saw a shirtless actor without a six pack?  The only difference is that most men will admit they don’t look like that all the time.

**Since we’re on the superhero theme, Henry Cavill said he did intense workouts and was on a super strict eating plan for 9 months – all for a 10-second shot without his shirt on. (Well, that and to pack on some muscle to be Superman.) When asked if he still looked like that, he laughed and said, “Of course not”.

3) It’s their job and they get paid well to do it. So they have both the resources and the access to trainers, nutritionists, chefs, nannies, and personal assistants if they so choose. ‘Ya know, all those things that make getting in shape that much easier.

4) They have a whole team of experts making them look their best. From clothing, hair, and makeup to  perfect lighting and photo & digital editing. In a recent interview, Chris Evans talked about how they shot him at certain angles to make him look bigger than he really is and how people are surprised by how small he is when they meet him in real life. When people started gushing over Eva Mendes post-baby body, she said: “We’re helped in those situations. I want women at home to know, you’re lit, you’re angled. So yes, it was a few months after the baby [was born], but with a lot of help.”

To further my point, take 20 seconds to read this article: Keepin’ It Real.

Now, I’m not trying to diminish the fact that these people still have to do the work. And many of them work to stay healthy whether or not they’re shooting a movie. But are these really the people we are comparing ourselves to?!

My point is not to cut all media out of our lives (that would be impossible… and kinda sad) or that it’s bad, but that we are responsible for the thoughts that go through our head. We need to start recognizing those creeping thoughts that sneak in while we’re watching that movie or looking through this magazine. We are inundated with these images of the perfect body everywhere we look. They look happy and fit and beautiful and often, without even realizing it, we start thinking that it’s the norm and the way we need to look in order to be beautiful and accepted and happy with our body.

So how do we fight it???

First, forget perfection. It’s just an illusion anyways. It’s estimated that 95-98% of women have cellulite and that 5% of women naturally possess the body type portrayed by the American media. So that perfect body, the one with no dimples and perfectly smooth skin with just the right amount of muscle tone and curves in all the right places, is simply not a reality for at least 95% of us. (You better believe that includes most actresses!) I think it’s time we wipe the slate clean and realize that health and beauty come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors.

funny

Shout out to all my “porcelain” friends out there! 😉

Keep perspective. That other 5% might not have to work as hard for their body, but they still got problems!! I know I’ve been guilty of this before. I get so focused on wanting to look a certain way, I start falling into the trap of thinking that a “perfect” body is THE end all be all. We start thinking we would be happier, more content, more beautiful, and that it would fix all of our self-esteem and relationship issues. Outer beauty does not equal happiness. If Hollywood isn’t the perfect example of this, then I don’t know what is.

Stop Comparing. Comparing yourself to others – whether it be it your friends, your coworker, or Jennifer Garner – is a battle you will never win. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, things that come very naturally to us and things that are constantly a struggle, things we love about our life, body, etc., and things we wish we could change.  But “comparison is the thief of joy,” as Theodore Roosevelt once said. It eats away at you. It never allows for contentment. And it can absolutely ruin one of the most treasured things we have in this world: relationships. Learn how to be happy for each others’ strengths and accept that they might not be yours.

I know all of this is easier said than done. One of my favorite things is a really good movie or TV show, so I still have to fight these thoughts too. But it starts with changing your mindset. Remember: your friends, your family, your spouse, they don’t love you because of your looks.

*At some point, good has to be good enough! Stop wasting time dwelling on the things you can’t change and start making a conscious effort to appreciate and be thankful for all the things you do have. Set aside a few minutes each day to think about or write down 3 things you’re thankful for. It’s actually been proven to make you a more thankful person.

It is not wrong to have goals. It is not wrong to want to change and improve yourself. (Otherwise, I’m really shooting my career in the foot right now. 😉 ) But how about we give ourselves a little grace. Rid yourself of the expectation of perfection. Start learning how to love yourself as you are right now and let’s show the world what real, fit women (and men!) look like!!

For more on this, check out:

Magic Mike stars talking about getting into shape

For more on how the stars DO get into kick butt shape, check out So You wanna look like a super hero (part 2)!

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Just in case you haven’t already seen it, here’s another example for you….