In the 4 years I have been involved in the fitness industry to some capacity, I have run the gamut in the populations I have worked with. I started out with kids and youth fitness, moved to a blend of youth and adult fitness, was strictly adult fitness (personal training and group exercise), and have now found myself predominantly working with high school athletes while doing activities that I truly enjoy for my own personal experience and fitness—trail running, bouldering, walks with friends, and high-intensity training. When personal training in any capacity, a trainer is not just involved in the fitness aspect of their clients’ lives, but nutritionally involved and personally invested as well. I have learned a lot about nutrition and the beauty of the uniqueness we each have. I’ve compiled the top 4 lessons I have learned while working with people and helping them to experience the results they want (I consider myself a part of this group, as I’ve become my own greatest experiment and lesson):
1) “Diets”—South Beath, Atkins, any “diet” that creates dependency on a company to supply needs actually be the difference, or is depriving of nutrition your body needs to function simply aren’t practical or sustainable and won’t last. If you are involved in a “challenge” or “program” that says “try our product for 40 days and watch your physique transform” it is most definitely a marketing ploy intended to create dependency on a product. If it doesn’t work, despite it being promoted with the promise that it will, you become discouraged and immediately assume the problem is with you, not the product. Let me dispel that myth real fast:
2) Everyone’s physiology is different, therefore everyone’s nutritional needs are different. I had the privilege of working with Inkeri Young (owner of HealthyGrowingKids (http://healthygrowingkids.com/) and fat-loss coach extraordinaire) for about a year and a half. I cannot begin to tell you how much I learned about fat-loss, hormones, and nutrition through her and doing various programs and projects that forced me to learn. The 2 things most emphasized were hormonal responses to your food intake and learning how your body metabolizes food. The terms were “sugar burner” and “muscle burner”—essentially, does your body tend to prioritize burning protein or carbohydrates for fuel? Based upon these tendencies, one can better understand their macronutrient needs for function and fat-loss. For the longest time I tried to throw myself in the category of needing a low-carbohydrate intake to lose fat because it worked for 95% of those with whom I interacted—but it didn’t work for me. I was so frustrated and gaining fat despite crazy workout schedules and doing what worked for so many others—not that I was not getting instruction to make lifestyle changes and increase my carbohydrate intake, I just didn’t believe they would make a difference because of what was effective for everyone else. I have since moved to Virginia and so much in my life has changed—stress levels, lifestyle, nutrition, and most importantly learning where my identity is truly found and that is in Christ. My value is not in my body fat percentage—it has just made doing the things I love more or less work. I have learned that I do, in fact, need to eat more carbohydrates to function well (brain fog, anyone?) and attain the athletic body that I had lost over the course of a couple of years. My value is NOT in that, and I cannot stress that enough, but it enables me to do the things I truly enjoy better, and that is of great value to me.
3) One meal didn’t transform your physique or life for the worse, it will not transform your physique or life for the better. If you’re eating clean every meal during the week and only allot yourself one “cheat meal” but the group dinner on a Tuesday involves (gasp) tortilla chips and salsa, pasta, baklava, etc. don’t fret. Your life will be okay, you will not gain 8,000 pounds, and you can get back to eating clean at your next meal. I’m not saying that it’s okay to make it a practice of eating whatever you want whenever you want and having “cheat meals” at every meal, especially if you have specific nutritional needs, functional goals, and physique goals, but one meal didn’t make the difference to get you to where you are and it will not be the only difference in getting you to where you want to be. Where you are right now is the result of consistent decisions made over time. By making one good decision at a time and keeping a right perspective, you will attain your goals in time.
4) Being skinny does not mean being happy. One of my best friends has been involved in the modeling industry for a while and we frequently discuss what an industry of sadness it is. These are some of the planet’s most beautiful bodies, and yet there is an emptiness there that having physical beauty cannot fill. I cannot think of one super lean client that I have had that has told me “I’ve reached the end! I am happy because I am skinny and gorgeous!” False, false, false. If this is not something they are striving for, it’s something else! We are always looking to fill a void that desires joy and happiness with things that simply do not deliver. Being lean will not bring you happiness, and if you believe it will, you are sorely mistaken. Yes, it makes life easier in some aspects, but it will not leave you completely content. Your body is the vehicle in which YOU exist and live, it is not your complete existence or life.
5) You are intentionally and uniquely created to be you. While God spoke the world into existence (this sounds utterly ridiculous unless this God is truly that powerful that He can speak and things happen–how cool it would be to even speak my favorite coffee drink into existence in the morning, let alone the stars!!) He fashioned man with his hands–humanity has God as its fashioner.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”-Psalm 139:13-16
Who you are, what you do, what you enjoy, what you look like, what happens to you–not a single one of those things was a surprise to God. Your body is more than the result of DNA–the timing of your creation and birth specifically had the very DNA He wanted you to have. I have battled for years with having a tall, athletic build. Why in the world do I have this body that can be so intimidating yet had tremendous value on the athletic field and strength for daily tasks (my housemate and I moved an entire household of furniture in 2 hours without needing a guy to help). I never felt girly or pretty like I thought I should, and therefore never saw value in myself. It is only recently that I’ve begun to really discover the intentional beauty of how God created me to function, and it’s unlike the beauty that anyone else has been created with–who am I to compare myself with another of His beautiful creation when their intended purpose is drastically different than mine? Big shoulders, big hips, tall, short–your body was intentional, your personality was intentional, your life is intentional.
If you are struggling to see that, ask God for wisdom. He will give it! 🙂 You are more beautiful and loved than you can see.
I am looking forward to continuing on this journey of health and wellness with all of you. Feel free to comment or e-mail me at: SagaciouslySarah@gmail.com