February 24, 2014

Taking charge

A big part of the fitness and diet industries is the idea that people can’t be trusted to look after their own bodies, that they need to hand over control to someone else to pull them into line and set them straight. Sometimes this is appealing – the idea that we can pay someone to take over where we feel like we’re failing. This comes at a big cost though, and it’s not just financial.

The more control we give over to others to decide how much we should be eating and when, the more we let someone else decide what type of exercise is worthwhile, the more we follow arbitrary rules that haven’t taken our individual differences and needs into consideration, the less skilled we become at reading the signs our own bodies send us about hunger, fullness, fatigue, pleasure and so forth.

Paying someone to assist you to honour your body is fine. If you have a dietitian who is working with you to help you get back on track to nutritious, mindful eating, or make more suitable meal choices for your needs, that’s wonderful. If you have no health problems but have someone telling you that you should eat every 3 hours whether you’re hungry or not, because that’s “the best way to eat”, you are giving away a lot of control, and stopping practicing a valuable skill.

If you have a trainer working with you to develop your strength if you’re interested in getting stronger, or your cardiovascular endurance if you’re interested in developing that, or helping you find exercises you enjoy or who just runs sessions you enjoy going to – great. If you have someone telling you not to bother with walking because it “doesn’t count” as real exercise, or forcing you to grit your teeth through an hour of running even though you hate running because everyone should be good at running, you’re giving away your autonomy.

Likewise our bodies. Too many of us, for too long, have let outside influences decide whether or not our bodies are “ok” or even beautiful, or strong, or ugly. I think it was Beyonce who said something along the lines of, if you believe them when they praise you, you’ll believe them when they diss you. The general gist is, if you let others be in charge of your evaluation of your body, you will be doing backflips trying to please people who can never be pleased, because you can never please everyone. You’ll be constantly checking, is it okay now? What about now? Do I need to fix this bit? And so on. Sound familiar?

So what if you decided your body is okay, what if you decided your body was more than okay? What if you made your body, as it is right now in this moment (and the next moment, and the next), *the* standard. What if YOU decided it was amazing and worth caring for and nourishing and luxuriating in? What if you decided that YOU get to decide what kind of exercise you want your body to do, whether your body is hungry or full, what new skills you want your body to learn, what your body enjoys doing and what leaves it feeling more energised?

My wish as a personal trainer is that all my clients form a stronger connection with their own bodies and honour what their bodies are telling them. Tired? Sleep more. Feeling sick? Cancel your session and rest. Feeling hungry? Eat more. Want a burst of energy? Let’s get moving. Want a stronger upper body? I can show you how we can work on that. I want my clients to work with me, to let me be their assistant rather than their boss. I can come up with exercises and programs for my clients, but I don’t want to tell them what they should want for their bodies, how their bodies should be feeling, what exercises they should enjoy. I want them to learn to be the guides to their own bodies and to know that I want to work with them to achieve just that. Some of my most rewarding experiences have been writing up a program with a client, or when a client tells me that they can do more of something, or want to do more of something, or feel ready for a challenge or feel like having a lighter session with more stretching today etc.

I want you to take back the power over your choices, your workouts, your eating and your body image, because the best guide to your own body is you.

Image credit: An amazing artist with great art for sale!

Image credit: An amazing artist with great art for sale!

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