Did you ever have a ‘light bulb moment’ when you realised not everything in the world was all that it was cracked up to be? I had a big one a few years ago with the ‘health’ and fitness industry.
Grab a coffee and pull up a chair – this is going to be one of those posts….
I get migraines. Nasty little things. I get them often and they last for days. My head hurts, I can’t stomach food or fluid, my tolerance levels drop, and I generally feel shit.
So, this one day I got a particularly bad one. My meds didn’t touch it. The nausea and vomiting continued into the third day. The pain permitted no sleep. A trip to a Dr for an anti-emetic and some additional pain relief brought no relief.
By the 6th day I was wrecked.
And I had to drag my sorry self to work.
Just having a shower was a mission.
As I stepped out of the shower I caught sight of myself in the mirror, and I was shocked.
So dehydrated that my skin was lying right on top of my abs, almost stuck to them.
Muscles looked shrunken.
Face looked like bone with skin over it.
Dark circles for eyes.
I looked dreadful.
I looked exactly how I felt.
I got dressed.
Clothes that had fitted properly the week before were hanging off me, completing the ‘walking dead’ look.
I got my shit together and drove up to the gym, taking little sips of water as I drove and keeping my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to pull over anywhere to throw up.
My legs shook climbing the stairs into the gym. I had to stop halfway up to rest.
I got to reception and the receptionist said to me, “you look amazing Margs, have you lost some weight?”
I was so shocked I was speechless.
On the gym floor another trainer came up to me and told me I was looking fantastic.
A gym member made a point of coming over and asking me ‘what was I doing’ because it was clearly working and that I looked great…
Somewhere during the course of the morning my own trainer at the time – Dave – caught sight of me and came over.
“What’s up mate, you look like shit.”
That statement was the sound of the lightbulb flicking on.
Honesty is rare in this industry.
Money is made by promising fast results and by pushing the notion that weight loss by any means possible is ok.
Even if it means sacrificing your health.
Year after year I have seen damage done by this industry manipulating people’s insecurities just to make a quick buck.
The starvation diets.
The message that you are not good enough the way you are. That you need to be fixed or changed.
That you could be good enough if only you were somehow different.
At the time this incident happened I was surrounded by people – trainers and gym members – who were obsessed with leanness. It was all about the body-fat percentage, the number on the callipers.
The message being pushed was that you could always be leaner…. and you should be….
And handily enough there was always a box full of expensive supplements that could help with that.
Isn’t it funny that the focus on the whole health side of things – you know the bit that dictates your quality of life – just got lost along the way.
And isn’t it also funny how when health issues – both physical and mental – manifest as a direct result of these manipulated obsessions over numbers, the blame is assigned to the person who has been sucked in to the vortex, and not to the industry that has made a business out of convincing people that they are not ok.
It was around this time that I heard a trainer yelling at his client on the gym floor in front of a gym full of trainers and members – because that week she hadn’t dropped her BF%.
Because she was making him look bad.
Because it was her fault.
Because she was eating too many carbs.
Because she had eaten peas for dinner.
My lightbulb moment was really more of an abrupt reinforcement of a core belief.
Yeah sure – have some things about yourself that you want to work on.
You want to lose some weight? Cool.
You want to drop some fat? Great.
You want to build muscle? Nice.
You want to get stronger? Awesome.
You want to develop an aspect of your fitness? Fantastic.
You do not have to hate anything about yourself in order to do any of those things.
And if you support your health first and foremost, a healthy and maintainable body composition will happen as a side effect. I’ve said it before and I’ll no doubt say it again – you are your own best creation, a work of art. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to chisel away at what you want, you’ve got your whole life to get it.
Honestly – if you want something it is worth both the effort and the time it takes to get there.
This is not glamorous.
Honesty rarely is.
But I made a commitment that day to be boringly, uncompromisingly honest with people when it came to the hows and whys of progress.
Do the work.
And if you do see me on the gym floor looking like a budget extra in a zombie movie, please, for the love of everything that is pure in this world, don’t tell me that I’m looking ‘good’.
– Margs O’Farrell