Myth #1: Keep it Simple and it Will Be Easy.
Quick fixes for complex issues are everywhere. Two-step fitness guides guarantee weight loss and spit nonsense like, “cut out sugar and you’ll lose forty pounds!” The biggest health myth is this: Healthy living is easy.
If it’s so damn easy, the wellness industry wouldn’t be worth, cha-ching, $4.2 Trillion. The truth is healthy living is really really fucking hard. Every day will be hard. Weights over TV is hard. Dragging yourself to a psychiatrist is hard. Eating a salad instead of spaghetti is hard (I choose the spaghetti every damn time.) I mean… spaghetti is delicious. How can I give it up? Nor should you, if you want my truth.
Here’s the problem with the ads and shows that say fitness is simple. When it gets hard, as it inevitably does, I feel dumb for not sticking to that super-duper-easy routine.
How come the fitness model lost three hundred pounds and I can’t get through an hour-long aerobics class? (BTW, hour-long cardio classes are slow terrible deaths.) Plus, most of us will never have a reality tv reveal and win back that ex that called us fat and crazy. So what does work?
The hard truth? Wellness is a personal journey. What works for me might never work for you. What works for the Instagram model and the reality tv star might never work for you. Each of us is a unique being with different bodies and different genes and different stories. But, in case it helps, I’ll tell you what does work for me.
This is my wellness mantra: The harder choice is the best one.
Every time I’m faced with a decision that impacts my health, I know the harder choice is better for me. So, from time to time, when will and luck and my mental health align, and the day is on my side, I sigh and make the spinach salad knowing the small choices count, but I dollop on parmesan and slick it with olive oil and squeeze fresh lemon juice all over. Because, I’m an indulgent mo**fu**er at heart.
Myth #2: No pain. No gain. Focus on the End Goal.
How much do I hate thee?
My Dear Fitness Ad,
You are selling women with perfect hair and no sweat. Let me tell you something, keep your gains. I’ll pass on on your brand of self-loathing pain.
Let me count the ways I hate thee.
First, I hate thee for making us believe we can look like you.
You don’t even exist! You are one second–an instant–that is nowhere close to the whole–of a woman that is 1% of us, and in no way representative of all women AND hundreds of hours of edits and oils and craft that all work together to compel us to buy a product that we don’t need.
Second, I hate thee for touting a new body on your unattainable finish lines.
Health is LIFELONG. We can’t stop. We shouldn’t stop. End dates perpetuate the misconception that once you get there, once you reach your goal, it’s over.
I got there. I lost the baby weight. Guess what? It wasn’t over. Guess what? I still had body issues. I even won a global fitness challenge. Guess what? I often eat shit like cheeseburgers and cake and pizza and I put on extra pounds and skip workouts, and yeah, my jeans don’t fit the same and I hate the fatted parts of my thighs, stretch marks, and the cellulite, and my worn-out, long nipples…. and I think, if only, if only, if only, I could get it together I’d finally look like the Kardashian sisters. Guess what?
Fuck body goals! I commit and recommit. Choose and re-choose. I accept my own ignorance. I accept the constancy of change in the body and the self. I accept that what I know and believe now will likely change next year, five years from now, and I sure hope it’s different in 10 years.
I choose to define health for myself and to accept when I can’t/don’t/won’t make healthy choices, because healing the self isn’t just about the body.
Healing starts with the heart. Healing takes up residence in the mind and the spirit. If your self-love is sturdy enough and your luck even sturdier, then healing may extend to the body.
Don’t forget this: your health may be outside your control. No amount of sit-ups can remedy cancer. Don’t assume that your story is the same as everyone else’s.
True myth? We’re not dealt the same cards.
Hard truth? One size NEVER fits all.
Advice you don’t need? You know your body better than anyone else. You assign dates. You create a calendar. Maybe your calendar says that on Fridays all you have to do is stand up. Maybe your calendar says that Monday you’ll walk down the street. Your calendar is yours and yours alone.
Dear Fitness Industry:
Go to hell. Keep your before and after pictures. I love my before. Keep your pain and your gain and your abs and your fixed dates and your goals. I love my after too. I don’t need your forever and your never and your ever after.
I’ll keep my life, my story, my body, and I’ll learn how to love my body and my whole self as it is now, and if I’m lucky enough to age, I’ll renew this promise to myself until fat and wrinkly parts sag off every part of me. I will love my body as it is – and in every new iteration of it – no matter the weight and dress size and tautness and perkiness (or lack thereof ;).