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The “Image” of Health and Fitness

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I’m sure you’ve seen them too…

The magazines, posters, memes and other images of what a healthy and fit person looks like.

You see incredibly lean and muscular people wearing next to nothing with sayings and advertisements reminding you that…

…you don’t look like these individuals – but you should.

And if you don’t, then there must be something wrong with you…and it’s time to fix it right away.

You should buy this product and do that workout if you want to look this good. In fact, if you do, maybe you’ll even find a date…you know – someone who would have never given you the time of day otherwise.

Sound familiar?

Does it make you feel bad about the way you look in comparison to the models in these photos?

Because to be honest…I personally don’t feel that these images have anything to do with health and fitness. They have to do with modeling.

Health and fitness doesn’t mean you have to be a size two, nor does it mean that you have to be a chiseled looking god.

So what does health and fitness mean?

This is a good question to ask, so I’ll give you my perspective.

Defining Health and Fitness

According to Merriam-Webster.com, the definitions for both health and fitness are:

Health

  • the condition of being well or free from disease
  • the overall condition of someone’s body or mind
  • the condition or state of something

Fitness -

  • the quality or state of being fit
  • the capacity of an organism to survive and transmit its genotype to reproductive offspring as compared to competing organisms; also :  the contribution of an allele or genotype to the gene pool of subsequent generations as compared to that of other alleles or genotypes

Now I have taken the liberty to check out a few other sites that offer definitions of both of these words and I can assure you that I found nothing that alluded to the concept that health and fitness meant you had to look like a swimsuit model, or Michaelangelo’s “David”.

Health and Fitness, quite simply means, being healthy and fit.

It has more to do with the quality of the food we eat and the ability to physically keep up with an active lifestyle while minimizing the effects that stress and illness have on the body due to unhealthy habits than it does with fitting into a small piece of designer clothing.

So with this being said, you may be wondering…

Does this mean that it is wrong or bad to want to feel a sense of pride about our appearance? 

No. As long as this is put in its proper perspective.

But because we are bombarded with constant reminders of what society considers attractive and beautiful, it can easily blur the lines between true physical health, and an image.

This is where clarity is needed.

The Image of Health and Fitness vs. Being Healthy and Fit

Since I have already gone over what it means to be healthy and fit, let’s discuss the image of health and fitness and its effects on the human perspective.

When we watch a tell-a-vision show or a movie, flip through magazines or see any other form of visual stimuli, we are taking in information.

If there is enough support by society to back up the validity of the information being dispensed at any given time, we typically don’t question it, but we do tend to believe it and follow along with it instead.

And since all information tells a story, if it’s presented in the form of non-fiction material that we should all live by, then we take it as the truth and make decisions based on this perspective.

So in regard to health and fitness, when you see a photograph of someone wearing revealing (if any) clothing in a setting that tells the story that if you do such and such, you’ll look like this, it’s creating an illusion…one that may cause more harm than good.

The reason is because when we think that being fit and healthy means looking like a runway model or professional sports figure, we think this means we need to look the way they do; so we therefore set expectations of ourselves that may not be realistic for us as individuals.

And if our self-worth is low and we measure ourselves against an ideology that isn’t necessarily an accurate depiction of living a life of well-being, but is instead painting a false picture of it…it can lead to making decisions about our diet and exercise programs that are based out of a place of emotional turmoil…which could lead to eating disorders, fad dieting and unsafe fitness practices that cause injuries.

This is the negative drawback to the image of health and fitness.

Now am I saying that photos of perfectly sculpted humans are a bad thing in and of themselves?

No, not at all.

In fact, they’re fine, and can even be used as a tool for motivation for someone who doesn’t base their self-worth on them.

I also want to mention that I am not knocking the image of health and fitness in any way, but I do feel it’s important to be made aware that there is a difference between the reality of a lifestyle, and its visual representation.

The former focuses on the big picture, which leaves room for the imagination and involves all of its related components (such as stress levels, emotional health, quality of relationships, etc). The latter gives an impression, and can be misinterpreted based on a persuasive form of advertising offering limited information (such as the model’s nutrition habits, genetics or how much time they spend working out in order to look the way they do), and isn’t necessarily realistic or doable for everyone.

The truth is that one can be perfectly healthy, but may not look the part.

I personally know of several people who take excellent care of themselves, exercise regularly, eat a well balanced diet, have an uplifting and productive outlook on life and are in otherwise great health.

They may not all look like models, but they are real life shining examples of what well-being is really all about.

I have also known individuals who could have easily been featured on the cover of any health and fitness magazine, but practiced unhealthy habits and suffered from negative self-image issues regardless of what they looked like.

You also need to remember that photo imaging is a normal practice that influences the mindset of the public…and it’s all based on a manipulated illusion.

So while there is nothing wrong with using the image of health and fitness in and of itself as a form of inspiration, it’s important to be cognizant of the negativity that can occur within one’s mind and therefore, behaviors – unless this is taken with a grain of salt, and not used as a tool to measure self-worth…

…or as an objective truth about what well-being truly looks like.

How do you use the image of health and fitness? 

Featured Image credit goes to Brainyquotes.com

Why You SHOULDN’T Copy People When They Exercise

A "behind the neck" lat pulldown

I’ve seen some interesting things lately while spending time at the gym.

Now to be honest, I don’t work out in gyms very often, and I don’t belong to one currently.

However, since I’m able to go as a guest with some of my family members from time to time, I have to say that I’ve recently noticed a few people doing things that not only made me cringe because they were dangerous…but rendered further proof of why it isn’t a good idea to copy people when you watch them exercise.

Unless of course you know what you’re doing – which most do NOT.

Why It Isn’t Wise to Copy People When They Exercise

Did you happen to notice the image I chose for this post? It’s a picture of a man doing what is called a “behind the neck/head lat pull down exercise”.

If you look closely, you’ll notice that his anterior delts (front part of the shoulder) are hyper-extended because he is bringing the bar down behind his neck as opposed to bringing it to his chest – the way this exercise is meant to be performed.

This may not seem like a big deal… unless you know better.

And if you do happen to know better, you’ll see that it isn’t a good idea because doing this exercise this way not only places unnecessary strain on the shoulder joint, but has also caused some pretty nasty injuries to people because of the possibility of hitting your upper spinal column with the bar.

Now have I seen people do behind the neck pull downs over and over again?

Yep.

Some of them appeared to be in pretty good shape too.

In fact, if I didn’t know any better, and was new to working out and needed some ideas…then I, like many others, would seek to copy those who looked like they’ve been at it for a while.

And if that one example wasn’t enough…I happened to have noticed a couple of other “don’ts” going on in the gym this week, such as:

  • Someone doing walking lunges when they looked like they should have been doing a modified stationary lunge instead (since they were uncoordinated and unable to do the exercise with proper form).
  • A perfectly healthy/fit/muscular looking man performing a chest fly exercise on a fly/reverse fly machine with his arms severely hyper-extended in the starting position (another shoulder injury waiting to happen).
  • People running on the treadmill while holding on to the handles (because they were running faster than they could naturally keep up with).

So while you may now have some idea of why it isn’t wise to copy other people’s workouts, one question you may have is…

Does This Also Include Copying Personal Trainers or Fitness Professionals?

Yes it does…and there are a few reasons for this:

  1. Not all gyms/ fitness facilities require their staff to be well-trained and educated in the field of exercise. There is a lot to consider when doing certain workouts – and unless you know for a fact that the trainer you are watching is well-qualified, you really have no idea if they’re doing anything you should be copying.
  2. Even if the trainer you are watching knows exactly what they are doing and are doing it correctly, you don’t know for sure that you are in the right physical condition to get away with copying their exercises. For example – if you’ve ever watched any of the personal trainers at the gym you belong to engage in their own workout (as I have plenty of times) – then you’ll notice that their routines are pretty intense. They’ve been at it for years, they know what they’re doing AND they knowingly (and willingly) assume any and all risks that go along with the potential for injuries. Can you say the same thing about you?
  3. If you are watching them train someone else and you feel compelled to copy what you see them instruct their client to do, it’s important to understand that there is a reason they chose specific exercises for the individual they are working with that may not be appropriate for you. However, you can always walk up and politely inquire about what they are doing and perhaps consider scheduling a consultation with them.

So What’s the Best Way to Get Safe and Structured Workout Ideas?

That’s a good question.

While there is no problem observing others as they do their exercises, it’s a good idea to gain some knowledge before attempting them yourself.

Now, I also realize that not all exercises necessarily look harmful and in fact, some may be harmless to copy. But the truth is that you really don’t know if following what someone else is doing is right for you.

So on that note, some tips you can follow are…

- If you are working out at the gym and there are machines around, make sure that a qualified member of the staff has taught you how to use the equipment properly and then be present and cognizant while doing the exercises on your own.

- If you happen to see someone doing something that looks interesting, make a mental note to do some investigating on your own and see whether or not there is a proper demonstration out there to teach you how to do the exercise correctly. You can also ask one of the staff members what they think…and consider booking a session or two with one of the trainers just to teach you how to do a few things using proper form.

I will also recommend visiting the video libraries of the NSCA and Sparkpeople.com for proper exercise instruction and technique.

Just Be Mindful and Intentional

Your best bet when it comes to your own exercise program is to be conscious about everything you do…and question everything you see others do.

If you see someone doing something that doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t. Know that just because the person performing the exercise in question appears to be in good shape doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing.

“Monkey see monkey do” doesn’t belong in a fitness routine unless you are very well-informed about the potential risks that accompany an exercise program…and you are willing to assume any of such risks at any given time.

You’ll be glad you came across this advice.

Do you ever feel compelled to copy what others do when they exercise? What are your thoughts on this?

How Important is Attitude In Weight Loss?

Waiting for his meal

If you step back for a moment and allow yourself to take a good, hard look at the reality of the situation Humanity is in…perhaps you’ll see what I see.

And what I see are a LOT of solutions to a problem that only seems to be getting bigger and bigger as the days, months and years pass.

Why is this?

How is it possible that in the presence of so many weight loss products and programs that society is, and forgive me for being so blunt, progressively getting fatter?

Well, I have my take on it.

And it isn’t as black and white as “eat this, don’t eat that and go exercise”.

No. It’s more than that.

Actually there are several factors at play…but today, I want to focus on attitude…as it plays an extremely important part in the overall well-being of all of us – and naturally spills over into our weight issues.

The Role of Attitude in Weight Loss

The reason I am in a position to discuss attitude in regard to weight loss and healthy living is because I have personally lived it.

I know first hand what a lousy attitude can create, and I know what an enthusiastic one can as well.

I had spent years (ok, fine decades) of my life in a pretty negative frame of mind.

I was in a constant state of internal resistance to my own body and as a result, I was extremely unbalanced. So given that I lived in a state of negativity, I’d have to say that it came as no surprise that it resulted in my inability to create and maintain a lifestyle that focused on well-being.

And when it comes to weight loss and weight management, such negativity is a disadvantage and can sabotage even the best efforts and behaviors.

Negativity and It’s Relationship to Well-Being

Now before I continue…I just want to say that I’m not promoting the new age concept of “ignore the negative and it will somehow magically go away”.

However, when we wallow in a state of negativity, we are only focused on everything we don’t want or like about our reality…whether it’s our bodies, relationships…and everything else.

That’s not to say that it isn’t of utmost importance to be completely honest about our negative circumstances.  This is because acknowledging them, accepting them and developing the ability to become emotionally Intelligent about our current situations allows us to see the Truth in the overall cause of the results we’re living with…and this is an important tool when it comes to making a change.

If you’re looking to lose weight, but you’re entertaining thoughts that sound like…

  • “I REALLY want to eat this, but I’m fat so I can’t”
  • “OMG I hate exercise – and my trainer…but I have to get through this workout.”
  • “I hate my body. I hate my thighs/ chest/ jiggly arms/ droopy butt/ belly, etc.”
  • “I keep doing the right things but I’m still not losing weight. This doesn’t work.”
  • “There’s nothing good to eat. This whole thing sucks.”

…then you’re creating more of everything you don’t want. You are focused on, and literally marinating in your own self-hate. In this internal environment, there is no room for anything else to exist.

Even if you did make some progress, it wouldn’t be enough to make you happy because you would be too absorbed in the dark thoughts to be able to recognize any of the positive changes taking place.

So let’s say that you’ve been ‘dieting and exercising’ for a month. If you hate the process, and yourself…then you could have lost 8-10 pounds…but in your opinion, that may not be nearly enough.

And if you watch any of those popular weight loss shows promoting up to 30 pounds of weight loss in a week (or even a month)…then your own ‘slow’ progress would only add to your frustration.

Under these circumstances, you are likely to either overtrain and undereat, or give up altogether…costing yourself the very thing you want because of your state of mind and overall perspective.

What Does a Positive Attitude Create?

Now when I talk about a positive attitude, I’m not promoting fluff and denial of what actually is.

A positive attitude in regard to weight loss recognizes the current state of things as they are…looks to identify the cause…and then makes changes from a place of accepting personal responsibility in one’s own participation of the results in their life.

They would see how the thoughts they have entertained throughout their lives worked against them…and they would seek balance by replacing the old thoughts with new ones that didn’t contradict the old ones, but did offer a realistic solution.

Such thoughts would sound like this:

  • “Of course I may have work to do. It took me a long time to get to where I am right now, and it may take some time to heal the damage. But I’m off to a great start.”
  • “Slow and steady really does win the race” (because it really does).
  • “I can have everything I want in the presence of balance. I am in the position I’m in now because I was unbalanced…and I’m thankful that I’m fixing that mindset now.”
  • I love the fact that I’m developing muscle underneath the fat that’s coming off. I can’t wait to see the body I am working to develop…and it makes me want to keep it up.”
  • “I feel stronger and have more energy and vigor. It’s so cool that I can do 20 squats now when a month ago I could barely do 1.”
  • “I LOVE that I’m open to new foods and recipes. I am now enjoying foods that I rejected in the past because I was stuck in a rut of eating the same unhealthy crap day in and day out.”
  • “I love preparing my own foods…and I’m saving a lot of money by not ordering out all the time.”

These are all thoughts that focus on well-being. In the presence of your efforts…the negative state of mind will cause you to resent yourself, the process and life in general.

And naturally, the positive attitude, while in full acceptance of your current reality, focuses on the benefits of what self-respect and healthy living bring to your life.

The difference…really makes a difference.

Do you See the benefits of shifting your mindset? How do you think you can get your thoughts to work for you instead of against you?

3 of my FAVORITE Healthy Living Documentaries

FF Doc Post

Watching documentaries is one of my favorite things to do in my spare time.

Anything that deals with healthy living, human consciousness and our current state of affairs are all topics that I enjoy putting my attention into.

And since the three aforementioned topics are all related to one another, if there’s a film that discusses what factors influence our habits and therefore, our overall lifestyle – then I feel it’s worth recommending.

We Become What We Focus On The Most

This is pretty much how it works.

Whatever we focus on expands (although this doesn’t mean that ignorance is bliss).

What it does mean, however, is that if there is something we want to do or become, then it only makes sense to surround ourselves with material that complements it.

So today, I’m going to share a few of my favorite documentaries that discuss the issues humanity faces today that have gotten in the way of obtaining the healthy lifestyles we all deserve while offering insights and ideas of how to achieve well-being on all levels.

Hungry For Change

HFC

Hungry For Change, created by the founders of Food Matters.tv, is an entertaining and educational documentary that focus on overall well-being as opposed to the simple topic of diet and exercise.

In this 90 minute film, you will be exposed to many of the secrets in the food, healthcare and pharmaceutical industry that play a huge role in the ill health that Humanity faces on a day to day basis.

There are a lot of well-known and credible health and wellness experts and truth seekers being interviewed – and all of them have their own wisdom to share with us.

And many others.

I personally LOVED this film and highly recommend it to anyone seeking the truth about the current situations that govern the overall health of society and want to know how to find a way to experience wellness for a lifetime.

What makes food addictive, how we form our habits and the effects that certain ingredients have on our overall health are just a few of the discussions that take place.

Check out the trailer.

The Cure Is (You)

The Cure Is

The Cure Is is another inspiring documentary that follows the lives of three cancer survivors as they speak about the role that health, wellness and spirituality played in their recovery.

The tone throughout the movie is very warm…and it goes into the overall cause(s) that contribute to the sickness we experience – and poses the question…

Do we need to wait until we experience disease (dis-ease) until we pay close attention to our health and how we treat ourselves?

The internal environment we live in (our thoughts and emotions) play just as important of a role as do our physical activities and habits.

Like Hungry For Change, the film includes an impressive list of authors, speakers, scientists and practitioners of health and wellness – all sharing a variety on information that incorporates the necessity of being well in mind, body and spirit.

You may recognize such names as:

And others.

It’s a magnificent film…and encourages the viewer to make well-being the overall focus of life…which naturally spills into the effects of weight management.

Here’s the trailer.

Genetic Roulette

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This documentary isn’t quite like the other two that I shared with you, however, the message is an important one that needs to be brought to everyone’s attention.

Genetic Roulette is an award winning film by Jeffrey M. Smith, a leading public health advocate and author of the bestselling book “Seeds of Deception”,

It discusses the topic of genetically modified organisms (gmos).

So what are gmos?

Well, the short answer, quoted right from the Non-GMO Project website, is:

“GMOs, or ‘genetically modified organisms,’ are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.”

The film goes on to discuss the role that gmos have quite possibly played in several of the health issues that humans (and pets) suffer from today while encouraging you to be mindful about gaining awareness of the ingredients in your food.

Unfortunately, genetic modification has been going on for quite some time now.

However, our awareness of it was relatively limited due to the lack of publicity by the mainstream media.

Thankfully, this documentary has picked up a large audience and as a result, it has sparked a huge movement in the demand for labeling foods containing gmos in an effort to create a well-informed public.

I highly recommend watching it – as it will leave you in a state of being that will give rise to wanting to practice mindful eating habits for the sake of your health and the health of your children…which help in regard to weight loss in and of itself.

Here’s the trailer.

There Are Many Others Out There

I’ll most likely write a sequel to this post…as there are several other documentaries that I can recommend. Today, however, I decided to focus on the ones that have made the biggest impact on me so far.

And since this site is about you – I’ll ask you to recommend any that you have seen and love in the comments section and I’ll add them in to the follow up post.

Do you like to watch documentaries about healthy living? Which ones have made the biggest impact on you? 

5 Simple Workouts for Busy Moms

mom exercises

 

A woman’s life is not as easy as it looks. She has to juggle between family, cooking, meeting the CEO and handling the groceries. The demands and constraints of these corporate employees, teachers and nursing women make it difficult for them to find out time for fitness. However, a little planning with some creativity can help even the busiest mothers sneak fitness into their daily routine. Here are five easy workouts, which can help the busy women feel stronger and look better in just a few weeks. [click to continue…]