Healthy Eating

The Ugly Side of Health and Fitness

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There’s an Ugly Side to health and fitness most don’t realize exists — until they experience it for themselves. That’s what happened to me, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

Lose fat and like how you look in (and out of) clothes. Improve your health markers (e.g., blood profile, BMI, fasting glucose). Increase your energy levels.

In short, health and fitness is about helping us look better, feel better, be better.

We all want these things, right? And they’re sold as promises of what we’ll achieve when we follow a diet and workout program as we commit to improving our health and fitness (or simply build the body we want). But there’s an Ugly Side to health and fitness. It’s not something most are aware exists when they embark on a new regimen, but many encounter it on their journey. Some baggage, if you will, that can tag along with the desired goals listed above.

Admittedly not everyone will get a close up view of the Ugly Side of health and fitness, but I’ve stared it in the face, and I know myriad women have too. This is the side no one warns you about, but you may unfortunately discover for yourself. Much of the popular information cloaked as “health and fitness” dominating the internet and popular magazines needs to come with a warning. A Consumer Beware disclaimer, if you will:

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WARNING: Side effects from this one-size-fits all fad diet and brutal workout schedule may include guilt, shame, self-loathing, decreased self-esteem, spending obscene amounts of time working out and thinking about food, decreased energy levels, binge eating, obsessive habits, and other undesirable consequences.

I might add: if you experience these or any other Ugly Sides of health and fitness, stop what you’re doing immediately and embrace a saner, simpler approach (more on this later).

At one point I was naive. I didn’t see how restricting foods and proudly labeling some as “good” and others as “bad” could do any harm. Revolving my life around workouts was healthy! So what if I missed out on parties and making memories; I was disciplined, damnit. The fact that I was exhausted all the time simply meant I was working harder than everyone else. It was a badge of honor! However, slowly but surely, I came to realize much of this was the Ugly Side of health and fitness, and it had me clenched firmly in its grasp.

The Ugly Side of Health and Fitness

Because I’ve seen the Ugly Side and spent more time with it than I’d like to admit, these are the questions (the WARNING!) I’d pose to my younger self when I tried the fad diets and spent hours per week working out; when I chose to revolve my life around crazy diets and exhausting workouts, and made health and fitness my entire life instead of apart of it.

I’d say to my younger self who was about to dive head first into a rigid, restrictive diet, Nia …

Are you ready to spend every waking moment thinking about food?

Excited about being overwhelmed with guilt and shame when you slip up on your diet and eat one of the dozens of “forbidden foods” you’re not supposed to have and immediately go into damage-control?

Are you prepared for the disordered eating habits (e.g., binge eating) that will develop from all the diets and crazy rules you’re going to follow?

Ready to revolve your life around a gym routine comprised of long, grueling workouts even if it means missing out on special events?

How does it feel to know you’re trying yet another diet that you know deep within is going to be just like the last several diets you tried? Sure, you may achieve some results, but you’ll quickly lose them once you revert back to previous habits.

Want to hate how your body looks and never feel good enough? Want to constantly identify “flaws” you despise? How your legs look in shorts, how your stomach looks in a swimsuit, how you look without make-up, how your arms look in short sleeves.

Did you know you’re going to feel morally superior because you eat “clean” and everyone around you is putting poison in their bodies and quickly digging their grave by not eating the way you are?

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How does it feel to know you won’t be able to eat a single meal or snack without thinking about how it’s going to affect your body (“This is going to help me lose fat!” and “This is going to make me gain fat.”) You can’t just enjoy a meal for how it tastes, smells, and reminding you of great memories. You’ll assign a “good” and “bad” label to every damn thing you eat.

Want to never be satisfied with how your body looks no matter how much success you have in the gym, how much weight you lose, how much muscle you build, how strong you get?

Your values, character, sense of humor, intelligence, and other qualities that, you know,truly make you who you are, will be meaningless. Does it thrill you to know you’re going to value yourself based on your weight? Your body fat percentage? Your age? Your bra size? These numbers will define you.

How does it feel knowing you’ll never be satisfied? Even when you achieve this goal you won’t be happy because that goal is the golden ticket to freedom and joy. Surely once you reach that goal you’ll finally be happy.

Ready to constantly compare yourself to other women and think, “If only I had what she had” or “If only I looked how she looked” and assume that then, and only then, you could finally be happy?

Ready to punish yourself with exercise when you eat something “bad” or “unclean” or, heaven forbid, miss a workout?

How does it feel knowing you’ll never be able to accept a compliment? Your loved one or friend will say, “Wow, you look great today!” and you’ll shrug it off thinking they’re just trying to be nice. You won’t believe them. It couldn’t be true because you still have so much work to do on yourself.

That, friend, is the Ugly Side of health and fitness.

That chaotic mess you just read — I’ve had those thoughts and experiences; I’ve lived every single one of them. And it’s not just me; I’ve lost count of the conversations I’ve overheard and individuals I’ve witness go on extreme diets or workout routines who share a similar experience. Many are left shattered, and picking up pieces of themselves they no longer recognize. Many also have pieces that weren’t there before: disordered eating habits, a bad body image, and obsessive workout habits. All of these are the Ugly Side of health and fitness.

And we don’t anticipate any of these things when we commit to adopting or kicking our health and fitness habits up a notch.

What about you? Does any of that sound familiar?

If it does, how can you escape the Ugly Side? If it doesn’t, how can you avoid it in the first place?

How to Avoid The Ugly Side

Read the articles on this website: it’s dedicated to giving you sane, simple, no nonsense health and fitness (and lifestyle) information that doesn’t suck. (To make sure you never miss an article sign up for the newsletter.) I don’t want you to get up close and personal with the Ugly Side like I have, and if you’re currently keeping it company, I’d like to help you get away for good.

Aside from digging into the information on this website, here are some excellent tips to get you started that will allow you to avoid the Ugly Side of health and fitness:

  • Health and fitness should be part of your life, but it shouldn’t dominate it. How you eat and move your body should fit into your life; you shouldn’t revolve your life around a crazy routine. (Check out 5 Health and Fitness Principles for more information.)
  • Avoid restrictive fad diets, detoxes and cleanses, and other quick-fix fads.
  • When in doubt, keep things simple. A mistake many make (and I’ve made) is changing too much all at once. Start small: make simple nutrition changes and move your body in ways you enjoy.
  • Working out shouldn’t hurt or be a brutal endeavor. Do things you enjoy. Get stronger and be proud of what your body can do instead of working to the point of exhaustion. Have fun.
  • Make your health and fitness journey all about becoming the best version of yourself and living a higher quality life. Do that and things like fat loss become a side effect.
  • Choose empowerment over punishment. How you eat and move your body should be enjoyable and make you feel great about yourself. Be active in ways you enjoy and eat in a way that works best for you.

Do those things and you will avoid the Ugly Side.

If you’re interested in an empowering four week strength training program, grab May’s Workout of the Month. You choose the price (yes, YOU choose) and 10% of your purchase will be donated to a local Humane Society. Get it now because it’s gone after this Sunday.

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