Avoiding Fitness Information Overload
The Ballerina Within
Last week, I made an Instagram post that I want to incorporate into February’s “Living on Autopilot” theme.
There is this idea that floats around in the collective feminine unconscious that, underneath our exteriors, we all have a petite, perfectly-muscular-but-not-too-muscular, long-limbed ballerina lurking, just waiting to be unleashed. If only we could burn fat from the areas that are covering up this willowy ballerina, she will be revealed, like one of Michelangelo’s sculptures freed from the marble.
So we chase down extremely specific workout moves that will change the parts of ourselves that we like the least. We Google “exercises to tone ______________ (insert “saddlebags,” “inner thighs,” pooch,” “love handles,” or your “problem area” of choice).
It’s easy to see how we can get caught in this cycle of thinking. Take a stroll through these Women’s Health covers…
Does it seem like maybe the “5 Moves” guarantee you Maria Menounos’s tummy?
“Resize Your Thighs”? Really?
What does this have to living on autopilot, or improving the strength of your habits and willpower?
Becoming overly-focused on small physique details has many potential pitfalls, but one that I notice frequently is the vulnerability to information overload. When we focus too much on our inner thighs, back fat, or underarms, we easily fall prey to gimmicky workouts, barrel-scraping health journalism, and marketing schemes that target these insecurities.
When magical thinking is at the wheel, we make a lot of convoluted detours, taking random jabs at a bunch of different methods. Information overload weighs us down, making action more difficult as we struggle to choose the “right” workout that will give us the results we want.
Listening to the cacophony that now calls itself “health and wellness journalism” causes jerky starts and stops, as you constantly pause to re-evaluate every time new piece of conflicting information that crosses your path.
25 tips? Most of my clients have difficulty applying one or two lifestyle changes at a time, let alone 675. This isn’t because my clients have a problem – it’s because they’re human, and – as you learned in last week’s post – most of us perform better and faster if we have fewer choices.
We don’t need more workouts. We just need to do the ones we have.
Being Your Best You
My question to you is this:
What if there is no ballerina?
What if you can’t use exercise like some kind of real-life Photoshop eraser to “resize your thighs”?
As I said in my Instagram post:
The next time you see an ad for a yoga program and think, ‘I want her arms,’ just remember that her appearance is a combination of her yoga practice… and her parents. ‘Fit’ looks different on different people. Two lean women can ‘wear’ leanness very differently, regardless of exercise type. You can’t re-engineer your appearance to look like someone else. When you do that, you underestimate yourself. What’s important is to find something that works for you – both eating and exercise strategies that you enjoy and can sustain for a long time. It’s that long-term consistency and progress that contributes to ‘wow’ results that last, keeping you looking and feeling your best.”
The action question is: “If you can’t create a new body through exercise, how can you work on improving the fitness of your actual body?”
The thought question is: “What kind of exercise would you do if exercise had absolutely nothing to do with appearance?”
The feeling question is: “What if there were no ‘best’ exercise? What if the search were over, for good?”
The reality is that any kind of workout, done consistently (paired with a way of eating that creates a caloric deficit) will result in a leaner, more athletic you – no gimmicks required.
If you take anything from today’s blog post, I hope you’ll try these two strategies this week:
- Play to your strengths. What type of exercise fits easily into your schedule, so that you could do it 3-5 times per week? Just pick one or two, and then be consistent with that. This will allow you to get into “autopilot mode,” where it feels more normal to exercise than not.
- Watch your thinking. Be mindful of your automatic thoughts, and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings when you experience negative comparison. Let’s start breaking the habit of believing, on some level, that we can re-engineer appearance (and thus identity) through fitness.
Don’t get caught by information overload. Instead, learn to tune out the overcrowded airwaves, to stay consistent on your own course, and to make your own “autopilot setting” work for you.
Your “best you” is not only straight ahead, but also available in each passing moment as you love, accept, and take care of yourself – just as you are.
Follow-Up Questions from Last Week
If you want to jump into this free healthy living project, all you have to do is start today by shooting me an e-mail to let me know you’re “in!” Each week, I e-mail strategies to my mailing list on Monday. If you would like to be on this list, please scroll down and sign up!
Last week in “Overcoming the Tyranny of Choice,” we talked about how – counterintuitively – we make better choices when we limit our decision-making.
- What meals could be your “repetitive meals” that are (1) easy to cook, (2) delicious – at least to you – and (3) relatively inexpensive? Would at least breakfast and lunch be realistic? How could this make your life easier?
- For your lifestyle, does it make sense to (1) eat more at home and less in restaurants, or to (2) always check the menu ahead of time and make even more sensible decisions at restaurants than you think is necessary?
- What is your signature coffee (or tea) drink?
- Are there “personal rules” that you thought of this week, which would be helpful to you in reducing choice in some situations?
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