CrossFit South Rockland

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Aesthetic Goal Conundrum

To be perfectly honest, the following observations might not lead you to a life altering epiphany. But maybe they will. I don’t really have any direct answers this time. Just a view from different angle that may help you find your own answers.

I would like to make it clear that from here forward I am only speculating and sharing my professional experience. I am in no way implying that my speculations apply to everyone, and maybe not even the majority.

I noticed something very interesting when Sarah and Chrissy brought their Paleo Talk Seminar to my gym. They both showed us pictures of what they looked like before paleo nutrition and proper exercise, and both of them went into detail about how miserable they were at that time. We could all easily make comparisons between the women in the pictures and the women standing before us. The aesthetic transformations were astounding and they both look amazing today, but that part went unmentioned. Neither Sarah or Chrissy ever said they didn’t like the way they looked, only that they couldn’t stand the way they felt. Hmmm. Like I said, very interesting.

Throughout my career, the biggest changes in physical appearance have more often than not been achieved by those without aesthetic goals. Furthermore, clients who are the most driven by aesthetic goals alone, sometimes to the point of desperation, are usually those who struggle the most. It’s a frustrating paradox for both client and trainer alike. I have some tenuous theories, but no definitive solutions.

First of all, I have always suspected that the personality type who spends a lot of time worrying about how they look might also be the type that worries more about everything. If so, then we can assume elevated cortisol which means more fat and less muscle. If you are a stress case with way too much on your plate and bad sleep patterns, major physical changes will be tough to achieve. Throw in some stress about your appearance and you are officially stuck in a negative feedback loop. Worrying about how you look = more stress = more cortisol = more fat/less muscle = more worrying about how you look. (Important note: If this is you, more exercise is likely not the answer unless you aren’t exercising. Caloric restriction diets are also a bad idea.)

Second, body loathing probably goes hand in hand with low self esteem in most cases. Whether the relationship between how you look and how you value yourself is correlated or causal, the outcome is often difficulty with compliance. An attitude of “I don’t deserve better than this” will block your path to success every time it rears its ugly head. If you sometimes feel like efforts to improve yourself are pointless, especially if you have struggled with your self image for a long time, you probably cheat on your diet and skip workouts more often than you should. This, of course, also creates a negative feedback loop. Cheating = more self loathing = more feelings of hopelessness = more cheating.

My best advice – find a way to enjoy the means to the end. Most of us with success stories love the way we eat and truly enjoy our workouts. You can too. The easiest way to learn to enjoy your journey is to find people to journey with. My clients at CPC cheer for each other, encourage each other when the going gets tough, and contact each other when someone starts slacking off. Without asking, I’m sure Sarah and Chrissy can attest to the same thing at Norcal Strength and Conditioning. Another great way to stay motivated is to focus on physical capacity goals. Stop thinking about your appearance every time you drag yourself to the gym and start thinking about lifting heavier weights, moving faster, and accomplishing things that your friends think are impossible. Posting a video on Facebook of you doing a pull-up or a heavy back squat will put you on the receiving end of much admiration (and maybe a little envy). Each little personal record will act as a stepping stone to a new you. One day you will be on your way to the shower and the mirror will stop you in your tracks.

“What the….? When did I get so hot?!?”

Changing your focus could change your life.

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