The world is getting fatter and everybody's an expert on why. Here's a list of what people blame:
Diets: Too restrictive, conflicting information
The fitness industry: Conflicting info, intimidating, too much overt sexiness
McDonald's: Makes us fat
Spouses: Tempt us with junk food
Children: Make us buy junk food
Parents: Allowed us to overeat junk food as kids
Jobs: Cause stress, make us sit
Magazines: Use Photoshop and good-looking people
Do these things play a role in obesity? Indirectly, maybe. But the buck stops with you and your response to them.
Is it really any wonder the world is becoming fatter? We're also becoming less capable of taking responsibility. It's a virtue that's going out of style. This sucks because the better you get at taking responsibility, the more likely you are to look for opportunity to fix your circumstances instead of becoming a victim of them. And if you haven't noticed, cry-baby victimhood is today's hottest trend.
This is how mental weakness turns into physical weakness. Weak people are quick to point the finger at outside sources instead of finding opportunities to overcome their personal challenges.
Granted, the things they blame can be legitimate challenges. There are physiological and psychological factors that make fat loss and muscle gain seem impossible. But NOBODY gets a free pass. That means fit people often have just as many (or more) personal disadvantages to fight against as fat people.
The Truth About Fit People
Everybody who's in shape fights for it in some way. It's not given to us. We all have personal disadvantages and challenges to overcome. So unless you're among the very few genetically gifted and environmentally blessed, you can't get lean without a struggle. You can't build muscle without a struggle. And you certainly won't maintain either without struggling in some way.
On top of that, your struggles will change yearly, monthly, sometimes even daily. So once you overcome your initial challenges, you'll be faced with more. And they happen everywhere: under the barbell, at school, in the doctor's office, in the kitchen or the car, anywhere! Getting in shape isn't a thing that happens exclusively at the gym. It's what you do constantly with every choice you make.
The Fitness Fight
I wasn't a natural born athlete and don't have the genetics to be naturally or easily lean. As a kid I medicated stress and sadness with food. My role model was my big sister, who was bulimic. As a teen, I attended Overeater's Anonymous and ended up fighting my challenges with weight training, competitive bodybuilding, cross country, self-help books, and the grace of God.
It was hard. And I still had to overcome some crazy eating patterns in my twenties. But I fought back then and, with a different set of challenges, I fight now. Emotional eating and overeating no longer burden me, but that doesn't mean leanness and muscularity are just handed to me. Nor are they handed to anyone else who chooses to train regularly and eat wisely.
My challenges today? Injuries that I work around in the gym, painful food sensitivities, and chronically low iron. And once these are fixed a brand new set of challenges will come along later. That's life. But it's not a good enough reason to let myself go and blame the world for my missteps.
Your Body, Your Business
Most people haven't been bitten by the fitness bug. They're not into lifting, nor do they go to the store thinking about macronutrients, ingredients, or overall nutritional value. That's fine.
They're into what they're into. And they're often extremely smart people, which means that if they want to get stronger and leaner, they'll find ways. They can hire trainers, read books, do a bit of research, cook for themselves instead of eating out, imbibe a little less, sleep a little more, and plug into groups of people with similar challenges.
Same with you. If you're overweight, don't let anyone tell you that you don't have a choice, or that you got this way and it was totally out of your control. Why? Because if you think like that, then you probably won't ever feel competent enough to take control, at least not long-term.
If you don't care about strengthening your body or improving your health, that's your business. You will prioritize what's important to you. Just don't say the fitness industry failed you, or that diet books, food manufacturers, or your family is to blame for the repercussions you're facing now. It's your body and YOUR business, remember?
Sycophants Aren't Helping
A sycophant is someone who tells people exactly what they want to hear. Ass-kisser is a synonym.
So let's say YOU are fit. Maybe you're even in the business as a personal trainer, expert, or a variation of inspirational-millennial-life-coach. Yet you tell fat people it's not their fault, they have no choice, and they should embrace the bodies they have now – no matter how unhealthy or out of shape they are. That's bullshit and you know it.
You know that people who are out of shape could be making the best choices within their circumstances, no matter how unfortunate those circumstances are. And you know that "body acceptance" is a sham because their lives would be much easier if their frail frames and feeble joints weren't hauling around extra weight.
You know they'd feel better about themselves, have more energy, move more freely, take fewer meds, sleep better, get out more, have fewer doctors' appointments, deal with less pain, have better sex, and (ironically) enjoy their food a lot more than they do now.
There's a way to be both compassionate and honest. But by playing the sycophant you're encouraging people to be the victims rather than the masters of their circumstances. And I hope that people who are out of shape make the choices that prove you wrong. Because you see, if they can CHOOSE to get in better shape today, then they could've CHOSEN better behaviors in the first place that would have kept them from getting where they are now. There is a choice.
Your patronizing pity is more insulting than the brutal honesty of someone who says, "You're fat and here's what you can do about it."
I hope your clients flip the mental switch and take responsibility. I hope they embrace the struggle because that's how you overcome challenges. This requisite struggle is what most people avoid, but it means something new is happening. It means they're now fighting personal disadvantages, the way we all do when we make the choice to get in shape.
The First Step In Change
The longer you've let yourself go, the harder it'll be to create habits that'll make you leaner and stronger. And you won't ever change unless you see challenges as what they are: beatable. The good news is, the more punches you throw, the better you get at it.
Accusing other people for causing your circumstances only postpones the good stuff you could be enjoying. So personal responsibility is nonnegotiable. It's the first step.
Then expect temptation and plan how you're going to beat it. Temptation is inescapable and everyone faces it. If you're still blaming your spouse for sabotaging you with tempting food, don't count on changing. We're all tempted by about the same shit; your challenges aren't special. And even if you're injured or ill, there's still a way to choose the best options within your given set of circumstances.
Can't get support at home? Find it elsewhere, then be a role model for your family. It'll be a struggle, but it's supposed to be. Everyone experiences that. If you're not struggling, then you're probably not making progress. The struggle is what keeps you from getting weaker, fatter, less mobile, and more incompetent as the owner of your body.
The blame-game won't make you any fitter or healthier. It's not working for the rest of the world, so don't expect it to work for you. The question is, are you going to fight your challenges or let them own you? The choice is yours. It always has been. It always will be.