Being Fit Versus “Looking” Fit

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Being Fit Versus "Looking" Fit - by Jennifer Ledford - Certified Personal Trainer and Lifestyle Coach

For years, the fitness and diet industry has used fitness models in their advertising to sell you the notion that if you achieve this “type” of body, you will be healthy and happy.  Unfortunately, many of the programs  promoted by the diet and fitness industry have produced the opposite effect for people.  Dieting and overtraining has done more harm than good and left people unhappy and dissatisfied.

There was a period in my life when I had  shrunk down to a size zero and became obsessed with being skinny and having a perfectly flat abdomen.  People were impressed with my tiny yet muscular physique and I was constantly complimented for it.  Life was good!  Until I crashed.

I became depressed, my body was in pain, and my hormonal system was going haywire.  It turns out that I had been overtraining and God didn’t design me to be a size zero.   The road to recovery physically was a combination of light exercise (twenty minute walks with my dogs) combined with proper rest, and a much more balanced diet that included way more fat than I had been consuming.

Fortunately, I completely recovered and times are changing.  The public is becoming more and more aware of focusing on health rather than forcing their bodies to become something they were never designed to be and we now have more models that support that concept.  People are rejecting the idea that they have to diet or beat their bodies to a pulp to be healthy.

Now that we are taking these important steps as a society to focus on health rather than dieting and overtraining, I believe it’s important for me as a personal trainer to help you learn  what focusing on being fit  looks like.

It’s important that I be completely up front with you.  Focusing on  your health is extremely personal and looks different for each individual.  We are all on our own personal journey.  For one person, focusing on health may be cutting their soda intake in half to stabilize their blood sugar and for another it could be walking their dog everyday for stress relief.

Being fit is about being able to do the things you need to do, want to do (i.e the things that bring you joy), and have to do in the event of an emergency.  It’s about getting good checkups at the doctor’s office and enjoying quality of life.  None of that has anything to do with the size of your jeans.

When it comes to overall health and fitness, balance is key.  If one area is neglected, your alignment can be off which leads to a bumpy ride.  Here are five major components that contribute to your overall health and well-being:

  1. Mentally fit.  Mental health is just as important as physical health.  Minimizing unnecessary stress in your life and talking time out to rest and restore are just as important for your mind and body as strengthening your muscles and eating leafy greens.  When your mind is strong and your body is recharged, you are able to push through challenging moments and seasons in your life.
  2. Nutritionally fit.  I personally believe it’s a good idea to eat as many whole foods as possible and to limit refined and heavily processed food in our diets.  Eating whole foods can help contribute to better energy.  With that being said, it’s also important to enjoy your food and not get too rigid about everything we eat.  Overly religious behavior around food can lead to dieting which can lead to stress and heartache which does not support mental health in a positive way.  Find balance in your life when it comes to diet and allow yourself to enjoy the foods you like.
  3. Physically fit.  Part of being physically fit is being able to perform your daily responsibilities, live a life that is fun, and being able to handle, God forbid, a crisis.  Physical fitness is generally  made up of three types of fitness.  Cardiovascular (aerobic) endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility.  Depending on your life’s demands, suggested programs will differ.  A sample program would be walking most days of the week, strength training with appropriate resistance two to three times per week, and performing stretches and self massage most days of the week.  It’s a good idea to choose exercise that focuses on function and not just “looks.”  One of the reasons I like exercising outdoors is that it can contribute to functional fitness.  Stepping over logs and/or curbs is a built-in agility routine that can protect us from falls.
  4. Financially fit.  I am not an expert on finance so I learn from others when it comes to money matters.  One thing that I do know is that money issues can cause stress.  It’s important to limit debt in our lives and to make sure we build saving accounts for surprise expenses that pop up and/or retirement.  Saving generally starts with creating a budget and living within our means.  Wise financial choices are equally as important to our health as exercise.  If you’d like more information on simple money management principles, one of my favorite people to learn from is Dave Ramsey.
  5. Environmental health.  This is a big one.  It’s important for us to be at peace where we live, work, and play.  Things like nurturing relationships, setting healthy boundaries, removing clutter from your home or life, planning family meals, taking time off to visit places that make you feel happy and restored, or spending time with your pets without your phone in hand are all examples of working  toward creating a healthy environment.  Sometimes creating a healthy environment for yourself requires changes.  My husband and I decided to move back to the area I grew up in to be closer to family and to live a simpler lifestyle.  This is an environmental change that will contribute to our overall health and well-being in a positive way.

A Fit and Healthy Lifestyle

Whether you’ve been working on these five components for awhile now or are just getting started, it’s important to remember to work at a pace that is doable for you.  We are all on our own journey and there is no need to compare your progress to anyone else.  Focus on creating a healthy lifestyle that is all your own!

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