I am lucky enough to be able to spend time with smart people from different backgrounds, ages, races, genders, and professions constantly. Between working part time in a medical research setting and being part of a fitness community, at this time in my life I have a pretty eclectic sample of opinions coming at me from different directions. And most of the time, it’s in fun settings. This Saturday was no exception. Standing at a holiday party with the best people in the world, I got to talking to a dear friend about fitness, health, and aesthetics. The conversation started pretty normally – we scanned the venue and commented on how lucky we are to be in such a wonderfully supportive community, agreeing that what we like to call “social fitness” has to be the best and most important part of seeking a “healthy” life. I put “healthy” in quotes because that ended up being the crux of our conversation.
A lot of people come to a gym for aesthetic reasons. We can all agree that fitness is a good thing and that as long as the behavior persists, some would say it doesn’t really matter what idea it was born out of. Hell, one of our athletes just wrote about this a few weeks ago! And I’m not here passing judgment on anyone’s self-image or internal motivation to seek out a healthy behavior. What I can say through personal experience and hundreds of studies on fitness, body image, health seeking behavior, and any permutation thereof, is that what gets you in the door is not always the motivation that keeps you there.
Let’s put it this way. A friend told me that one time a good friend of him came to him saying he wanted to join a gym. When my friend asked why, his friend replied that he wanted to “get bigger arms.” “
“That’s it? Just bigger arms?”
“So, what is big enough?”
Was it diameter? Was it circumference? Was it the amount of weight he wanted to be able to lift with his arms? Ultimately, this one, specific outcome, wasn’t actually specific at all. And the goal, while presumably attainable, was actually useless because there wasn’t a logical progression of work-to-outcome.
The problem with this kind of perspective that no one can really be blamed for having is that it paves the way for a person to measure their ability to achieve a goal on the way they physically appear. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned since joining Deuce gym it’s that looks can be incredibly deceiving.
And while, again, I am not trying to say that people should be shamed or stopped from caring about aesthetics or being proud of how they look in any form, I think it is important especially in this time of year to be cognizant of how we are told that the vehicle to our dreams is through aesthetics and not achievable, measurable goals.
And even more so, what would really happen if we suddenly reached our aesthetic goal? Will you really feel happier if you have abs? Is your thigh gap going to all of a sudden make you love yourself after 20 years of self-hatred? Will there suddenly come a day when you feel you have done it?
If that’s the case, then that’s awesome. Like I said, I’m not here to judge you or your motivation for anything you do. But if not, maybe take a second to re-examine why you are doing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with.