Years ago there was a book on the shelf in the gym that I worked at called, Your Fat Is NOT Your Fault.
I always found this title fascinating (and amusing) because as a trainer I know how few people are really honest with themselves about the amount of control they have over their own bodies.
I often joked with my clients that I should come out with a book called, Your Fat Is MY Fault. Because in the personal training field, some clients really wanted to pay for their 2-3 sessions a week and then not take ANY personal responsibility for the lifestyle choices they make the other 165 hours per week. And (file this one under the category of "life's not fair") the fact is that just doesn't work!
Here's a perfect illustration of this... Years ago I briefly trained this woman who I had seen at the gym for years. She always seemed to be working out very hard (sweaty, red in the face) and she was pretty consistent. But she never looked particularly fit -- and always had a significant amount of extra body fat. People in the gym would comment about how hard she worked out and wondered why she didn't appear to be in better shape.
Anyway, because I worked there occasionally she would ask me questions about fitness and eventually she asked me to train her.
As my client, one of the first things I asked her about was her diet. She was insistent that she ate
"very well, low-fat, lots of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, etc.". I was highly doubtful that this was the case, given how hard she exercised and how deconditioned she looked.
So I encouraged her to keep a food diary. I asked her to just track two weekdays and one weekend day in a given week. This is a usually a powerful tool to reveal trends that can sabotage your weight loss efforts. (Incidentally, a study released this week showed that folks who kept a food diary lost 2x as much weight as those who didn't!). But she was very reluctant. She always had an excuse as to why she didn't keep the diary. She was insistent that her diet was not the problem.
One day about four weeks into our training she told me how frustrated she was with her lack of progress. She had been coming to her sessions, doing her cardio program three days per week on her own. So again, I asked her about what she was eating. She became very defensive, insisting that her diet was excellent and that "this exercise stuff just doesn't work for her". I knew there was a lot more to the story, but ultimately a person needs to get real with themselves and own up to what they are (or aren't doing) that's responsible for their lack of progress.
Fast forward about a month later I was leaving a crowded brunch place one Sunday AM and bumped into my client and her husband seated at a nearby table. I greeted her and then looked down casually. I couldn't believe what I saw. Both she and her husband were eating a "king's breakfast" (eggs, buttered toast, hash browns, bacon -- the works) . But that wasn't all -- in between both of them sat a giant plate of onion rings AND a giant plate of french fries. Hmmmm....."Houston, we have a problem"...
I knew she was really embarrassed that I "busted" her. She looked very uncomfortable. I didn't say anything about it at the time and I didn't give any outward indication that I was on to her, but she knew. I decided to speak to her about it in person at our next session. But I never got the chance.... she rescheduled her training about 2-3 times after that and then dropped out entirely.
She wasn't ready to take responsibility for her part of her health and well being.
Sure , all of us want to look great, but how many of us want to make the sacrifices that entails?
There's a great scene in the TV show Nip/Tuck (Session Three) that details this exactly. There is an episode where Mario Lopez plays a young plastic surgeon who is in amazing physical shape.
Christian (on of the protagonists) a handsome, 40-something aging Lothario who is very vain is staring at an Adonis-like Mario Lopez as he showers in the gym locker room (BTW that's not why I loved this scene, although it IS worth watching for that alone).
Anyway, Lopez's character assumes that Christian is gay (he's not) -- and that he's coming on to him. So finally he gets annoyed and asks him what he is staring at. At which point Christian says, in a completely non-sexual tone, "Hey, how'd you get your ass to look like that?" At which point ..both of them start having a serious conversation about working out and diet...all while standing there showering buck naked...it was very,very funny.
The point is that Lopez's character doesn't pull his punches with his reply...he basically says, "I look this way because I kill myself every day working out hard and watching my diet -- AND YOU DON'T"...and he then goes on to detail exactly what those sacrifices look like on a day-to-day basis, "while you're sleeping in, I'm running 5 miles"..."while you're eating Joe's Stone Crab, I'm having steamed chicken and broccoli"..."while you're on your third glass of Cabernet, I'm in the gym hitting the weights" (I'm paraphrasing but you get the point) and on and on...
It was very powerful because it underscores the fact that he just didn't turn into this by accident. He's not just some genetic freak. This is important to him and he's willing to make sacrifices that most of us wouldn't -- and it shows.
It was a great reminder that our results are always directly proportional to our level of commitment, our sacrifices and our persistence. So the next time you are bemoaning your lack of progress in terms of a fitness, weight loss -- or aesthetic goal, ask yourself honestly....how badly do you want it? And what sacrifices are you willing to make to get it?
If you're not willing to make major sacrifices, that's fine (I'm not a big believer in extremes myself -- not giving up some wine and chocolate in my life), just realize that THAT is a choice...be honest about it, embrace it and know that it is directly connected to your outcomes.
Geralyn Coopersmith, MA, CSCS is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer and the creator of The Best Me Ever, a comprehensive weight loss and wellness system just for women