Thursday, April 23, 2015


Several months ago, I saw a very well-known trainer friend of mine post pictures of her new body.  She had been in an emotionally abusive relationship for a long time, and had taken great pains to maintain what her ex saw as a "perfect body."  She had a six-pack, she was super lean, she was strong.  And she was miserable and suffered from disordered eating patterns.  She got out of that relationship and started taking care of herself without anyone else's ideals in mind, and she looks great.  She's still lean and super-strong, but she no longer spends her life in the gym or worried about every macro and micro she puts in her mouth.  She's got more body fat than she used to, but she is by no means unhealthy, and is extremely athletic-looking.  She got tons of compliments when she posted her picture.  She also got tons of comments along the lines of, "Woah.  You got fat."


I was reminded of that because of this video trainer Cassey Ho put out.  I think it's eye-opening and worth watching:

Why does good health and strength equate to some weird ideal of the perfect body?  I've written this in the past, but I believe it bears repeating.  I see it in my clients all the time.  They're getting healthy, their clothes are fitting better, their bloodwork is amazing, but "If I could only get rid of this..." (pointing to whatever "arm flab" or "pooch" they are preoccupied with). 

In my gym, I have warped mirrors.  I did that at first by accident, but kept them on purpose so that people could pay more attention to their form and less attention to their "flab."  An interesting phenomenon that has come of this, though, is that certain clients will pick certain spots in front of the mirror, because that's the part of the mirror that makes them look the thinnest.  Some of my clients won't look at the mirrors at all, because they don't want to see "the fat person there."

I get aesthetics.  I totally do.  I was somewhat obsessed with my belly pooch for a long time.  Even now, I catch myself checking my side view in the mirror to see if my stomach looks any flatter.  As a matter of fact, I played a show with one of my bands a few weeks ago, and wore a stage costume that showed the part of my belly that bugs me the most (my lower belly).  I found myself scouring those pictures, thinking:  "Ugh.  I look pregnant."   I get annoyed with myself for doing these things.  It's a hard habit to break.  But I do know this:

  • I am generally between 14% and 16% bodyfat.  Even at these levels, I will never, ever, ever have a six-pack.  It is not in my genes.  It appears I will always have that little pooch in my lower belly.  And I have no interest in dropping below 14% bodyfat.
  • I don't have a thigh gap.  Why would I want one?  
  • Having a six-pack does NOT mean you have strong abs, or even that you're healthy.  It means your body fat is so low that you can see your abs.  Period. 
  • I am extremely healthy (my doctors are always blown away by my bloodwork) and strong, even if I don't have an "ideal" figure.  With the body I have built, I have bent steel bars, nails, and horseshoes, broken state powerlifting records, broken a baseball bat, done 4,000 one-handed kettlebell swings within 2 hours just because I felt like it, and run 10k races without training for them.  I'm proud of who I am, pooch and all.

Maybe you don't have your ideal figure.  Is it a bad thing to strive for?  Of course not-- not if you're striving for it in a healthy way.  There's nothing wrong with caring about your looks.  Most of us do.  And not everyone needs huge strength goals ("Strong is the new skinny!"), muscle goals, or any goals that aren't important to you.  Your body is your body, and you need to do with it what makes sense for you.  But make sure you are also realistic and honest with yourself, and that your number one priority is your very best health, both mentally and physically, within the goals that you have.

Maybe it's time to re-think our ideals.

Here I am, pooch and all.


  1. Very enjoyable article, and the video is brilliant. It highlights for me the 'why' of training. Am I driven or am I driving? So much of society today (insanely) worships the young and the beautiful and getting lost in that drives people to try and fit someone else's ideal - of course that is great for business! Encourage people to be needy and then sell a solution to them. Better (and rarer) to be training to our own agenda. Thanks for a great read.

  2. A great way to motivate is in the mirror! Great story melody and here I am, sometimes, thinking of about procrastination. Well, eating is so much fun, but I motivated myself to strive in my own way! Cheers!