The health and fitness industry is still really young. You could even say it's in its infancy.
Gyms haven't been around long in the scheme of things. Fitness clubs, franchise gym chains, and group fitness classes have only really been a thing since the 80s. So, we could say the industry is 40 years young.
There were of course gyms before the 80s – boxing gyms and gyms created for the sports of powerlifting and weightlifting. But these weren't for the majority of the population. It wasn't until the advent of technology began to steal away our rights and obligations to participate in regular, natural movement, and foods began to become packaged and along with this all manner of artificial ingredients added to them, that we began to feel the need to use the gym.
And what was (and still is) the number one reason people would join a gym? To "get fit, tone up and lose weight".
The paradigm back then was based around workouts and dieting – and due to the gigantous and dominating marketing campaigns of million dollar companies, and our endless desire to feel that we need to look a certain way, this is still where the health and fitness paradigm is sitting.
In a nutshell it's about burning calories; we approach exercise with a punishment mentality to burn off bad foods, extra weight we're carrying, or undesirable behaviours. And we supplement this with quick-fix dietary protocols that help us to "burn fat fast". Because we've been led to believe that that is how we get healthy – by burning fat we lose weight and losing weight equals health, right?
Kind of, but not really. Weight loss may be what we need to do, but our bodies are equipped with an inherent intelligence whereby they will manage our weight (and help us to lose it where and when necessary) when it's fed the right ingredients.
And by ingredients I mean that which extends beyond food and includes that within our greater lifestyles. We lose weight and have greater success managing our weight when we are healthy. The Cliff Notes version - we don't need to be lose weight to be healthy, we need to be healthy to lose weight.
I've been at a point for a while where I have acknowledged that this paradigm might not be as effective as we wish it was – whereby workouts and diet protocols aren't sustainable, and might even possibly be harming our relationship with our bodies and our health.
The best relationships we have are the ones that make us feel good, that we look forward to nurturing, that we have a "bestie" type connection with. When we approach a relationship with resent, guilt, apprehension, reluctance and an attitude of "I wish I was somewhere else" or "I wish this wasn't so hard", there's really no hope for that relationship to survive long-term, or for any sustainable benefit to arise from it.
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I believe there is such a disconnect between ourselves and our physical bodies these days, that we haphazardly throw "proven' solutions at them and quite simply cross our fingers and hope that the pain of waiting for a desired outcome will present itself in a dutiful and prompt manner.
But, what if there was another way; a better way. What if we could be at a place with our health and fitness goals where we actually looked forward, every day, to connecting with our bodies in such a way that truly nurtured and nourished them?
Where we were concerned only with their exact needs on any given day, where we could listen to their whispers and their requests in a way that allowed us to provide the best movement, food, and lifestyle activities unique to our individual body's requirements? Where we concerned ourselves with our long-term health and vitality, and how we could best maximise the time spent on our bodies today to equip ourselves for a physically prosperous future?
To take a step in this direction we need to abolish the "train insane and diet" mindset and open our minds to "nourishment and enjoyment" – and this lends to all aspects of health and wellbeing.
Movement needs to nourish us just as much as food does. And let's look at food for its medicinal properties, not for its calories. Calories aren't equal, and they are a poor predictor of what is or isn't good for our bodies. And yes, part of eating for enjoyment means you are allowed "treat" foods but without the guilt factor!
Let's use our natural intuition on a more global scale; let's move for the love of it, eat for the love of our bodies, and embrace lifestyle activities which make us glow. The new and improved mindset is about obliterating the "punishment" mentality of health and fitness, and reacquainting ourselves with the fun, play, liberation and joy that comes from doing the things you love most in life.
* Corinne Austin is health and movement coach (firstname.lastname@example.org).