fitness

"Super Fit" does not Equal Healthy

I just came home from a festive work function and grocery shopping for a dinner party tomorrow. I sat down to relax for a bit and opened “CBC.ca” and was instantly annoyed with the title of an article in CBC Life that I couldn’t help opening 6 Things super fit people do to stay healthy over the holidays (and the rest of us don’t. I guess they succeeded with the click-bait, because even though I knew better, I wanted to read what they had to say. There are some decent tips in the article relating to nutrient dense food, fitting in exercise at home, etc., but the hyperbole surrounding the tips is cringeworthy to me. Here are some of the things I hate about the article, in no particular order:

1. The title implies that one is either “super fit” or a sloth. I guess all of us who work out regularly, but don’t obsess about it and don’t look like fitspo models are sloths. Oops, I had a few mouthfuls of decadent chocolate today, I guess I’m not fit and certainly not “super fit” through the holidays”. I’ll remember that while I’m at my weekly conditioning class tomorrow, where my heart rate will be raised, I will sweat out some tension, stretch my hips and connect with my fitness friends.

2. Who needs to be “super fit” over the holidays, if any time of the year? Is that sustainable? Necessary? Have anything to do with wellness and health? If you really want to help people, help them aim for fitness in a realistic way. Encourage them to take small steps. Unless you are training for an elite event, I don’t think anyone needs to aim for “super fit”. And if people are being inundated this time of year with a wealth of riches (in the form of chocolate, butter, alcohol, etc) and having their time stretched between work, family and festive gatherings that are eating into their sleep schedule and sanity, perhaps encouraging them to be “super fit” may not be helpful or realistic. And are some of the measures people take to be “super fit” even really healthy over the long run.

3. The spoiler alert is “they’re not that hard”. Now you’re being sanctimonious. You start off the article by talking about how much you eat and how this has inspired you to get help from “experts” to tell others to focus on “what they should eat, not what they shouldn’t”. So you allowed yourself to enjoy a some delicious food and this inspired you to have experts tell others what to do? And, how do you know it’s not hard for them. How do you know how many diets, bouts with disordered eating they’ve gone through and how many thoughts drift through their head every time they consider what “they should eat”. And sure “schedule it into your week and don’t make any excuses” may sound simple. But, as someone who schedules workouts into my schedule every week, I would never suppose how hard that might be for someone else with different circumstances. Don’t assume how hard these things are for others. If you truly want to help people add wellness behaviours into their life, don’t make them feel bad about the “excuses”. Instead, make suggestions and then encourage them when they are not working exactly according to plan and give the tools to adjust to their circumstances .

4. Stop giving health advice not backed by science. I have no problem with the idea that we need to stay properly hydrated. But “Increasing water intake will also fill you up, therefore you will take in fewer calories during your meal. Water helps fight off those nasty cravings, making it easier to select healthier options for your meals. Second to water, green tea should be your number one, go-to beverage when it comes to avoiding those winter pounds. There are so many benefits to drinking green tea!” – Give me a break. I can say that when I am having cravings, no amount of water is going to stop those cravings. Without getting into the psychology of those cravings, maybe not all cravings are bad for you. Perhaps, instead of telling people to call their cravings nasty, you should tell them to come to peace with their cravings, don’t label them good or bad. This may have more positive benefits than trying to tell them to avoid having cravings or washing them away with water and green tea. And for every “study” out there that says green tea “has so many benefits” there are others that say there have been no “scientifically proven studies to back those claims”. Drink green tea because you like it. Not because it is a “super food”.

5. Why do all the experts look like “fitspo models”? I have met a lot of different looking fit people in the various “fit” circles I frequent. Those perfectly coiffed, sculpted models are not the only way to look and be fit. Be better at representing what fit looks like. Fit is all shapes, sizes, muscle tone, ages. This isn’t news in 2019. And as a person who is fit and not a fitspo model, I think it is much more inspiring for people looking for healthy behaviours during the holidays and beyond, to see better representations of themselves.

If “CBC Life” or any other wellness or health blog is looking for ways to inspire people to live active and healthy lives don’t feed these tired clichés about “super fitness” and “perfection”. And instead of telling people to “focus on what they can eat, not what they can’t” how about telling them to prioritize what’s important to them (maybe that means walking more, limiting alcohol, getting fibre every day and getting enough sleep, but everyone is different and their priorities will be different) and then relax and enjoy their time over the holidays and not worry about an unrealistic ideal that won’t make them “super fit” or “super happy”.

Nicole Plotkin is a law clerk who works out regularly, enjoys food in all forms, enjoys time with her husband, family, friends and two dogs and is “just the right amount of fit” over the holidays or any other time of the year.

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