Lean Doesn’t Equal Fit or Healthy

We’ve been told basically throughout our entire lives that leaner is better. While you’ve probably never, or virtually never, been told that directly, media and popular culture has been blaring it incessantly. Six-pack abs seem to be everyone’s goal. But, the truth is everyone has a six-pack. What!?!? The six-pack is always there. It’s simply being low enough in body fat to see it. Body builders are some of the leanest guys around right? But the truth is, they’re often very unhealthy.

When they’re up on stage they’ve performed a weight cut to look as lean as possible. They’ve spent hours tanning so you can see as much muscle definition as possible. The truth is, much beyond posing on stage, most of them couldn’t perform at all. They’re too exhausted from trying to be as lean as possible!

In between competitions, body builders will often gain large amounts of weight and then cut the vast majority of that weight leading up to a competition, hoping to maintain just a few extra pounds of muscle from their previous bulk-up phase. Their weight is like a true yo-yo.

And to add to that, despite their large muscles, body builders usually can’t move as much weight a powerlifter similar in body weight. Body builders train specifically to have big muscles. They’re strong as a consequence, but not nearly as strong as someone who trains to be strong.

What about pro athletes? Athletes are concerned with winning. Health takes a back seat to winning. Don’t believe me? I almost destroyed both of my shoulders by the time I was 12 swimming. How did I do that? They hurt all the time and I ignored it for months so I wouldn’t miss practice time. I chose to work through the pain to continue performing.

It’s not uncommon. See how many kids are having surgery for overuse injuries, although that topic deserves it’s own post. Go find a professional football player and see how many pain killers he’s taking so he can continue to play the game. They’re walking pharmacies!

So what’s my point. I guess in a round-about way I’m saying don’t get hung up in the aesthetics of performance. Just because you have a six-pack or you’re 5% body fat doesn’t mean you’re healthy. It also doesn’t mean you can perform. And it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with your self-worth.

When we’re constantly told that we’re inadequate and we need to look like this person or that person, it skews our view of normal. And it’s done extensively with media images. These days I do a lot of playing in Photoshop, and the more I play, the more I really understand that you can’t believe an image. The amount of doctoring that can be done to an image is truly unbelievable.

What’s important is are you healthy? Can you move well? Are there things that give you trouble that shouldn’t? Can you go about your day without pain or difficulty? These are the things that truly lead to health and performance. Don’t let someone else tell you you’re not good enough. We’re all human and we’re a lot more similar than we are different.

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