In one capacity or other I’ve been involved with weight loss for many years. From my humble beginnings as a 300 pound overweight guy (who for the first time walked into a YMCA back in February of 2003) to becoming a licensed / practicing Physician Assistant and Certified Health Coach specializing in weight management at NYU Langone Medical Center, I have come to learn so much about the nature of clients and patients from all walks of life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “The reason you are fat may be different from the reason I was fat, but the way we got there is quite the same.”
One aspect that stands out amongst all the types of different people I come in contact with is the idea of what fitness means to each individual.
Fitness can be defined in a few different ways:
- The state or condition of being fit; suitability or appropriateness.
- Good health, especially good physical condition resulting from exercise and proper nutrition.
- The extent to which an organism is able to produce offspring in a particular environment.
(#3, hmmm…maybe not for this discussion)
Let’s focus on numbers 1 & 2. Even with this straightforward definition, does this really provide us a concrete explanation of what fitness means to you or me, or to him or her? My clients, patients, friends, and co-workers all have differing ideas of what this concept of fitness means to them, even though we are all basically running on the same treadmill so to speak. Diet and exercise are major components to fitness, but even just these two components have so many variations to them. (What kind of workouts, where to exercise, how much to exercise, when to exercise, what to eat, how to eat, where to buy food, organic vs. non-organic, etc.)
The media might have you think that fitness is based on a particular way of looking from the outside. (All those pictures in the magazines can’t be wrong now can they?) Fitness is traditionally based off the idea of 6-pack abs, ripped arms, and a firm backside. All of these physical attributes could result from physical fitness, but it’s not always so cut and dry.
There is no set description of what fitness and wellness means subjectively. From a health coach perspective and personal experience, I know that successful goals are based around the patient / client’s beliefs, culture, and lifestyle. What I find to be proper fitness level for me (a single gay man living in New York City) is certainly not the same that my sister is going to find true as a wife and mother living in a suburb of Orlando, Fl.
I know of many healthy and fit people who, while they aren’t obese, may not look like someone in a sportswear or exercise equipment advertisement. If we were to compare the lab results of one very “in shape” person’s blood work to that of someone who may have a few extra pounds, there is the possibility that the more “in shape” person may have a higher cholesterol, or perhaps another of possible abnormal values. So we can’t base it solely on how one looks! We must also pose the question to the lean-mean-muscle-machine who may spend all their free time at the gym, “Are you living a properly balanced life which brings you harmony and balance?” Doesn’t finding this balance equate to a healthy lifestyle just as much as any other aspect of our lives? With that said, I would never encourage someone to NOT exercise, but how much and to what extent is your priority as long as you’re are putting in the necessary effort. (I absolutely love to exercise and often times spend 2 hours a day at the gym with the exception of my rest day. I’ve been maintaining my current weight and physical form for over a decade, and this is what fitness means to me.)
I brush upon this topic today in order to alleviate a sense of being overwhelmed by expectations. Being fit for you may simply mean going for walks after dinner, or taking the stairs, or switching to water instead of soda. For me it all started when I walked into that YMCA, and look at me now. Fitness should always include whatever steps you can take to improve your overall health and get your excess weight off, but it doesn’t mean you have to go run a marathon, or turn yourself into the Hulk. Take simple steps toward a simple goal and you will find what fitness means to you!
Lose Weight, Find Yourself®