Why focusing on aesthetics doesn’t make you into a mirror obsessed narcissist
My initial consultations form the backbone of how I work with someone. A full 60 to 90 minutes of chat all focused on you. While doing these recently, I’ve noticed a trend.
I just want to eat for health. That’s my focus.
I don’t want to get any bigger, I just want to be stronger at benching. How can my diet support that?
Then, usually 4 weeks later, I get messages like these.
I was thinking that maybe I’d like to lose a little bit of weight, and maybe gain some more muscle.
My bench has increased loads, I hit an all time PB at the weekend! I’m surprised I’m not bigger though, I mean, I added a lot of weight to the bar but my chest doesn’t seem to have grown…
What both these examples have in common is that they are both masks for the truth. “Eating for health” often means “I want to lose weight”. “Training for strength” often means “I want to get bigger”.
Is either of these things hard to admit at first? What’s going on here?
Is it your perception? Or rather, what you think other people’s perception of you is? I’m honestly not sure. But regardless of the reason, at the back of your mind, the same little voice is nagging you over and over again. It says you’re superficial. It says that the very idea of caring about how you look is vacuous and narcissistic. And it won’t shut up.
The voice is wrong. Here’s why.
In some cases, aesthetics is the primary reason for losing weight and the health side of things is completely ignored. But you’re not likely to fit into that bracket. You actually want to be healthy too.
And while people of all different shapes, sizes, and BMI’s can look fantastic, most people are pretty on board with the fact that obesity is not an optimal place to be to maximise health. Yet, since the 60’s, obesity rates have risen hugely.
Rather than just having a vague notion that being overweight is unhealthy, we can get specific. A higher BMI is associated with increased risk of:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Various types of cancer (1,2,3)
- And much more than the above that makes this list look way more doom and gloom than I intended it to.
From that point of view, it seems like keeping an eye on your weight is a total no brainer. But what happens if you take it further?
The less obvious
What if you’re already “in shape” so to speak? Many of us have BMI’s or body fat percentages well within the healthy range by any standard, objective measurement. Yet we’re still unhappy with our own subjective idea of what we should look like. This is where I see issues with clients.
This isn’t about fat shaming, or fit shaming, or any other stupid internet flavour of the month problem. Is anyone bothered with what version of yourself you identify with? No, you only think they are.
We all care about how we look to a certain extent. If that wasn’t the case, we would use zero dietary restraint and be fond of leaving the house looking like Stig Of The Dump.
Caring about how you look doesn’t have to be an obsession. Eating and exercising for aesthetic reasons doesn’t change your personality. You don’t wake up a mirror obsessed, narcissistic, clean eating, social recluse. You have to be that way in the first place. And if you are, you need a different kind of help from what I can offer.
Losing a little bit of weight to fit into the jeans you rocked last year? Great! Growing your arms so massive it looks like you’ve implanted Phil Heath’s triceps? Fill your boots!
Either way, by caring about how you look, even a little bit, it’s likely that healthy behaviours will follow. Creating habits and an improved mindset don’t only help your looks. They will take care of the vast majority of your overall health too. It’s not only about physical health either. The improved self-confidence can lead to better social and economic health. Emotional, psychological, and even intellectual health can benefit when you gear your diet and exercise to improving your body composition.
To sum this extremely short piece up:
Feeling embarrassed about wanting to look better, whatever that means to you, is not something you should be feeling bad about. In fact, it’s probably the healthiest thing you can do.
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