98….99…100. *High fives bro, drops barbell.*
Oh! I’m sorry I didn’t see you there. I was just doing some dead lifts and polishing my next big exhibit for the gun show after a super sexy workout. After this, I’m going grab a juice made of weeds and flex my biceps in the mirror gritting my teeth and singing the chorus to Katy Perry’s “Roar” really aggressively.
So that’s not true, but I am something of a gym rat these days. I care about being strong and feeling good. But once upon a time, I was endlessly scouring the Web for little tips on burning more calories and losing more weight, even in the tiniest of increments. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read the phrases “a handful of cashews” and “squeeze in some light jogging.” The people of Big Kale and Big Grilled Chicken also have a mighty hand in this tip industry.
The tips are not dangerous in and of themselves; I am certain that they work well for those that are able to seamlessly integrate them into their day. For people who are naturally inclined to these, they are excellent ways to get fit. For me, they did me much more harm than good so I gave them their walking papers. I realized that I was justifying unhealthy compulsions because they were wrapped up in science and presented on legitimate health sites. These are the ones I gave up and why.
“Eat six small meals a day. This keeps your metabolism going all day!”
So this tip is actually an egregious act of plagiarism of JRR Tolkien who invented Hobbits and their adorable seven-meals-a-day schedule. But Hobbits eat that way because they were hungry and jolly and oozing childlike joie de vivre, not because they gave two shits are their metabolisms. Hobbits don’t even HAVE metabolisms (unconfirmed).
If you’re getting enough sleep, you are awake for 16 hour a day. Who wants to spend that kind of time, not to mention more money, on preparing six small meals a day? Not only did I become an environmental outlaw with all the little Ziplocs I was using to make those micro-meals, but this trick just forced me to think about food twice as often as I normally would. It was like a second job keeping track of it all.
If I want the time commitment of a second job, it’s going to be learning to needlepoint or starting a really excellent One Direction-themed Tumblr.
“If you want candy, grab fruit instead! If it’s salt you crave, grab some nuts!”
Oh OK, thanks, I’ll just do that. Now how about you grab a handful of me yelling, “Fuck you, that’s totally not the same thing! Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining, Dr. Internet!”
I got carried away and I apologize. But this one is personal. For me, when I crave an unhealthy food, it is that specific food and that food only that will do what I want it to. Foods are often as much about our emotional associations with them and the comfort they bring as it with how delicious that food really is to us. I think actual endorphins might be involved.
The only thing this tip ever did for me was make me eat a piece of fruit that I didn’t really want while wanting the food made mostly of garbage and sugar, sit around for five minutes running down a list of failures related to self-restraint, and then just eat the garbage too. So quitting this habit doesn’t mean that I just eat sads all day and fill my fruit bowl with candy. But I no longer kid myself when I know that I want a food for more than its nourishing qualities, and indulging that desire is sometimes the mentally healthier option.
“Keep making small movements all day to keep burning calories. It really does add up!”
I call this “The Meth Method” because it seriously suggests fidgeting, tapping your toes, and randomly squeezing certain muscles all day throughout the day. There are a number of problems with this. For one thing, you’ll burn a negligible amount of calories doing it and your office mate will report you to Human Resources for meth and noise violations.
Secondly, it forces you to be thinking about burning calories AT ALL TIMES just like those Hobbit meals do. Just because you have a major presentation due doesn’t mean you can neglect your inner thigh squeezes. I know you’d rather be fully engaged in that conversation with your best friend, but a bunch of kegels wouldn’t kill you, kiddo. Amirite?
No, you are wrong. I don’t want to twitch and tap and flex at my desk all day. I just want to look at pictures of cats and read especially sordid fan fiction in stillness.
“Your body gets used to the same workout so mix it up to maximize results!”
Have you ever read an online dating profile where a person lists soccer, MMA, sailing, hiking, kayaking, cycling, bowling, baseball, and rock climbing as hobbies? My first reaction to this is, “Wow, they must have a big apartment to store all that gear.” My second reaction is, “LIES, ALL LIES. No one likes that many activities or does them often enough to call them ‘hobbies.’”
Maybe I’m just lazy and uncoordinated and it took me YEARS to find a workout that I liked to do over and over again. But disliking most workouts didn’t stop me from venturing regularly into the hellscapes of Zumba and spin classes and that type of yoga where they try to kill you. Adding stuff I didn’t like just kept me from activities I really enjoyed and made me feel bad when it didn’t even make a significant difference.
I will no longer suffer the indignity of being seen attempting racquetball because I want to trick my body into burning more calories. I don’t want to trick my body into doing anything. I don’t care if my metabolism is bored, I care if I am bored. And since I’m not, no more killer yoga for me.
“Weigh yourself every week instead of every day, you’ll be less likely to get discouraged if you see more progress!”
True story: I once made a seven-pound weight fluctuation in a single day. And it wasn’t like I ate a small cat or seven pounds of cashews, I was just inhabiting a complex living organism that does all sorts of weird things. It is called a human body. The possibility that you’ve made progress on a fitness goal without losing weight is super high if you have one too.
That once-a-week stuff just made it devastating when no weight was lost or some was gained. If my clothes fit and I feel well, I am trying (and sometimes failing) to treat that number as just a single and fairly insignificant health indicator. I weigh myself when I’m curious and when I go to the doctor.
I haven’t thrown my scale out yet but when I do, I’m filling the void on my bathroom floor with a super-cool bathmat with a seahorse on it. They play trumpets for merpeople royalty and the boys get pregnant, you know.