Why You Will Never Get Fit or Be Slim

(Gotta love that cheery headline)

So the latest on the gym challenge is: I managed 20 visits in November (I know!), bringing the total to 133 for the year. Also went today, so that leaves a mere 17 more visits if I'm to hit my target for the year of 151. Ha! Piece of piss. Unless I break a leg of course, in which case all bets are off.

So a few things have occurred to me about the business of getting fit. The first is that, unfortunately, some of us just don't see any physical difference unless we go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week. I suspect this might be the case for a lot of people, but really, who would ever sign up to one if you thought you were going to have to go that often? Three times a week sounds almost manageable, so that's what's promoted. It's a bit like the theory that we all should really be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day, but that's just beyond the beyond for most people, so 5 a day is the compromise that's promoted.

The other thing I've realised is that becoming fit and slim really are impossible goals. Think about it – what does "getting fit" mean to you? There will always be someone fitter than you, even if you're a professional athlete. There will always be someone thinner than you (unless you're a skeleton, and then you won't care).

And the trouble with impossible goals is that they are always destined to fail. If you can't define what something definitely is or isn't, how will you know when you've achieved it? If you never feel like you've succeeded at something, then all that's left is disappointment.

You've probably heard of business goals needing to be SMART, i.e.:

  • Specific – what exactly does it involve?
  • Measurable – How much? Give a definite number
  • Attainable – Is this something that can be done?
  • Realistic – Do you honestly believe that you can do this?
  • Timely – When do you intend to do this by?

But you can apply this to any goal you like. Setting vague goals is something I look out for with my coaching clients, because it can also be a procrastination method. I ask them: How will you know when you've achieved that? What will be different in your life?

I used to think that my main aim in going to the gym was to become healthier. My basic bodyshape is Shetland pony in glasses, so there's no point in wishing I was a teeny waif. But how do you know what healthier means? Healthier than whom? I was literally on a treadmill, chasing the impossible.

So this is why I like having a definite number of gym visits per year to aim for – it's very clear cut, the epitome of the SMART goal. Either I go or I don't. Becoming fitter, healthier and less chunky is really just a by-product. Of course, it helps if you're a stubborn bugger too, but that's not something I have to try too hard to achieve.

  • Anca Enache

    Hello.
    Let me first start by saying that the weight loss/fitness industry is smart. The main reason for this is that it defines its goal in lost weight (as opposed to centimeters). A simple experiment will show why this is wrong: take 1 cubic cm of raw meat, no fat on it, and 1 cubic cm of fat. Put them both on a scale. You will notice the fat is slightly lighter than the meat. What this means for our bodies is that as we replace fat with muscle we might keep the same weight.
    Then there is, of course, the dieting. There are loads of diet recipes everywhere. Truth be told, most of them are inhumanly hard to follow. Not because people lack the will to, but because the body needs what it needs to function.
    So, in my opinion, going to the gym or dieting should only be done for health reasons. Cleaning your menu of all the junk food, getting your blood flow to become less of a slacker. When these things are done, provided there is no serious health issue involved (hormonal, liver “malfunctions”), we will arrive at a healthy “point”, feeling good in our own skin. Now for the looks of it, I guess that was set a long time ago, while growing up, being mostly dependent on our bone and muscle structure. We can tone and shape the problematic areas, with a little help from a good trainer, but we will not be able to change much, unless we turn this into the primary goal of our life. Honestly, keeping gym visits on a regular calendar or a minimum requirement per year is healthy enough, if they keep our mood on the bright side, bring some sort of order in our lives and release some stress. Fitting and shaping, just secondary effects.