What’s wrong with the health and fitness industry? Its focus is on kicking goals.

What’s wrong with the health and fitness industry? Its focus is on kicking goals.

By on Jan 8, 2014 in Health, Psychology

What’s wrong with the health and fitness industry? Its focus is on kicking goals.

Don’t get me wrong. I like achieving.  I like seeing results. I like feeling as if I’m more competent than the next person. But here’s the thing: I’m tired of being told that I’m not good enough unless I’m ‘achieving my goals’ and I’m tired of listening to other people speak about themselves as though their self-worth relies on the perfect waist measurement, bicep bulge and lack of skin-fold. Because here’s another thing: when your focus is on kicking goals there is never an end to it. You can always run further or faster, train harder, have bigger muscles, lose more weight… and, you might ask, what’s wrong with that if it keeps you moving and motivated?

What’s wrong with that is this: you are being fuelled by anxiety and low self-esteem. When being fit and healthy is sold as being slim and buff and sexy, it keeps us anxious to measure up, it keeps us feeling bad about ourselves if we don’t look like the instructor with the six-pack. We might achieve our goals but we get there by feeding a negative inner-dialogue with ourselves. ‘If I don’t exercise today I’ll get fat… If I’m fat it means I’m lazy… I ate dessert last night so I have to punish myself this morning by working out even harder… I have to be attractive for other people to like me…I have to look good to be able to like myself…’

It’s crap. Because here’s a life truth that the industry likes to gloss over: you can’t always ‘look or be your best’. Our bodies are in a constant state of change. The second you achieve your goal, is also the second you start to lose it. Life is full of injury, sickness and ageing. And there’s another thing called genetics; not everyone can look like a centrefold.

So why bother to exercise or work on your health? How do you stay motivated if you aren’t working towards a goal? It’s easy. I stay moving because I like myself and I enjoy life.  I move my body for the joy of it. My only goal is to be more accepting of myself. I’m not trying to lose weight or build muscle. I’m not over-weight but I’m not skinny either. If I look like I had more than a green smoothie for breakfast, it’s because I did. My belly wobbles when I throw a punch. My butt jiggles when I dance. I’m fine with that.

When I move my body I feel strong and free and happy. I practice qi gong, I dance, I run, I go to yoga classes, I swim, I go hiking. I move my body with an intention to learn something about myself. I want to quiet my mind and listen to my body. I want to feel my breath and appreciate the fact that I’m alive. I want to express myself. I find movement that I can share with my friends. We walk, hike, swim and dance together. I’ve learnt this: the more you move, the more you laugh. Your spirit gets lighter. I live a healthy, active life because I want to be good to myself and accept myself exactly as I am.

You don’t have to be the best you can be. You don’t have to kick goals. You can just be you. Full stop.

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Dana Meads is a Melbourne-based writer, with a particular interest in health, psychology, politics and culture. 

Email Dana here.

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