When healthy is unhealthy and lean is too lean…
It is time we got real about women’s bodies and body fat levels. The media, magazines, fashion and clothing industry, the diet industry, and also the fitness and personal training industry has a lot to answer for.
I am seeing far too many women in my clinic lately that are beaten down, stressed out, exhausted from training and hating their bodies… and trying to attain what is NOT natural for a woman.
Drill sergeant trainers are NOT helping; for many women it is pushing them over the edge of a healthy and balanced attitude to training and food. Guilt over not training or deviating slightly from the diet is NOT in any way acceptable from a trainer.
No carb or calorie counting, or extreme enforced diets or a dictatorial attitude to training and diet is WRONG. It takes away the belief that a person should have in themselves to TRUST in their bodies and EAT INTUITIVELY. Women (and men) then end up in a vicious cycle of punishment and feeling good and bingeing and feeling bad.
The body is smart, when healthy and tuned in it knows how much it can exercise before exhaustion (or couch potato status) and it knows how much and what to eat and this is what we should be educating people to do. As therapists and trainers we should be helping our clients take back the responsibility for their diet and exercise and not for them to give responsibility away to a trainer or health / diet coach. This I would consider trainer EGO, it is placing too much POWER in the trainers hands. There is a very delicate balance for the trainer to achieve between pushing enough and not too much, encouragement and enforcement.
A gifted trainer or therapist should aim to educate; not dictate.
Yes we can do nothing but admire the lean toned, sub 10% body fat woman in fitness and figure modelling….
However it is not sustainable. This is women at the peak of their shape and pinnacle of their diet and training AND after an extreme final countdown week involving no carbs, fluid restriction (often diuretic use and extreme dehydration) and then carb re-feeding.
BUT what is the cost to women in striving to achieve this low body fat? Emotionally, physically, reproductively? At what cost to relationships? At what cost to the work-life-play balance? This low body fat % is only attainable for a short period of time before it leads to significant health consequences.
However what cuts me up most is that many women (and men) become absolutely stuck in obsessively over thinking every minute of training, and diet such that food preparation and gym sessions become all of their day. The diet of the fitness athlete becomes far too limited and extreme and lacking in nutritional balance and this will actually intensify the obsessive thinking (especially as essential fatty acid deficiencies and mineral deficiencies set in). It doesn’t take long for more extreme thinking to sneak in and this WILL happen in a certain % of women, more likely the perfectionist type personality with low self-esteem. The one who can take it a little bit farther. As health professionals we need to be more observant with our diligent clients as these are the ones more at risk.
Please be the change. Ignore the media, boycott the magazines, turn off the adverts for body and weight related products….. all this obsessing over what we look like and trying to attain what is NOT healthy, it is using up the brain space for free thinking and living life in more meaningful ways. I am not saying throw out the gym gear and healthy foods I am saying embrace them as part of an intuitive daily regimen. Tune in every day to what feels right and set a new example for the next generation.
Is this the message we wish to tell our children? Boys and Girls?
Body fat is there for a reason; for females it is connected to menstrual cycle and reproductive health; bone and brain health; and so many other functions. We have oestrogen receptors throughout the body and a certain minimal level of body fat is crucial for healthy oestrogen levels….
Watch this superb YouTube to learn more.