Little Bodies on the Hillside
There is this song called “Little Boxes”, it’s catchy and a little anxious all at once.
“Little boxes made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same…
they are all put into boxes and they all come out the same”.
As a coach I see this concept manifest daily in the world of human performance. Whether it is through the influence of our immediate environment, social media, or marketing in general people find themselves believing that to be successful they must look a certain way.
To be an elite CrossFit athlete I must look like Katrin Davidsdottir or Matt Fraser. To be an elite weightlifter I must look like Mattie Rogers or Colin Burns. To be the top of anything I must look like another person. What they often fail to come to is that those physiques are the result of a lifestyle not a fad or crash diet or excessive amounts of training volume.
Then when the end of the cycle comes and they haven’t achieved the appearance they are devastated that the process didn’t work. Or worse, they achieve the physique then wonder why they feel like complete shit and cannot perform and then assume the process didn’t work.
Where does the bullshit come from:
In 1954 social psychologist Leon Festinger proposed the Social Comparison Theory. The theory states that we as humans compare our performance, opinions, and beliefs to others in order to reduce uncertainty, it is how we first learn to define ourselves in the world.
Luckily for us we no longer have to seek out deep and meaningful social engagements to create understanding of the world, it is simply one swipe away. We can simply choose from the myriad of social media and choose which version of humanity we wish to assimilate to.
As a wise woman astutely pointed out, we have the tendency to compare ourselves to who we think we should be. We follow accounts of individuals who live the life we aspire to, relate to, or simply because we like how they look. We compare our worst day to someone else’s best day, then throw photoshop in the mix.
So what Sara, let people do it for the gram. Except what some people do for validation on social media can have serious implication when it comes to human performance.
I am very grateful to bring you the thoughts of Brooke West, RDN and lead nutritionist for SOFLETE HQ.
Fueling for performance v. aesthetics:
When left unchecked fueling for aesthetics closely resembles eating disorder symptoms, even though the original intention may not be the same. Severe calorie restriction leads to a lack of macronutrients and micronutrients. This can have serious effects on the body ranging from hair loss, dull skin, loss of menstrual cycle, slowed digestion, GI symptoms, lowered metabolic rate, bone loss, and lowered sex hormones.
Not only are these symptoms not ideal for the aesthetics people so blindly chase, they are dangerous and can lead to serious health problems. Notice the decrease in metabolic rate- the exact opposite of the desired intention for most nutritional goals. If you over restrict your nutrition intake your body will out smart you as a way to self-preserve. It will hold on to every little thing you give it as a fuel reserve. In a world full of chronic dieting behavior and hundreds of fad diets giving false promises, these highs and lows we subject ourselves to can hurt the bodies incredible metabolic system.
Nutrition for fuel and for vanity look very different. When it comes to nutrition eating patterns, fueling for performance is an art that requires patience and trusting the process. We live in an Amazon Prime world where we expect that two day delivery on just about everything- but a diet that is designed to rush the process isn’t going to leave you feeling capable and nourished. It will leave you depleted and lacking key nutrients- effecting performance in a negative way.
In fact, studies show that when you crash diet you will often gain back what you lost (then some) because you have set up unrealistic eating patterns that are not sustainable for the long term. If you weren’t happy in your skin three weeks ago, then you probably won’t be happy in your skin hangry and a couple of pounds lighter when your workouts feel like shit. Confidence is more than skin deep and can be the most beautiful quality about someone. We can’t try to put a band-aid on underlying issue by attempting to alter our outside representation. Our skin is simply a place where our soul is housed. Treat it as such- with respect, compassion and patience.
Nutrition for performance is centered around approaching food as fuel for your body. Your calories and macronutrient goals should reflect making sure you are adequately fueled to support the activity or sport you train for. In some sports, like olympic lifting and strongman, you do have to make weight as part of the overall nutrition plan. Part of being mindful to fuel for performance would mean slow and steady weight loss to maintain strength- no crazy calorie deficits, extreme macronutrient restriction or water cuts. Nutrition for performance might sound more like a process, and that’s because it is. Performance nutrition is about thinking about the big picture, being patient and trusting the process. You will never be able to perform at your full potential with dangerous quick fix fads.
A few signs you are riding on empty:
· Lowered Sex Drive
· Unrestful Sleep
· Brain Fog
External v. Internal Validation:
External validation is like the lighter fluid you use to kickstart the burn. It is flashy and fast, but if it isn’t attended to with patience it will burn out quickly. Whether it comes from “likes” or “follows” from posting on our social media or the gratification of comments from co-workers and friends, these sources do not build the foundation of success. At any moment, these external feeders could change or be removed, then what?
Those who truly want to succeed, whether that is a performance or professional goal, have to be intrinsically motivated to do so. Your life’s dreams and goals should come from within. Prioritize and put value in your own opinions and beliefs.
You are Numero Uno:
While we might not all choose to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger and wear printed shirts that say “Arnold is Numero Uno”, but we do have to choose to own who we are. When it comes to making yourself a priority there are some key things that can be done to help clear out some of the excess doubt boxes.
Filters apply to more than just pictures. When it comes to social media, follow or engage with people that are motivating you to be a better version of YOURSELF. Give yourself permission to unfollow people and companies that make you doubt yourself or trigger bouts of social comparison.
Your body and your performance is not Amazon Prime. No matter how much extra you pay for shipping, results are not showing up in two days. Set realistic goals and learn to trust in the process. Learn to appreciate what you can do over whether or not you have a sick V-line. Your six pack won’t save you.
MOST IMPORTANTLY! Surround yourself with people and activities that help you grow.
At the end of the day each person is different. We all have different goals. We all have different body types. We are all far from coming out all the same.