(a message to the fitness industry – the good ones)
There are blind spots in the beautiful world of health and fitness – particularly in the world of the broke/n. I can tell you what macros will help you achieve what you want – but that’s assuming you have the time and resources to figure out what macros are, how to calculate them in what you eat, how to prepare accordingly, and/or hire a meal prep company.
Giving someone the tools they need is great. However, if it doesn’t come with the instructions on how to use those tools, a major portion of the problem stays unaddressed. It’s like taking your broken car to a mechanic, paying them, and then having them hand you the keys to their toolbox and walking out. You know the problem. You technically have access to all the tools to fix the problem but, in reality, you’re no closer to leaving with a repaired vehicle than you were when you walked in.
Now imagine you are walking into that same shop with a dozen other bills on your mind, you’re stressed as a way of life, you’re pressed for time as a way of life, and this is the only car you have access to. If the mechanic takes your money, hands you the key to the toolbox, and then walks away, you will feel a lot of emotions – all of them negative. Behind all the anger and frustration, an energy-draining hopelessness will dig even deeper into your psyche.
The power of hopelessness is its ability to cloud your vision and sap every fiber of your being of energy. Have you ever tried to make a decision while your vision was blurred by dust and tears? For those of you who have, you know the feeling. Instinct takes over the steering wheel. Emotion, or the energy used to deny it, takes over the engine. Those moments never consist of a pro vs con list objectively weighed and balanced. Both the angel and the devil are beckoning to you, but it’s really difficult to tell who’s who.
Pay someone’s overdue bills, get their family in order, make sure they’re rested, and fill their stomach and then sit them at a table to make a choice for their health – Cheetos or carrots. They’re not stupid. They’re not confused. They know what the right answer is. As those of us in the fitness world hear all the time,” I know what to do. It’s just a matter of doing it.”
It’s not a matter of which choice is better. It’s a matter of how to effectively make that choice when deeply reinforced feelings of hopelessness, a hundred stressors, and a life that seems largely out of your hands effectively clouds your vision. Again, have you ever tried to make an objective decision with your vision blurred by tears?
Do you really want people to be healthy – both the rich AND the poor? You won’t succeed with lists of ‘pros vs. cons’ or ‘eat vs. don’t eat.’ Growing up poor, we had almost no nutritional education, but any one of us could have told you that carrots were better for you than Cheetos. Guess which choice was usually made, though? Cheetos. Every time.
If you seek to fight a war, you need to know the enemy. If you seek to win a war, you need to know the force behind the enemy.
You don’t battle the pervasive feeling of hopelessness with a list of do and don’t. You battle it by first revealing the hope that has been there all along.
You don’t battle the powerlessness which many people, after years of being beat down, take for granted with a conversation about organic foods. You battle it by doing the work to reveal the power they already have and helping them own it.
You don’t help someone whose eyes are clouded with tears make a better decision by shouting it at them. You help them by first helping them wipe away their tears.
Hope, power, and faith lead to strength, determination, and perseverance which lead to lives transformed through one empowered decision at a time.
Be aware. Hype isn’t hope. Telling someone “You can do it,” is shallow hype and almost never leads to hope. Revealing hope follows up “You can do it” with “Here’s how” and “Here’s why” and “Here are more resources” and “How are you doing?” and “Great job!” and “Let’s get back on it” and, finally, “Well done. You did it.”
While we still need to give them the tools – discuss which choices are healthier than others and teach macro calculations and reading labels and all the rest of the good stuff that leads to a healthy and energized life – we can’t do that effectively without addressing the negative feelings and ways of life that lead to those decisions. Dig deeper into the hearts and minds of those who need help the most and you will end up with more people who actively help themselves. Isn’t that the goal? To create change in the world?
If you want to be a leader, get followers. If you want to be a leader that leaves a legacy, lead those followers to a place where they can and do lead themselves. That means giving them more than a heart “You can do it!” It means revealing to them exactly why they can do it. It means giving them more than just the raw tools of success. It means taking the time to show them exactly how.
For those of you doing exactly that – well done. We need more of you in the world.
For those of you who haven’t started – there’s no day like today to do so.