Being healthy is daunting. Being fit seems even more daunting. You see the achievements of some and look at yourself and say “I will never get to that point” and you give up. It happens. To all of us. This is nothing new. You step on a scale and your weight has gone up. You are beside yourself because you have spent the last month in the gym and you are not lighter. Instead, you are heavier! You quit. Life kicks your ass enough already, you do not need to add this to the list of things beating you down.
Now, some people will do the research and realize that they may have a weight gain because the density of muscle is far greater than that of fat. No, muscle does not weigh more than fat!! However, muscle takes up about four-fifths as much space as fat (Kent, 2015). And, the more muscle you gain, the more weight you can conceivably gain. But, you said it does not weigh more than fat….dude, what the hell.
Let’s do some math. According McArdle, Katch, and Katch (2014), the density of fat is .9 g/mL and that of muscle is 1.1 g/m/L. Thanks Rod…that makes perfect sense. I appreciate you clearing it up. Asshole. But weight (heh…see, I have a sense of humor), what this means is that if you have 1 liter of fat, that weighs 1.98 pounds. And if you have 1 liter of muscle, it weighs 2.3 pounds. This is based on volume in your body. So, let’s say that you have:
10 Liters of fat – 19.8 total pounds
And you work-out hard for many, many months and turn it into 10 liters of muscle, then you’ll have
10 Liters of muscle – 23.3 total pounds
You will have gone up 4 total pounds in weight. But damn man, I wanted to lose weight. Well, if you create 10 liters of muscle, you will have changed your body significantly and most likely look completely different, but you will have gained weight. So, that can be hard to fathom. More importantly, you are battling a psychological process that takes place when you see yourself daily – to yourself you seem unchanged, or hardly changed.
This is a byproduct of looking in the mirror every day. You just do not notice your changes. You could be far more muscular or slimmer, but you will not know it. Then, you step on that damned scale and your weight is up. Now, unless you have been eating like crazy, it simply means you are changing fat into muscle which looks smaller but makes your weight go up as the volume is what you see, not the actual weight. So, at this point a lot of people either give up or slack off and go back to bad habits. It never fails.
So, we talked about the science. Cool. Now you have an idea of the weight and density of muscle versus fat. That is the first step. Next, throw out the scale or use it very sparingly. It really does not help. But, that is a pretty easy one. I am just putting it out there. More important than the scale, is to understand yourself.
As a species, we are generally averse to pain. Who wants pain? I do not mean the pain that is so bad that you hurt yourself, but pain in general. If we have it in our lives, we certainly do not want more. If we have it at work, we want to be out of that job (although sometimes we are stuck in it which leads to other issues, like depression). So, you have to accept that with health and fitness comes some discomfort.
Let’s take a look at this in more practical terms. I want to be healthy. Man, those nachos are so damned delicious. Guacamole, fajitas, tortilla chips, ten tons of cheese, tomato, onion, and what the hell….let’s add some more cheese and then salt them up and top it off with a margarita (maybe two). 78,000 calories later and you feel so good and stuffed and happy and you love it. Sweet. On the flipside, your healthy friend is looking at the same menu and is looking at their lite menu choices. He or she would like two fajita tacos on whole wheat tortillas with a glass of water and some sliced tomato and avocado on the side. And you are staring at them thinking “you dumb mother***er, I ought to slap some sense into your dumb ass for ordering that” because they are harshing your buzz and being a total killjoy. 1100 calories later, they are done eating while you are enjoying your mountain of diabetes inducing food.
Now, how is that causing discomfort? Seriously, do you all think that eating like that is easy? It hurts. You can smell the richness of the food next to you. You can see everyone around you enjoying those margaritas. You can practically taste how good it is. As everyone is laughing and drinking it up, you are drinking water and eating a very lean meal. Come on folks, healthy people want to enjoy food too. They want to just pig out sometimes and have a plate of nachos. They want a drink. They want to enjoy some soda. But, in the end, they know that as much as they want this, it is incredibly bad for them. So, sometimes, we just avoid those friends. Why be a buzzkill? Trust me, I have been the guy at happy hour that just has a glass of water while everyone drinks. It is no fun for them and, honestly, no fun for me. So, like-minded people tend to stick together.
Fitness is discomfort. It is being able to say no. It is knowing that you will be taking the road less traveled to increase your overall health.
Faith and Fitness
I see so many people out there that are religious, and I am not knocking the basic concept of religion. In principle, religion is good because it relies on faith. You have faith in God to deliver you from evil. Yet despite this, you tend to avoid dangerous places. Why? If God will deliver you from evil, you can go anywhere, anytime you want. Ta-da, end of story. But the reality is that you have to be responsible. God will hear your prayers, but the dude is busy, so sometimes he does not answer every prayer (but he does hear them). Right? So, with fitness and health, you have to take charge. And the faith is not necessarily in God, but in yourself. You have to look in the mirror and say I can do this. I have it within me to overcome this adversity. I can ask God for help. I can plead with the universe to help me in my life, but in the end, it will be the choices I make that define me. God will not tell me to put down that margarita. God will not make me put down that nacho. Why? Well, if you believe in the concept of God, he gave you free will. You have a choice. You have a choice to be good or be bad. You have a choice to be healthy or be unhealthy. It is that simple.
So, my next suggestion is direct some of that faith and belief to yourself. Believe in your ability to overcome the challenges you face. Do not quit when the going gets tough. Do not quit when the scale moves up a bit. Instead, rededicate yourself to your goal. Use realistic measures to determine if you are changing your body. Do those pants fit better? Is that top looking nicer? Can I do extra push-ups? Can I walk a little farther this week than I did last? Does a picture of me from six weeks ago look different than a picture of me from today? These are the metrics you should be considering when you look at yourself.
You should find it within yourself to not be your own worst enemy.
Facing the Wall
We all hit the wall. This is that point where we think we have had enough. Runners often face it when training for a marathon. Cyclists hit it. Pretty much everyone undertaking a physical or mental challenge faces the wall. You come up on it and see it looming high and wide in front of you. You stare at it and stare at it and just decide you cannot get around it. This is where your faith in yourself must come into play. You have to find a way to scale that wall. You have to find a way to break it down. That is the wall that keeps you from succeeding, not just in health and fitness, but in your life. We all face it. Fear is the fuel to the fire that drives you to be your own worst enemy. Failure is scary. I may be laughed at. Mocked. Derided. But you know what – who cares!! Tune it out. You have to tune out the negativity. You have to focus on the positive. When a runner hits that wall, they have a choice. Stop and quit. Or put one foot in front of the other. Crawl. Drag yourself until you cannot drag yourself anymore. You prefer death to quitting. You have to have the mentality that you will not fail.
If you want to see what that looks like, take a minute and a half to watch this video. Just fast forward to the 1:20 mark. Watch what this 16-year-old girl does. If she quits or asks for help, that is it. So just watch….because if she has the courage to do what she does…what is your excuse?
We all face the wall. It is exacerbated by a lack of faith in ourselves and a lack of knowledge about the science behind health and fitness. It is further compounded by people who would see us undo all the progress we make just to satisfy the need to drink, eat, and party. We have one life. If you choose to do those things, more power to you. We all pay a price for our choices. But, if you choose the path of health and fitness, you will pay a price too. But, the overall gain you get for being healthy is like doing your research and picking a winning stock as opposed to hitting the blackjack table and hoping you get a blackjack hand dealt.
Stop being your worst enemy. One day, you might even thank yourself for it. Good luck.