“Look . . . she eats like a normal person!”

Perfection is overrated.

Perfection is overrated.

I got into a discussion recently with a very fit, fabulously toned exercise instructor.  I would like to share it, because it brings to light a couple of interesting assumptions that some people hold:

  • That people who look fit and healthy – those people so many of us admire (or idolize or envy) – practice an extreme lifestyle of denial and willpower.  “She/he must never eat bread or ice cream or fries.  I’m sure they have seltzer water with a slice of lemon at the bar, and eat a salad for lunch everyday.”
  • That someone who works in the fitness business has a responsibility to present an image of perfect control and discipline, and that appearing to be perfect is helpful to others looking for a fitness role model.

The story as told by my fitness instructor friend unfolded like this:

She was out for dinner with her husband at a local restaurant, enjoying a little time away from children, when she noticed a woman who regularly attends her strength class, sitting at a nearby table with her husband.  Soon the instructor’s food arrived:  a veggie burger, a beer, and . . . (gasp!!!) TATER TOTS!!!!

She overheard the woman whisper to her husband, “Look!!  She eats just like a normal person!!!”

I burst out laughing when she told me this.  It was like the punchline of a joke.

The instructor, however, expressed feeling a little ashamed for having “set such a bad example” and “letting her class attendee down.”

My view is the opposite.  I think it is great for people with fitness and health goals – particularly weight loss goals – to see an example of moderation in someone they admire.  “Yes,” this healthy message proclaims, “you can have tater tots (or another favorite treat) once in a while and still eat healthy overall.  I don’t eat like this at every meal, for goodness sake!”  Compromise is part of a healthy eating plan.  Eating a moderate portion of tater tots with a veggie burger and ONE beer is different than eating a dinner plate of tater tots with a half pound burger loaded with bacon, cheese, and butter – with 4 beers to chase it all down.

My personal and professional experience has repeatedly shown me that excessive rigidity with health or weight loss goals just doesn’t end well!  Things tend to fall apart, and when they do, it’s not pretty.  Better self-control starts with manageable goals that lead to gradual, progressive improvements in lifestyle.


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