How do you know if you are being successful? Whether it is at work, university, racing or trying to lose weight. How do you determine whether you are doing a good job or a bad job? I think most of us if we have to be honest, would say that we compare ourselves to others. Jealousy is a human emotion and despite how much we may try not to feel it or lie about falling victim to it, it is something most people will experience at some point. Sometimes this can be a good thing, the motivation to match someone who is faster, stronger or smarter than you can push you to go harder or to lift a new level you may not have been able to if you kept going. For people who are new to fitness or anything else, comparing yourself with others who have been doing something for a long time can unfortunately be a source of demoralisation and it can even be depressing. When someone is starting something for the first time, especially something they feel self-conscious about, the more positivity they can experience the more likely they are to keep going.
Before we really get into it this week I want to take a quick moment to thank everyone who read my last post and thank you all for your encouragement and words of support. I read each and every message, email and comment I received and I apologise to those of you who I have not gotten back to. There have literally been too many messages and comments to respond to.
Now onto business. One of the things that really pisses me off is when people use the whole "You're lucky" or "It's easy for you" when they are explaining why they are unable to do something which I have either done or believe they can do. There is nothing easy about what goes into living a healthy lifestyle. I take my hat off to those people who have spent their lifetime living a healthy life. There is sacrifice and there is long hours spent training. There are internal battles with self control and making decisions which will not only affect you but will have an impact on those closest to you too (one of the best ways to lose contact with friends is to cut back your drinking). So while there is a perception that it is easy or simple for someone, realise that more likely than not, it isn't so easy for them to live the life they want.
Maybe I perpetuate the image of simplicity. It is all good and well for me to put up a pretty cycling photo or a shot with my sexy legs all flexed and veiny. Yeah, easy right? Just a casual 25km run with time to stop and take a few photos. When the reality is much more unexciting. How many of us will share those moments where we are down or at the bottom. Why is it that I do not post photos of me vomiting at the end of a particularly hard interval session. Why is it that I do not tell the world about how I went too hard on a bike set and spent two days recovering because I was so dehydrated. The answer is because no one wants to see that and to be honest it could also scare some people off. I can't remember what movie it is out of but there was a line I once heard which was something along the lines of 'the bad moments are what come between the happy photographs' and I think this is true with training. The dark and hard moments are what happens between the positive and happy successes.
What I do to maintain my healthy lifestyle is a decision that I need to live with. Which is why people need to focus on their own health choices. There is nothing to be gained by apologising to a coach for missing sessions or telling your personal trainer that you let them down because you ate pizza when you were trying to avoid take away food. You are the one who will incur the results of your decisions. So then why would you compare what your results are to someone else?
Partnering with others is a useful tool for motivation to a point. When you encourage each other and create an element of competition, you can go harder. Where it becomes an issue though is when you start to let it get you down. If person A and person B both train the same and person B loses more weight than person A there is a chance that person A will become frustrated by this. Excuses will start to form, I have to work more, they are younger than me. This can lead into more negativity which in turn can mean that person A and person B continue onto completely different outcomes. Person B might after working hard and seeing results make a lifestyle change and continue on the fitness path. Person A however may become demoralised and decide that they cannot do it. They fall off the wagon and instead of understanding that there are an almost endless list of variables as to why they have had different levels of success to person B, they think that there is something wrong with them or their body which wont allow them to lose weight properly.
As always I stress that I am no expert here but if you took the above scenario, took two completely random people and made them both do the same exercise and eat the same diet I would be curious to see the results. I would think though that they would not be the same. All these other factors would play their part. One person may sleep more or have a more active job. One person might have a medical condition which impacts their metabolism. It isn't a level playing field yet people think that it will be fair? The same with a job. If two people start at the same time and both have the same qualifications, it is likely that one of them, not both of them will get the promotion. It is just how things go. It can seem unfair and it can seem like there is no hope. But just because you don't experience the same results as someone else does not mean that you will not achieve your own success too. Remember, whether you run a 4 minute kilometre or an 8 minute kilometre, you both ran a kilometre!
So when you undertake a new challenge, it is important to source internal motivation. If you focus on yourself and those things that you are doing right you are more likely to keep going. If you see that you are losing a kg every week because of the changes you have made you might be more motivated to keep going even if your friend is losing 2. At the end of the day you are the person who lives with the consequences of your decisions so should you not also be the person that you measure yourself against? Keep a journal with your training and food and weight. Do what I did and geek out with an excel spreadsheet which tracks your progress. Take photos once a month so you can see the differences in your body shape. All of these things will mean that you are measuring your success against no one else but you!
While I am sure that there are many people who would say that it is easy for me to say this because I have made lifestyle change let me tell you. I still find myself comparing myself to others and feeling helpless. What I try to do though is focus on those things which are within my control. When I line up for a race, I cannot control how skinny the guy next to me is or how much training they have done in the lead up to the race. I cannot control how much money they spent on a bike or if they are coached by the greatest coach on the planet. What I can control is how I prepare. I can control how much I weigh when I line up at that start. I can control the fitness and form that I carry into a race. This is why I am so adamant that I am out there racing against myself. I measure myself against myself because it allows me to understand how much I have improved. It keeps me motivated to keep improving. No matter how many races I do, the course will change, the weather will change and the competition will change. I will still be there and I will be the constant that I can use to measure myself against.
So learn to use yourself as a gauge for your improvement. If you find yourself in a situation where you are required to compare yourself to others, either in a race or work situation, just try and remember that you have no control over the other person and if you are going to draw anything from it, try and make it positive. There are a plethora of reasons why things shouldn't be done but if you are able to focus on just one reason, because you want to do it, you will be able to keep going.
Wow I just re-read this and it is a little preachy. But I can't be bothered writing it again. I think it must mean that I am wise now that I am old. I turned 30 on Monday which I keep saying doesn't bother me too much. I don't really think that it does. I say to people that I feel like I lived the first 5 years of my 20's like a 40 year old so does that mean I get to enjoy my 20's for another 5 years? I am ok with it and I am actually excited to see where the next few years lead me. This year is my last year of uni (hopefully forever) and will also see me line up at some big races. I know that I am training harder and smarter than I have before and I am loving incorporating this stuff more and more into my daily life.
So from this wise 30 year old let me wish you a happy week, an amazing year and remind you to TRI!
This week something happened which I found very upsetting. I was upset and a little angry because I was accused of judging people based on their physical appearance in relation to weight. At the end of the day the person who told me this and subsequently told me that they no longer wanted any contact with me was someone who I had never met. Someone who had connected with me online. At first I wasn't that bothered. I thought it was just a difference of opinion (it happens) but when I was told the reason was for judging people it was like the wind was knocked out of me. I do not want to bang on about it and to be honest I am a little bit sick of referencing it but I used to be massively overweight. I cannot understand how anyone would think that I could judge people based on their weight as I know exactly what they are going through. I Want to deal with this in some depth this week.
I have always tried to be honest when I write this blog. I do this only to share my thoughts on sport, health and fitness. I do this because I want to help people who want to lose weight. For those people to know that a completely average guy, who much like them, felt like he had tried everything, managed to lose weight. I have also written before about the how hard it can be to look in the mirror and not like the person who looks back at you. If I was the sort of person who 'judges' people because they are overweight would I do this? Would I spend literally hours every week replying to messages and emails from people asking about how to lose that last bit of weight or giving tips on how to get started. I have even written training programs (something I charge for) completely for free to help people who have asked for it. Many of these people I have and never will meet. When I was overweight I went overseas to meet my now wife's friends and family. Dez is from Norway and I was terrified. I was terrified because I thought that Dez's friends and family would not see why Dez would be dating a guy who was so overweight. I was worried that I would not meet the stereotype of a tall, tanned muscular Australian. When I started training for triathlon I barely swam and when I did I wore a rash vest because I did not want people to see me without my shirt off.
Now I am not putting this in my post because I want people to feel sorry for me or to get any sympathy. I am trying to paint a word picture where you may understand that I really really get what it is like to be overweight. I get it in a way that someone who has never been overweight cannot. I still get it. I still see a fat person in the mirror when I look back and while it is finally starting to get better for me, being accused of doing this to others, something that I have done to myself for so long literally breaks my heart. No one understands what another person is going through or why they are overweight, underweight or even their ideal weight. At the end of the day it is an incredibly complex and sensitive issue. However, I also believe that it isn't something that we should be afraid to talk about. Is it that political correctness has become so absurd that we are terrified of hurting anyone's feelings?
I know I am blunt and am often criticised for being too honest and not thinking before I speak. But I think this is something that can be one of my strengths. I can't tell you the number of times I have been asked a question by Dez or my Mum which I have given a completely honest answer to where one was not really wanted. I can't help it. It is just how I am. But this does not mean that if someone who is overweight walks past me I assume they are lazy, useless or not willing to help themselves. I can tell you that when I see people who are overweight I also do not assume that they are sad or unhappy with their weight. While I mentioned that I had issues with my body image, it wasn't something that I spent all of my time thinking about. Most of the time I was not even that focused on my own weight. I mean I knew I was big, I just didn't realise how big.
What I will not do though is sit back and give the people I care about a free pass either. I am not a preachy person who thinks that I know everything. But you better believe that when my Mum went through a tough time a few years ago and dropped to below 40kgs I said something. Does this mean that I was judging her? Fuck no it doesn't. I wanted to understand what I could do to help her. I think a person's physical appearance is one of the best methods to determine some key factors about a person. My Mum was wasting away because she was stressed and suffering a terrible time. Similarly when my Grandad put on 30kgs after one of his cancer treatments you better believe that I said something. Again, does this mean that I was judging him? NO FUCKING WAY! To me, judging someone based on their weight would be to look at a person who is overweight and assume that they sit in front of the television all night eating take away food doing nothing but feeling sorry for themselves. That they are not willing to help themselves. This is poison. I 100% agree that no person has the right to think that about another person, especially when they do not know that person. I am sure we have all seen it at the gym or at a race at some point. Some dick who laughs at an overweight person for having a go. It is probably one of the reasons why it is so hard for some people to get into the gym or sign up for their first race. I am self-conscious enough wearing skin tight lycra now and I remember how embarrassed I was wearing it at 120kgs+. I love seeing people having a crack and I make a point of hanging around after I have finished a race to cheer on as many of the later finishers as I possibly can.
The main thing I want to say though is that while this is a sensitive topic, it is something that we need to talk about. I really do believe that we cannot be so concerned with political correctness that we are afraid to ask people if they need help. If we allow ourselves to become too afraid to talk about other people's weight we are allowing the obesity epidemic to continue or preventing people with eating disorders with a viable channel to talk about what is going on. At the end of the day, I would rather ask someone if they are ok and maybe insult them a little bit but make sure that they are in fact ok. Not some stranger on the street or anything, that would be weird. But there is a really good saying 'no one can save everyone, but everyone can save someone". I will edit it a little bit for this "No one can help everyone, but we can all ask ask if someone needs help". By avoiding these incredibly serious issues out of fear of hurting someone who you care about you could be doing them a disservice. I mean just like you don't know whether they are having issues, you don't know whether they are actually looking for help but are too afraid to ask for it. It comes down to you as an individual. Whether you are the person who is over or under weight or are the person who is concerned for them. Realise that it is something we should be comfortable to talk about. Not because we are judging them or want to hurt them but because we care about them.
So now I have said my peace you can make your own opinion as to whether I am someone who judges others based on their physical appearance. If you think I am after hearing my point of view that is completely your decision. But I will not apologise for trying to help those people who I care about or who ask me for help. I will never judge a person based on their appearance but I will use their appearance as one of many tools to help me determine how that person is doing. For that I will not apologise.
Do no tbe afraid to ask if someone needs help and as always remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.