The Philadelphia Inquirer recently published a fascinating article about fitness program results and our expectations as a consumer-driven society. The article explores the various ways our body changes when we begin taking nutrition and fitness seriously, many of which are not noticeable on the outside. These changes (better sleep, improved resting heart rate, increased muscle mass) are often overlooked, though, because we're conditioned to care only about the visible results; plainly put, we want to look more fit. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to build bigger muscles or shed excess weight—there is no shame in desiring specific physical results—it's problematic to prioritize this benefit.
The visible results achieved from a consistent fitness routine, and a healthy diet are just that—a benefit—but that's not why we choose this lifestyle. We choose to exercise and fuel our bodies with whole foods because it's the best thing for us; the bigger muscles are simply toppings on an already sweet and delicious dessert (to use an unhealthy metaphor).
As the Inquirer states, "it’s important not to focus too much on how much weight you’re losing, or how many pounds you’re lifting." Instead, celebrate how you feel as you move through a new program and make health and fitness a priority. Notice the quality of your sleep and your newfound ability to climb flights of stairs without getting winded. Recognize your dissipating sugar cravings, and notice how whole foods and adequate hydration are making your brain feel brighter and sharper. Celebrate the shed pounds and the tightening muscles, yes, but also praise your internal organs as they cleanse your body and convert nutritious food.
Before heading into your weekend, we highly recommend checking out this article. Let it encourage you—whether you're about to embark on a new fitness program or you're in the middle of one. Use it as a tool for knowledge and motivation; learn how your entire body is changing through healthy choices, and refuse to only focus on external, visible changes. And then spread the love. When people comment on your weight or muscles, remind them that you choose this path because of how you feel inside, too. Encourage them to start their own health journey for the laundry-list of benefits. 'Getting ripped' is merely a bonus.