You start a journey to lose weight, and you end up in the business of knowing yourself. So many analogies in life are concentrated in the simple task of physical training that you can’t help but wake up.
Our language is infected with common places like “just be yourself” and you immediately agree with your counterpart on the other side of the table. But the reality takes the “just” part off of that sentence.
Been yourself, confronting what you have, and most importantly what you don’t, is a colossal task. It’s an endeavor we can postpone forever with clothes, entertaining and postures of self-confidence, but one that is going to catch up with us the minute we rest our head on the bed.
Physical exercise exposes you to objective, measurable and indisputable limits. Then it probes than breaking these boundaries is not enough since you need to be able to come tomorrow and do the same. It makes you quit, it makes you try again, it makes you try different things. Then you go to the corner of pain, frustration and good arguments for giving up. But the call is in your head, and sooner or later you are back in the ring.
What we may be missing is the value of frustration. If we are getting a bad deal between effort and results, is because we are forcing our body to get ahead of our character. You can’t have the body of a winner with the attitude of a loser. You can’t behave like a passionate person if nothing really ignites your ambition, makes you dream or moves you to tears. You can’t look like a god while acting like a worm.
You don’t pursuit a healthy body to artificially and sporadically show it off at the beach, and answer to the question “have you been working out?” with a hypocrite “some”. You get that body because it’s an unavoidable reflection of what you perceive as worthy. You got there because your perception of beauty and your constant enjoyment of open spaces made it impossible to accumulate more fat than necessary, because you are not eating to distract yourself from a job you hate, because you increased the intensity of your workout very gradually, always feeling it as an experience not as a routine.
After 10 years of writing down every little thing I ate, I started to find patterns. I get in shape when I’m working in something I love or just creating. I lost shape when I fulfill social commitments; people which company I no longer enjoy but keep gravitating around. I get in shape when I run little but regularly. I lost shape when I work out fiercely but irregularly. “Starvation mode” is a myth: when your body needs something, it asks for it. Diet should never include hunger and exercise should never be painful. You are not doing this for the way you look, but because you started behaving with dignity.
I covered the wall in front of my bed with portraits of people I admire: physicist, conquerors, artist, entrepreneurs, athletes, writers, actors, philosophers… My mantra is this: If I walk into a bar and see all these guys sitting at a table, I want to behave as one who can pull off a chair and have a beer with them.