Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” ~ Unknown
The literal meaning of this phrase is the perception of beauty is subjective, and first appeared on record in the 3rd century BC in a Greek text.
We are taught from a young age – by our parents, friends, the media and more – which traits are considered acceptable, attractive, pleasing to the eye, fashionable or trendy. In a nutshell, we are taught what is beautiful. Some of this is personal preference, but a lot of what we consider attractive is learned. What one culture might consider odd, unattractive or even unacceptable might be considered extremely attractive and highly sought-after in another.
What is considered healthy or fit has also gone through some trends and can vary drastically from culture to culture. In some cultures, carrying a little extra weight is considered healthy. To others, being fairly thin and not too muscular is the ideal. Then Sir-Mix-A-Lot gave big, round booties a place in the spotlight with his 1986 hit song Baby Got Back, and voluptuous backsides made a comeback. (I think glute styles are one of the most fluctuating fashionable muscle groups on the human body!)
It is in our nature, for the most part, to want to look and feel attractive, beautiful and healthy. Our animal instinct for survival of the fittest intrinsically tells us that the strongest, fittest and healthiest will carry on a stronger human race.
WHAT’S ON THE OUTSIDE REFLECTS WHAT’S INSIDE
With all of that being said, there are two very distinct issues at hand:
2. External appearance/looks
This is where lines get crossed and things can get confusing. Just because someone looks like they work out or has a ripped physique, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy. And just because someone has a larger frame and is carrying a little extra body fat doesn’t mean that person is unhealthy, or couldn’t run a half marathon.
Typically, your outer appearance is a reflection of your internal health. But because of our infatuation with wanting to have a certain look, it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice their health in order to attain that look.
I want to stress that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look a certain way or have certain features such as six pack abs, muscular leg lines, toned arms or a firm, round booty. I’ve personally always wanted a muscular physique, and initially it was solely for the admiration of how beautiful I think muscular physiques are. But when I made the decision to pursue changing my physique to look more like a figure competitor, I also made sure that I went about it the right way – the healthy way – and gave myself a year to start my transformation.
I knew it would take time – months, years – to build a good, solid base through consistent strength training, very little caloric deficit with healthy, nourishing foods, and the right amount of cardio. I didn’t realize that on my journey to build a really cool-looking external physique I would gain so many internal health benefits – mentally, physically and emotionally – as well as lot of life lessons and amazing friends.
HEALTHY FROM THE INSIDE OUT
Over the years I have seen some people wanting to look a certain way so badly, as quickly as possible, that they will go to extreme measures to get that look. There are no short cuts, and some of the “quick fix” methods and procedures that are offered can ultimately lead to serious long term – and potentially permanent – health problems. One of the more mild, but very common issues I see, is yo-yo dieting – periods of being super strict followed by periods of going completely overboard. Long-term yo-yo dieting typically leads to metabolic damage (which affects hormones) that can take months, even years in some cases, to correct. Other forms of eating disorders can also lead to metabolic damage, as well as more severe long-term health risks.
Another example of sacrificing health for external appearance is if you have some type of injury, or are experiencing pain that could lead to injury, and you ignore it and push through it instead of listening to your body and taking a break. I experienced this in 2010 when I ran my first marathon, the Spinx Run Fest (Greenville, SC), and had a finishing time of 3 hours and 32 minutes (8:05 min/mi pace) which qualified me for entry into the prestigious Boston Marathon.
But with the goal of running the marathon so hard and fast (I only had one thing on my mind and that was to finish with a BQ), I ended up with severe plantar fasciitis. A few weeks after the marathon, I could barely walk let alone run. I was faced with the choice of either getting a cortisone shot and continuing to train for the Boston Marathon, or completely take a break from running until my foot was healed. I didn’t want to run the risk of potentially breaking my foot, so I decided to forego Boston and allow my foot to heal.
I ended up having to take a break from running for about three years before I could painlessly run again. I love to run. I accepted the fact that I might never be able to run as regularly, or as fast or as far as I once did. I cried. It was one of the hardest things to accept as a possible truth, but I did it for the sake of the overall health of my body. While I was taking a break from running, not sure if I’d ever be able to go back to it, I turned to weight lifting and began building my physique. So it was a blessing in disguise.
I can’t think of anything in this world that is worth sacrificing one’s health for. Everyone is on their own journey, and everyone has their own reasons and goals for exercising. But the whole point, when it comes down to it, is to live a healthier life. Isn’t it?
HEALTH & FITNESS CHECKLIST
While in pursuit of your health and fitness goals, whatever they may be, keep these in mind as a way for you to keep your health as the priority:
• Maintain a healthy weight and body fat percentage that feels good for you (some people just feel better at a certain weight, and for some it might be a little heavier or a little lighter).
• Gain a healthy, realistic level of strength and exercise endurance that allows you to function at a capacity that is optimal for you and your life, which can mean anything from chasing your toddler around to being able to do heavy yard work for a long period of time to running 5ks or Spartan races as a hobby to competing in bodybuilding shows.
• Center your diet around natural, whole foods that will nourish your body and prevent age-related illnesses and disease. In other words, using food as not only a way to reach your fitness and body composition goals, but also as preventative maintenance for long-term overall health and wellness.
• Listen to your body when you feel fatigued or sore for long periods of time (more than 3-4 days). These can be signs of overtraining and/or too severe of a caloric deficit. If you experience any pain other than muscular/strength fatigue-related pain, that could be an injury waiting to happen.
• Get regular doctor check-ups, roughly every 6-12 months. Have a full blood profile taken to check your cholesterol, hormones, vitamins B12 & D, iron, liver and kidney functions and other important health numbers.
Tip Me Tuesday: Trust The Process – And Your Trainer!
Tip Me Tuesday: Your Village Is The Key To A Healthy, Fit Body
Tip Me Tuesday: It’s Not Always About The Calorie Burn
Tip Me Tuesday: It’s Not Always About The Calorie Burn
Tip Me Tuesday: Change For The Better
ABOUT NAOMI RABON
One of the trainers on Nicole’s elite NW Fitness Training Team, Naomi is a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a NPC Figure competitor who has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 12 years.