Fitness Friday: Kill 'em with kindness

Ethan Miller

Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself. --Simone de Beauvoir

One of the recurring themes of Fitness Friday is overcoming the obstacles that keep you from achieving your fitness goals.

Let's face it, it's hard to find time to eat right and exercise when you're always working, or have class all hours of the day. Maybe the kids are eating up all your free time or you just can't afford anything except the dollar menu at the local fast-food eatery.

The good news is, most of those obstacles are temporary, or can be remedied by juggling your schedule.

But what happens when your biggest obstacle comes from the people you love? I know it sounds crazy at first. After all, your support system -- family and friends -- are the ones who have your back, who stick by you through thick and thin (pun intended).

Et tu, Brute?

In 2003, I weighed 280 pounds. I knew I had a problem, so I went on a diet and started going to the gym. I lost some weight in the beginning and a few months later I was down to about 260. My friends and family were pumping me up all the time.

"Looking good!"

"Wow, you really are losing weight!"

I remember being embarrassed to take my shirt off at the pool, and someone near and dear to me was in my ear. "You look fine, what are you so worried about? Look around you, none of the jelly-bellies here can say anything, anyway!"

After awhile, they had me feeling pretty good about myself. I had a little swagger in my step because I was eating good and working out ... whoa ho ho ... watch out, Mrs. H, don't let the lay-deeeeez get a look at the new me! As if. The truth was, I had high cholesterol and even higher blood pressure. At just 31, I was a heart attack waiting to happen.

They were killing me, with kindness.

Who knows what might have happened had I not run into an old friend on MySpace (remember that?), one I hadn't seen since I was in college (and in shape). We had agreed to meet for drinks and when I saw him, he walked up to me and said, "Oh, sorry, I was supposed to meet a friend here, but it looks like you got here first and ate him."

It hurt.

He spent the whole night talking about what a fat piece of crap I was. Some friend, right? In actuality, he was the best friend I ever had, because he didn't give a shit if I went home and cried myself to sleep. He saw a person who was a health risk, yet clearly convinced otherwise.

And he gave it to me straight.

He did that when no one else in my support system would. Why? Because they didn't want to have to live with the guilt of hurting my feelings. Think about that for a second. Some people would rather leave you at risk for a heart attack then come out and say "You're too fat and need to lose weight."

I was angry at first, thinking how selfish that was. You would rather have my heart explode than feel guilty for telling me I'm a rhino?

Then I realized it wasn't their responsibility. It was mine.

When you put yourself at risk, you burden the ones you love. Amid their constant state of worry, they'll try to say the right thing at the right time. When I would agonize over denying myself a cookie, Grammy would say, "For Pete's sake boy, have a cookie, it's just one."

But it's not about the cookie, it's about the mindset.

That's why I was dieting and going to the gym and still weighing 260 pounds. My eating plan was too restrictive and my cardio was a joke. Eating tuna and iceberg lettuce all day? Pedaling on the stationary bike while reading Muscle & Fitness?

Pfffft.

I wasn't doing the right things and I had let myself be talked into believing it didn't matter.

It does matter.

When you have a specific fitness goal, the last thing you need are a bunch of "Yes Men." Now, I'm not suggesting you take a picture of yourself in swimwear and post it online with a 72-font caption that reads HOT OR NOT? Instead, find a straight shooter to give you the goods.

"Hey (insert name here), I need a no-bullshit assessment of my (insert fitness goal here)."

Everyone knows a straight shooter, just as everyone has their own personal cheerleader. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle, but I like to err on the side of caution and go closer to the critic, because if they're the right kind, they'll also let you know if you've gone too far.

"Bro, put the weights down already, your veins have veins."

The easiest way to combat this, and something I failed to do my first time out, is to establish a quantifiable goal. "Losing weight and getting in shape" is not quantifiable and can be subjective, according to who you ask. To your support system, you may look great, even if you're miles away from the promised land.

Things you can quantify:

I weigh 210 and my goal is to weigh 190.

I want to improve my conditioning and run a seven-minute mile.

I want to get stronger and be able to bench press 300 pounds.

You can even go simpler if it fits your situation. Maybe you just want to lose 10 pounds by Memorial Day, when a lot of people (and complexes) open their pools. Once that shirt comes off, there's nowhere to hide except under water (and you can't stay there forever).

That's why ViSalus launched its "Project 10 Kids" initiative, which gives you a specific goal of losing 10 pounds -- or adding 10 pounds of lean muscle -- which in turn gets 30 Vi-Shape Nutritional Shake meals delivered to a child in need.

"In need" is defined as an at-risk, overweight or obese child who needs help getting on the path to a healthier life.

Get it done, and you earn a t-shirt with "i LOST it" or "i BUILT it" (front) "And a Child Wins" (back), giving you an opportunity to brag about hitting your fitness goal AND helping a child in need. Ask that annoying meathead on the bench how may kids he's helped with all those pointless reps.

Hint: The answer is zero.

If you're reading this and thinking, "Well, those kids are shit outta luck, 'cuz I'm already in BEAST MODE and hit my fitness goal last month. Not a problem, you can still donate 30 kid-sized shakes through the Vi-Community Challenge and ViSalus will match you shake for shake, doubling your gift to 60 kid-sized shake meals for an at-risk child.

You can also donate a box of their Nutra-Cookies, and ViSalus will match you cookie for cookie.

Fitness can do more than just shape your body. It can also shape your way of life. But what shape it takes all depends on your willingness to embrace the truth about what you hope to achieve once you cross the finish line. And it doesn't hurt to have someone on the sidelines handing you a bottle of water when you need it.

Or telling you when you've already had too much.

Fitness Friday is sponsored by ViSalus. Opinions expressed are solely of the author. For more information on the ViSalus line of products click here. To find out how you can be a part of Project 10 Kids or to donate, click here.

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