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Last night I gave a speech at Kaiser provocatively entitled, “Don’t Exercise”. It was a big hit, so I thought I would share some of the highlights with you today. The whole idea of the speech is that so often people begin to exercise because they believe that if they do so, their body will look a certain way, as if we could change our body as easily as changing our hairstyle and we could match our new body to a picture in a magazine. Except this hardly ever works. Most people are simply not genetically blessed in a way that makes huge biceps or six pack abs realistic or sustainable for them. Sure there is a very small group of people–like 5 percent or even 1 percent who are genetically blessed in a way that makes big biceps or 6-pack abs reasonably likely. That is not to say these folks don’t work hard to maintain those traits. They do. But there is no question that genetics makes big biceps and six-pack abs a lot more difficult for some people than others. And sure there is an even smaller group of people who are not genetically blessed but still manage to sport big biceps and six-pack abs for a time. They do this by being obsessed with big biceps and six pack abs. And I’m cool with that. Following Ragen Chastain’s famous underpants rule, they are allowed to spend whatever free time they are privileged to have in any way that makes them happy. They are the boss of their own underpants.
Where we get into trouble is when we insist that most people can expect big biceps and six-pack abs as a likely outcome from their fitness efforts. Because frankly, that’s a lie. In fact it’s so much of a lie, that when you look at many modern ads for fitness equipment and weight loss schemes, following any of their more outlandish claims you may find an asterisk. This asterisk typically refers to a tiny line of script at the bottom of the ad with three words: results not typical. This disclaimer is there for an important reason. The FTC and other governing bodies have sued so many of these companies for insisting that huge permanent weight loss and bodybuilder-sized biceps and butts upon which you may bounce a quarter are typical and even expected results that these companies are adding the disclaimer to A) avoid lawsuits and B) stay in business. Because while these results are certainly, technically possible with any of these schemes. These results are anything BUT typical.
So at this point a lot of people ask me what is wrong with those aspirational pictures? If it gets people to go to the gym it’s a good thing, right? Well, there’s a problem–which I like to illustrate with this picture:
Quite often I see this image held up as a great example of motivation. To which I reply–“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?” This is a terrible example of motivation. Here we have a rhino running on a treadmill looking at a picture of a unicorn. If that rhino runs really hard and really fast and really long, is he going to become a unicorn? Anybody? Anybody? OF COURSE NOT–and for two really good reasons. 1)Unicorns and rhinoceroses are two completely different animals. There is no documented case of a rhinoceros EVER turning into a unicorn because 2)Unicorns don’t exist. So, my friends, what happens after that rhinoceros spends several weeks or months at the gym and doesn’t look anything like a unicorn?
Yup, the rhino quits–usually just 4-6 weeks into their workout program (on average). So DON’T EXERCISE in order to change your rhino body into a unicorn. If you do that, your exercise program is most likely, statistically and in all probability doomed. Because unicorn bodies are “*results not typical” for most fitness programs.
There are thousands of good reasons to exercise–many of which I have talked about extensively on this blog. Exercise because it helps you feel better. Exercise because it improves your mood or improves symptoms of depression or helps you avoid getting sick. Exercise because it feels great and is fun and allows you to socialize with awesome people. Exercise because it improves your quality of life in so many important ways. Exercise for all of these reasons and so many more that are typical.
And if you want a picture to get you going, might I recommend the Flying Rhinos? We have a brand spankin’ new store where you can get hats and mugs and posters and stickers and stationery and stuff to inspire you. Get out there with your rhino body and just get rock ON with your rad rhino self.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)
P.S. Want me to come talk to your group? Click HERE to learn more.