BE WARY OF ASSIGNING A FALSE SENSE OF MORALITY TO YOUR EFFORTS OF GETTING FIT
By O. R. Marv
When I went to my first inpatient rehab at the age of 25, I was told a very important distinction that I had to wrap my head around if I was to have any chance of survival.
The head nurse looked me dead in the eye and told me very sternly, “You are not an evil person getting righteous, you are a sick person getting better.”
It blew my mind and I physically jolted backwards as I had become very, very good at not only beating myself up, but pretty much convincing myself I was the Devil incarnate.
Yes, like most everyone else in recovery, in the depths of my disease I committed heinous, unspeakable, even criminal acts.
While I most definitely had to recognize just how far down the gutter I had fallen in order to get help, making the distinction I was sick and not pure evil went a far, far way in helping me become restored to sanity.
I had to learn to not assign morality on myself – I was neither evil nor righteous.
That was easier said than done, as my whole life I followed an “all-or-nothing” type of thinking – everything was either “black” or “white”.
Because of this, I quickly assigned my morality to things that had no business being categorized as either “good” or “bad.”
For years, almost a decade, I had a hard time NOT assigning morality to my eating choices, my exercise routine, and even my body.
Everything was black or white, good or bad.
When it came to food I faced one of two dilemmas:
1) I would be extremely strict, and all was “good” and I “never” had a cheat meal….well, until I got beyond inebriated and blacked out three or four times a week– then all bets were off. Once I realized what had happened I would beat myself up mercilessly and make myself feel guilty as hell.
And I mean “got caught with your hand in your mother’s wallet” guilty.
It would weigh on me to the point of causing panic attacks.
2) Conversely, if I was super “good” for a long time I decided I deserved to be “bad” – I had earned it! I would try to limit this to just one “bad” meal – but once I had that one “bad” meal I always figured, “What’s the point? I’m already off the rails of clean eating, I might as well get it out of my system!” and I would go into an all-out binge that would sometimes last days and even weeks.
I became the master of “Tomorrow I HAVE to start my clean diet again.”
The guilt I felt after such a binge was even worse than the guilt from a single blacked out cheat meal (full disclosure: I still struggle with this from time to time).
When it came to my exercise, the morality dilemma was not as complicated as my relationship with food, but it still had some dire results.
I never could be happy with simply “doing my best.” – I had to either crush the workout or it was a “bad” day.
If I wasn’t crushing PR’s (personal records) I would get angry in the middle of a workout and any sense of spirituality via exercise was thrown out the window.
One of my worst weight training related injuries came as a result of me shaming myself for being “bad” for forgetting a vital piece of equipment at my house.
When I got to the gym and realized I had forgotten that equipment, instead of riding my bike home to grab it or just come back later that day like a reasonable person would have done, I spoke harshly to myself and convinced myself I didn’t need it and would just have to “suck it up.”
As that piece of equipment was already my way of lifting heavy around an old chronic injury, I re-aggravated it in a very serious manner that led to permanent, career-altering damage.
Had I not thought of everything as “good” or “bad”, I seriously doubt I would have worked out that day – or I would have least change my routine up once I realized I wasn’t properly equipped.
Last, but not least, I struggled with major body-image issues as I assigned morality to each and every individual body part.
I compared myself to that of the airbrushed muscle mag cover models and therefore I always fell short.
Instead of looking at all my growth and improvement, all I saw was my weak spots.
I sucked the joy out of my progress.
If only I had kept this false sense of morality away from my exercise, nutrition, and body image; I may have actually enjoyed the process of getting fit.
I must be clear - even today if I am not hyper-vigilant in my recovery, I can still feel those old feelings of guilt and shame creep back when I make a less-than-ideal decision regarding exercise and nutrition, or when I look at myself in the mirror.
The good news is I don’t have to let those feelings rule my life like they once did.
I can catch myself doing so and I can then begin to be gentle on myself once again.
I can focus on the positive – and remember just how far I’ve come from when I was too afraid to live yet too scared to kill myself.
I’ve talked with many people who face similar dilemmas to mine – of feeling guilty and shameful after a cheat meal or a binge; or realizing they simply let their bodies “go” over the years.
It’s hard NOT to do this, given our society with its beauty culture and the extreme advertising we face on a daily basis.
Look - life on life’s terms is hard enough as it is, ESPECIALLY when you are in recovery from some sort of an addiction.
Why the hell do we always want to innately add some made up crap of feeling “guilty” for going out to eat with family and friends, for missing a workout to hit a meeting, for simply not having the energy to workout, or for NOT having the body of a juiced up Hollywood model?
STOP ASSIGNING MORALITY TO THINGS IT DOESN’T APPLY TO!
We’ve survived too long of odds and overcome too big of obstacles in our past to start torturing ourselves over trivial things today.
If you can do this then I guarantee everything relating to fitness will be much more enjoyable.
Becoming fit is meant to be a confidence booster – not a new way to judge yourself into newfound insecurity.
We have bigger fish to fry, so to speak – and stop cringing at the word “fry!”
This fitness deal is a process – similar to our recovery – it takes time as there are growing pains and it takes a lot of hard work and discipline to stay consistent to see results.
But the second you start assigning the value of your soul to how you perform or look, you are setting yourself up for a world of unnecessary, self-inflicted pain and suffering.
Leave your morality behind as you attempt to better yourself, as you attempt to heal and strengthen yourself.
You’ve already accomplished so much and have so much more to do – letting these feelings of guilt and shame creep in will only get in your way.
It got in my way for years - it made me insane, it made miserable, it made me fall deeper into my addictions.
Today I don’t have to live like that – today I choose NOT to live like that.
Today I can and I will be gentle on myself.
Today I can and I will recover.
Today I can and I will improve.
One day at a time.
One set at a time.
One rep at a time.