I headed to the sauna after a intense fartlek training session down at Third Space in Soho, London. I reached for the handle and pulled open the door to be engulfed by a gust of steam as I stepped inside.
As my vision acclimatised to the darkly lit room, I noticed there was one other person in the steam room with me, "Hi how are you?"
"I'm good thanks buddy" I replied as I took a seat. "How about you?"
"I'm ok. I got a question, what does a man of your size actually eat to look like you do?"
I paused for a moment. Not because it's the first time I've heard the question (I must hear this at least 20 - 30 times a day), but because I was trying to figure out the best way to be of help to this guy. Too much information may overwhelm him and he probably wouldn't take it on board, yet by the tone of his voice I guessed that he was a little frustrated by his current situation. I started with an opening statement to get the conversation going,
"I just eat food. I'm plant based too, so I don't eat meat, fish, poultry and I avoid animal products best I can."
"Right, so what does that look like. I'm trying to lose weight. My trainer has me on a program." He explained to me what his trainer had him doing with his training and nutrition.
I listened, "Sounds like you are doing the right things with your trainer, just you also want to take into consideration lifestyle factors too, such as stress or sleep."
"That's exactly what my trainer said." He replied.
"Well there you have it, you are on the right track. Have you lost any weight?" I asked.
"Yes. I've lost 3kg in 6 weeks." He sounded a bit despondent. "I Just wish it would come off faster."
"Be patient. It's better that you lost 3kg in the past six weeks, would you rather that you put on 3kg in those 6 weeks?" I threw the question at him.
"No but.... I just wish it was faster.....So what did you have to eat today?"
So I told him what I had eaten, that I had also prepared lunch which was left over from dinner the previous night. That not all the time was I this efficient and sometimes I slipped up, but for at least 5 or 6 days of the week nutritionally I was on point, and it was also ok if I wasn't.
He blurted out.."See that's what I mean, it takes up a lot of your life... I just.."
I interrupted his trail of thought,
"Yes. It's a lifestyle change. Do you plan on dying anytime soon? Listen your health is an investment of time and resources, and if you want a better quality of life it's something worth doing. These things take time. It's taken me a long time. You are doing the right things and heading in the right direction. Trust the process."
He looked visibly shaken from the vigour of my delivery, but I wasn't about to let him off the hook. He got it.
"Yes I know. Thank you."
For the rest of our time in the sauna we sat in silence. I used it as an opportunity to meditate. It got me thinking about lies that the fitness and diet industry sell the public with weight loss and fat loss programmes that are often not sustainable, or simply promote the wrong attitude towards their body and their health.
See, the guy in the sauna was clearly dissatisfied with how he looked, and probably believed that by losing the weight he would be happy with his body. The truth is that he may very well be - but for a short time. In my own personal experience and working with clients I find that sooner or later once the initial buzz has worn off, you'll find something else you dislike about your body and try to change it.
The picture above shows how my body has changed in a period of what? 3 years. This was not done deliberately. It wasn't done to achieve a particular look. The changes in my physique occurred simply as a consequence as my understanding of nutrition has evolved, and the demands of my training has changed due to my interests.
So what do I suggest? Fall in love with your body first, then seek to make changes. While the physical outcome may be similar, your direct experience of the journey will be very different. One way will empower you, they other will probably dismantle your self worth.
My friend Karolina Kaczor, Mind Body Coach often says, "Train because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself."
This time I'd add "Eat because you love yourself and value your health, not because you dislike yourself. Be patient."