If you need one new year resolution this year, one that you haven’t made before, let it be this one: don’t be lazy, have higher standards.
If you have 5 minutes to waste, look on instagram for the hashtag #newyearsresolution. True, those 5 minutes will never come back to you, but you might learn a lot from them. You will realize that a great deal of those posts are fitness related or, more precisely , they are body image related. At the beginning of the year people decide this is the year they will change their bodies. Often this comes with a very vague or superficial idea that this will make them feel happier, younger, more beautiful. Truth is, culturally we still are taught that caring about nutrition and fitness is something you only do in order to look better. So here is what I mean when I say don’t be lazy: if you are saying to yourself “this year I am going to lose the belly, or this year I will lose the 20 pounds”, or even if you think new year resolutions are stupid but you want to train really hard this year, remind yourself of the following: have a higher standard and ask yourself why.
Dig deep. We tend to dismiss the question answering what we think is right, like “because it is healthier” or “because it is good for you” or any variation of that. We get fucking lazy. But I challenge you to have a higher standard.
In my experience most men don’t even try. Women, because they are smarter than men, have been pointing out how oppressive the idea of a “beautiful” body can be for decades. They have problematized the idea of beauty, they have studied how patriarchal societies prefer an idea of women in which they are fragile and delicate, in which they look pretty and are quiet. This is an ideal in which fragile masculinity is safe: we can be the saviors of damsels in distress. Yet women everyday have to struggle with their bodies, and feel like they have to force them into looking a certain way. It is still an oddity to be a woman and to have noticeable shoulder muscles or a visibly powerful back. And even if they know all this, the pressure is real and most women think whatever weight they weigh is too much. So if you are a woman in this situation, acknowledging that you might want a body type just because society wants you to have that particular body type might not be enough. Have a higher standard: answer for yourself what is it that your body wants and needs to be well. Be critical not just of the food you consume but the ideas you support. Give society the finger, while listening to this 1976 classic, and do the most rebellious act you can do: love your body the way it is.
Men, let’s learn from this experience. We often hide our true motivations behind external metrics. We think of ourselves as being so objective and non-emotional. It is what we have been taught to be. You might say “I don't ’ care that much about my body image ... well ... maybe just more muscle definition in my calves, maybe a little less belly” . I think a lot of men want to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club but are so afraid to accept it. I think a lot of men are taught that caring about looks is superficial and vain -and maybe gay?- and so they will never be honest about that and instead they say they want to be “fitter”. If you are a man, have a higher standard: acknowledge you are as much a victim of society’s pressures as the best of us, and find why you want what you want. Don’t be lazy, bro! Question your motivations. Maybe you don't really care about body image per se, but wanting that heaviest deadlift is maybe just a way to prove you have the biggest dick in your school, holmes.
Even though I don’t like it because it’s hard, I hold myself to this higher standard as well. After lots of internal work, I have decided that the purpose of my training routine is that it allows me to move better, to move more, so that I can do more cool shit, and to keep learning new stuff including learning about myself. But this is not why I started working out. When I moved to the U.S. I thought I better work out because gringas loved big muscles, and I loved gringas. In retrospect it seems silly and shortsighted. Lot’s of gringas love accents and brains, and I had those. Also one gringa decided to love me, muscles or not and that mattered most. Nonetheless, that is what I wanted and to some degree I still have body image problems. I still want to look more muscular, or bigger here, smaller there. Although that crap is still in my head sometimes, I have learned to recognize it for the bullshit it is, and to refocus on my truer, more individual, and more optimistic motivations. This is super useful to me because it reminds me to get out of the gym to use my fitness, to take my dogs on hikes with my wife, to learn NEW shit, and to keep learning about myself. I train so that I can live better and maybe on the way help others. I remind myself: don’t be lazy, have a higher standard. It works for me, it might for you too.