Friday, October 02, 2009

Invitation for some 'fierce discussion'

I've just read a post titled "Why The Blog Negativity?" and I feel compelled to have a fierce discussion on my blog about all of this. I want to be very clear to Sue, the author (whose blog I enjoy reading ) that this is not a personal attack, but rather an invitation into some critical thinking and setting the record straight.

Doing the rounds of blog land recently and have noticed that there seems to be a lot of negativity going on in the Figure comp/training/dieting world. It seems certain people are scouring blogs to try and take down anyone who enjoys improving their health and physique through structured training and nutrition.

Having goals is actually perceived as a negative by these people. Maybe this negativity has come about because these particular people were not successful at their own goals, and are envious of those who are, and those that enjoy the process of achieving them? Why shouldn’t you have a goal, something to drive you to improve and achieve? How someone can see this as a bad thing is beyond me.

It was also mentioned there is no such thing as a ‘bad food’ just the way you think and perceive the food.

Let's look at this more closely. That "certain people" are scouring blogs to try and take down anyone in the figure world is highly misleading. From where I sit, you're looking at one comment, left on Kristin Gleeson's blog by Shelley Stark and you're looking at a thought provoking post about goal setting, written by health and fitness commentator, Katie P.

Both of these bloggers have successfully competed in more than one Figure Competition and are more than qualified to discuss their post competition experiences and aren't afraid to be brutally honest about their struggles. In no way are either of these bloggers "bagging" other Figure Competitors, but rather challenging beliefs in a positive way - what I call "fierce conversation".

It takes some emotional maturity to have a fierce conversation, often they contain things you don't want to hear at the time, but ultimately, you're grateful that you did.

Let's look at Katie's posts on ditching goal setting - this is a really thought provoking post and I'm really glad she posted it. I think the world needs more posts like this which invoke critical thinking and discussion. There's no shred of personal attack in these posts rather an invitation for constructive dialogue. I think if a goal allows personal growth and you keep benefiting after achievement of the goal has been reached, then goal setting can be a good thing. I agree that sometimes setting short term goals can mask longer term problems. Thank you to Katie for making me think!

Let's break down the notion that there is "no such thing as a bad food, just the way you think and perceive the food."

There is a mention of double whoppers and cheeseburgers which, when compared to other things are relatively devoid of nutrients that we define as health giving - no question about it and no one in their postings is arguing this fact. However, what would your perception of a double whopper be if that was the only food you had available to you on a desert island and would ultimately impact on whether you lived or died? The perception of the Double Whopper in this situation would be correctly labelled as life giving (though, personally I hope I never end up in that situation, but hopefully you can see my drift!)

Kristin recently mentioned on her blog that she was excited to be setting new goals toward another competition, having just completed her first (2) and having thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She was asked this question by a fellow blogger:

“Why do you have to have a goal, competing or other, to wake up each day with excitement and a purpose? Isn’t living a happy, fulfilled, contented life purpose enough?”

I found Shelley's comment to be interesting. When I did my initial physique transformation, the recommendation post comp or post 12 weeks was to set another goal straightaway, to be leveraged. As a coach, I've seen many girls lurch from comp to comp as a means of controlling leanness and who punish themselves with a rarified sub RMR intake, rather than facing some of the harder truths about living lean for the long term, which include learning to love yourself no matter where you are along the journey and learning how to honour yourself with choices that bring your body towards peak performance.

I have written lately that I am questioning the purpose of Figure Comps - I think the concept of being judged on your appearance by an external source is highly overrated, especially if you're up on stage in the best physical condition of your life. I even wince when saying "best" - because I would say my best physical condition (where I kick butt in the gym ) looks a bit different to my Figure look. I find it sad that comping can affect people's perception of what is truly important so much that they feel they can't stay with their friends, enjoy a meal with their family or miss a training session. I'm disturbed that practices such as extreme dehydration are accepted as techniques that are meant to make you look your very "best. "

I'm proud that I've remained dead set against this outlook with any of the comp girls I've prepped. That said, you couldn't have stopped me from doing my shows, so I do understand the appeal of competing and encourage anyone who is really keen to get a coach who doesn't embrace any of the above practices (and this is not to toot my horn because I'm not currently accepting any new Figure Prep clients) If you're competing for your own self satisfaction and to see how far you can take yourself, regardless of how you're judged then it can be a worthwhile endeavour. It really depends on the context in which you're competing. Be aware that there's almost always a bumpy road post comp with your eating patterns - how well you recover is more dependent on developing skills of waking up with the feeling of " Isn’t living a happy, fulfilled, contented life purpose enough?” as opposed to setting the next goal.

I’m a little confused. I mean, what do you think it is that makes a ‘happy, fulfilled, contented life’? Sitting on the couch watching tv and munching on Macca’s, simply existing?

Neither of the two bloggers that I am referring to sit on their couches, munch Macca's and simply exist as part of their mantras for living a happy and fulfilled life. I train with Shelley twice a week and she is a fit, vibrant chick who can lift some seriously heavy weights. Katie does RPM, lifts weights and practices meditation and yoga - hardly people that are "simply existing"

I don’t feel its right to bag those who enjoy the challenge of competing and the process that goes along with it. If that makes them feel great, that’s awesome. If it’s not for you, that’s fine too, but don’t go suggesting to those that do enjoy it, that they should be happy just ‘existing’ without the challenge of improvement and competition.

Nobody is bagging anyone who enjoys the challenge of competing but I have to ask how does one really gauge what "improvement" is in the Figure World? You're not judged on whether you're strong or fit or fast, you're judged on your looks! This is also a huge problem with fitness magazines - I've been told as a writer, after suggesting an accomplished athlete for a feature article - "she's not pretty enough, we only want to profile beautiful people in our magazine". Needless to say, I'd rather be associated with publications that promote performance over physique any day of the week.

Some comments may be thought provoking and initially seem abrasive, but take pause - they're coming from a place of concern and of love. We're all on different journeys, different paths and each one is just as worthwhile as the other. If someone had said the same thing to me in the thick of my bodybuilding phase, I probably would have slapped them - but I have had the gift of time and growth to see things differently.

I find it really interesting that it is perceived in the first place that if you're not competing or having physique goals, you're off in a corner somewhere eating a pile of crap. Eating "piles of crap" and letting it all go isn't what ditching a diet and learning how to eat more intuitively is about. Putting food in a morally neutral perspective is part of the journey and this is what Shelley is alluding to. Eating well because you want to look after yourself is part of this journey - which I see in Sue's comments about eating consistently and eating healthfully - basically they're both talking about the same thing, in a different context.

To sum up, I don't see negativity as such, just a different opinion. And whilst we may not always agree on everything, life would be pretty boring if we all thought the same way.

I would invite everyone's thoughts on the matter!


KatieP said...

Thank you so much for this post Liz.

Unfortunately, diet dogma is like religion -- some people believe there is only one God -- and everyone who is on a different path is lost.

I believe that there is more than one way to achieve the life of your dreams and I am just trying to offer an alternative that is working for me and a few other folk as well.

In the end, we all make our own choices for our own reasons. My only intention right now is to take great care of myself, and maybe help others who can identify with my 'olden days'.

I would love for the traditional method of weight loss/maintenance to work for me because it's what I know, what is comfortable and familiar and what I have experienced. Intuitive eating is unfamiliar and scary - it's like moving to another country where I don't speak the language. But I know in my heart I am meant to be here and at last I have the courage to be authentically me.

I am coming to the realisation that confronting my limiting beliefs, uncovering my honest sense of self worth and exposing my vulnerability is harder work than any 16 week comp prep diet/training. Improvement is not dependent on my hard work being visible to other people.

Long live fierce conversation!

Kek said...

You aleady know my thoughts. I enjoyed competing and will probably do it again, but the whole time I was having ambivalent feelings about being judged and valued only on my appearance. There's more to life than being pretty, nice though it may be to decorate the planet.

Different strokes for different folks and all that, but if the only way I could compete was to follow a deprivation-based diet, train my arse off 2-3 times a day and never be able to accept a spontaneous invitation to eat out... well, I'd rather cut my throat, thanks. I don't admire the dedication of those who do it, I'm actually completely bemused by the whole thing - but hey, if they're happy, then that's great.

I do what makes me happy, which is to do the kind of exercise I enjoy (no more fricking Amy Bento step DVDs for me ever!! LOL), eat well but never obsessively and share in some fun with my family and friends.

I liked Katie's post too - I don't agree with most of it FOR ME.... but it's all valid for Katie (and I'm sure for many others). And as you say, Lizzie, she raised some interesting points, and it got me thinking this morning.

I enjoy achieving goals, but I try hard to keep everything balanced - juggling it all is a challenge in itself.

As for "bad" foods, I absolutely believe that there is no such thing - there are only foods that we should eat infrequently. Most experts would agree - PN calls them "10% foods", John Hussmann talks about the same thing on his site (somewhere, can't find the reference right now). Attaching emotion to food is never a good thing.

Right now, I'm off to enjoy a few Lindor balls, possibly with a glass of bourbon as my Friday night treat. Guilt-free, what's more. Life's too short to waste time on that sort of thinking.

Love your work!


Sue Heintze said...

Thanks Liz for your comments. I don't have time to go into the detail that you have done but I stand by my thoughts on my blog. I feel it was an uneccessary comment made on Kristin's blog, and(maybe unintentionally) directed in a negative way. From the comments I received before actually posting anything, it seems people have been utterly confused by all this stuff. But, each to their own I suppose, which is why the comment was unnecessary!

Nicole P said...

Liz, fantastic post and all so true!! It is such a shame that some people have got so defensive over a comment that was made (by the author) in a loving, caring and thought provoking way.

It also reminds us how easily words can be misinterpreted in blog land.

Have a great weekend!! Luv Nicole xx

Magda said...

Love your balanced perspective on this Liz. I've thrown up (well not literally LOL) my 2 cents worth in my post tonight.


Jadey said...

Absolutely Liz, a well written post I must say. It certainly is a journey for all of us and it's finding the balance of long term health that's the key. xxx

ss2306 said...

You know me personally as do many others that read your blog and know that I would NEVER intentionally hurt anyone.

Sue, does it make you a better, stronger, happier person than me because you showed your abs in your "off season"?

Kristen, what's the difference between Macca's and mud cake when it comes to man-made, processed crap as you call it?

I am an open, honest and caring person. If anyone takes my writing as negative than that really is there problem, not mine and perhaps they should dig a bit deeper and find the real reason I pissed them off!

Lisa said...


Love the it.

Adding the Crossfit perspective (or maybe my Crossfit perspective). Why do I toruture myself in the box 5 days a week? I am training not to suck at life.

Is that a goal? Depends on your view.

Everyday is a competition, every WOD I measure my results against my previous results and the community in general.

Everyday I make good nutrition choices to support my life (not just my training).

Everyday I laugh, love my family and love my job.

I am professionaly more successful than ever, I am stronger, faster fitter than ever.

So what is my point?

I've worked out that my goal is to love life & be happy every day - not just for a few days a year. I have wasted so much time waiting for comps to arrive and sacrificed the precious days in between.

Success in achieving goals is incredibly important for development and growth, but success in life isn't only about collecting medals.

Off to be tortured once again - I love it!!


LizN said...

Thank you to everyone for their input - really appreciated - please keep those comments coming whether you agree, disagree or are on the fence.

Andrea said...

Hi Liz,
Loving the new blog look. You are such a talented writer and so good at looking at both sides of the coin.
From my perspective I think that most likely everyone is right - when they are looking at it from their own perspective and it all depends on the point you are at in your life and what you are focussing most on at that point in time. Because - essentially it is what you are focussing most on that becomes most important to you and we all go through phases in life. Having a baby has given me this perspective. I too am enjoying not being on the dieting rollercoaster at the moment - that doesn't mean I care any less about my health - it's just not my priority. Unfortunately I think some people can get a bit blinded by their own perspective.
Great writing Liz!

KatieP said...

"Each to their own" suggests that everyone has to right to their own beliefs so how can asking a thought provoking question in a public forum (which is what blogs are) be deemed unnecessary? If people are confused, then it is an indicator that their own beliefs have been challenged and not the fault of the author of that question.

Just because a perspective is the opposite of the status quo does not make it inherently negative.

People have all sorts of reasons for their convictions and to point out the blindingly obvious, Sue's business and livelihood is dependent on the traditional good food/bad food/12 week challenge/extrinsic motivation weight loss mentality (and Kristen works for her), which is a perfectly legitimate point of view, but we shouldn't overlook the fact that there is more to some things than meets the eye.

Anonymous said...

Liz, I think the gem of what is going on here is the maturity to open, and keep going, a discussion of honesty. If, from the confusion of divergent opinions, I get some clarity and purpose for my own mind, as confused as it is, then job well done! Isn't that the point of 'discussion'? How many famous figures throughout history have been brought down due to opening discussion? It is uncomfortable and even painful, but necessary in order to clear the way ahead.

Each one of you contributing to this is helping the other. That is an act of love.

Kate Apted

Anonymous said...

Hi Liz!

I have felt very hesitant to contribute to this debate because I am an “outsider”, I am not friends with any of you and I am not involved at all in the bodybuilding world but I do read the blogs of some bodybuilders and find their journeys very interesting and often inspiring. I might add I also follow a lot of other cyber journeys: fashionistas, pregnant women etc.
I often feel a connection to these people during their trials and tribulations in some way or another, and although I no longer have the desire to share my life in blogland I enjoy the honesty and integrity with which these people share their experiences, thoughts and feelings.
So it is with hesitation and the fear of being verbally crucified that I must admit that I too have been annoyed at Shelley’s comments on the blogs of Magda, Tara and Kristen as they shared their desire to continue competing. I felt that the comments were inappropriate as they questioned these bloggers and their motives for wanting to compete. Surely if someone has just written a long post about their excitement for their chosen sport and their excitement about continuing their journey within it, it is up to as readers to keep our negative opinions to ourselves? After all they are merely sharing their desires with us and not asking to be judged. I am sure that they too are just on a journey to a happy and fulfilled life just like the rest of us. Obviously Shelley has had a negative experience with this sport and she really does seem to be very negative about it in general, which is fine but she should maybe keep her opinions about it on her blog and avoid the blogs of people who are still passionate about it?
I felt the need to contribute to this discussion because if it evoked such a strong response within me, I can only imagine how some in the bodybuilding community have been feeling about constantly having their motives and goals questioned.

Rene xxx

Ashwee said...

Thanks for such a thought provoking post.. It really speaks to me- as a critical thinker myself I am so pleased to be able to pop in here and read some common sense...

I am so open to hearing everybody's thoughts and opinions.. how are we meant to make up our own mind about things if we don't hear all sides..

Thanks again..


Tara said...

"I don't see negativity as such, just a different opinion."

I agree with you. It is a difference of opinion. Personally I believe it is the manner in which it is delivered that makes it seem negative. There have been quite a few comments made around the blogs lately that have come across in an agressive manner. We all have different opinions and as we give them, we need to be mindful that others have theirs too and it is nobody's job to try and force/persuade anyone person to change their opinion.

Esme said...

As someone who is overweight and to be honest, has been on a diet for the last 20 years, it really hurts to hear peole who are obviously not overweight call themselves fat. I have thought about every morsel of food and drink that I have put in my mouth for the last 20 years, every bit of it. I'm over it. I've lost 20+ kgs twice, and I now need to lose 20kgs again if I am to become accepted in this world. I do not and have never sat on the couch all day munching Maccas, and to assume that this is what all overweight people must do and eat is really offensive. If I was to look at it in my previous diet mentality, I probably drink a bit too much good red wine, and eat too much good food. For the first time in my life I am not beating myself up each time I put food in my mouth, I have no weight loss goal or time frame. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don't feel deprived because I know I can have anything I want to eat whenever I like. I think the last time I ate Maccas (or any of that style of food)was about 5 years ago, so if I wanted Maccas for dinner tonight and had it, what on earth would be the harm? Once in 5 years? But I'm not going to simply because I don't actually like it!

Does being overweight mean I have no right to exist in this world? Because sometimes that's how it feels. A worthless, useless person with no right to breath. Sorry, no, I am a beautiful, healthy, smart, loving person, and honestly that is the first time I have ever said (written) that and truely believed it. I exercise because it makes me feel good, not to lose weight, I eat food that my body needs.

Thanks Liz for a great post. This isn't exactly along the lines of all replies, but for me the change in thinking is like a breath of fresh air. No I don't want to be fat forever but I'm going about things in a different way, I wonder what will happen, I'm really looking forward to this journey. Es

LizN said...

Thanks to everyone for leaving their thoughts (agreeing or disagreeing).

Thank you for taking the time to post such thoughtful responses.

Lots to be learned from everyone - you're all marvellous!

Best wishes,
Liz ;)

Raechelle said...

Really great post.
I didn't see Shelley's comment as being negative-simply as something to think about.
I'm sure if Kristen had been offended by it, she would have just deleted it :-)

Nicole said...

Wow... what a great discussion.

Hugs to you Esme xx

The only thing I want to add is that everyone's reality is different and everyone's perception of life is what creates their own realities.

There is no 'right' or 'wrong' in any of this. Because we are the only ones who decide what is 'right' or 'wrong' for our lives in accordance with our own values, goals and beliefs.

Sometimes people write stuff that I don't agree with. I try to make my response simply "thats an interesting point of view" and then move on. At the end of the day, its doesn't affect the way I live my life.

For what its worth - thats my two cents !!!