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Happy new year! It’s that time of year where fitness gimmicks are rampant. Listen to my 10 harsh truths while we talk about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

 

HARSH TRUTH 1: FITNESS IS A PRIVILEGE.

It’s a financial privilege. This is about learning empathy too. Many people are talking about how we need more empathy in the world, so if that is you, I really need you to stick with me here.

 

This relates back to a lot of things that I spoke about over the summer on the 5 episodes about trauma (Ep 64-68). It also relates to what’s called a hierarchy of needs or better known officially as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Hierarchy-of-needs-fitfizz-podcast-83
The base of the pyramid is our most basic needs as humans: food, water, warmth, and rest. Pretty simple to understand. Even myself in the extremely recent past — these last few years with my struggles I found myself being very upset by friends who KNEW my struggles with job loss and my health but they’d say “how’s training?” or “why don’t you come train with us” and countless times I’d unapologetically have to remind them “I can’t even afford food right now, so that’s not even an option” because doing heavy training certainly requires the body to be adequately fueled by food.
 
I want to put an emphasis on that REST part — getting rest. A basic human need.
 
There are various reasons that people don’t rest. Some reasons are controllable and some are not. But should “fitness” happen when there’s not adequate rest? Absolutely not.
 
We all know people who glorify not resting. Then there are also people who do not have the financial luxury of resting if maybe they have to work 2, 3, 4 jobs to barely make ends meet. I’ve been there numerous times as well.
 
Another very common reason for not getting enough sleep is being a parent, especially of young kids and babies — that might be completely impossible to change for some people.
 
Then there are the people who don’t sleep due to insomnia. Most insomnia can be thought of as having excess adrenaline in the body. This is a whole episode I’ll get to someday, but yeah — if you can’t sleep it’s usually too much adrenaline in the body due to something — work, relationships, health worries, financial worries, etc.

 

 

Harsh truth 2: If you’re lacking rest, please make that a bigger priority than fitness.

You don’t need to tax your nervous system by pretending you’re doing yourself a favor (because you’re not) if you barely sleep, then go wear yourself out in the gym. IT’S SIMPLY NOT A HEALTHY CHOICE.

 

Going back to the hierarchy of needs: after that base level of the pyramid, picture the next layer on top. The human needs on this layer are security and safety.

 

Does fitness have a place here? Nope. It does not. So fitness is still a privilege if you don’t have security and safety.

 

After you have food, water, warmth, REST, security, and safety, THEN I think this is where you could start to make a case for involving fitness. And this third layer from the bottom in the hierarchy of needs includes belongingness, friends, love, intimate relationships. So this gets into social stuff and so it makes sense that this is where fitness can come into play.

 
The next layer of the pyramid of the hierarchy of needs our ESTEEM NEEDS. This is where we have a human need to have feelings of accomplishment for our self-esteem. It’s very important for mental health, but certainly not a priority over things like food, warmth, and rest. Fitness stuff also fits in here too.
 
Especially if you have you have a type of exercise that brings you JOY! It can be a sense of fulfillment, right? Whether it’s running a race or hitting a new deadlift PR, or even if it’s going to the gym for the first time when it’s totally out of your comfort zone! A sense of accomplishment! You can celebrate all kinds of victories this way and it certainly lifts self-esteem. It’s great!
BUT…
 

HARSH TRUTH 3: Exercising your way through body hate is not a winning strategy.

It shouldn’t feel like punishment. You shouldn’t feel like you’re suffering. So while we have these esteem needs, you might have the best intentions for trying to fulfill those but sometimes — maybe without even realizing you might start heading in a negative direction. You might start to realize you’re exercising from a place of self-hate instead of self-love. 

 
I taught group fitness for many, many years. All types of classes. Hundreds or possibly thousands of men and women. l loved teaching group fitness so much and I’m not against those classes, but what I AM against is when people are basically abusing their bodies by doing hours and hours of cardio per week because they feel they need to be a certain size to feel worthy. That part makes me really sad.
 

When I walk by the group fitness classes at the gym I go to now — I understand that things like Zumba are fun, and yes, it’s healthy for our hearts to pump hard like that sometimes, but there are some things severely misaligned if you find yourself doing MANY hours of cardio per week and NO strength training, AND you also happen to not like what you see in the mirror when you’re naked or if you have a true, deep fear of gaining body fat and you feel like you absolutely have to do those classes or you will end up hating yourself. These mindsets aren’t healthy.

 

HARSH TRUTH 4: You don’t have to do cardio to lose body fat.

This can be one of the harder things to get people onboard with thanks to so much misinformation, but it’s true. You do not have to do cardio to lose body fat. The common phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” applies to this.
 
If your nutrition is on point, and you do resistance training, you might never have to do cardio and you can still drop body fat. Especially if you happen to be overeating, to begin with. I’m very hesitant on how I’m wording every bit of this too because I KNOW many of you — even though you know better — you’re still always on the hunt for a magic formula like “here’s what you need to do in order to arrive at X% of body fat”. Here’s your reminder that it’s never that simple.
 

If you’re frustrated in trying to make changes to your body alone, or it’s just not working for you, this is the value of hiring a personal trainer or a coach. (like me!) That’s because there IS no magic formula no matter what anyone else says and a fitness professional (if they know what they’re doing) can formulate things according to your personal needs in order for you to arrive at that goal.

 

HARSH TRUTH 5: You don’t need to track everything!

Instagram has unfortunately made it commonplace for non-athletes to attempt to train and eat like athletes. I don’t necessarily mean athletes such as NBA players, I mean athletes like the people you see on social media who do bodybuilding shows or powerlifting competitions.
 

You see their accounts or you see them accomplish these great things and think “I want to look like that” or “I want to be strong like that” and then go down the rabbit hole of trying to copy their training or copy what they eat — that’s ok to use as inspiration, but it drives me nuts when people who are NOT competitors try to eat and train like they are one. Wherever you’re getting the information regarding how they train or how they eat, you’re not getting the full picture.

 
Plus every person’s needs are different. Even if two people want to arrive at an identical end goal. Training and eating like an athlete can be okay for some people, but for a novice fitness person, or someone who just wants to lose a few pounds so their pants fit better, it’s not smart to feel a need to track every single macro for very extended periods of time.
 

I do think that it can be helpful to do for a while — a few weeks or a few months — for SOME people in order to get an idea of what certain portions can look like. Then as you practice it, it starts to become second-nature, and then you can loosen up on the rigidity of it.

 

Stop trying to train or eat like an athlete when you’re not. Please. If you like to follow workouts or meal plans that you find on social media, follow people who coach non-athletes, NOT the people who specialize in coaching figure competitors.

 

HARSH TRUTH 6: Stop fighting with food by thinking you need to “diet”.

99 times out of 100, if someone is on a “diet”, they don’t have a healthy relationship with their body. This comes from self-hate and not self-love. If you do tend to look for “diets” to follow, I’m begging you to please stay away from the diets with names like Keto, paleo, Mediterranean, low-carb, and anything like that. Just eat nutrient-dense food! And cut out the sludge, as I like to say. (Junk food)

 

Get some protein, fats, and carbs with every meal. If you can do that much, you’re still extremely likely to see changes in your body (if not MORE likely) which is probably why you thought you needed a diet in the first place.

 

Ditch the diets. They’re all gimmicks of some kind. None of them are magic. And none of them are sustainable without running into some kind of nutrient deficiencies eventually. It’s endlessly smarter to simply focus on creating solid habits that you can stick to for life, not deprive yourself of the foods and treats that you love, and focus on nutrient-dense foods for every meal. If you like rules around food, keep it loose with something as simple as having 70 or 80% of your meals being nutrient-dense and the rest can be guilt-free.

 

A big goal for everyone — ALL NON-ATHLETES — should be getting to a place in your relationship with food so that you never have guilt or shame around food and that you don’t consider any single food or food group to be “bad”.

 

HARSH TRUTH 7: You don’t need to do strength training for an hour and cardio for an hour every time you hit the gym.

This is fruitless and not very smart. For several reasons. Unless you’re someone who basically training for the Olympics and has a coach telling you to do this, I promise you it is doing more harm than good. You might think, “You’re wrong Kelly. I do this and I love it. It makes me feel good. I’m losing fat. I’m going to keep doing it.” These hardheaded attitudes will backfire on you. Maybe not this month. But eventually, it will if you keep it up.

 

It might backfire with injuries, or metabolic issues, or hormonal issues or hitting a plateau that is going to be very hard to break through if you’re brutalizing your body all the time like this.

 

I get it — if you’re Type A, you might love to train like this, but sooner or later you need to start acting like the intelligent person that I know you are and ask yourself: What’s my goal here? And prioritize something. Trust me — if you don’t prioritize one or the other based on your goals you’re not going to fully achieve any goal.

 

I’m not saying ONLY do cardio, or ONLY do strength training, but an hour of each on the same day…NO. Please don’t. It simply doesn’t make sense and it’s certainly not optimal for any goal having to do with strength, endurance, or changing your body composition.

 

HARSH TRUTH 8: People who train effectively won’t last for two hours!

This is similar to the previous one, but rather than “don’t do cardio for an hour and strength training for an hour on the same day” this one is simply: DON’T TRAIN FOR TWO HOURS! You’re wasting time. I promise you are.

 

Again, unless you’re a high-level athlete who has a coach that has programmed this for very specific needs, is fruitless, it’s pointless, and it’s certainly far from ideal for the average person who just wants to exercise, burn body fat, and/or get stronger.

 
I’m thinking of the times I’ve either had conversations with someone or overhead conversations — and it’s usually dudes — they’ll be like “Yeahhhhhh, I usually go to the gym for about two…two and half hours…” thinking they’re going to impress me or someone else. It doesn’t impress me. When I’m actually thinking is “Oh, honey I’m sorry to hear you’re wasting a ton of time.”
 

Here’s the deal: If you’re not currently an elite athlete but you’re spending 2 or 2.5 hours at the gym, I’d be willing to bet my right leg that you’re either 1) not training hard enough for it to be very effective or 2) you’re spending WAY too long resting between sets which also means you’re not training very effectively.

 
And this is the cue where hardheaded men (I’ve never had a woman respond this way) refuse to believe me and they’ll say “Not me though. I really go hard the whole time I’m there.” No. You’re not. All you’re doing is pampering your ego.
 

Because of the way the human body is created — even for professional bodybuilders — if you’re TRULY pushing at an optimally effective level, your body will be TAXED by the time you reach an hour. Maybe 45 minutes. Maybe an hour and 20 min for some people depending on what you’re doing — but not 2 hours.

 

If you’re an average human who wants to get jacked, get stronger, get leaner and if you’re actually lifting heavy, and you’re actually taking proper rest periods between sets which would be 30-60 seconds for most people maybe little bit more if you’re brand new to training — if you’re actually focused on having a truly effective lifting session, then there’s no way you’ll last for two hours. You won’t.

Show me someone who claims to train hard for two hours and I’ll show you a lost person. Simple as that. 
 
 

HARSH TRUTH 9: Don’t wear lifting gloves.

They’re useless. They get in the way of proper form and progression. They’re nothing useless but a crutch. I don’t know why it is that some people even think that they need these. The whole idea that they’re going to prevent callouses is silly because all of the personal trainers, powerlifters, strongmen, bodybuilders, well, we’re all proud of the callouses on our hands. I don’t understand why anyone would think hand callouses are a bad thing.
 

I know that some people will say “ewww but I don’t want rough hands”. I have callouses and they’ve never been an issue when it comes to softness. If they get rough, just sand them down with an emery board and you’re fine. Then you’ll be able to keep lifting heavier and heavier which is the whole point of lifting anyway.

 

Gloves are a hindrance because they’re going to affect your grip in a negative way and slow down your grip strength. Also, take note of which personal trainers allow their clients to wear lifting gloves. I never saw one until just a couple of weeks ago and I immediately knew she must have been a brand new trainer. But I’d certainly steer clear of any trainer who allows their clients to wear lifting gloves. It’s a sure sign that they’re not very experienced. 

 

HARSH TRUTH 10: If it seems too good to be true, it IS!

This applies to SO many things: Ineffective supplements, fat burners, 30-day challenges, shakes, stomach wraps, waist trainers, all of the “detox” garbage and “skinny tea” nonsense that is everywhere you turn.

 

There is so much of it and I see people falling for it every single day. So if it seems too good to be true — it is — so don’t waste your money on it. Real change, requires real work. And it takes time. I can imagine someone right now wanting to say to “but Kelly, no, I use a waist trainer and it really does work” or the same with the flat tummy tea. No, they don’t.

 

That’s why this is a harsh truth. If you continue to believe it or you’re convincing yourself that those things work, it’s because you’re finding confirmation bias.

 

ESPECIALLY Please don’t wear a waist trainer with the poor reasoning in saying “but it helps to support my back”. The reason I say that is because if you feel you need back support from a device like that, you have weak back muscles. Train them. Strengthen them.

 

Your back muscles will only get weaker if you continue to let a waist trainer do the work that your body should be doing on its own. It makes me so sad when I see people fall for these bogus gimmicks. You’re smart than this.

To wrap things up, remember how I was talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? There’s one more level after the esteem needs that I didn’t mention yet. This very top level is SELF ACTUALIZATION! Once you have all of these other needs met — in order — then you reach a point where you can achieve your full potential as a human because you’re finally have brain space, peace of mind, and emotional space for creative activities that make you feel like you’re totally flourishing in life.

 
I wish that for all of you this year. Don’t fall for the gimmicks. All of these harsh truths are said with love (even if I sound extra feisty).

I’m Kelly Wilson, owner of fitfizzstudio.com and I’m a personal trainer, nutrition coach, behavior change specialist, autoimmune disease educator and I’ve worked in the health and fitness industry for over 25 years.

I’m here to help you ditch the gimmicks, finding strength through your struggles, give you the knowledge for making the smartest choices for your own health and to remind you to celebrate victory all along the way. 

 

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The information shared is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be interpreted as an intent to diagnose, treat, cure, heal or prescribe.

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Ep. 83: Hierarchy of Needs and Harsh Truths About Fitness