Sitting on my couch on a Tuesday night, I giggled quietly at my roommate who was standing on a chair, hovering over her dinner for ten minutes snapping photos. By the time she had posted the perfectly filtered photo to Instagram, the dish (a juicy lettuce burger) was cold. That went from #cleaneating to #foodfail quickly.
I gave it twenty minutes before she looked at her photo again and said, “Ugh, why is nobody liking this? People are always on Instagram around this time of night!”
Why do we tie these completely insignificant stresses to our everyday lives? After all, they say life is about quality, not quantity.
Listen, I’d be lying if I led you to believe that I don’t operate with this same attitude sometimes. I love Instagram (probably more than the average person) and rejoice when I earn more support than usual in the form of likes and comments from my followers.
I believe this is the same mindset that has turned people away from working out. We look at ourselves as a machine that should be doing a specific amount of work each day or else we’re not doing it ‘right.’ What many don’t see is that ‘10,000 steps’ or ‘2,000 calories a day’ is just that – merely a suggestion; one way to say, “please exercise and try to eat the amount your body needs!” They aren’t hard and fast laws.
The issue is that so many of us take them as just that – laws. So what happens when we fall short, or if the activities we choose don’t fall into these easily calculable metrics? How do we keep ourselves on track when the concept itself – reaching a specified number of steps or calories burned, or whatever we measure every day – is so ambiguous and removed from human nature?
Catrine Tudor-Locke, a professor that studies walking behavior, spelled it out in this NY Mag article, saying that people who don’t get enough exercise “aren’t going to benefit from the 10,000 steps recommendation. In fact, it might deter them from exercising.” She goes on to explain that smaller goals are more achievable and still make an impact.
Framing physical activity into numbers makes it a chore…this mindset makes exercise much less appealing than it could be. Beyond this, you never would have caught Hercules checking his fitness app to make sure he was good to go for the day.
I go to the gym and, instead of obsessing over the calorie count or the distance mark on the machine, I challenge myself with new, engaging workouts alongside a community that I love. In fact, gym time is my favorite part of the day and is the moment when I feel most confident.
- I do care about the numbers that my doctor reads to me each year when she checks my blood pressure and cholesterol. They’re true metrics that show whether I’m doing things right.
- I do care how many personal records I’m able to hit each month and how much more weight I’m able to lift as I improve.
- I do care how many beads of sweat drip down my face after a workout.
- I do care how many times a week I’m able to go to my CrossFit gym or to my favorite boxing spot, because I look back and smile at the time I was able to spend with my favorite coaches and teammates.
- What doesn’t matter to me, in addition to how far I’ve walked in a day or how many calories I’ve burned? The number on the scale. It’s not an accurate measurement of my successes in the gym – I accept that my weight will fluctuate every day and I know that the number will actually increase whenever I build muscle.
Honestly, I don’t even care how many shares this post gets. Like I said before, life isn’t meant to be measured in the number of people we interact with. It’s whether those interactions have meaning. As long as someone reads this and is able to think with a fresh mindset, I’ll be satisfied.
So… go out there in search of which measurements are relevant to your life, and then stick to them. Throw out your scale and turn off your Instagram notifications. Do something every day that contributes to your health while making you insanely happy. And of course – share your beautiful pictures – but make sure you can enjoy your damn burger before it gets cold.