I just wanted to say sorry, James.
When we talk of diet and exercise, we often joke about bulking and cutting and generally have a bit of a laugh. It’s what we do.
And yet, deep down, we know there’s a more serious part to the conversation; I mean, health matters.
But mostly, we just let of steam, using humor and hyperbole to lighten the conversation and color our daily discretions.
But the other day, I let you down. You. My son. Someone I love more than life itself.
After poking fun at each other as we often do, the conversation changed. You were being sincere about wanting to shed a few pounds, lose some weight, get fit. You started to describe some perfectly reasonable steps as to how you’d do it, and I shot them down.
Was I half joking? Sure. But I also wasn’t. I couldn’t help myself.
Before I knew what was happening, I started to spew macros, measurement protocols, tracking and programming. I went off on maintenance calories, bodyweight multipliers, deficits and the principles of progressive overload.
I took something precious–the merest flicker of motivation–and I pissed on it. I quite literally extinguished it before it could even smolder.
Me of all people. Your dad. The one person that should have your back at all times. The same person that would endure any amount of suffering in your stead. The self proclaimed “expert” and helper of people that want to make progress in their body transformations.
I took your ideas, your plans… your hope, and buried them under a tirade of bullshit. And I’m sorry.
Everything you suggested was reasonable, son. Everything.
In just two minutes, without reference to a single book, role model or scientific study, you’d devised a plan that could see you on your way.
Your two-part plan was, in fact, brilliant.
First, you had resolved to eat a little less.
Simple, repeatable acts, like dropping two sandwiches to one, three yogurts to two. A little less pasta, a little more sauce. Eating a decent meal before going out on the town with the lads. Perhaps even enjoying a few less drinks.
These were things that you felt you could actually do. Things you could do consistently, perhaps even for a few months at a time.
Second, you mentally committed to more exercise.
In particular, you wanted more time in the gym.
You weren’t sure exactly what you’d do once you got there, but you knew from past experience that lifting weights can bring quick results.
You also wanted to start jogging again with your girlfriend, something you instinctively knew would be good for you as well as past-time you could enjoy with a loved one.
That was it; that was your plan.
Eat a little less, get a little more exercise.
And it would have worked.
I should have fed this enthusiasm, nurtured the idea. Frankly, I should have rejoiced and clapped my hands in delight.
I just had the opportunity to witness, first hand, the change. That precious moment of realization that one’s current path is not sustainable; that change is needed. Just like a rainbow in a rain shower, it shone brightly, radiating color and hope. It was there, right in front of me. And I missed it.
We, the people immersed in the fitness and bodybuilding space, have lost something.
We’ve lost that essential yet intangible connection to everyone else; ordinary people, with lives and thoughts outside of the gym.
We “project” our goals and desires. We “fill gaps” that don’t, nor need to, exist.
When faced with someone that simply wants to “lose weight” or “go to the gym”, we immediately recall every theory, fact, protocol and pitfall, and start spewing forth a diatribe of exercise programming and macros. We quite literally put the fear of God into people, sending them running before they even had a chance.
We. The experts. The people with the knowledge. The people who profess to care the most. The people that genuinely want the best of success for everyone.
And yet, we fail.
My sincerest hope is that some of us can break away from the pack, pull-back from the industry dogma and rhetoric, and once again engage with ordinary people. To simply listen; support an idea, feed motivation and nurture hope. To educate without condescension. To share, not project, our experiences. To respect an individual’s goals and desires.
Otherwise, I fear we’ll never truly be able to help those that need it the most.
I promise to do better, son. You deserve it. We all deserve it.