Moving towards a more compassionate lifting culture

I have this vision.

I want to believe we can create a space that marries two worlds–on one side, the world of bodybuilding and strength training and on the other side, the compassionate, values-driven world of habit-based nutrition and wellness.

Bodybuilding and strength training have so many wonderful things to give–empowerment through literal increases in ability, the powerful experience of redefining our bodies by intentionally taking up more space especially for women and other folks painfully impacted by diet culture, developing the skills to adjust and progress for a lifetime around the endless challenges and barriers life throws at us.

However, they also can do so much harm, increasing people’s exposure to potentially harmful diet and exercise habits, pushing them to ignore their hunger, to chronically push past fatigue in their training, and to prioritize the outsides of ourselves over our insides.

And this is where the compassionate awareness of the best habit-based practices can fill in the gaps, creating tools and conversation to provide alternative mindsets. Instead of ignoring the wisdom of our bodies, we learn to be deeply attuned to them. Learning to eat when we’re hungry and stopping when we are satisfied most of the time teaches us to trust our bodies, to respect natural variation in our body types, and is so much more health-promoting than rigid nutritional external controls like counting calories. Moreover, we can extend this trust in our training, using RPE or other systems to define our success based on how it feels in our body that day, under those unique circumstances rather than preplanned, rigid systems designed to meet the presumed needs of the “average” lifter.

In my vision, all of this is being done from a place of deep self-compassion, and a truly felt knowledge that success is defined by the process not by some arbitrary outcome. Success is doing the work, day-to-day, based on the unique needs and abilities of the individual, and by that definition, anyone can be successful in this new, joyful version of the lifting world.

I believe this vision can come to pass. I see people doing this work, at least in parts, all over the fitness and health space. A few wonderful, evidence-based nutrition and fitness coaches are building systems to help people define their nutrition and movement habits from a place of self-compassion. Other folks are exploring systems to build training around the unique needs of an athlete on any particular day, such as RPE, RIR, or velocity-based training. We can marry these two worlds and create a powerful, effective, inclusive and joyful community that has space for everyone who wants to do work.

Are you with me?

2 thoughts on “Moving towards a more compassionate lifting culture

  1. I’ve had the link to this post in my email for like a week now, meaning to come back and give this post an enthusiastic ‘hoorah’!

    I’ve been saying, probably for years that there is a huge gulf in fitness culture. On one side we have people who seem to think you MUST train optimally, track macros, and live like a robot. On the other we have the HAES and body positivity movement who say you should just do whatever and accept your body for what it is. It really seems like 80% of content skews heavily in one of these two directions. In my journey from obese, to anorexic, to somewhere in the middle, I’ve gone down most of these rabbit holes and they all have some valid points, but I am so so grateful for people like Eric Helms and a number of others who are actively trying to bridge that gap and preach balance and prioritising overall wellness.

    It’s OK to want to change your body size and shape – so long as you do it for the right reasons, and don’t let it become all consuming.

    It’s OK to eat whatever you want, including ‘treat’ foods, in the context of an overall balanced diet.

    It’s OK to eat for reasons other than hunger – if it’s not negatively impacting your mental or physical health.

    It’s not OK to make yourself miserable and depressed in pursuit of some idealistic goal of physical perfection.

    It’s not OK for your entire sense of self worth to depend on how hard you train, how well you diet, or how fit and muscular you look.

    LIfe’s too goddamn short. Nobody else gives a crap about any of this stuff except you. Being your best self is far more than these physical things.

    I should’ve blogged this myself and maybe I still will.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yay! So glad this resonated with you! It sounds like we’re seeing the same challenges and coming to the shared conclusion of a middle path between these worlds. Keep spreading the word!

      Liked by 1 person

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