“We all have a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.” ~Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
Here’s a fun truth nobody’s talking about: What worked for someone else might not work for you.
What? Yep. It’s true.
This applies to fitness, nutrition, relationships, career, sleep, sex, morning routines, and so many other things that are intimately affected by the individualized nature of your existence and, thus, are in need of solutions that are tailored to you as a unique human with unique needs.
The challenge here is that we all desperately want easy answers. Or to be able to look at someone who appears to have what we (think we or actually do) want and just follow whatever exercise or meal or life plan they’re on and be guaranteed the same outcome.
Spoiler alert: That’s not how this shit works. Sorry.
Well-known marketing expert and prolific writer, Seth Godin, refuses to describe his morning routine or his writing practice in detail because he is well aware of the fact that what works for him will likely not work for other people. To which I say: EXACTLY. And while his refusal to lay out the specifics of his approach to work and life undoubtedly frustrates some folks who want to mimic his success, I love that he stays quiet on the subject.
Because: We are all different people with different rhythms and different needs. And I really believe that the solution to better health and happiness and professional success and fulfillment and all that jazz that adds up to a good life is not to follow some carefully outlined plan based on the precise activities and actions carried out by another person whose life you might desire for yourself.
We are more nuanced creatures than this one-size-fits-all approach suggests.
That’s why I’m not particularly on board with any specific diet. (I’m not really on board with diets in general. But that’s a conversation for a different day.) It’s why when patients ask me what I think about paleo or keto or intermittent fasting, my answer is usually: Well, it depends.
It’s why I don’t think there is one right way to move your body. Running, cycling, weightlifting, Crossfit, yoga, spinning, climbing, HIIT training. None of these on their own are the right answer for most people. And most people need different types of movement at different times and on different days and at different phases of their lives. There is not one right answer for everyone. There’s not even one right answer for you that is going to be and stay the right answer indefinitely.
You are always and constantly in flux. Your movement practice should reflect that. I would argue that your diet should, too.
One question I think we too often fail to ask ourselves (and our patients and clients) is: What is your why in this situation?
Because I think it is too easy to put the focus on aesthetics when it comes to our approach to fitness and nutrition, especially. Improving how we look can become the default motivation even though this is just one of many, MANY reasons to move our bodies or feed them in certain ways.
And I am not a person who believes that wanting to lose weight or gain muscle or look better is an inherently shallow reason to start exercising or eating more mindfully. And I think that this idea that you can’t accept your body while also wanting to change it or that the desire for weight loss is inherently self-hating is just not true. Again, we are nuanced creatures capable of holding multiple emotions and desires in our body at the same time.
And you can love your body now while still wanting to change it for a variety of reasons, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with aesthetics at all.
But I digress.
I used to move my body almost exclusively for aesthetically-oriented reasons. Which, again, was not inherently bad, but also left me missing out on so much that is more interesting about being a human in this amazingly intricate body than just how it looks in a pair of jeans (or leggings or a dress or skirt or tutu or muumuu, etc.).
Learning to identify how my nervous system and digestion and sleep and mood and cognition are all affected by how I move and feed my body completely transformed how I approach both fitness and nutrition. My why is no longer about how I look (although I won’t claim to never think about it, I’m not completely immune to this impulse). Instead, my why for moving and eating is to feel as good as I possibly can.
It’s to maximize my ability to show up and be as present as possible in the rest of my life — in my creative endeavors, in my work with patients, in my relationships with my partner, my family, and my friends.
And this is about a lot more than my appearance. Because if I look a certain way but feel terrible and tired all the time and cranky and irritable and constipated and my sleep is poor and my menstrual cycle is irregular or absent and I can’t focus or be emotionally available for my people much of the time, then whatever I’m doing food- and fitness-wise clearly isn’t working.
When it comes to movement and food, we need to broaden our scope beyond just appearance goals as motivation.
And even in that context, we need to look at people — and ourselves — as individuals and recognize that, again, what works for one person might not (see also: probably won’t) work for everyone else.
We need to talk about your work life, your home life, your stress level, your nervous system state, your digestive function, your relationships, your sleep quality, how much time you’re spending outside, how much time you’re spending on your phone or computer, your feelings of belonging and community, your breathing, your menstrual cycle, your creative outlets, and so many other things before we can truly figure out what kind of movement and dietary approach is going to work best for you.
And I know this is an annoyingly imprecise answer, but it’s just the truth.
It’s also an answer that requires you to be an active participant in the process.
Because while I believe in placing your trust in a well-trained and knowledgable coach or healthcare provider, I also believe that you are the expert on you. And that, ultimately, working with a professional in any capacity should be about helping you tap into your own inner wisdom as deeply as possible so that you can make informed, intuitive, compassionate decisions for yourself over the long term.
And this will look different for each of us. And it will require you to show up for yourself. Over and over and over again.
It will be a pain in the ass sometimes. It will feel like work. You won’t want to do it some days. You’ll wish there was an easy answer. It will be tempting to quit.
But it will be worth it. I promise. Keep going.
(And call me. I can help. I’d be honored by the opportunity to do so.)