Around this time of year, there's a sound that hums across the landscape of fitness media. It's the malefic side of what once was a good intention.
Helping people become their best selves should be the aim as writers, coaches and trainers. However, somewhere along the line, our work has become predicated on the seasons of the year.
Summertime means we storng-arm people into dieting so hard they can't even see straight. Summertime also means that to feel even an ounce of significance, the veins in our stomachs must be showing.
And so we produce in superabundacne, courses, articles, videos and e-books that cater to only a handful of people who in all fairness, have warranted a goal of "getting shredded" into their lives.
But what about the hundreds of thousands of other people? You know, the ones who have a true desire to be healthy, but feel like they need to be "stage ready" at 4.7% body-fat in order to accomplish that?
They get dragged in the mud.
That's what usually happens.
There's nothing wrong with getting shredded. It's when the goal of the person doesn't line up with the aspects of getting shredded is where the major disconnect occurs.
It's like trying to drink water from a fire hose. Getting shredded for a lot of people is lavishly excessive.
Before we get into the three things you should consider before you try to get shredded, lets look at a story about Socrates and his friend.
One day in Ancient Greece, Socrates was met by a friend and asked him, "Do you know what I just heard about your friend?"
"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied.
"Before telling me anything I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."
"Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you're going to say. That's why I call it the triple filter test."
The first is the filter of truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what your about to tell me is true?"
"No," said the man, "Actually I just heard about it and..."
"All right," said Socrates.
"So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now lets try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you're about to tell me about my friend something good?
"No, on the contrary..."
"So," Socrates said, "you want to tell me something bad about him, but you're not certain it's true. You may still past the test though, because there's one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you're about to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?
"No, not really..."
"Well, if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor useful, why tell it to me at all?"
The triple filter test is a useful tool when it comes to deciding on what kind of fitness level we are going to pursue.
Getting shredded is extremely difficult - not impossible, just mind-numbingly laborious. And to be sane and fair, this goal is apropos for the right person.
For many others, this goal doesn't pass their triple filter test. It's not true that they want to get shredded (they just want to be healthy and fit), it's not useful (the process is so intense it gets in the way of other important aspects of life) and it lacks goodness (it doesn't augment or support their true goal).
If you've been on the fence about getting shredded and can't decide what to do, here are three things to consider before you take the plunge.
Do you even want to get shredded?
The dissonance you're feeling likely points to the fact that what you actually want and what you are conditioned to want don't line up.
If you could swim through the depths of your soul and navigate to ever corner of your mind, you'd find that you want to be healthy, happy and well.
But most of everything you read or listen to suggests you should purge any type of pleasure from food and take up exercsiing as a second full-time job.
You have permission to choose what's best for you. I know, mainstream fitness media attacks your eyeballs with a constant message of trying to look like a magazine cover model.
It's something like Buddy Ryan's blitzing "46" defense of the 85' Bears coming through on your phone, tablet and computer.
You haven't pulled the trigger on "getting shredded" because it's not what you want. And that's okay. Be at peace with that.
Understand that you can get help
Diet coaches are plentiful and there are a lot of good ones out there.
But perhaps you're looking for more than a diet plan? Maybe you want some support on how to be well in a broader range of mediums in life and not only with what you put in your mouth?
In my experience, I've come to understand that people who are new to the health and fitness lifestyle have an enormous amount of things to catch up on.
Eating habits, behavioral tendencies around food, hormonal imbalances, emotional eating, sleep schedules, physical exercise, mental exercise, meal prep awareness, morning routines, energy management at work, social support network, are all things to consider
And yet, the standard assistance comes in the form of exercise and diet. While personal trainers and diet coaches do this well, for the novice, this approach is incomplete.
Moreover, doctors don't have time to walk with people to establish healthy lifestyle habits.
This is where certified health coaches or mentors vill the void.
Rather than compartmentalizing diet and exercise, health coaches put the individual first and aim to help people become their best selves with a holistic approach.
If you're not turned on by the idea of a diet coach who simply hand you a plan to follow, but want more of an in-depth experience that transcends diet and exercise, perhaps working with a health coach is right up your alley.
This type of coaching is available. It's out there - you don't have to tackle this health journey alone.
Are you looking for attention?
There's a short story I read the other day that sets this point up perfectly:
More than a decade ago I was dragged to a party on a college campus where I came across a preposterous sign hanging in a dorm bathroom. It commanded in a bold typeface that all men should "Please masturbate in your own rooms."
This story penetrates past a dorm room bathroom - it's a strikingly accurate metaphor to our mastabutory fitness culture today.
We get caught up in displaying ourselves online and that becomes the purpose. Doing nothing but adding to an already suffocatingly crowded digital landscape, we heave our own contribution to the noise with shirtless (or pantless) selfies with hopes that we get some "Likes."
I get it. Social media has literally birthed careers for a lot of people in the fitness industry. Used appropriately, it's an incredible tool.
But if you're jumping into the river naked for the sole purpose of hoping someone notices you, your entire swim upstream is predicted on the concept of attention - not the journey.
Ask yourself this, "Am I wanting to get shredded only for someone to notice me?"
If the answer is yes, I can tell you from personal history that the depth of this experience is as deep as a rain puddle in the Atacama Dessert.
We don't realize that our bodies are made and designed to feel great.
Instead, we slip into this existence where poor quality sleep, over-fatness, clouded thinking, an off-beat relationship with food, and chronic fatigue become the norm.
None of these things causes alarm for many of us because so many others are walking around in the same state of being. Feeling like a sack of dog waste is accepted as common existence.
And the result is that we never experience ultra wellness - much less even know it's possible.
When a mild crisis hits - heart pain that sends us to the doctor, diabetes sets in, anxiety attacks at work, or adrenal fatigue knocks us out like a Tyson upper-cut - is when we decide to change.
But why not hedge against such a difficult scenario and decide to change now?
It's this juncture where you must be mindful of what you do next. You're emotional charged and ready to take action, but you're also conditioned to aim straight for the "get-shredded" approach like a speeding torpedo.
Before you do that, take yourself through these three questions:
Do I really want to get shredded? (Or do I want to be healthy, happy and well?)
What type of help or support do I need? (A personal trainer or health coach?)
Am I doing this all for attention? (Or am I grounded in self-improvement?)
By taking yourself through these thoughts, you'll be able to steer yourself in a much better direction that aligns with your desires and values.
If nobody has told you yet, you're allowed to be a badass who is also healthy, happy and well.