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Getting Sick, Making Excuses, and Some Thoughts About Genetics

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I’ve had quite the nasty sinus infection for just about the last two weeks.  Which has directly translated into  shocking lack of exercise.  I did go to CrossFit on Saturday, which turned out mostly okay although I am still not in optimal health.  But it was much better than the previous Friday, which triggered a nasty asthma attack.  Allowing myself to sit out for this long has been kind of hard for me, because I just feel like I’ve been lazy.

Yes, I know, I’ve been sick.  I need to listen to my body.  It’s more important to get better. . . blah blah blah.  But it took me a long time to get into the habit of exercising regularly, and I don’t want to fall out of it.  I have been dreaming of CrossFit for the better part of a week.  In these dreams, I can do an unassisted pull-up, which my extended leave from the gym has set me back from accomplishing.  And I have a goal to get it by the end of the year.  Which is coming up really fast. And I feel like I just have to jump back in while I still have the itch, because I am spectacular at finding reasons to not do things I don’t feel like doing.

In a lot of ways, I’m worried that being sick will allow me to sell myself an excuse not to do something that is hard for me (and working out is something that is still hard for me every day.  I enjoy it after it’s over and am like “Yeah! I feel awesome! I want to do this forever!”  But I swear, the hour before I go it’s like: “Seriously?  You’re going to put yourself through this crap?”).  Anyways, this has gotten me thinking a lot about the way we sell ourselves the idea that it’s okay if we never change things for ourselves.  The excuses we make that make it okay not to achieve our goals.  We’re all familiar with these, because they are the regular roadblocks.  The big three, in my estimation, are time, money and genetics.

I feel like I should really discuss the genetic aspect of weight loss/fitness, because it’s one that pretty much everyone falls back on.  I know I handed all the responsibility for my body over to my genetics for as long as I can remember.

In a lot of ways, my belief that I was only a product of my genes sheltered me from a lot of emotional hurt in high school.  Rather than obsessing over my body, I simply looked at myself and said: this is what I am and this is how I look and that’s all there is to it.  A significant portion of my extended family is overweight, and I felt like I just happened to be made that same way.  Did I want to be thin and cutesy like my friends? Yes.  And I wanted to not have to feel like every shopping trip was a battle.  I wanted to not have to worry about finding a plus size prom dress.  I wanted to be the kind of girl a boy would have a crush on.  But I just didn’t accept that as a possibility for myself.  The way I saw it, I just wasn’t made that way.

You see, I used to be a master at making excuses.  It took me a long time to learn how to take full responsibility for myself.  It was easier for me to “give away my power” (as Jillian Michaels would say) than it was for me to take a long, hard look at myself and say: you are a result of you.  Nothing else.

I was so sold  on my inability to fight my genetics that I set very conservative goals when I started losing weight.  I wanted to weigh 160, to be a size 12 rather than an 18.  I wanted to run a 10-minute mile.  At the time, these were really big, good goals.  Achievable.  They would require work, but I could do them.

But in my mind, that was as good as I could ever do.  “With my structure,” I told myself and everyone who would listen, “I just wasn’t made to be thin.  It isn’t possible.”

I also told myself that it was harder for me to lose weight than it was for most people because of my genes.  Other people would have it easy, but it was going to be extra hard for me.  I used this an excuse to not expect too much, to not want too much, to not try too hard.

And then one day someone told me something that changed all that.  One tiny little sentence that changed my whole perspective once I dropped all my excuses and accepted the gospel truth: You are a not a slave to your genetics.  It’s something I’ve had to relearn and accept more than once.  Who I am and how I look is really completely up to me.

Well, we tell ourselves, my bone structure. . . yadda yadda yadda.  Shut it. Right now.  There is some truth to that (obviously I am never going to one of those super cute girls who is 5’3 and weighs 100 pounds. . . or a 5’11 supermodel), but you likely have no idea what your best body looks like. So don’t count it out before you even start.  I always thought I would have massive hips, no matter what.  Turns out, I am pretty well proportioned.  I look absolutely nothing like I expected under 75 pounds of fat.  And although I am still working on getting my body fat percentage down and my lean mass up, I look so much better than I ever thought I could.

So whenever you want to say, “I’m just not built that way” or “my metabolism is slow” — just stop it.  Unless you’ve seen a doctor and have some hormonal issue, there is probably nothing different about you.  Most people are not just naturally thin.  Some are, but not a lot.  Just like most people are not naturally fat.  Most people don’t have smaller bones or a faster metabolism than you.

And even if they do: so what?  You can still work with whatever your genetic makeup has given you.  Because you likely have some genetic strengths that balance out your weakness.  Mine? I seem to build and maintain lean mass pretty effectively.  Also, I’ve got long legs that make me a faster runner than I thought I could be (although if I were working on it as much as I should, I could be much faster).

I thought I was big boned and could never wear a single digit pants size.  I was wrong.  I also had no idea that I could weigh 140, that I could have a waist that was less than 30 inches (let alone 27 and still shrinking!).  I never thought I could run an 8-minute mile.  If I had let myself continue to believe what I had always believed about my genes, I never would have had the courage to try for more.

I bet you’re just like me, and you have no idea what you’re capable of.  I still have no idea what I’m capable of, because I am not at my health and fitness pinnacle yet.  And even if your genes don’t always work with you, they aren’t ever a roadblock.  They’re more like a hurdle.  You just have to learn how to get over it.  So stop thinking and saying you weren’t made that way.

You were made to be magnificent.  Get after it.