It’s not you; it’s – oh wait, yes, it’s you.

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It’s not you; it’s – oh wait, yes, it’s you.

July 2, 2012

Two years ago, I was eating out with some friends at a burger place. It was my first time there, so I asked the waitress what their best appetizers were. The sweet potato fries, she said. Oh, and also the onion strings. You can get them split half-and-half because they really are just that good. She went on excitedly about how they were just about her favorite food and that she regularly ate a whole order in one sitting. Mind you, she had far from the leanest figure; in fact, she was morbidly obese and had difficulty walking. After we’d placed our orders and she walked away, I shook my head and remarked that I hoped that woman would take better care of her health before something happened. A girl – let’s call her Sue – sitting at the table with us stared at me long and hard. I knew she had some choice words just itching to burst their way out of her mouth. “They can’t help it that they’re obese!!” she spat, disgust written all over her face.

Oh, really? That’s funny, because the last time I checked, people weren’t force-feeding each other greasy, artery-clogging food or demanding that lean protein and veggies be shunned in favor of nacho chips (although there’s no questioning what tastes better) lest I lose my head.

It just doesn’t work that way.

Constantly placing the blame onto others and life circumstances only perpetuates complacency and mediocre results at best. [Tweet ““I can’t help it” is not a valid excuse.”] There’s no way those frickin’ m&m’s danced their way into your mouth while you were sleeping. Trouble putting on weight? “There’s no way I can possibly eat more!” is a flat-out lie.

I understand that there are certain variables that you can’t necessarily control – the food available in your vicinity, what you can and cannot afford to purchase, etc. Sometimes it’s not always going to be entirely your fault. Using a scapegoat in order to take the easy way out may seem enticing, but you won’t make any progress. Don’t forget that the mind is a tricky thing; it will engage in all sorts of acrobatics to convince you that your excuses are logical. Most of the time… they’re not.

Recall that there was a time in my life when I was waist-deep in bulimia. I remember that just about every other day, I’d find a reason to inhale an entire box of cereal or crush unreasonable amounts of yogurt pretzels in one sitting. I’ve been on my feet all day; my body really needs the calories. Oh, this is a refeed. Following every episode, I’d vow to myself that that was the last time and that the next day I’d start dieting – “for real” this time. It never worked. Making false promises to myself was an exercise in futility, and my weight fluctuated wildly up and down. I hated looking at myself in the mirror and especially despised being photographed. I was miserable and I knew it. But it wasn’t until I woke up one day and decided that I’d put up with enough of my own bullshit and that I’d stop accepting my lame excuses that I kicked my ass into gear to effect real change. That was when my life was transformed.

Or take, for instance, the life transformation story of Sam Hyun, baseball pitcher at Allegheny College and athlete at Cressey Performance.

I once was a teenage boy who believed he was invincible. I could engulf meatball subs dripping in grease, leaving a small puddle below. I crushed one beer after another because obviously it was the cool thing to do. Bad calories? Nutrition? Who cares! I was a young varsity athlete and had been more often than not compared to the Greek god Zeus. That was the fantasy I lived in. In reality, I was 6’1, 227 pounds, a borderline alcoholic, out of shape, and delusional. Being able to reminisce on my former self, I can now come to terms with the old me. The Sam Hyun who faked being confident, sometimes lacking a sense of self-worth. The pressure stemming from expectations on top of the failures began to weigh me down, sometimes making me wonder why it was that I existed. I was drinking too much and disregarding my health. Don’t get me wrong – I could lift with the best of them, at least on the high school level. However, when it came to overall fitness, I was a catastrophe. My vegetable consumption solely consisted of the lettuce on my steak bombs.

Sam Hyun (left) – before

One day during my freshman year of college, I had a sudden epiphany. I barged into my friends’ dorm, blurted, “Yo! I’m going to get ripped!” and marched out of the room. From that point forward, I dedicated myself to maintaining a healthy nutrition plan, and have cut out all soda, decreased my alcohol consumption to the point where my friends call me lame (which, in all honestly, only made me want to drink less). It was like a flip had been switched. I have since lost 45 pounds and feel as if I’ve been reborn. My entire perspective on life has evolved. No longer do I make excuses for failure. Instead, I use my failures to fuel me. Because after all, I make the decisions in my life. I am the one choosing to eat ground turkey rather than fried chicken.

Sam Hyun – After

The most important lesson I learned was if I put my heart and soul into whatever task, I can accomplish even my wildest dreams. And if I could make such a drastic change after living recklessly for 18 years to become a whole new person at age 20, so can anyone else. Just believe in yourself, fight to be better, and never settle for good enough. Be the best you.”

We can sit here all day and come up with a million and one different reasons why fixing up your diet – either for healthy weight gain or for fat loss – is not feasible right now. Why going to the gym or even getting in a quick bodyweight workout in your living room is impossible. When it all boils down to it, though, it really comes down to making the most of your current circumstances and keeping your mouth shut long enough to do what you need to do to get where you want to be.

So actually, Sue, people can help the way that they look; they simply choose not to.

You always have a choice.

24 Comments
  1. Tim. 6 years ago

    So very true.

  2. Jon Hammersley 6 years ago

    Your brain likes to do things that feel good. Hack your brain and take control of what “feels good” in those circumstances and do what’s necessary to accomplish your goals.

    • Sohee Lee 6 years ago

      Yes, that’s instant gratification – something that the American population indulges in far too often nowadays.

  3. William Bett 6 years ago

    While I applaud your heroic efforts at overcoming bulimia, I think your strength and determination are more the exception rather than the norm, especially in today’s day and age of instant gratification. Moreover, I don’t believe it’s as simple as diet and exercise with all the other variables to contend with in modern life.

    • Kevin Morton 6 years ago

      “I don’t believe it’s as simple as diet and exercise…” That’s probably why this article is about mindset more than anything else. It’s about the intrinsic tweaks we need to make to not put up with our own BS. Any of it.

      • William Bett 6 years ago

        Allow me to restate “I don’t believe it’s as simple as diet, exercise, and mindset…” Perhaps the waitress was perfectly content with her appearance? It is dangerous to assume everyone shares your views on

        • Sohee 6 years ago

          William, the remark that I made had nothing to do with aesthetics. It had more to do with the fact that her morbidly obese state would cost her health dearly in the long term if she didn’t do something about it. I do agree with you, though, that if an individual is perfectly happy being out of shape, then that’s none of my business – and it doesn’t bother me.

      • William Bett 6 years ago

        Allow me to restate my position “I don’t believe it’s as simple as diet, exercise and mindset…” Your friend was the one making excuses for the waitress perhaps she was perfectly happy with her appearance? Just because you believe their is room for improvement doesn’t mean someone else shares your opinion.

  4. Chanel 6 years ago

    I agree with your overall message, but I find the way you treated the waitress to be presumptuous, self-righteous, and rude. I don’t know how overweight she was, but being slightly overweight is not a major health risk, so don’t mask your contempt for fat people in a veil of “concern.” You did ask her about the appetizers, after all. I disagree with what your friend said, however, had I been at your table I might have been tempted to tell you to mind your own business.

    • Kevin Morton 6 years ago

      I read the contempt as not being reserved for fat people Chanel. The contempt is for those who continue to accede to bullshit excuses.

      If only we all had such contempt for excuses. Instead, we seem to be too concerned with sensitively “minding our own business” to make the progress that comes with identifying excuses and calling them out.

    • Sohee Lee 6 years ago

      I have no contempt for fat people whatsoever. She was morbidly obese.

  5. Chanel 6 years ago

    I agree with your overall message, but I find the way you treated the waitress to be presumptuous, self-righteous, and rude. I don’t know how overweight she was, but being slightly overweight is not a major health risk, so don’t mask your contempt for fat people in a veil of “concern.” You did ask her about the appetizers, after all. I disagree with what your friend said, however, had I been at your table I might have been tempted to tell you to mind your own business.

    • Kevin Morton 6 years ago

      I read the contempt as not being reserved for fat people Chanel. The contempt is for those who continue to accede to bullshit excuses.

      If only we all had such contempt for excuses. Instead, we seem to be too concerned with sensitively “minding our own business” to make the progress that comes with identifying excuses and calling them out.

    • Sohee Lee 6 years ago

      I have no contempt for fat people whatsoever. She was morbidly obese.

    • Sam Hyun 6 years ago

      Chanel, how do you know that the waitress was not morbidly obese? Also when did Sohee ever claim she had any sort of contempt towards “obese” people. Having been a person who has lost a significant amount of weight (FYI I’m the guest writer), I know the feeling for both ends of the spectrum. Losing weight, and being “fit” is up to the person. Sohee was particularly speaking about people who want to lose weight, yet make excuses as to why they do not stick to their diet plan, and/or workout. Had you carefully read the article, and done so with an open-mind, instead of a confrontational mindset, you might see it differently. Just like how I felt your response was presumptuous, self-righteous, and rude.

  6. Jane Patterson 6 years ago

    Except you have no way of knowing if someone is healthy by looking at them. No, really. Please, as a fitness professional, you need to know that, or you stand to do some of your clients an very unhealthy disservice. And you don’t know if that big body comes from genetics, or a metabolism destroyed by teenage dieting, or a thryoid gone mad.

    Read Paul Campos’ book on the diet myth. Heck, just read this blog post:
    http://www.bodylovewellness.com/2010/06/30/just-so-were-clear-some-fat-facts/ and the studies she links to. What science actually knows (in long term, large subject pool studies) about fat and health is not what is reported in the media, because it wouldn’t make anyone any money.
    I’ve really liked reading your blog, but knowing that you would look at my big butt and assume that I’m unhealthy is a real bummer — and if you looked at my fitocracy and food logs, I expect you would be really surprised. BMI labels me obese. My doctor labels me as a model she wishes her other patients would follow, because I’m healthy as a horse, presumably a draft horse, except for some sports injuries.

    • Kevin Morton 6 years ago

      Of course genetics and environmental factors play a huge role (the Dutch Famine of 1944 is the classic example of the latter) in a huge host of factors that affect bodyweight. But that doesn’t mean excuses don’t also play a huge role.

      I understand that overweight individuals have a rap that is chalk full of unfair assumptions, and you’ve got to be defensive of that to prevent the assumptions from continuing. But I think here you’re assuming that Sohee would assume you were unhealthy from seeing your big butt. The only thing down this path I would find evidence for from this post is that she would assume you have more mindset and health progress to be made if she saw your big butt while you were remarking about putting down fried food on the regular.

      I think that’s a fair assumption and I would wager that Sohee isn’t naive to genetics and enviro developments.

  7. kitka 6 years ago

    I agree 100% that a person should assume responsibility for their own life rather than to blame anyone/thing else. And I can see why you would pass judgment on an obese waitress who highly recommended fried food. Could she possibly have been just doing her job–to enthusiastically sell you FOOD? Was she salivating while she was talking about those onion rings? Did she look like she wanted to pull up a chair at your table and share your meal? In Dr. Kessler’s book The End of Overeating, we are warned about the food industry’s concern with selling us fat, sugar, and salt rather than healthier choices. But I digress…
    All anyone can do is the best they can with the resources they have. Not everyone can afford gym membership, but everyone should be able to walk or jog and do bodyweight exercises. Not everyone can afford to shop organic, but everyone should have access to canned, saltless veggies and leaner cuts of meat. Everyone can practice portion control. It really all comes down to your mindset and determination. Motivation, and even willpower are useless.
    I see where you were headed with this, Sohee. It just came off as a rash and unfair assumption that all overweight people are automatically unfit and unhealthy.

    • Kevin Morton 6 years ago

      I enjoy most of your comment, but how are motivation and willpower different from mindset and determination? They are all siblings in the same family to me.

    • Sam Hyun 6 years ago

      I agree with Kevin, motivation and willpower is the same as mindset and determination. While you are correct that not everyone can afford to workout at a gym with highly trained coaches, or follow a nutrition plan due to financial constraints, that does not mean one is not to blame for their weight. When you walk into Mcdonalds, is there not a salad you can order instead of the Double Cheeseburger? Also having actually been “obese” and having used my willpower, and motivation to be better, I lost 45 pounds and feel great. One a final note, how do YOU know that the waitress wasn’t salivating, or how do YOU know that she didn’t want to pull up a chair and eat with Sohee? So instead of accusing others of passing judgement, think a bit because you just did the same thing.

  8. kitka 6 years ago

    I agree 100% that a person should assume responsibility for their own life rather than to blame anyone/thing else. And I can see why you would pass judgment on an obese waitress who highly recommended fried food. Could she possibly have been just doing her job–to enthusiastically sell you FOOD? Was she salivating while she was talking about those onion rings? Did she look like she wanted to pull up a chair at your table and share your meal? In Dr. Kessler’s book The End of Overeating, we are warned about the food industry’s concern with selling us fat, sugar, and salt rather than healthier choices. But I digress…
    All anyone can do is the best they can with the resources they have. Not everyone can afford gym membership, but everyone should be able to walk or jog and do bodyweight exercises. Not everyone can afford to shop organic, but everyone should have access to canned, saltless veggies and leaner cuts of meat. Everyone can practice portion control. It really all comes down to your mindset and determination. Motivation, and even willpower are useless.
    I see where you were headed with this, Sohee. It just came off as a rash and unfair assumption that all overweight people are automatically unfit and unhealthy.

  9. Phen375 6 years ago

    Great blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?

    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make
    my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme.
    Thanks a lot

    • Sohee 6 years ago

      Hi there – a friend actually made this for me. I’d recommend hiring a web designer to put together what exactly it is you have in mind.

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