A few weeks ago, someone asked me to write an article about what a fitness instructor eats in a day. I’m a fitness instructor and healthy eating enthusiast and she thought people would be interested in what I ate day in and day out.
In other words, how I do the following 2 things with food:
Sustain my active lifestyle
Stay “fit” (code for skinny and/or strong looking)
And the truth is, that person was right: a lot of people would be interested. However, I will not be writing that article. When I thought about following through with the idea, I was immediately unsettled.
I started thinking…why do people read articles like that? Do they do it to imitate that person’s lifestyle? To compare their own habits to the habits of someone they admire? To ridicule habits they find insanely out of reach? Or maybe to gain a sense of security if they eat a similar way? I don’t particularly want to support any of these aims.
I’ve seen a lot of them lately, regardless. They circulate the health and fitness online world, flaunting the daily contents and timing of a random fitness instructor’s food intake, as if that person is an exemplary eater simply because they teach fitness classes sometimes.
“What Spin Instructor, ___ Eats in A Day”
“What Barry’s Instructor Swears By for Breakfast”
“Marathon Trainer Eats This Superfood At Every Meal”
I mean, really. Which of these “experts” really knows what they’re doing?
These articles are, more often than not, the opposite of helpful. There are soooo many misconceptions that fuel these articles, and that fuel their popularity. Here are some of the ones I see:
Firstly, they feed off of people’s food anxieties and unhealthy relationships with food.
The question, “Am I eating all wrong?” is in too many people’s minds for too many hours in a day.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to eat. There are ways that make you feel good and strong and positive and energized, and there are ways that make you feel sluggish and depressed and weak. There is no one way that will do either of these things; there are many ways to eat well. You just have to use your intuition and figure out which way works best for you. Reading that article will not tell you the “right” way to eat.
Which brings me to my next point.
Everybody eats differently.
That’s just a fact of life: everyone has a different body, and therefore eats differently to fuel that different body. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Eating what that fitness instructor ate in a day could make that instructor feel awesome, but make YOU feel terrible. She might be fine with rice cakes and peanut butter before spin class, but you might feel stronger in class if you eat something more a few hours before. No way is better than the other, you’re just different people.
You also have a completely different life and activity level than that instructor, and likely need a different amount of food.
From personal experience, I can say that I’ve looked at those articles and felt threatened and unnerved by them because I realized eat way more than they do. I started comparing everything, wondering where I should start making cuts.
However, I should not feel the need to make any. I gave myself a reality check and worked through it; but I shouldn’t have had to go through that miserable process in the first place. I’m a different person. A banana for breakfast doesn’t cut it for me, and that’s ok. I’m not failing at anything by eating more. (And neither are you.)
Many of those articles flaunt really restrictive diets.
When I was comparing, I got really frustrated and decided to try and estimate how many calories that person was eating in a day. It was around 1500. TOO LOW for someone of their weight with an active lifestyle. Too low for me. Too low for most people. Parading that restricted diet as the ideal is dangerous, and works against the positive, healthy voices telling us to eat enough to fuel your body. So really, let’s think about it: who is that article benefitting? Who is it for?
Let me tell you: it’s not for you, and it’s not written with your best interests in mind. It’s written with the goal of getting the most page views.
These articles imply that we should be reactionary of our food habits based on our appearance or how “fit” we look.
And how “fit” we look has become equated with having a certain body type.
Yeah, that instructor probably has a “good” body, or what society views as one. People read those and think that the food that instructor eats will give them the same body. They think: I’m going to do that, I’m going to eat like that, and then I’ll look like that. However, that’s the absolute OPPOSITE of intuitive eating, and the opposite of a healthy relationship with food.
There’s a belief that everyone who eats a certain way will look exactly the same. Bad news: you can eat that instructor’s diet and end up looking completely different. Again, different body. Different food.
I’ve seen this happen to people, where they change their diet to match someone else’s standards, and then they get discouraged when they don’t see the same results. They begin thinking that there’s something wrong with them and their body because it isn’t reacting the same way. Read here about why this kind of comparison and low self-esteem spiral can be detrimental in the long run.
Fitness instructors are not healthy eating experts.
Now, let’s take a second to stop and think about the actual people being used here as guides for healthy living. Like I said before: do these “experts” know what they’re doing at all?
No. Nothing about teaching fitness qualifies you to know or preach about nutrition. Of course, there are fitness instructors that are also certified nutritionsists but that is not the case for most. As a fitness instructor myself, I’ve seen a lot of coworkers who are really unhealthy, in one way or another.
I’ve seen fitness instructors who struggle with their weight.
I’ve seen fitness instructors who eat a lot of processed, pre-made meals and don’t have time to cook healthy food.
I’ve seen fitness instructors who struggle with body image and go through cycles of bingeing and dieting.
I’ve seen fitness instructors with active eating disorders.
I’ve also seen a lot of really healthy fitness instructors.
But here’s the thing: fitness instructors are JUST PEOPLE. People who like working out and have decided to make money off of it. People who, like every other person on the planet, sometimes eat healthy and sometimes don’t. People who sometimes don’t get enough sleep, who sometimes binge drink on weekends, and who sometimes don’t eat well or don’t eat enough or eat way too much.
People who have body image demons of their own. Who have a potentially negative relationship with food. Who are embarrassed of how they actually eat, and maybe/probably lie about their actual daily intake. Who eat less than what is healthy for their bodies in order to maintain a certain image, for either their client base or for social media.
I know one thing for sure: I am certainly not an exemplar of healthy eating. An article about what I ate in a day wouldn’t be an ideal portrait for anyone. I don’t think people should imitate my eating habits to a T, because there’s a lot that could improve about them. I’m not going to get into what those things are, because that’s not important and again, isn’t the point.
But to be clear: just because I am a fitness instructor does not mean I am perfectly healthy.
So let’s all do ourselves a favor and stop it with these articles. I don’t care what you ate in a day, and you shouldn’t care what I ate either. Worry about yourself, eat intuitively, and mind your own damn business.
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