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Why you should re-think your weight loss goal for the coming year

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New Year’s Resolutions should be focused on joy and goodness, not on self-loathing.

I will be 100 percent honest here: I despise scales. They are the enemy of physical fitness, and in my experience do tremendous harm to people. That may sound like a strange thing for a personal trainer to say, but it’s true. I could go into a long, drawn-out explanation, but this video from Buzzfeed is much more powerful than anything I could write.

This is the mindset that I’m fighting hard to change. The concept of exercise and nutrition as a kind of self-induced punishment for one’s physical appearance is mentally and emotionally devastating. The way our culture condemns overweight people is likewise horrific, and tends to have the exact opposite effect: it keeps people trapped in a cycle of self-loathing, punishment, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

I hate it when people quantify exercise as a way of burning off a meal, or post pictures of the number of burpees it would take to offset a cheeseburger. Is it any wonder that so many people fail to lose weight and get healthy when that’s the way we talk about physical health?

Exercise isn’t a punishment. It should never be presented or understood as a way to compensate for poor nutritional choices — exercise is a gift. It’s a celebration of the bodies we have and the life we can live in them. One of my favorite trainers always tells people that if they can’t run, they should walk. She reminds us constantly that there are people in the world who can’t walk, and who would love to be able to do what we take for granted — walk around the track, do a squat, or jump up in the air simply because we can.

I see campers all the time who are starting where the girl in this video is starting, and they are so inspiring. I hate it when they feel embarrassed or say things like, “I’m always the last to finish.” It breaks my heart, because they aren’t seeing what I see — that they might be the last to finish, but they’re working the hardest. They’re fighting the hardest battle, because it takes so much strength and courage to persist at something that seems so easy for everyone else.

This is the month that means the most for me as a trainer, since it gives me a chance to share with people my own story. I know where they’re coming from — I’ve fought that battle. And you know what? I’m still fighting it. There’s no magic cure or secret to being healthy except to change your mindset. Eat good food because your body deserves to be healthy and strong. Find a way to move that you enjoy, and do it because you enjoy it.

Life is full of so much joy, and the birth of a new year is a time to recognize and embrace that. Let’s leave shame, guilt, and punishment behind and be grateful for the new year and the blessings we have.

Read more: “Catholic Fitness Training” brings Theology of the Body to your workout routine

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