December 2, 2018

You Do You – With Thanks to Sarah Knight

You are an utterly new thing in creation.

I recently read You Do You by Sarah Knight, a book that Amazon describes as offering “…straight talk about how to stand up for who you are and what you really want, need, and deserve.”

I love Sarah Knight’s work. I’ve read two of her other books: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and Get Your Sh*t Together, and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of her next book Calm the F*ck Down at the end of this month. This lady’s pretty cool: bitchy, funny, sarcastic, witty…if we were guys, I’d say it was a bromance (one-sided since she doesn’t know me from a hole in the wall).

I digress so back to You Do You…After reading this little gem, I realized that it’s ok to be me, to do things the way I want, and not to be sucked into living on other people’s terms. I felt validated. Then I put the book away.

A few days later, my personal trainer Doris posted this article on Facebook. I’d suggest you click on the link and read it, but if you really don’t want to (you do you), the article is called “Don’t Let the Fitness Industry Tell You What to Do.”

Well, with Sarah’s book, and now a great article about doing fitness MY way running through my mind, I was inspired to examine some areas in life where there is no dearth of information (or opinions) on what to do, what not to do, how to do it, how to think…you get the point.

I took some time to reflect and came to a few conclusions. SPOILER: It basically boils down to “you do you.” Still, I hope you take a few moments and continue reading as I share my thoughts. Remember, this is ME (and my approach), but YOU DO YOU!

Food and Diet – Atkins, The Zone, vegan, ketogenic, paleo, Weight Watchers, macrobiotic, South Beach, raw food, Mediterranean, vegetarian, pescatarian, carnivore, intermittent fasting, and whatever else you can think of. There are books, programs, videos and products related to all of them.

Although I’m a fan of vegetarianism and veganism (I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan), many of the food and diet choices people make to lose weight and be healthier involve deprivation. Yes, they lose weight, but they don’t keep it off for the long term because they eventually resume their old ways of eating and drinking.

Here’s a little role play (not to pick on people who follow a low-carb diet – this is just an example and I could have chosen any of the aforementioned diets): But, Heather, don’t you know that a low-carb diet will help with weight loss and that it may help prevent or improve serious health conditions such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease?!

Indeed I do; however, I also know that almost any diet that helps you lose weight will do that, at least temporarily. But there are always other factors at play. For example, if you’re following a low-carb diet, chances are you’re paying more attention to the quality of your other food choices.  In fact, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Obesity Society have all concluded that there isn’t enough evidence to say whether low-carb diets provide heart-healthy benefits. Here’s another (anecdotal) kicker: As someone with anxiety, I tend to eat more carbs because they have a soothing effect on me.

I’m not knocking anyone’s food or diet choices, but I fear some diets are too restrictive, not sustainable, and in the long-term, not good for the health. But if something works for you and it’s keeping you healthy, go for it.

In my case, I’ll continue to focus on a diet that includes foods I enjoy. For me, the trick is variety, practicing portion control, reducing bad fats (especially nasty trans fat), getting plenty of fruits and vegetables, and now and then, treating myself to sweets and chips. I’m also eating a lot less meat, and who knows, one day I may eliminate it all together.

Fitness – Aerobics, running, strength training, yoga, pilates, HIIT, powerlifting, body weight training, walking, personal training, group classes, Groove, CrossFit, hiking, swimming, biking, team sports, skiing, skating, circuit, stretching, functional training, Zumba, you name it. So many options, and a fitness industry trying to sell them all.

Here’s the thing…everything I’ve listed, and many things I haven’t, are good for you so the key is to figure out what you like and JUST DO IT! Right now, I have no specific fitness goals beyond doing enough physical activity to keep me healthy. If you want to run a marathon, then go for it. Train properly and get that medal. If you live to dance, find a Groove (shout out to Rhonda) or Zumba class.

I’ve tried many things over the years, and for me it boils down to this: Do something for my cardiovascular health (I like to do power walks and cardio work that’s built into my classes at the gym); do something for my muscles and bones (I focus mostly on free weight and body weight exercises); and do some stretching. If you have extra cash, a personal trainer can help you get started on a program, show you how to use different pieces of equipment, teach you proper form, help you avoid injury, and keep you motivated. But if you do nothing more than go for daily walks, at least you’re doing something, and that’s what counts.

Use it or lose it, they say, and I agree. Just don’t let anyone dictate to you how to use it (unless they’re teaching you not to hurt yourself). Do what you enjoy and what you’re most apt to stick with on the long term.

Job/Career – Go to university or college. Take a trade. That’s fine and dandy if you want to do that for the love of learning or if doing so will get you the career you’re aiming for. But what if those options don’t appeal to you? No problem. Just go out and get a job, knowing that it may not necessarily end up being what you want to do for the rest of your life and the chances of your living a high rolling lifestyle are slim (I didn’t say impossible).

Perhaps you want to travel for a while. Maybe you want to work in the service industry and spend your free time focusing on your music or writing career or you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to start your own business. Go for it. No one – especially your parents – should dictate how you earn your living (unless you’re bumming off them). The only thing I would suggest is that whatever you do, keep it legal. You don’t need the hassle of investigations, court, fines or jail.

Religion – Hoo boy! This one’s loaded. I know atheists, fundamentalists, progressives, agnostics, “spiritual but not religious” people, and people who couldn’t care less about any of it. I also know people who never tire of spreading the good news, and I’ve had proselytizers standing at my door more than once over the years.

I believe in a creative life force, and I guess because I was raised in the United Church (Christian) and don’t feel I was threatened or damaged in any way by it, I generally refer to that creative life force as God. I don’t believe in God as depicted in the Bible per se, but then to me, the Bible is myth – not literally true but a book that contains great truths.

Now, if you were brought up in another religious or spiritual tradition and prefer to use a word other than God, be my guest. And if you don’t want to hear about any of this, that’s fine too. Despite what anyone tries to tell you, no one TRULY knows what the heck it’s all about. Even scientists can’t figure it out. They simply play around with a lot of theories.

So whatever works for you, whatever makes you happy and gives you meaning, hope, or comfort, that’s the way to go. Just don’t try to convince other people that your beliefs will work for them. That’s arrogant.

Politics – Apology to his supporters in advance, and I know I’m not being nice, but Donald Trump sucks. So does Doug Ford. There, I got that off my chest. I’m not a fan of conservative ideology but it has a place, and I know lots of great conservatives. I like listening to Ben Shapiro even though I often disagree with him, and I’d never try to debate him. He’d wipe the floor with me.

I generally take the middle ground but I have definite left-leaning tendencies (in some areas, fairly strong left). I like what the Green Party stands for (Canada for you non-Canadians), and I follow Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the U.S.A. I don’t like “far” anything, i.e. far right or far left. I also hate populism, the idea that one group of people is “pure” and the other is “corrupt.” There’s too much populism in politics today, and it’s unnecessarily dividing us.

My political beliefs aren’t the only right ones, and I respect that we all view things differently. So support whatever political party you want and hold your own views. That said, be open to other opinions, be willing to change your mind in some cases, don’t attack people or certain groups of people, show respect even if you disagree with someone, don’t espouse ideologies that harm other people or our planet, and don’t be an ass. (Caveat: Some people don’t deserve much respect. Ignore them. They thrive on an audience.)

You are unique, you know (or can figure out) what you like and what you don’t. Your life is too short and too precious to waste living by someone else’s standards. Decide what works for you and how you want to live out the time you have. Then DO IT!

You do you, and no one else. End of happy story.