Your Body is a Tool, not a Temple.
by Steven M. Ledbetter
4 minute read
Vanity is a very powerful emotion. We do a lot for the sake of vanity, even if it is completely ridiculous. But one of the things that I have always had trouble doing for the sake of vanity is get in shape. Now if that seems like an odd thing to say, how many people do you know who lost a ton of weight because they “felt fat?” People can go their entire lives feeling fat, but it is usually something else that shakes them up, like health or mortality. But that doesn’t seem to change the fact that most people who come to me have fitness goals centered around vanity. Now, the “I wanna look good naked” fitness goal is fine goal. In fact, it might be the hardest goal of all (other than looking good in spandex, which is nigh impossible). But speaking from personal experience, I have rarely found it to be enough to truly motivate me, and that is because I think of my body as a tool, not a temple, and I think I am happier for it.
When someone’s only goal is to look good naked, they usually have a static idea of perfection in their head. Paris Hilton, Jennifer Garner, Ryan Reynolds, whatever the body type you have in mind, you imagine yourself attaining some fixed idea of hotness. Statue-like in your perfection, you can be worshiped as the god you are and finally be happy. But that’s a myth. Those people don’t look like that. They look like that on that day, when the camera took their picture (and when the lighting crew and make-up teams were working too, mind you). So what you experience as you work towards this goal is the heartache associated with what seems like a point on the horizon that moves away just as fast as you approach it. You lose 10 lbs, but you need to lose 10 more. Then 10 more. You gain muscle in your chest, but now your calves are too skinny. This is the point at which even the most dedicated fall off the wagon because it is very hard to maintain motivation when you are striving for a body that is a temple, some mysterious Xanadu that once complete, will finally make you whole. That’s because your body isn’t a temple built from marble; it’s the chisel.
When 5-time UFC Champion Randy Couture (pictured above) was interviewed as part of ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue” he prefaced everything by saying, “I’ve used my body as a tool for the past 30 years.” He was surprised they wanted to take his picture! Athletes like Randy Couture, Venus Williams, or Kara Goucher don’t head into the gym twice a day thinking about bikini season. And that’s not because they are already perfect. They don’t worry about how their body looks because they are too busy worrying about how their body performs. Competition, victory, the opportunity to show off one’s skills, these are the things that get people to train harder and stick to their diets. When I started training, the thing that snapped in me and turned me into “Coach Stevo” was not a desire to see my abs. It was remembering what it felt like to use my body in the way that it was intended: as a tool. I started training MMA almost immediately and the weight fell off so fast I couldn’t keep gym clothes for longer than a month. But it never felt like work because I was having too much fun!
Now I’m not saying everyone needs to be an athlete, or compete, or even take up a sport. The joy I feel with having a body that works the way I want it to (pain free, strong, and full of stamina) is a joy that I have no matter what I’m doing. Vanity is great, and trust me I like my body a lot more now that it’s hot, but that wasn’t enough for me. I needed a new way at looking at my goals. And for those of you that doubt the hotness associated with performance, let me leave you with Yelena Isinbayeva. She has used her body as a tool to win Gold Medals in two Olympic Games, but gets upset because people are so distracted by her hotness they forget she is the greatest female pole vaulter in history. And really, with an ass like this, can you blame them?