Neghar Fonooni is a coach, a speaker and a writer, but she got my attention, because she is also a fitness model who decided to stop counting calories and obsessing about the scale. The result: she gained about 15 pounds and felt a lot happier:
In 2009 I was 120 pounds and 12 percent body fat. I was ripped out of my mind and also ACTUALLY out of my mind. I counted every last calorie and worked out about two hours per day. I was in an abusive relationship, lacked confidence, and only felt good about myself when I was lean. I weighed myself every single day and allowed that number to dictate how I felt about myself. – Neghar Fonooni
Today, Neghar exercises less and enjoys red wine and local cuisine when she travels. She describes herself as active and strong but no longer “ripped,” and she couldn’t care less. She now coaches other women towards self-love and authenticity. To paraphrase one of my favorite things she’s written: ‘Know how you get a bikini body? Take your body, and put a bikini on it. No diet necessary.
Neghar has been criticized for shaming the uber-fit by publicly describing how miserable she was back in 2009, but in response, she says she in no way means that every person with rippling muscles is unhappy; her point is 12 percent body fat does not necessarily equal happiness, and when she was in pursuit of ultimate lean-ness, she came at it from an unhealthy angle. Life must be balanced with physical, mental and emotional health all considered, and neither body type – the super-hard nor the softer – is better than the other.
I’m going to take this a step further and say you can’t look at someone and know whether or not they are happy (as in, happy with life in general. If you come upon a stranger screaming at a grocery store clerk, you can safely assume that, in the moment, that person is not happy.)
As soon as we can stop looking at people’s appearances and assuming they are healthy or unhealthy, happy or unhappy, we can begin to see people for what they are – whole, complex, dynamic systems. While generalizations and statistics can be useful when thinking about large groups, dealing with individuals requires the realization that no person fits neatly into one, limited category.
We all do it – make those assumptions based on looks the instant we meet a new person. The trick is not necessarily to berate yourself for those assumptions, but to check yourself. When you see a larger person and assume they don’t eat healthily or see a muscly person and assume they’re stupid or unhappy, give yourself some grace, and then gently remind yourself to suspend that judgment. And, if the opportunity and inclination arises, get to know that person better. You never know what hidden gems you’ll find under whatever their exterior happens to be.
I get weekly emails from Fonooni, and they always make me smile. You can visit her website to read more about what she does and sign up.