Things That Do Not Exist (in Fitness)


I’ve had (and overheard) a lot of conversations about health and fitness. From folks around the office chatting about their latest diet, to someone in the gym asking for advice, to friends-of-friends reaching out with questions, to strangers on a train having a conversation they didn’t think I could hear, I’ve heard a whole lot of talk about what it takes to get fit.

Through these conversations, I’ve noticed a few little mindsets and thoughts that, while they are patently untrue, can’t seem to make their way out of the common conversation.

I want to tackle a few of them here, and try to set the record straight on them once and for all.

Here, in no particular order, are ideas and concepts that simply do not exist in health and fitness.

#1 - Permanent Change

I’ve mentioned this one numerous times before, but it still bears repeating: nothing in health and fitness is permanent.

Unfortunately, the biggest reason this myth persists is the large number of unscrupulousor just horribly misinformedpeople out there looking to prey on the hopes and aspirations of the desperate.

It’s a simple fact of the universe, and it applies just as readily to health and fitness: the only constant is change. You cannot hope for a desired outcome to stick around once you’ve achieved it; you have to actively keep it around.

#2 - Losing Quickly, Then Just Maintaining

I’ve heard this one too many times to count. Someone will tell me what (horribly unhealthy and unsustainable thing) they’re doing to lose weight, I’ll explain to them why I think it might not be the best approach, and they tell me, “Oh, well I’m just going to lose 20 pounds [using this method] and then maintain it.”

Sorry,, you’re not.

I’m sure there are people out there who have done something along these lines, but as a general rule it does not happen. Why not? See #1 above: nothing is permanent.

There are healthy and sustainable ways to lose weight and keep it off. But if you are unwilling to use those methods to get fit, then there is not much hope for you to use them to stay fit.

And to add insult to injury, the body you’re left with after using unhealthy weight loss methods is likely now unhealthier than it was to begin with, thus necessitating even more diligence and discipline to maintain the results you just suffered to get.

#3 - “That One Thing…”

This one is actually pretty interesting to me in its manifestation. Most people know that there is no magic bullet that will solve all of their health and fitness woes. If you ask them, they will tell you so.

But in searching for answers, it becomes very clear that this one thing is still what everyone is actually searching for.

For me, it becomes the most evident when I’m asked for advice. When I start laying out the idea of the 4 Tenets of Health (nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management), I almost invariably end up seeing a look in their eyes that says, “Oh. I wanted you to tell me what thing I needed to do in order to reach my goals.”

This is where my job becomes difficult. There are plenty of people in the health and fitness space ready to sell you on ideas of singular solutions, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.


#4 - Accidentally Getting “Too Muscular”

“I don’t want to get too bulky” is a very common, very understandable, and completely misguided objection to strength training. I’ve heard it from both men and women, and my response is always the same:

You won’t.

Based on the conventional wisdom about weightlifting (high weight, low reps to get big; low weight, high reps to get “toned”), it’s no surprise that this idea makes its way into people’s minds.

But the fact is, it just doesn’t happen.

First of all, growing large muscles is difficult. Sure, some people grow more easily than other people, and everyone has body parts that grow more readily than other parts, but adding a lot of mass takes hard work and a lot of dedication.

Secondly, it takes a very specific training style to make your muscles grow really big. Muscle strength and muscle size can be correlated, but they are not synonymous. For example, check out these two guys.

This is Drew. Drew is pretty damn swole:

Photo © Jan Rattia

Photo © Jan Rattia


Drew’s current 1RM (the maximum amount of weight he can do for one repetition) for the squat is 365 pounds.

While that’s certainly impressive, meet Sam:


Sam does not train for bodybuilding, he trains for strength. Though he is not quite as large and muscular as Drew, his 1RM on the squat is well over 500 pounds.

Lifting weights does not always equal large muscles.

#5 - Ideal Body Weights

For some reason (actually, for many reasons), people love to pick a weightusually one that’s less than what they currently weigh, but it goes the other way, as welland fixate on it. It consumes their thoughts, and, so, consumes their decision making.

This fixation is what leads to yo-yo dieting. It’s what leads to desperate and unhealthy attempts to lose weight. It’s what leads people to justify what they’re doing by saying they’ll just do it for a while and then “maintain.”

There are no ideal body weights. And if anyone with a weight loss goal were forced to really dig deep and think about it and explore, they would come to realize that a specific weight is not actually what they want. What they want is to look different, to feel different, to be perceived differently. But none of these things is directly correlated with weight.

Many factors affect body weight. Muscle mass. Bone density. Hydration. Heck, even the amount of hair you have technically makes a difference.

The Takeaway

As obvious as some, or all, of these ideas may sound to you, you might be surprised at how they can sneak into your brain and influence your judgment.

Take a moment to reflect and make sure none of these toxic ideas is holding you back from making real, lasting progress.