You may have noticed that in my blog posts, social medias, and even in my #AskJessiKneeland video series, I don’t exactly give “answers.”
I mean I answer. But I’m more likely than not to say “that depends,” to the great frustration of people looking for simple solutions. That’s because every single person’s journey and body are completely unique, and also because people tend to ask the wrong questions– especially when it comes to health and fitness.
Rather than giving you simply solutions and advice, I aim to create posts and videos that help you ask better questions.
Let’s take “how do I lose weight?” for example. The answer to that depends on a million factors about you, your life, your preferences, your history, etc. It is, in short, unanswerable. I’d rather hear you ask more specific questions that can actually get you where you really want to go, like “why is losing fat is so important to me?” and “how might my personal beliefs be affecting the process of fat loss for me?”
Instead of looking for shortcuts, advice, and hacks, I encourage you to start trying stuff out for yourself, gathering data, and viewing this whole health and fitness thing like a big, fun, personal experiment.
Luckily, the era of women’s fitness being all about willpower, cardio, and shrinking is almost over. People are starting to ask better questions and open better conversations.
In honor of that shift, and to celebrate the end of 2015, I want to share with you a list of all the things I wish every woman knew about health and fitness. Some of this might seem insane or impossible right now, and some of it might seem obvious. There is research and resources to back up each fact, but like all research, you can always find research to refute it if you want to.
Therefore you’re more than welcome to disagree! My goal isn’t to convert you, I just want to get you curious and interested. I want you to start asking questions and talking about it. There’s no way the mainstream media will ever be able to catch up with cutting edge science, but you can expect a whole lot more of this stuff to start creeping into the mainstream come 2016. Mark my words.
What I Want YOU to Know
- Magazines and media don’t exactly intend to lie, but they don’t care if it’s not true either. They are content-creation monsters, plain and simple. They need to put out frequent, catchy content, and that trumps what’s actually true or useful. They’re often working within limitations, like not having access to gym equipment during a photoshoot, or needing to do something different than last month. Those limitations guide their content choices. (Ever wonder why so many women’s fitness info is all about bodyweight exercises? It’s cheaper and more convenient to get footage of.)
- Any workout will get you results at first. Beginners don’t need fancy programs to get results, they just need to do something consistently. The closer you get to your genetic potential for being strong or in shape though, the more advanced and specific your training protocols needs to be, and the more work and time required to see even tiny progress.
- If you want to see consistent results, you need progressive overload. Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training. Meaning: your workouts must get consistently harder over time. Without progressive overload, you will NOT continue to see results after the first few weeks of any workout plan. This is because of the principle of adaptation, which states that your body will get used to any workout after repeated exposure. It might seem like it should be obvious that you need to make your workouts harder over time, but it often isn’t. Many people train inconsistently, or skip around with new workouts all the time, and they completely miss the benefit of this.
- It’s really difficult to maintain progressive overload, when it comes to cardio. Your only progressive overload options with cardio are to either do more, or go faster. “Go faster” gets tricky after a certain point, and “doing more” eventually becomes extremely impractical and counter-productive. This is why so many people see great progress when they first take up a cardio plan, but then their results plateau and they end up stuck doing the same amount of cardio each week, just to maintain their results.
- One way to ensure progressive overload is to strength train, and focus on getting stronger over time.
Focusing on strength provides endless ways to make your workouts harder; that’s one of many reasons that strength training is so effective for long-term body transformations.
- Bodyweight training, or working out at home, has limited potential for long term results. Due to an inability to consistently include progressive overload, the limitations to this type of training are similar to doing cardio after a while. If you can’t lift heavier weights, then all you can really do is more bodyweight moves, or faster.
- You brain doesn’t connect equally to all muscles.
Muscles with poor neural drive (meaning, it’s hard for your brain to connect to them) usually need some special attention to “turn on.” These sleepy muscles are often visibly underdeveloped, and they create overcompensations in nearby muscles. This puts you at a higher risk for injury, and makes it difficult to develop a balanced-looking physique. No amount of lifting weights will make sleepy muscles fire and grow, until the brain can connect to them well. Doing isolated, seemingly “easy” muscle-activation exercises can help increase your brain’s neural drive to those muscles, and is the best way to work toward a balanced and healthy body. This is especially effective when done pre-workout.
- Your brain must be fully engaged when lifting for best results.
Someone just going through the motions of a workout will see significantly less impressive results than someone who is mentally engaged during the same workouts over time. Being mentally engaged means using your brain to create maximum muscle tension, dial in your form, push your limits, and get your movements sharper, cleaner, and tighter.
- Muscle “tightness” isn’t usually an issue of needing to stretch more.It can be the result of an overcompensation that will improve as you improve neural drive to sleepy muscles, or it can be a mechanism keeping you from moving in a range of motion your body deems “unsafe” for a variety of reasons. There are many ways you can help your body start to feel “safe” letting go, and it may be a long road of trial and error. But forcing your body to stretch into a range of motion it’s not ready for will only create a more limited range of motion, and a stronger feeling of tightness.
- When it comes to nutrition, everyone is different.Some people respond well to high carb, some respond well to low carb. Some people do best when eating 6 meals a day, and some people like to intermittent fast. It depends on a ton of variables, including your physiology, activity level, preferences, and lifestyle. Instead of looking for the right answer, the best thing to do is try things out for yourself, and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
- How you feel about what you eat matters more than anyone previously realized. Literally, your beliefs about your food can determine how your body uses it, including how much fat gets stored and how many nutrients get absorbed. *mind blown*
- Pretty much all fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, nuts and other natural food has stuff in it that’s been linked to the good stuff: better immune system, cancer-prevention, weight loss, and increased health and beauty. Science will keep coming out with new discoveries and reasons, but the simplest explanation is that we were supposed to be eating it.
- Pretty much all processed, shelf-stabilized, and lab-made food has stuff in it that’s been linked to the bad stuff: lowered immune system, cancer, less than ideal mental and emotional states, allergies, metabolic diseases, and weight gain. Again, there are a million studies and explanations and factors at play here. But ultimately, we just weren’t really built eat that stuff.
- The number on the scale doesn’t determine fat loss (or gain) day to day.
Using a scale to track trends is fine, but your weight will change daily based on digestion, water retention, where you are in your monthly cycle, hydration levels, and more. You can neither gain nor lose 3-5lbs of fat in a day, but you can see that fluctuation on a scale, based on normal variables.
- Your body is going to fluctuate forever. It’s supposed to. As mentioned above, it fluctuates a few pounds day to day, but it can also fluctuate in a bigger sense with body composition. Your workouts, habits, hunger, self-care, stress, hormones, emotional state, and activity levels over time will affect your body fat percentage and muscle mass percentage, making you look and feel different at different points in your life. This is normal and healthy. By accepting and embracing that, instead of fighting it, you will save yourself SO much stress.
- “Stress” makes everything in your brain and body run worse. This especially includes your immune system and your metabolism. Stress will make it easy to get sick and hard to lose weight.
- Stress comes in many sneaky forms that people don’t talk about.
Stress doesn’t just mean the big external stuff like deadlines and job searches. Some of the most common forms of stress are negative self-talk, negative body image, hyper-monitoring of your body and diet, obsessively striving to lose fat, constant comparison to others, social anxiety, lack of genuine fulfilment, and feeling like you have to hide your authentic self in order to fit in or receive love. All of these factors affect your body, and can make you more likely to get sick and less likely to lose fat.
- Living a life of conscious, practiced positivity, joy, authenticity, and gratitude makes everything in your brain and body run better. This especially includes your immune system and your metabolism. Positivity, joy, authenticity, and gratitude make it harder to get sick and easier to lose fat.
- Your mindset directly affects your body.Because your mindset determines how you view every situation, it therefore determines your overall stress levels. Adopting a mindset of growth and abundance (as opposed to a fixed mindset, or a scarcity mindset) will lead to positivity, joy, authenticity, and gratitude. Your mindset is a choice; adopting this kind of mindset can and must be practiced.
- The more you focus on, identify with, and obsess about pain, the worse it will feel. Being afraid of pain, or anticipating pain, will often create more pain, even if there’s no other physical reason for it. The same applies to obsessing over and closely monitoring your pain, or for identifying with it, such as believing “I’m broken.”
- It turns out that many of our genes are able to be turned on or off in response to our environment, or more specifically, to our perception of our environment. We used to think our genetics determined everything, and that our genetics were completely out of our control, but now we’re realizing that’s not exactly true. The study of this field is called Epigenetics. We’re just now starting to understand how our mindset and beliefs affect our genes, and how this all ties into the well-documented placebo effect. Essentially, it seems we have only been seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how much power our minds really have over our health, healing, body composition, personality, and potential.
I am passionate about helping women learn to love their bodies, but loving your body as a woman in our culture isn’t easy, as you know.
That’s why I created the Body Image Alchemy Blueprint:
to help women explore and address the actual blocks that get in the way of truly loving and accepting yourself. If you want to love and accept your body no matter how it looks, but don’t know where to start, this course is for you.