Ever see those magazine fitness cover models and think, “damn, wouldn’t it be nice to look like that?”
Don’t worry you aren’t alone. I remember being an overweight teenager and picking up a Men’s Health Magazine and wanting desperately to have the physique of the person looking at me on the cover of that magazine. But is that realistic? Can anyone actually look like that and be healthy?
The answer is yes, but not in the way we probably think.
The thing we don’t realize about those cover models is that they have prepared intricately for that photoshoot for that particular magazine. Most likely the scenario goes like this:
The magazine reaches out to the movie star, athlete or model and asks if they would like to be on the cover of their magazine, providing a date and contract for when they would be potentially doing the shoot (in most cases, it’s weeks if not months in advance).
From there, the model gets to decide. In a lot of cases, it would be flattering to be offered the cover of a magazine. For many, it’s a lifelong dream. But it also means that they’re paying you to look a certain way on that photoshoot day whether you like it or not.
It means they want to see abs. For men, they want to see bulging biceps, a thin waist and broad chest. It’s all the things societally that we have determined are ‘attracitve.’ It’s what makes us want these things and work for them when we enter the gym everyday.
So the model gets to work. In most cases, they are already somewhat close to the end goal—Men’s Health isn’t asking Mark Wahlberg to be on the cover of its magazine because of his physique in the Gambler as much as it’s likely because of his build in other movies like Pain and Gain. Like a physique athlete getting ready to walk on stage, they diet down and lean out trying to get as ‘ripped’ as possible to look the best for that cover as possible.
When it’s over, when the last photo has been taken, guess what? They suddenly go back to that phase of a moderate body fat, more food and reasonable lifestyle. But we don’t see that. The magazines don’t show that.
Instead, we see the peak. We see them, “in season,” and draw all these perceptions that we can, and should, look that way in the future.
That’s why it’s important we periodize our nutrition and be smart about it for the long haul. For the everyday person, there’s always a season. It’s usually the reason people are getting in touch with a nutrition coach to begin with. For aesthetics purposes, it can come in the form of a wedding, reunion, anniversary or any type of vacation that we want to look our absolute best for.
And that’s great. We can work together and get as lean and muscular looking as you want by losing weight during that season. But like autumn, spring and especially winter in Canada, that season is going to eventually go away and we’re going to refocus our priorities to other areas of nutrition once that event is over. Sometimes that means trying to add more muscle, or simply just not tracking our nutrition as closely because it's the Christmas holidays and you want to eat whatever you want whenever you want.
Because the fact of the matter is that our bodies weren’t designed to live at cover model lean levels. From an evolutionary perspective, we held onto body fat because we never truly know when or if we would need those fat stores to fight off starvation. Our hormones live and breathe in that fat whether you like it or not.
This fails to mention that when we go into a caloric deficit or start a dieting phase, we do so at a cost to our hormones, energy levels and longevity which all need to be brought back to homeostasis (balance) once we have achieved our goals.
At the end of the day, no one here is saying you can’t look the way you want to look for the event you want, as long as it is in line with your health and long-term goals. For CrossFit athletes, this off-season period after the Open, Regionals or the Games is where we prioritize aesthetics IF WE WANT TO.
Like the nutritional prescriptions we help unearth at Refocus Nutrition, it’s important to break down our goals throughout the year.
A former journalist and sports blogger, I've turned my writing prowess and love of fitness and nutrition into a personal blog where you can find anything you are looking for on the world of health, nutrition and fitness.