This is a photograph I took at Forrestville State Park right here in Minnesota on Saturday. "The Mystery Cave," as it's called, was discovered less than eighty years ago, and it has over 13 miles of passageways with gorgeous formations, fossil prints of prehistoric creatures and underground pools. Most importantly, it is responsible for your fatness.
Well, not this cave, but certainly a cave is responsible for your fatness. Of course I'm referring to Plato's Cave Allegory, which is all I could think about as we toured the Mystery Cave. At the end of the tour, just so we could get a feel for the absolute darkness of an unlit cave, the tour guide turned out all the trail lights and his own flashlight. Black. Nothing. Only sound and touch. No matter how long you were to stay down there, your eyes would never adjust to be able to see anything.
What a perfect analogy. Just like in Plato's Cave, without directly looking upon the world, you would think about it differently. In Plato's Cave the reader is asked to imagine a person shackled from childhood (fixed even so he could not turn his head), facing a blank wall in a cave. If a fire were lit behind him, he would see shadows of objects over the years and learn of everything in the world as seen by its shadow. He, unlike me in an unlit cave, would have no prior understanding of the world. Thus, he wouldn't know what he was missing, nor would he be able to imagine things any other way. He wouldn't know them as shadows. They would be his ultimate reality.
Suppose then, one day, the shackled boy, now a man, is unshackled and turned to face the light. It would be painful, agonizing even, and complete nonsense. Nothing would fit in his worldview. It's bright, uncomfortable, piercing formless rays of light, totally unfamiliar. Frankly, it's so stressful, it might drive someone insane. In time, if he perseveres, he might come to understand this new world. And, if so, he would learn that everything he once held in high regard was worthless.
Now, imagine if he were to return to the cave to try to tell other shackled cave-dwellers about the outside world. Even standing in front of them would challenge their paradigm. But everything else he might describe would be total lunacy. A few might try to believe. But most would write him off as crazy, needing to see for themselves, perhaps even disbelieving if they did see for themselves, as they too wouldn't be able to understand what they're peering at to begin with.
This is fat loss.
Staying fat or getting fatter is being shackled to the cave where you can't even imagine what true fat loss is like. Facing the wall is familiar, comforting even. Despite me describing in detail every physiological mechanism for how to get leaner, it doesn't make any sense to you. Despite me losing 60lbs in front of your eyes, despite having clients who've lost over 100lbs, despite my pleas, you live in a cave, detained without the capacity to even turn to face the light.
For those of you bold enough to let me unshackle you, the light is blinding nonsense. Alas, most would rather return to the world they understand, where everything they once knew still makes sense in its shadowy form. These lustrous glowing three dimensional objects I'm showing you might just as well be abominations, to be avoided at all costs. From the darkness they are just false impossible hopes.
A few will believe. They will continue to climb out of the cave despite their blindness. Trembling with fear they will keep going forward instead of running back to clasp their restraints back on.
Who will you be? Will you be the one who stays in the cave, never even trying to unchain yourself? Will you be the one who, unshackled, runs right back to your manacles? Will you be the one who comes out to face the light, then petrified, returns to the cave?
Will you be the one who leaves the cave behind forever, never even longingly reminiscing about your shackled days? I pray you do. Because the cave is why you're fat.
Nothing is ever as it might first seem. So allow yourself to take a chance and mold the world to how you would have it be. Think of how you imagined your life a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago, before you directed yourself to where you are. Did it all turn out the way you thought it would back then? Think back to what you thought it would be like to go through the various rites of passage before you went through them. Your fitness and wellness journey is no different, and will be no different in the future. Serendipity steps in. You learn more. You take the reigns or give them to others. And, truth be told, it can end up being so much better than you expected.
I'll give just two illustrations of seemingly impossible circumstances where the outcome was nothing like what one likely expects. In doing so, I want the reader to consider his/her own seemingly impossible roadblocks (not just in your fitness goals, but whatever struggle you may be having in life). However, reconsider them. If these two examples show you anything, it's that you too can get past your roadblocks to something unimaginably wonderful.
The picture above is of one of my clients who is the team lead for the American Men's Greco-Roman wrestling team on her trip to Iran for the 2014 World Cup. When she returned she regaled me with a hundred stories about how repeatedly pleasantly surprised she was at her interactions in Iran, and how the Iranians were repeatedly pleasantly surprised at the interactions with her. In a nutshell, each party underestimated the respectfulness, gentility, humility, piety and cultural sensitivity that would come from the other. And it resulted in her having a "media darling" week in the country of Iran.
As I listened to her debrief throughout the week, it kept occurring to me that her Persian expedition was not too dissimilar from a fitness journey. That is, with a little bit of guts and taking a chance, beautiful impossible things happen. Almost every part of her trip was historic, in that a woman had never been in various buildings and forums where she went. And "knowing" what she thought she did beforehand, she could've easily just forewent the tour, stood this one out, played it safe and stayed home. The Iranian government could've easily declined entry and the various concessions they had to make to accommodate her. Instead, both boldly proceeded and people's worlds changed.
Prior to my client's return, two weeks ago, I myself was overseas; and my son was standing on a canon outside the mansion once home to Laskarina Bouboulina (whose statue is next to him). Born in 1771 Bouboulina was the only woman in recorded world history to be named a full admiral until 2013. She had no female role model after whom to model herself. She could've easily said, "this is how things seem to be" and accepted her plight. But instead she challenged every imagined imposition in her path, amassing a furtive arsenal on the island of Spetsos, chartering the construction of one of the largest ships at the time, bribing Turkish officials to look the other way, and launching a series of offensives against the Ottoman Empire to ultimately play a pivotal role in the Independence of Greece. She was born to be just another Greek woman (in fact, she was born in a prison), quietly oppressed by the Turks; but she imagined and created something so much greater. Even when she had acquired a large estate, she was not content to stand back and enjoy retirement. Rather, she personally attended to brutal battles at the ripe old age of 50, which is REALLY saying something for a woman in the early 1800s.
Nothing is as it seems to begin with. And that's because you make things what they are. Holding back from a full commitment to your fitness is just like holding back from the rest of life. You think you know what it's like, so you shoot yourself in the foot before you take a step, and now you dare not put it forward because it could get hurt worse.
Yes, it requires doing what maybe no one including yourself thought possible. But you know what? EVERYTHING EVER DONE once seemed like it couldn't be.