Only YOU are the Expert on Your Body

“You are the CEO of your body.” is a quote we use often at Unity Fitness.

As coaches, we can only guide people on a path that we’ve determined that will likely work for them to help achieve their goals. The ultimate evidence is only found after a trial period. The perfect program can look great on paper, but as someone begins to execute it, it’s a flop. They experience pain with certain movements, etc.

This is where you have to be the CEO.

You take the reins and put a stop to the movement, program, etc. that isn’t working. As a coach, it’s my job to then problem solve and find another way to achieve the goals they want. But the member is always in the driver’s seat. I’m navigating from the passenger side.

Of course, you might be thinking: This seems easier said than done…and it is.

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We’re programmed to trust authority figures: doctors, coaches, etc. And, if they are people who have earned our trust, that’s likely not misplaced. But at the same time, this can make it hard to speak up. I’m going to tie in a personal story from something that I’ve been going through. This is the first time I’ve spoken about this, so bear with me.

I’ve been on birth control for quite a few years. If you’ve ever taken any form of the pill, you’ll know that the side effects can be crazy. I felt like I hit the lotto. I didn’t have any issues. It was a seamless transition and I stayed on the same one for years. In August of 2020, I went to pick up my prescription and was informed that the packaging had changed, but the pill was the same I had been taking.

I noticed it was different and the name was different but figured that my PCP or pharmacist would have informed me if it was anything more than the packaging change. (Spoiler alert: They did not.)

Fast forward to November. I started noticing things that seemed weird.

I gained 15 pounds seemingly out of nowhere with minimal change to eating or exercise habits. It was also in a different way than I had ever gained weight in the past. While I would usually notice it in my upper body or face first, this was almost exclusively in my hips and lower stomach.

I started experiencing higher levels of anxiety, which turned into spiraling thoughts and overwhelm. Like the weight loss, it was seemingly out of nowhere. When I had experienced this in the past, it was during a time when I was living in a less than ideal situation, trying to finish school, and balancing three jobs – none of which is my current life.

Simply put, I started to not feel like myself. Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was. I attributed it to “COVID fatigue” and the ongoing stress of 2020…carried into 2021. I treated it as stress. I tried to destress more, disconnect more, and take time for myself. I thought it was getting better.

Until I realized that it was not, in fact, getting better. I dove deeper. I looked at anything and everything that might have changed during this time. I remembered that “packaging change” of my birth control. I did some googling. As it turns out, it was a comparable generic that is supposed to be the same; the reviews of people’s experiences were far from comparable. Many of the things I was experiencing – changes in mood, lethargy, weight gain, anxious thoughts, etc. were all common when reading other people’s experience taking this pill.

I stopped immediately. (Yes, I know you should contact your PCP first, but I wasn’t too pleased with this current track record.) Within 4 weeks, I saw the weight stabilize, and even drop with zero other changes. I started to feel less anxious and stressed all the time. Within 6 weeks, I felt – dare I say – normal?

I don’t tell this for pity or consolation, but to show you that I’m not immune to it. I trusted those in a position of power and didn’t listen to what my own body was telling me. As a coach, I would never want that for any of the people I work with, which is how this article came to be.

So, how can you be a better advocate for yourself? Let’s dive into four easy things you can do.

Question to Ask:
  1. Ask questions. The chances are someone will have answers. When we ask questions from a place of curiosity, it allows people to tell us what they know. Instead of challenging them, it allows an open platform for discussion and for you to learn more.
  2. Speak up if it doesn’t feel right. Professionals don’t know what we don’t know. A movement, for example, can look visually perfect but still not feel right. (As with my story, the same goes for medication and things internally!) But, if the professional doesn’t know to do further tests or examinations, they might not think to do them if they don’t know it doesn’t feel right.
  3. Put your foot down on pain. Pain is a full stop, especially when I’m working with someone on a movement. I want to know if there’s pain. There’s ALWAYS something we can do, even if it means stopping the exercise entirely and referring out to a PT or other professional, to reduce or avoid pain. Know the difference between discomfort and pain, and make pain a full stop.
  4. Seek a second opinion. When you’re not sure, ask someone else. Whether it’s fitness and nutrition or other medical professional, there’s always people who are experts in one area or have experience with another. Talking to more than one person will give you an outsider perspective, or perhaps one from a view that your original care provider may not have seen on first examination.

EMPOWERED ACTION

You know I always try to give immediate action steps you can take. This one’s more of an ongoing task. Take note of where you can advocate and “be the CEO of your body”. Then, start small, but start to take steps toward advocating for yourself. Ask questions about it. Speak up if you don’t feel like yourself. Put your foot down on pain. And, if necessary, seek a second opinion. Be your own advocate.

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