We're in the last half of your second week of Kenzai Shift. As we covered in the lesson about the one-week-delay, it's only now that you'll start to see some good visual results from eating better and exercising consistently.
This first hint of change is exciting and intriguing. If you can start to see results in just a week and a half, what's possible after a month, three months, or half a year? This is the fun part of fitness. Getting started can be a grind. You have to break old bad habits, find time for new healthy habits, and stay motivated even though you don't see quick results. But after that initial hump, if you stay on track, results will start rolling in week by week, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but there's always something each week that you can be happy about.
Once you see that yes, your body is capable of change, you might start to aspire to not just incremental change, but big change. With a lifestyle built around nutrition and exercise, how different could you look? Could you get the body of a sports star, Hollywood actor, or that one super fit person in the gym?
"If I kept eating well and exercising.. could I look like that?"
This question leads us to today's myth:
WITH GOOD FOOD AND DIET, YOUR BODY CAN TAKE ON THE PHYSIQUE OF SOMEONE YOU ADMIRE.
WITH GOOD FOOD AND DIET, YOU'LL LOOK LIKE THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF.
Inside every cell in your body you can find a double helix of nucleic acids which hold the blueprint for your body. These nucleotides are specific to you, and the order in which they're laid out is your genetic code. The way you look when you get fit (or when you get out of shape) is determined not by which food you eat or exercise you do, but by the blueprint you were born with.
You and your cat share 90% of the same genes. You and the fruit fly buzzing around your bananas share about 60% of the same genes. And you and those very same bananas share 50% of the same genes.
Our closest genetic cousin is the chimpanzee, with whom we share about 98% of the same DNA. That last two percent is the difference between the two young creatures in this photo.
The genetic difference between you and any other human on the planet is at most .5% And within this half of a percent we manage to make ourselves miserable. It's like the old joke about two men who meet by chance on vacation, discover they live in the same town, went to the same high-school, have the same number of kids, drive the same car, but one is a Catholic and one is a Protestant. "Nice guy, but we don't have much in common."
When you compare yourself with another person, you're highlighting the tenth of a percent difference between you and them. But we're a mercurial species, and these differences end up being much more meaningful than they ought to. The color of a person's skin is a genetic rounding error. At the level of DNA, it's such a trivial thing that it's not even worth talking about. And yet look at how much grief it's caused throughout world history.
People also pay great attention to the small differences in body physiques that come from different genetic blueprints. In terms of your fitness and aesthetics, the gene expressions people care about most are:
Proportions - your basic bone structure. How wide your hips or shoulders are. Your height. The length of your limbs. The shape of your skull.
Fat storage - everyone has different coding for where their body prefers to tuck away fat tissue. It could be the midsection, the hips, the thighs, the breasts, the back of the arms, or even under the chin.
Muscle mass - gorillas are about 10 times stronger than the strongest human, but you don't see any apes waiting for their turn on the bench press at the gym. The gorilla genome simply codes for extremely high muscle mass. Humans have a lot of variance in how much muscle they naturally maintain, as well as how quickly their bodies can add (or lose) muscle.
Muscle composition - this one is complicated so we'll stick to the basics. There are two types of muscle fibers. "Slow twitch" muscle is red, has a lot of mitochondria and uses an oxidative process as fuel. "Fast twitch" muscle is white, has much fewer mitochondria and uses sugar (glucose) as its energy source. Slow twitch muscle has high endurance but low power output. It's good for things like long distance running. Fast twitch muscle fiber can produce a lot of power very quickly but can't be used for very long. It's perfect for activities like sprinting or powerlifting. We all have both types of fibers in our bodies, but your genes will determine what ratio of each type you carry. People with predominately slow twitch fibers will have less visibly large muscles and will struggle to add muscle mass, but will have better endurance. Those with a lot of fast twitch fibers will find they gain muscle easily but are quickly fatigued.
In fitness, these four areas are the variables which impact your results the most. And there's nothing you can do about them.
In modern culture a set of preferences has arisen about what makes a "good body." You should be tall but not too tall. If you're a man you should have very even fat storage across your body. If you're a woman you should have fat storage going to your hips and breasts but nowhere else. You should have well balanced muscle mass and composition. Men should have more fast twitch muscle fibers to create tone and dimension, women should have more slow twitch fibers to create long, elegant muscles. If all of these things are true for you, then congratulations, you've won the genetic lottery and are the ideal body type for modern Western culture.
Only a few will have the genetic mix that creates the perfect body for their time and place in culture. But these people will get the lion's share of the spotlight, making the rest of the population feel that they don't measure up.
Of course, if you took the modern ideal body to Samoa you'd be a skinny freak and in third century Han dynasty you'd be a hideous over-muscled barbarian, but that's the nature of culture — it's fickle.
Perhaps you didn't pass all the genetic hurdles. Maybe you're a too-short guy. Maybe you're a too-tall girl. Maybe you're a male with too much slow twitch muscle, making you unappealingly skinny. Or a female with too much red fiber, making your muscles too bulky and "unfeminine". You cannot change these things. You are stuck.
You have two options from here; despair that you'll never have the body you want, or delight in the body you have. We recommend the latter.
Eating right and exercising won't make you look like a sports star or model, but it will make you look like you, and that's pretty awesome. Within all of us is a genetic blueprint for our body at its best. This means low body fat, good muscle mass, strong heart and lungs, and useful, functional fitness.
Your low body fat might never be the same as a naturally lean person, and that lean person's muscle mass might never be as high as yours, but these things are inconsequential. For better or for worse, you have the genes you do. All that matters is that you make the most of them. No one could ask any more of you. Bodybuilders know this very well. You often heard them say things like, "I reached my genetic potential at 32 years old." The importance of good genetics isn't a dirty secret on the bodybuilding circuit, which is why steroid abuse is so widely tolerated. The same for cycling. When everyone is eating perfectly, working as hard as they can, and giving their lives to a sport, the role of genetics becomes almost an insult. Good DNA? What an arbitrary, unfair way to select winners!
Fortunately, none of us has to compete at these elite levels, and we can bypass all the harm and extremism that goes along with living in that world. This means we can be happy doing the best we can with the genes we've got. And there's a LOT you can do, no matter what numbers the genetic lottery has given you.
First and foremost get your body fat down with a solid nutrition plan. Low body fat will make EVERY kind of body look good. After that, layer in the light, consistent cardio, and after that start building muscle with resistance workouts. This will get you most of the way towards looking great. The last bit is all about working with what you've got. Ladies, do you have a "meh" midsection but great arms? Go sleeveless! Guys, have a weak upper body but nice toned legs? Get out the shorts! Accentuate your best points and minimize your weaknesses. Believe it or not, the people who have bodies you admire are doing the same thing.
No matter what shape you're in today, a great physique is already inside you. Bring it out with daily investments in good nutrition and smart exercise, and love the body that comes the surface. It's the one you were born with, and the only one you'll ever have. That makes it a priceless work of art!