Exercising to Build Self-Confidence
Jake Steinfeld didn't always look like a body-builder. "I was a fat kid with a bad stutter and little self-confidence," he confides. And when Steinfeld's father bought a weight bench for his unhappy 14-year-old, teenage Jake ignored it. "I just kept eating Twinkies and said, 'nah' when it came to exercise." But eventually, Steinfeld was intrigued by the bench and tried weightlifting.
Surprisingly, he felt better about himself after the very first weight session, which got his blood pumping and lifted his mood. Regular workouts soon built his muscles, self-esteem and confidence, and he started relishing exercise. Eventually he transformed his love of exercise into a career, becoming a leading fitness authority, a personal trainer to the stars and developing Body by Jake Enterprises, a worldwide leader in health and fitness products.
Steinfeld authored his book Get Strong! Body by Jake's Guide to Building Confidence, Muscles, and a Great Future for Teenage Guys to teach teenage boys how to gain self-confidence and improve their lives. "A year and a half ago I realized that teenage boys were in trouble," he says. "What teen girls have known about body image and self-esteem and confidence teen boys are just starting to understand."
Steinfeld noticed many parents treating their sons differently than their daughters – they'd leave a chubby son to outgrow weight problems, but they would find resources to help an overweight daughter. "It's a huge problem in this country with teen sons and teenage guys in general – 75 percent of obese teens stay obese into adulthood," he says. "And 80 percent of schools don't offer physical education daily in classes."
These figures worried Steinfeld, especially when he realized that obesity is linked to depression, and there was little assistance targeted toward teen boys. He wanted to help, and decided that an easy to read, step-by-step book could assist male teenagers to "get strong."
The book's four-week workout routine can be done in a bedroom or basement without expensive equipment, and there's more to Steinfeld's work-outs than building muscle. "Teens start to realize they can set and meet goals – they think if I can do these push-ups, I can study and pass my science test, or if I can do these sit-ups, I can build a strong body and make the team or ask a girl out," he says. "The relationship between building muscle, confidence and self-esteem is giving kids the opportunity to believe in themselves."
Steinfeld offers the following tips for parents eager to help their sons exercise both mind and muscle:
- Encourage kids of all ages to exercise. When Steinfeld works out at home he blasts fun music and when any, or all, of his four kids peek into the gym he tells them, "Come on in, but you have to do something active while you're in here."
- Eat (mostly) the right stuff. Help your son choose healthy foods, but realize most young boys will balk at strict diets. "Talk to your son about good versus bad foods and let him take one day a week and eat what he wants," he advises. Steinfeld admits to eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and ice cream on Saturdays. "I eat healthy all week but on Thursdays I'm looking forward to Saturdays, and this helps me eat right the rest of the week," he says.
- Turn off the TV. "Every teenage boy has the potential to achieve great success, and not just at Nintendo," Steinfeld says. Discover what your son is good at and help him achieve goals that make him proud.
- Find a true believer. A life coach and confidante is essential to achieving goals. It can be Mom, Dad or a friend. "My friends laughed at my goal of becoming Mr. America and said, 'Yeah, like that'll happen.' But my grandma bought into my dream, believed I'd reach this goal and cheered me on." Steinfeld encourages finding not a "yes" person, but someone that really believes in your son and helps him sustain the courage and confidence to change.
- No steroids. Steinfeld moved from New York City to California to compete for the Mr. America title and found himself surrounded by contenders on steroids. He knew the drugs weren't for him and his grandmother continued to believe he could win without steroids. "I never took steroids because I was in shape physically and mentally," he says. "Steroids are a shortcut to a dead end that goes nowhere and taking them to build muscle is cheating – and cheating teens become cheating adults. In Get Strong! I'm challenging teenage guys to take control of who they are, to like that person and to develop the confidence to deal with life's obstacles without drugs."
Just Doin' It
As a personal trainer to super-stars such as Madonna, Harrison Ford and Barbra Streisand, Steinfeld realized that the only difference between them and lay-people is that the stars never quit or took "no" for an answer when it came to their dreams. "Steven Spielberg was turned down twice for film school and Harrison Ford went on countless auditions before he heard 'yes', but they didn't let it stop them," he says. Steinfeld's own success with exercise, along with the determination he witnessed in celebrities, helped him develop his "Don't Quit" motto.
This philosophy creates positive momentum that any parent can spark. "Start by helping your son work-out and you'll find he'll see his body changing, which will make him feel better about himself," Steinfeld encourages. "He'll have more energy, more enthusiasm and he'll start wanting to eat right and do more in school and after school, which will make him feel great about himself. Start an upward spiral."