There are many ways to go with this, but I’m going to narrow down on an important concept that sometimes we forget. We forget that we have the the power, most of the time. We choose what we do, and we are very lucky in that regard.
With that said, fitness, nutrition, and health is a choice. You are not subject to anything you don’t choose to do. I mean that.
You don’t have to eat paleo. You also don’t have to run. You can do plenty of other things that can fill in the gaps, so when you eat poorly or sit on the couch all day, those are your choices.
I get upset when people tell me that I’m lucky that I’m so skinny, fit, eat whatever I want, fill in the blank. Luck has nothing to do with it.
Listen. I, just like you, make choices.
I go out. I have fun. I eat pizza. I have a few drinks here and there. But, I choose to balance that out. From an early age, I’ve been passionate about my own personal health. I’ve been working on it and learning since I was 14. That’s why I’m able to do what I want in a controlled fashion. It takes years upon years of practice.
I choose to dial up and dial down my diet. I choose to workout more and less. All me.
Aside from my mild egocentrism, I want you to know that the reason I write these articles is not for me. I believe that people need help with fitness and nutrition, just like I need help with my car. I aim to help you grow.
Our new lifestyle has not helped us.
One thing that can be said is that our capitalist society has not proven well for our collective health. Political arguments aside, I think we can agree that the influx of highly processed foods has had a negative impact on our relationship with food.
We are unhealthier than ever, yet we know more about the human body than we ever have in the past. Cheap, fast, and convenient food choices have given us the ability to punch ourselves in the face from a health standpoint. Food quality down and increased consumption = underperforming humans.
That, coupled with endless entertainment on TV, our phones (glued), and the internet, has given us the ability to choose between exercising and watching Westworld for the second time through. So, we are watching more and moving less. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s time to face the music. We are at a critical time in human history, where rather than evolving, our health is devolving. It has been for a long time.
Louis Leakey sums this up pretty famously in saying, “We are certainly the only animal that makes conscious choices that are bad for our survival.”
Emotionality vs. Primal Impulse
Whether or not we know it, our brain makes decisions for us on a subconscious level about exercising and nutritional choice. More recently that intuitive “switch” has been shut off, due to the ease of access of food and us no longer moving to survive. We have simply adapted.
Let me explain. Back in the days where our species had to walk miles upon miles for food, water, or shelter, our movement was based on survival. The same goes for our food selection; we ate what was available, because there may have not been another meal around the corner. Flash forward, we now consciously choose those things for ourselves.
Rather than our choice being placed on our primal need to survive, we place much more weight on emotional and social variants, such as how we feel at the moment, what we did that day, or schedule constraints of work.
In essence, the lines are blurred between what we need vs. what we want. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t have the knowledge, willpower, and ability to make healthy decisions for themselves. I can’t even blame them, though. We simply have a ton of factors pushing us down hill.
Unless you take a class in college, most people won’t be exposed to any sort of formal fitness or nutrition education. Grade school physical education programs and health classes do a good job of emphasizing the value of staying active and eating a healthful diet, but this is painted with a very broad brush.
At that level, most kids are still too young to recognize the value in it or are indifferent. There are also of course socioeconomic factors here, where kids simply learn habits from their parents and have no control over what they eat.
All things considered, that can be a difficult boundary to cross for both parents and kids.
A while back I was doing a weekly series about how to be mentally tough when you are going through hard times. This was cool because it touched more on the emotional part of trying to be healthy. The fact is, that you’ve got to be able to create accountability for yourself when you are being an asshole. Sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.
The root cause of your limitation … is you. There is something holding you back, and it won’t be uncovered unless you face it and conquer it. We are so used to getting what we want that we have forgotten how to lose and come back stronger, building on failure.
Here is how I know I’m being mentally soft:
If my wifi connection or computer takes more than 4–5 seconds to load, I get anxious. I feel it. Then, I have to tell myself, “Dude, this whole technology thing is a blessing. Relax.” Seriously. Don't get your socks all inside out because of meaningless things.
Talking about the world of fitness and nutrition, we have go to place more emphasis on the way we perform versus how we look. Intangible things instead of the number on the scale.
Sure, feeling confident about how we look in the mirror can be vital, but those expectations can be built from the front of magazine covers and fitness models on social media. It’s messing with our ability to enjoy the process for what it is and place realistic expectations for ourselves.
Imagine if you signed up for a marathon and you only had to run the first mile and then the last. Do you think that that sense of winning and accomplishment would be the same when they called you a “Marathon” runner? No way.
So, let’s start by choosing to be honest with ourselves and start putting in the work. Making solid food choices most of the time instead of when you feel like it. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, instead of peppering it in when it’s convenient. Making a new year’s resolution and actually working at it for a year. It’s a commitment that you need to make for yourself.
The habit building approach to choice.
Habits are created by choices over time. The more you dig yourself into a habit, the harder it becomes to changed. What if you did something three times a day for 20 years (smoking, for example)? The amount of psychological and emotional change that might be going on is hard to overcome. That’s inevitably difficult.
But, you can give yourself a leg up by understanding how important each decision you make impacts the next one. With more positive decisions and outcomes, you take one step closer to your goal, and one step further away from what’s holding you back.
Building in small wins can enhance this process. Start by making decisions as easy as possible. For example, joining a gym that is literally right next to your house. You drive by it every day, maybe twice. There is no choice but to go. Placing a glass next to your toothbrush, so you hydrate in the morning and at night. Buying more greens than you need, so you find new ways to use them.
Every time you enhance the probability of a positive outcome, you’re winning. Slowly, the game will get easier for you, but it all starts with choosing to play.
With all that said, it’s up to you. There are thousands of us health nerds out there to help, but none of us can if you don’t accept where you are and decide where you want to be.
At the end of the year, when you are reevaluating your fitness goals, understand that your grind will be longer than you expect. You will have to change your mindset and your approach. Choice is one of your most valuable assets, because it will always grant you the opportunity for progress.