Netflix, Fries, and Tribes. How to Be Healthy in a World That is Mostly Not
The world is against you.
Seriously....the world is against you.
I'm going to give you the next ten seconds to get super pissed at the world, and that's it. Then it's time to get to work.
Let me tell you why the world is against you...
Do you pay attentions to the ads you see? Most of our mental lives are consumed by ads and subtle things that go beneath our conscious minds. You probably can't recall the last 5 ads that you have seen or heard, but I promise you that they are there and they are influencing you probably more than you know. I actually just saw an ad while pumping my gas that said, "it's time to get your stretchy pants on!" as it was promoting a new sub sandwich. Can you believe this? This ad is encouraging you to gain weight.
Now, I'm not super against indulging every once in a while and I hope that becomes clear by the end of this post, but I don't think it should ever be encouraged to live an unhealthy life.
This post may seem a bit hopeless. That there are so many forces out of your control that influence the way you think, what you believe, and therefore how you behave surrounding the topic of health and fitness. But, that is not the intention. I want to try to show you the best path forward, but I think it is critical to establish as a starting point, that the world has many forces acting against you in this regard. You deserve some empathy, but it is also crucial to establish the optimal route forward to get you to achieve your goals.
What can we do?
You want to eat healthy. You want to start to exercise, but there are only so many hours in the day. You want to cook a healthy dinner but by the time you are off work you feel so tired and don't want to do anything except spend some time with your family. We get into these bad habits and changing them feels like an impossible task. So, how do we change them?
I have written about this before on this site, but it is very crucial to understand. We often try to do too much at once, this leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and then we stop and go back to our old habits. We know willpower is very limited so we need to use the short supply of what we have on just one behavior change at a time. You created your bad habits very slowly, but often very unconsciously, so we have to start creating positive habits very slowly as well.
I have often heard many people talk about this as well, but rather than trying to work out 5 times a week, start by just putting your workout shoes on and gym gear. Hold yourself accountable to only that. Likely, you will end up going to the gym and getting some sort of workout in, but it doesn't overwhelm your mind beforehand. If you tend to eat unhealthy most of the time, start by just eliminating one thing from your diet, or just eating smaller portions of what you are already eating. Eating one Oreo is way better than eating the whole sleeve.
This isn't fancy advice, but the key in all behavior change is developing habits, and to develop habits you have to start small and stay consistent. Consistency is the key to almost anything.
Elimination > Addition
We tend to search for things that we can add to our lifestyle that will help us reach our goals. However, we very rarely search to eliminate the negative things in our life that are preventing our progress. It is an honorable mindset to search for the positive, but we won't get anywhere if we don't remove the negative items.
I'm sure we can all take a quick inventory of our life to see what baggage we have that is weighing us down. Make a quick list, and then commit to eliminating one of those items on the list. It may take a month for your body to actually adapt to the elimination because you are just creating another habit. You may find that it is actually easier to eliminate bad habits than to create a new positive habit.
I bet we can all improve our healthy lifestyles quite a bit if we just look to remove some of the negative as opposed to adding more chaos, even if the chaos is positive.
Find a supportive environment
We all know how the saying goes--"you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around." I think this has always been true. I've seen many people try to make healthy lifestyle changes. They do pretty well, but keep slipping up, and then you realize some of their best friends drink a lot of alcohol, don't exercise or eat healthy, and maybe even worse, aren't supportive in their attempt to be healthier. I'm not saying you need to go right ahead and dump all of your best friends that aren't healthy, but I would strongly encourage finding an environment that is supportive and has many other similar individuals that are all trying to crush health and fitness goals. It will be easier to stay on track and be easier to get back on track if you were to fall off. It's very hard to make the right choices when most of the people around you aren't making the same choices and aren't encouraging you to do so.
Just how all great sports teams were built around a culture of success, your health and fitness success is dependent upon the people you spend a lot of time around. It's no coincidence that some of the most in shape people have very in shape friends and partners.
Ignore most mainstream health and fitness advice
This is where the "tribe" part of the title comes in. This may seem like a confusing thing for me to be saying, but you most likely don't need more information. Most people don't. Most people don't need to know what the newest diet fad is, or what the next most popular fitness routine is. This just adds confusion. Most people know that exercise in general is very good for you and what foods are typically good to consume. Most health and fitness related success is dependent upon behavior change and not what people are doing. It's that people are doing something and doing it consistently. Once you've been training for more than two years then it might be time to talk more about the nuances of training and nutrition.
It alarms me seeing the trend of where this country is heading from a health and fitness perspective. I previously wrote a post about obesity, and was alarmed at the statistics. Everything our culture and society promotes is not in our best interest. Whether that is physically, mentally or emotionally. Just pay attention to the next 5 ads you see. They are trying to persuade us by triggering the parts of our brain that make us reach for short-term gratification as opposed to long-term results. The donut over the veggies. The Netflix show over the long walk. The biggest change you might make is just eliminating the social conditioning.
I wish I could just tell you to make the changes and use your willpower. But, that's not how humans work. If there is anything to take away from this post it's that it is very important to build some consistency in your life. Start today by making some small changes that can add up to healthy habits over time. Even if they are super tiny changes to start with. Just like it can be very hard to break bad habits if they've been with us for a long time, it will be that much easier to continue good habits if we've been consistent with them for a long time.
If I can help in anyway, please email me at Justin@liftlabco.com.