Why Is It All Or Nothing When It Comes to Wellness?

Shane Trotter

Coach

Mansfield, Texas, United States

Strength and Conditioning, Kettlebells, Youth Development

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t work out until I’m in better shape.” – Actor, Steven Wright
“I burned 60 calories. That should take care of the peanut I ate in 1962.” – Comedian, Rita Rudner
“How do you know if someone does CrossFit?”
“Don’t worry; they will tell you.”

 

What do these statements have in common? They speak to the confusion, frustration, and us-versus-them mentality with which most approach wellness.

 

 

In the movie S.W.A.T., Samuel L. Jackson eliminates a candidate applying for his elite police unit proclaiming, as only Jackson can, “How can I trust a man who can’t eat a good old-fashioned American hot dog?"

 

My local ABC news station features a Wellness Wednesday segment. The correspondent, Sonia Azad, passionately advocates for healthy living while, more often than not, being the butt of her colleagues' jokes.

 

On one side you have the fitness freaks. They are obsessively healthy, chastising poor mothers at the farmer’s market for not putting a cloth diaper on their baby. On the other hand, you have the confused, resentful common person. They’ve been fed a standard model of life that virtually ensures their indoctrination into daily habits of poor health and malaise.

 

Social pressure moves them towards the normalization of soda, chips, candy, pop-tarts, French fries, pizza rolls, fast-food, and 10+ hours a day of seated screen time. This processed food overload paired with constant sedentary behavior results in loss of movement capability. As they sit and flip-flop their way to bad arches, they lose a childlike love of movement, now finding a magnetic draw to relieve the discomfort of being on their feet.

 

Furthermore, they are tyrannized by expectations that one should be able to indulge all cravings. They’ve been promised the life of consumption only to be told by those pesky fitness freaks that everything they do is bad.

 

Why Is It All Or Nothing When It Comes to Wellness? - Fitness, nutrition, fitness, meditation, movement, healthy eating, cravings, crossfit athletes, sedentary iifestyle

Photo by Bev Childress

 

It doesn’t stop there. At some point, probably a few times a year, Johnny decides I’m going to look into getting healthy. After all, who wouldn’t prefer health and longevity, particularly after a feeling the effects of the alternative. Where should he go? Information overload quickly becomes overwhelming.

 

The gym is filled with all manner of fitness extremes. He walks over and starts doing push-ups when a fitness freak alerts him that he is doing them wrong. Those machines in the corner are less imposing, but how fun can it be imitating hamsters on wheels? When that gets dull, Johnny asks his fit friend for suggestions. He is a CrossFitter.

 

Ignoring the over-zealous sell, Johnny gives it a try. It doesn’t take him long to determine that he never wants to feel that starved for air again. This is getting expensive and inconvenient. His sister-in-law sells him on insanity. It promises fast results in the comfort of your own home. Feeling the endorphins, he is a convert after the first day.

 

 

However, with no concept of health principles, his motivation wanes. One enthusiastic day quickly turns into a few days of dread and he determines Insanity is as advertised - insane. Friday he goes to happy hour for beer and wings with his buddies, where he subconsciously decides that this health stuff is for the birds.

 

Nutrition: Confusion and Incessant Contradictions Permeating

  • Don’t eat meat.
  • Don’t eat grains.
  • Don’t eat added sugars.
  • Just count your macros and eat whatever you like.
  • Counting macros is too cumbersome. Sign-up here and they will divide by 10 for you so you can just count points.
  • (Enter world-class athlete) He eats whatever he wants because he burns 6,000 calories a day. "You just need to work harder.”
  • And the most insidious new rumbling in the world of nutrition…“Its proven that diets don’t work, therefore we just need to accept that people in today’s society are going to be overweight. We need to embrace plus sizes and silence those bigots critical of modern nutritional habits.”

 

Emotional Responses to Food

I had an exhausted client venting about how often she found herself mindlessly eating her kid’s chips at home. She was a mother of four. I asked her, “Why do you need chips in the home? Mixed nuts might be a good substitute.”

 

I’ll never forget the anger in her eyes as she pronounced, “My kids are going to have chips!” It was the result of years of frustration. These dang fitness freaks were always trying to take everything. It wasn’t enough for her to work out, now she had to feel bad for eating how she had her whole life.

 

In our culture, mindful eating is only for physique models or those following a niche diet. “I’m a vegan.” “I do paleo.” “Do you count your macros?” “I’m doing the whole 30.” You’ll be interrogated endlessly if you don’t drink and have cake and ice cream at a social event, unless, of course, you are on a 20-day cleanse or some other specific fad diet. Saying, no thanks, is unacceptable and rude.

 

Everyone Can't Be a Type A Personality

  • Meditation is something CEOs and news anchors do at 3 am.
  • Fitness is about lying exhausted in a pool of sweat.
  • Nutrition is an all-encompassing lifestyle of meticulously tracking croutons and sips of wine down to the ounce.

Most come to fitness sold on an over-zealous path. They’ll talk for weeks about how they are going to start doing X. The fact that they can’t start immediately should indicate their plan’s long-term futility. Rather than condescending interrogations and snarky remarks about how their “glutes don’t even fire.”

 

Their first day should be a very tame investigation. What simple activities could you add into your daily routine forever? Could you add a social element? Let’s look through these lists of healthy foods and come up with a menu of options that you like. What small changes could we make today that you could maintain forever? Take advantage of the low hanging fruit and embrace the idea of lifestyle.

 

The reality is most people come into health and fitness doing almost nothing. There is no reason to maniacally change everything. Make small moderations for a week. If they want more, give them more the next week, but only within the understanding that they only add what can be maintained forever.

 

There are those more highly competitive types that need to jump into a more aggressive approach. They crave the challenge, the competition, and the grind. That is why they tend to thrive in fitness. There are many options for these type-A personalities. However, the masses are being left behind.

 

We’ve Never Spent More on Health and Never Been Less Healthy.

A 2017 Harvard study1 predicted that of those children between the ages of 2-19, more than 57% would be obese by the time they are 35. This may be the greatest challenge of our time. People don’t want to be obese. They’d prefer to be healthy as indicated by a Global Wellness Industry whose estimated total worth rings in at $3.7 trillion dollars as of 2015. We’ve never spent more on health and never been less healthy.

 

For most people, the approaches promote too much, too quick, and with too little focus on time outside the gym and too little lifestyle education. According to Blue Zone’s founder, Dan Buettner,

 

“Interventions need to last decades or a lifetime to affect life expectancy and lower rates of chronic disease…. Within 3 months of starting a diet, about 10 percent of people will quit. Within 7 months only about 10 percent will remain on the diet, and by 2 years less than 5 percent will still be adhering to the diet. Exercise programs show a similar pattern.”

 

Take Basic Healthy Lifestyle Steps

  • Go on a walk each morning.
  • Perhaps one day you will want to try just alternating between walking and jogging for a bit. You’ll feel better physically and emotionally.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Sweep the house each day.
  • Get a standing desk.
  • Park in the furthest spot.
  • Start taking the stairs.

 

Slowly insert more healthy foods into your diet with a focus on replacing less healthy with more healthy foods. Slowly begin to eliminate all those temptations from your home environment. Ice cream now requires a trip. Before committing to 20 minutes a day of meditation, how about five?

 

Maybe a walk with no headphones and one minute of mindful breathing before bed is an even better place to start. More can always be added later. Maybe with baby steps, we’ll grow a true appreciation and respect for health. Play the long game. Don’t add anything that isn’t a lifestyle that can be maintained forever. You have the rest of your life, so what’s the rush?

 

Reference:

1. Karen FeldscherHarvard, Chan School Communications, "Alarming obesity projections for children in U.S." The Harvard Gazette, Health and Medicine, November 29, 2017.

 

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