Why do you guys work out? Is it to look like a linebacker and score the ladies? And ladies, how about you? Maybe what you’re looking for is a quick and easy fix to drop a few pounds so you can squeeze into that little black dress and turn some heads at your 20-year high school reunion? While I support each and every one of you in your endeavors, I have to be honest here and say that I’m a little disappointed.
Anyone who’s ever trained with me knows that I’m the first guy to lift up his shirt at the drop of a dumbbell. That said, the reason I show up six days a week isn’t so that I can have laundry scrubbing abs; it’s because exercise makes me a smarter, happier, high-energy man willing to try things that used to scare the hell out of me. This comes from a guy who spent much of his time watching reruns of “I Dream of Jeannie” and eating far too many double cheese burgers and pizza.
Millions of people the world over wake up on any given day and say, “enough is enough!” They want to make a change, so they search for the “next big thing,” the magic key to turn their life around. This initial impulse often has nothing to do with health and productivity. Rather, it has everything to do with numbers on the scale and your refection in the mirror. There are hundreds of high profile muscle magazines, diet books, and weight loss programs willing to show you how to turn things around with little or no effort. But before you plop down your hard-earned money to begin yet another program, I want you to ask yourself this. What next?
Seriously, think it through. Let’s say you’re that guy looking to “look good” so you can land that special lady. What if this strategy works? Jump forward 15 years. You’re married to the love of your life, no longer having to keep up appearances (you’ve completely let yourself go) and one day, your son suggests that the two of you throw the old pigskin around. Sounds like a great idea, but by the time you’ve run your second down-and-out, you’re wheezing and huffing like you’re down and out. No one plans on becoming a fat couch potato but, well, this is how it happens.
And what about you ladies preparing for that big reunion? You lost the weight, you look good and you’re the talk of the night. What more would you want? Turns out, the next morning, you’re a little hung over so you blow off your run and dive into a bucket of coffee and gobble down a donut to counter that headache. Here we go again until you start planning for your sisters wedding in June. This cycle repeats itself right up to your 30-year reunion. You pull out the little black dress and, much to your horror, there’s no fitting in that thing, sister. Might as well use it as a handkerchief to wipe away those tears of dismay.
My point is that shortsighted goals lead to short term results. Is your motivation about ego or health? Is Priority One your desire to look good or feel good? Exercise is so much more than building muscle or losing weight. It’s life altering in every way and the greatest byproduct is how it changes your perspective, how it alters your beliefs. It releases chemicals in your brain so that you can be happy and productive. It improves your outlook and helps you spend less time struggling and more time living a full, exciting, and adventurous life. Yup – regular exercise (and healthy food) does that!
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but how you look is just part of the bigger picture of your overall wellbeing. So when you’re looking for the program or diet or piece of equipment that’s going to change your life, make sure it’s something that’ll change your whole life. In other words, don’t pick something that you’ll probably hate but you know will be effective. Pick something fun! Something that makes you feel great and that you just might want to do for the rest of your life. A surfboard, a pair of rollerblades, or a yoga video might not tone you up like the Ab-o-Matic 6000, but they’ll probably compel you to keep on truckin’ past that pastry shop and into a lifetime of vitality and good health.
Also, you’ll look super hot at high school reunions for the rest of your life, not that I’m saying that should be your priority…
I’m working on a play about how we got into this mess in the first place. I’d like to run it by you.
Act One: Poor diets and lack of physical activity.
Act Two: Depression, stagnation, and lethargy.
Act Three: Finger pointing and/or the constant pursuit of the quick fix.
Dénouement: the aforementioned mess.
Think of it as Arthur Miller by way of Tony Horton. I plan to call it Death of an American Work Ethic: How we try to get what we want with the least possible effort. I’m hoping for a Broadway opening this spring. What do ya think?
My inspiration, obviously, came from pondering what a lazy lot we’ve become. For some reason, too many of us have forgotten (or have never been taught) that joy, happiness, health, fitness, loving relationships, and financial success all stem from hard work, persistence and the occasional bit of physical, mental or emotional discomfort.
Remember the aches of childhood growing pains? How about stress of cramming for finals your senior year of high school? What about the terror of your first job interview? Your first broken heart?
None of these were especially pleasant experiences, but you benefitted from all of them. You grew stronger, bigger, wiser, and smarter. You learned grace under pressure. But despite these benefits, we’ve become a society that avoids discomfort like the plague. The Buddhists like to say, “Life is pain.” I don’t know if I’m ready to be quite that absolute, but I will admit that a tenant of The Human Condition requires you to sometimes take painful steps to get what you desire.
Ironically, avoiding suffering just causes many of us to suffer all the more. Obesity. Ignorance. Heart conditions. Diabetes. Depression. Millions of Americans suffer needlessly because they don’t have the right formula for success. These are not stupid people; they just don’t know how to work for what they want. Somewhere along the way they (wrongly) learned that the good things in life come from playing the lottery, having affairs, manipulating the truth, risking quick-fix surgeries, or riding somebody else’s coat tales whenever they have to deal with something important.
I call this misguided method the Pleasure from Pleasure Technique. It’s a short-term, shortsighted shortcut strategy that is ultimately short on results. Furthermore, it inevitably backfires. The end result is mental, physical, and emotional pain with no real pleasure in sight.
Luckily, I’m not done writing my play yet. That last, depressing Act Three is up for grabs, so take a cue from the millions of Americans before us who made this country great. Roll up your sleeves and get busy. Need a place to start? How about getting a little exercise every day and making a few healthier food choices? It won’t be easy. You’re gonna sweat. You’re gonna ache. Your tummy’s going to rumble. But your hard work will pay off quickly, inspiring you to apply the same work ethic to other aspects of your life. Soon, you’ll discover that whatever you’re working on — be it your business plan or your body, your wellbeing or your wallet – will be richly rewarded with a little effort.
And you’ll be helping Tony win a Tony.
Maybe the reason why you can’t change to a healthy diet is because food has become this profound visceral experience every time you sit down to a meal. Flavor and texture are the king and queen in your mouth, palate, taste buds and especially your brain. You can’t go from a diet loaded with yummy fat, sugar, salt and chemicals to bland old steamed vegetables and quinoa because the eating experience will no longer provide the kind of pleasure you expect from eating.
Starting a diet is easy. Desire to change and the intentions that go with it are strong at first. The trigger could be the image in the mirror you despise. Maybe it’s the impact of how walking up a simple flight of stairs feels like a triathlon. You say enough is enough and begin the process (again) of choosing a diet. When you do, you have to give up something. Something you love. Portions or flavor or both. Some folks never get past the first day while others can hang in there for years. Both fail in the the end because eating feels like that job you hate. How long do you want to suffer? How long do you want to feel deprived? How much longer can you tolerate being miserable while eating?
Changing your eating habits is no different than starting a workout regime. Both are hard at first, get easier with time and become enjoyable if your purpose is clear. Fitness is fun and effective when you combine variety, intensity, consistency with purpose, a plan and accountability. It’s hard if you only focus on how you want to look in front of other people. You can stick with a healthy eating plan when you find ways to make fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats taste good! A weight loss only diet plan fails every time because being miserable while eating now with the hope that you look better later will make you sad, depressed and crazy!
You also need a plan for when you travel and you need to find restaurants that provide healthy whole meals that you look forward to eating. If you love to cook – start throwing out old recipes that make you and your family fat and start preparing yummy ones that make everyone happy and healthy. If you don’t cook then learn. Learn how to cook 10 fast healthy meals. You can do that. After that, figure out who delivers the good stuff on days you don’t feel like cooking. Learn how to navigate a grocery store. Cut way back on all processed foods that come in a bag, box, bottle or can and buy more foods with just one ingredient. Blueberries, carrots, spinach, kale, onions, watermelon.
You get the idea. The only way you’re going to live the life you deserve is through fitness and a healthy diet. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. You want to find the fountain of youth? Here it is…healthy food and fitness first before everything else. Exercise is Fitness and Food is Health. You can stay miserable or you can join the revolution, it’s up to you!