I’ve been binge listening to a podcast the last couple weeks. Freakonomics. Heard of it? Basically, as they say, they “explore the hidden side of everything.” If you have any interest in human behavior, or just how this world goes ‘round, you should check it out. Anyway, an episode I listened to yesterday really struck me. It was titled, “This Idea Must Die,” and it was all about ideas in science that certain scientists and academics think need to be let go. Basically, they encouraged us to re-examine certain ideas, specifically any idea “that is commonly accepted but which in fact is impeding progress.”
As I listened to these ideas, it hit me that the world I am striving to influence–this world of health, nutrition, and fitness– is contaminated with ideas that need to die! Okay…that sounds a little harsh when I actually say it. So maybe let’s retire some ideas. They can still float around, I suppose. But you no longer need to employ them. They aren’t serving you well anyway. While I could probably write an entire book on health and fitness ideas that need to retire, today I’ll stick with just five—the five that I think are the most deep-rooted, and that most fit the criteria used in the podcast. These ideas are commonly accepted, but are definitely impeding progress!
- There is an ideal body, and you should be trying to attain it. Every culture has its own ideas about beauty, and there is an underlying expectation that we should all be striving to become more beautiful. Study after study shows that the number one reason women work out is aesthetic, meaning that it is all about how they are trying to “look.” But what if we could let this idea go? What if instead of chasing an image, we accepted our uniqueness and exercised for our health? My dream for the future would be that we replace the Before/After photo with a Before/After stats page. Okay, so maybe a little nerdy, but stick with me. If our culture valued actual health information such as a drop in cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, increased lung capacity, lower heart rate, and improved strength more than we valued how “ideal” someone looks in a bathing suit, imagine how things could change!
- You need to change your body in order to love it. So, you know the Before/After photos I’m talking about? Isn’t it interesting how much happier the people appear to be in the After photo? We start to get the idea that if we want to be happy with our bodies, we must first change them. This is false. A body cannot make you happy or unhappy. Only your thoughts about your body can do that. You can choose to love your body today—exactly as it is.
- If you love your body, why would you even bother with healthy habits? I hear this often. Isn’t loving my body counterproductive? If I choose to love and accept it as it is, then why would I do anything that might change it in any way? This is another idea we need to retire. Here’s the thing: when I love someone or something, I seek its best interest. Think about your children, or family members, for example. Would you say you love them, and then show it by abusing or neglecting them? Is that love? Your body’s best interest is to be healthy. When you truly love it, you will strive to attain good health.
- Living a healthy lifestyle is all about willpower. The idea that exercising and eating right is all about grit and pushing through is prevalent in the health and fitness culture. Willpower is what we use when we need to take an action that goes against our feelings. So if you are hating your body—a negative emotion—it will definitely take willpower to take positive actions in its behalf. However, if you love it, then your feelings and health-conscious actions will align, which doesn’t require willpower at all. A real healthy lifestyle requires small amounts of willpower (like to push out those last couple reps when your arms are toast!) and large amounts of love.
- Dissatisfaction is a great motivator. It is a common idea that we can hate ourselves into shape. If I finally get fed up with my body enough, then I will find the motivation to treat it better. Maybe dissatisfaction has been your primary motivator for so long that you actually think it is the best one. But I’d like to retire this idea. I have seen, time and again, dissatisfied people cycling through weight loss and weight gain over and over, never being able to create long-lasting change. That is because we don’t have enough willpower to sustain positive behavior fueled by negative emotion. It is draining. And so we need a new motivator. May I suggest love? Love your body, and your body will love you. ♥