Health Is Not What You Think It Is

I grew up in a “healthy” family, an almost ideally healthy one at that. Both of my parents are avid gym-goers. They took up the habit in their teens, and have never stopped in 4 or 5 decades. They’ve never not been active, they’ve never been overweight, or struggled with their weight at all. They are always going to lift.

I was not raised in a household where we moralized food. Nor my sister or myself were ever made to finish our plate, we never got told foods were good or bad. We were never punished for eating or not eating. By and large, my mother cooked “healthy” food, and we always sat down for dinner together. Very little was frozen, processed, or pre-made; my mother always cooked from scratch. 

My family autoregulates as close to “perfect” as you could. None of us have ever counted calories, nor needed to. My mother never bought diet books, or used being a mom as rationale for having a “mommy body/I’m allowed to be overweight”. My dad never let himself go. 

My parents took me to the gym as a child, because then I went there 3-4 days a week, every week. I would watch them finish their workouts after leaving the childcare area. As a teenager, they got me a gym membership. The gym was always a comfortable environment, a home away from home. 

I was a physical kid. I dreamed of being a superhero. Physicality then, seemed a requisite part of the process. 

My childhood experience is atypical to most Americans, although it took me time to realize that. The older I get, the more I appreciate how exceptional it was.

As an adult, I’ve never not been active. My lifestyle and state of health would put me within the “1%” of human beings. Within conventional bounds, short of skilled gymnastic feats or elite level strength, there is not anything I cannot do physically.

I became a personal trainer by accident. I realized early on that I’m not an example to be followed. Making comparison between myself and others is irrelevant at best, and harmful at worst.

My clients do not care about me, they care about what I can do for them. Teaching then, or leading, has been an exercise in constantly trying to see, hear, and feel the world through the eyes and bodies of others.

At one time, I thought I knew what healthy was. Eat right, exercise often, have a gym membership, be active. Simple, is it not?

Then why the struggle for so many?

Health is not what anyone thinks it is. Its not what I thought it was.

Exercise is overrated

Exercise is the easy part. I could teach most clients on how to “coach” exercises adequately enough that you’d never know if they learned today or have been practicing for 5 years.

I can spit out the benefits of exercises on demand. The reasons to “exercise” are nearly endless. What it does for the body…there are whole textbooks devoted to this. Let’s just say it’s good.

Exercise can be made technical. One can spend 4, 6, 10 years studying how exercise “works” at the atomic, cellular, systemic level.

We call this “science”. There’s lots of science about exercise. More than there has ever been.

It’s also meaningless.

Understanding exercise, and teaching people why it’s important, and imparting MEANING as to why they should do it.

Two very different things.

Diet does not happen in a vacuum

People attach moral, emotional, and experiential weight to the food they eat. Food is tied to memory, food is tied to feelings, food is tied to happiness, guilt, shame, pleasure, weight, punishment, joy, memory, family, friends,

Food is “Life”, and not in a small way.

People over consume to the point of ill health. Science calls this hypercaloric eating. Thermodynamics and calorie equation something something.

How we eat is reflective of how we live, think, and were raised.

What “diet” is going to solve for all that? None.

So what’s healthy eating then? The food? Or the mind that makes the choices to eat it?

Mindset

It’s the popular new word everyone is using. Except it’s not new, it’s ancient.

Our thoughts become us, the mind creates its own reality, our choices are of our free will, everything in life is your fault. The idea is as old as recorded history.

Are people self aware enough to BELIEVE they have power over themselves?

Maybe, maybe not. Mastery of self can be…difficult. We are our own worst enemies, obstacles, opponents.

If it was easy, everyone would do it.

People need help. And they know it

What is Health then? 

People need help with their health. They seek out help. 

People don’t care about the nitty gritty of exercise. They believe they should exercise because they desire CHANGE.

People want more fulfilling lives. They are older, they want to age well, they don’t want to slowly feel like they are dying. So they seek out exercise. 

People feel unhealthy. They are overweight, stressed, low energy. They are discontent. 

People ask for more strength, more muscle, improved bodycomp, better eating habits. 

That is what they ask for, but that is not what they want.

In a vacuum, none of those things mean anything.  In the context of a LIFE, they can mean everything. 

They want to feel DIFFERENT. They want change to be a better version of themselves right now.

So talk about diet because it improves overall energy. No one wants to be tired out on their own life

Talk about muscle because it gives you the strength to handle your life. No one wants to feel frail and at the mercy of illness and fatigue 

Talk about strength because it makes you an active participant in spending time with family and friends. 

Talk about exercise, because it gives you a psychological outlet for stress and is a means of self love.

Talk about what has meaning.

 So is Becoming Healthy Inside/Out, or Outside/In?

Neither. BOTH of them need to happen. You must complete the circle, not only a half of it.

Make external changes to change your mindset?

Make mindset changes to change your actions?

Why the reduction to there only being two ways?

It’s not binary, and never will be.

Health will require self awareness. Health will require self-belief. Health will require a change in environment. Health will require a change in thinking.

You will likely need new habits. New friends, new people around you. You will likely need social reinforcement.

It will be physical change, it will be mental change, it will be social and emotional change.

It will be your whole life that changes.

Health is not born out of a vacuum.

Health Demands a Vision

And it has to be something more than just exercise. It has to have meaning to it. Real meaning, more than reps and sets and mile times.

Does being healthy make you a better man or woman? Does it give you control over your life?

Can you apply your will to reality?

What is the healthier version of you? How does that person LIVE?

How much they weigh, the calories they eat, the foods they do or don’t consume, the workouts they do

It’s all secondary. They are means to a WAY of LIVING, not means to an end, unto themselves.

More muscle, better cardio, more endurance, more this, less that, great great great

What is it really enabling you to DO? What is your vision for yourself?

This is finding the why, the real one.

And I can’t answer the question, I can only ask it. Good luck finding your answer.