Being healthy is finally cool.
Well, actually, based on obesity rates, I guess talking about being healthy is cooler than actually being healthy. Everyone seems to be an expert on health, exercise, and nutrition these days, even if it isn’t visually apparent. With this in mind, I want to talk about the different levels of smarty-pantsness folks go through on their journey toward health and fitness enlightenment. Hopefully this will help you see where you’ve been, where you are, and perhaps where you want to be.
Level 1: Don’t Know, Don’t Care
This, of course, is where we all start. We might also call this one “Ignorance Is Bliss.” The good ole high school days of scarfing everything in sight. I, for one, had zero reservations about eating to and through capacity, especially on enchilada day. Our lunch lady saved any extra hot lunches for me, and I gave them a good home. (Thanks, Mrs. T!) Unfortunately, many people stay here for life.
Back in the day, you didn’t really need to educate yourself about what to eat. The food that was available was grown produce, not manufactured products, and activity level of the general population was higher. Nowadays, if you live in any sort of developed area, you need to pay attention to what you are eating and make a conscious effort to move! Are there times that I wish I could unknow everything so I can be ignorant and blissful? Chya! But that isn’t really an option, and I’m glad it isn’t. I prefer to thrive.
Level 2: Know Enough to Be Annoying
Your interest is piqued! Congrats! At this point, you have probably read a couple persuasive articles on Facebook, watched a few documentaries on Netflix, and maybe dropped into a spin class or two. Suddenly, you’re eating “80% Paleo” and can’t figure out why your results from the last two weeks aren’t as amazing as the guy on Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Your friends are likely ready to sock you one for repeating the same three factoids from Food Inc. over and over while recounting every moment of your lunchtime WOD. I appreciate your fervor, but you need to rein it in a bit. What you are likely to do is annoy your friends and then burn yourself out on this stuff. Your friends are not going to change their dietary and exercise habits overnight, and you are going to get really sick of kale. (P.S. Next person to tell me they eat “80% Paleo” is getting a certified organic, grass-fed, gluten-free knuckle sandwich.)
Level 3: Know Enough to Be Useful, Too Much to Be Happy
When you reach this point, you will decide if you love it or hate it. Those who end up hating learning this stuff are usually focused on the scary things. Fear of toxins in all food, clothes, and furniture or worrying about the ill effects of eating too much, too little, too often, or not often enough can leave you worn out and wondering how you aren’t covered in tumors. “I’m a little tired. I should’ve added sugar to my coffee. Maybe I shouldn’t lift today.” “My sleep was a little compromised, so I will probably have a 5% decrease in performance today.” Shut it and lift! This focus on possible causes and effects of EVERYTHING can be paralyzing. You need to find the line between practical and petty.
If you are learning and loving it, this is a great place to be. You are probably the go-to source of info for your friends and family, and you have the info to help them. However, there are two big pitfalls you can get caught in at this point. One is known as “information dump.” This is when someone asks if they should get a protein powder and you unload a 20-minute lecture on the pros and cons of supplements vs. food. Meanwhile, your friend is just hoping you’ll take a breath so he can slip in an excuse to get away. I know because I did this recently and realized it only after the fact. The second pitfall is trying to have all of the answers. When friends ask questions, you might feel the need to have a smarty-pants answer when the best answer is “I don’t know. I should look that up.” There’s no need to lead people astray with guesses, and everyone respects someone willing to admit they don’t have all the answers. Also, if you make up a wrong answer and they find out, you look like a horse’s patoot.
Level 4: Know That You Don’t Know
Successfully avoiding the two previously mentioned pitfalls, by offering simple answers when possible and deferring when appropriate, you move yourself toward sage status. This is where you realize, and come to terms with the fact, that you don’t have all the answers and neither does anyone else. Experts disagree about just about everything all the time, so how can you expect to have it all figured out? You will feel a sense of release when you accept that you can’t, and probably don’t want to, control every tiny aspect of your diet and exercise and how it affects your body. The human body is so infinitely complex, with all kinds of systems interconnected and affected by endless amounts of known and unknown triggers, that it is foolish and arrogant to think that you have it all right. A more relaxed and open-minded approach focused on nailing the fundamentals consistently and enjoying playing sports (not just training) and eating occasional treats (hey, you’re only human) is now your road to thrivent health, fitness, and sanity.
Knowing Vs. Doing
At every level of this journey of yours, you must understand the difference between KNOWING and DOING. It is easy to educate yourself through reading and watching and hearing. However, until you are implementing ideas and testing theories, how can you say you know? Don’t be an armchair quarterback. What’s the point of knowing how to be healthy and fit if you never put the knowledge to good use? Go out and test what you learn. Seek out new sources for information and not just information that you already agree with. Do some experiments on yourself (safely, of course). Try different diets, different programs, different sports, different lifts—experience what is out there. That base of experience is what wisdom is made of, people. I’m definitely not there yet, but I’m pretty sure knowing that gets me one step closer.
Become A Better Human
This came up on my Morten Lauridsen Pandora channel while I was writing this article. Gives me chills every time. Thought I’d share to beautify your day.