There is something absolutely terrifying floating around in the media. It’s not new, and most of us probably see it every day, in some form or another, without giving it a second look. It’s a faceless kind of scary.
We have become desensitized to the frightening truth. Do you know what it is? See if any of these look familiar.
“Obesity in America is a growing problem”
“Over 60% of Americans are either overweight or obese”
“The amount of children under the age of 10 have a steadily increasing obesity rate”
If you read these and thought, “yup I read those all the time, so what, it doesn’t change anything”, then you are thinking exactly what I think when I read those type of statistics.
Does that mean we are both bad people, or have we just accepted that it’s a problem and it’s always going to be a problem?
To be honest, I often think it’s the latter.
Yesterday I read a post from a very inspirational Trainer, Andrew Read, a very experienced and credible trainer based in Australia, and currently an Author for Breaking Muscle. The post was a follow up on an article he wrote discussing body composition and the levels at which we can determine a healthy vs. non-healthy body fat ratio based on our size.
It turns out that a lot of people have a lot to say about that. Both positive and negative comments led to the post where Andrew discusses the facts about being obese and what it really does to your body concerning heart problems, diabetes, joint issues, and even fatty deposits in the brain…in case I didn’t emphasize that last piece well enough – FATTY DEPOSITS IN THE BRAIN!
If that doesn’t sound scary I don’t know what does. Admittedly that was news to me.
The post got several comments that spiraled into an interesting discussion about why we (the universal we) have become so complacent knowing that we carry this extra-large statistic of having over 60% of our population experiencing problems from being overweight or obese.
This is something I have thought about before, and wondered why there seems to be such a dissection between healthy and not healthy. No, I don’t mean looking good in a bikini or not, but I do mean health conscious or not.
After noshing on this for a while, I started to consider the idea that health has become a hobby rather than a necessity. That is huge!
The idea that health is a HOBBY, and not something considered necessary to live well. The more I thought about the possibility of this, the more it started to make sense to me. We brush our teeth because we don’t want to wear dentures at age 20, take a shower to stay clean, go to work to pay the bills and buy food…the list goes on. All the things we do to take care of ourselves out of necessity, but for some reason keeping our bodies in check, weight wise, is not something that gets prioritized by the majority.
I believe there are several key reasons this has happened, and will most likely continue to plague our society.
1. We commercialize fitness, health, and health gimmicks to no end.
CrossFit, for better or worse, has become an icon of measure for fitness. Before the commercialization of CrossFit, people didn’t consider the “bad-assery of flipping large tires”, they just thought about going to the gym and getting in a quick workout. Once CrossFit hit the market it became a glamorous version of working out and staying fit. It was brilliant to see such beautiful bodies capable of huge feats of strength. The only problem is that it was a little too expensive, time and money wise, for someone who wasn’t willing to “invest” in that type of sport. CrossFit went from a style of workout to a sport, and after that it was considered just that, a sport that you are a part of, or a hobby that you made time for.
Exercise started to go from being something everyone should do, to some degree, to something that only “the people who are into that kind of thing” do.
CrossFit is definitely not solely to blame, it’s just an easy example. Let’s look at another.
2. OMG, there are so many diet “treats” available.
When did a 100 calorie cookie become the fix-it for people who are having trouble binging on cookies? To follow that, when did we start relying on starving ourselves with eccentric low calorie diets to avoid 30min of exercise a day?
Both seem incredibly destructive. Instead of emphasizing a healthy lifestyle and encouraging exercise, so many snack companies have moved towards convincing people that if they just, “eat this”, or “drink that”, they can experience weight loss without changing their diet – it’s absolutely unconscionable in my opinion.
3. Finally, and probably most importantly, I believe there is a resonating thought that if you decide to make fitness a priority in your life, you are somehow giving up a part of your life that you once loved. Follow me here for a second.
I had a very blunt conversation the other day with someone about changes in diet and exercise to achieve a certain goal. The conversation was very calm, and back and forth, and this person and I were making progress in getting some of her questions answered. Then, in a twist, another individual, who was listening in, decided to jump in unannounced and state, “that sounds like a diet, and I don’t like diets, I enjoy my lifestyle.”
This is what I believe to be the biggest monster in tackling the overwhelming statistic of 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. The asteroid, killer volcano, nuclear war-head, whatever you want to call it, this is it!
We each have a set of priorities in our life: Family, Health, Wealth, Freedom, etc. But within that larger set of priorities, we also, even sometimes without knowing it, have a list of priorities for ourselves. Things like Sleep, Food, Downtime, Television, Friend Time, etc.
I believe it’s within these lists that we start to define our personalities and where we devote our time. What the intruder in my conversation with a friend was actually saying, is not just that he likes his lifestyle, but that he has consciously decided not to put healthy food in his set of priorities. The idea of giving up something that has been deemed so important to him is hardly something to consider. And on the flip side, I would definitely not consider giving up my healthy lifestyle because it is a top 5 priority to me and no one will convince me it’s not right for me.
This is a whole other Pandora’s box. How, as trainers, health professionals, doctors, or just health advocates, do we even begin to tell someone that their priorities are not “ideal” because we say so?
All the statistics in the world won’t take away the freedom of choice, and no one wants to consider themselves a part of any statistic, rather, “my situation is different because (fill in the blank with any reason)”. And that settles it, the stats are now easy to ignore and the choice has been made.
It’s now, not a battle of how do we convince people, but how do we approach the idea of changing what is an “ideal” set of personal priorities. How do you make health a desirable thing, and not an optional thing?
How do you de-categorize health as a hobby and re-categorize it as a necessary?
Something to nosh on for a while.
If you have any comments or would like to discuss these thoughts any further, please feel free. I’m not attacking anyone in this article, or implying that being “picture perfect” is the only way to be right, or healthy, or even that people don’t change their priorities every day. I am merely posing the thought that if our culture looked at health as a thing of desire from a standpoint of living-better and less of vanity, then maybe we would start to see a shift in our completely over-used, under-effective 60% statistic.