When it comes to making habit changes, we often focus on the magnitude of change. We carry the attitude of ‘ I will make any sacrifice of any size if it gets me what I want.’ The all or nothing approach can work for some people, but you must ask yourself this: ‘if major changes with large effects worked for my personality, why have I not been able to attain the result that I am after?’
Answering that question should open your eyes to the reality that extreme changes don’t lead to ideal long-term outcomes. The exception to this would be when someone goes through a high impact life event (sickness, loss, etc.) that immediately changes that person’s path.
For the rest of us, ‘repeatability’ is much more important than magnitude. If you are currently eating a standard (North) American diet of fast food, processed food, and sugary beverages, switching to a Carnivore, Keto, or Plant-Based diet is going to give you a great reward. For a little while. After the honeymoon phase, you’re going to relapse and then believe you are too weak to sustain healthy changes. But what if you instead focused on small, repeatable habits. Perhaps you can aim to cook your dinner five nights per week instead of eating out. You could switch soda for some other naturally sweetened carbonated beverage. Or you could begin walking 3-5 days per week.
Here is the real key to success: make a small commitment. Prove to yourself that you can stick to that small commitment. Move onto the next little commitment. Repeat until your entire life has turned around.
High magnitude change is for the desperate. And the desperate are rarely sound decision-makers. Focus on small, repeatable habit changes, combine that with patience, and you’ll win the game.
Mindfulness…Meditation…Spirituality… such dirty words. This is unfortunate because learning to be less reactive and more thoughtful throughout the day can be life-changing.
I ‘meditate’ every single day. I don’t (always) sit cross-legged. I don’t say a mantra. I don’t touch my index and thumb over the top of my knees. I don’t partake in any silly, dogmatic bullshit. You don’t have to either. Do you know how many Instagram pictures I have seen of some asshole taking a ‘selfie’ of himself or herself meditating? How does that work? It is the worst kind of insecure and self-indulgent irony. It is the kind of disingenuous stench that makes a ‘normal’ person flee from the spiritual realm. Don’t let your disdain throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Sometimes I stretch or listen to music or even a short talk by someone like Alan Watts. All ‘no no’s’ in many meditative circles.
The fake spirituality and general pop-culture of mindfulness have ruined this gift for the average person- but it doesn’t have to be destroyed for you.
I sit, and I breathe. I pay attention to how chaotic my brain is. I problem-solve. I move on. How you spend time being still isn’t essential. Spending SOME time being still is all that matters.
It is also worth noting that it took my 2 years and five to six attempts and failures to make this practice stick.
Headspace played a significant role in helping me build my own (shudder…), ‘practice.’
*For anyone who is interested in reading this post, I would also suggest you check out Layne Norton’s dissection of the film in question here. I have also caught wind that Robb Wolf may be doing a live debate with James Wilks which I anticipate being far more useful than the one with Chris Kresser (and James) on the Joe Rogan Experience. Standby.
I recently had dinner with a group of friends, and one friend was discussing taking better care of himself in 2020. One of his anticipated strategies was to take more of a plant-based approach to his diet. When I asked why he thought this would be a practical approach, he brought up the scene in the Gamechangers documentary, where the athletes who ate the high-fat meal before getting their blood drawn and centrifuged showed ‘fatty’ blood after their individual draws. This scene gave my friend a visceral feeling of concern when it comes to the nutrition of animal fat.
This is just one example of the unscientific, propaganda-driven junk that was used as ‘proof’ of the dangers of meat consumption in the documentary.
Without getting into details like the Randle cycle and how triglycerides and glucose compete for energy usage when both are in high demand, we can address this nonsense at a higher level with a simple context.
When you eat fat, fat substrates will end up in your blood- packaged in chylomicrons- which make the blood appear to be ‘cloudy.’ Guess what happens when you eat carbohydrates? Carbohydrate substrates will end up in your blood. Guess what happens when you eat protein? Protein substrates will end up in your blood. When you eat macronutrients, the broken down substrate should end up in your blood. Without it, the food you consumed would have zero nutritional value.
The movie’s producers imply that fatty acids in your blood are a sign of heart disease risk. This is false. In fact, without the metabolism of fat into its various substrates, you would suffer and die. When an unhealthy, overweight person with poor endothelial function overeats any energy source, and that energy source stays chronically elevated in the blood, that is a different story. But even the mechanism that makes that a problem is not what is implied in this video clip. If you notice, there isn’t any test of endothelial function in the ‘look, fat in the blood’ scene; just a context-less visual for shock value. This is the general theme of the entire film.
A plant-based diet may be helpful for you. In most cases, I would disagree that it is optimal, but it comes down to many individual factors. Just don’t be scared into believing animal foods are unhealthy due to scare tactic anecdotes like cloudy blood, 2-day boner studies, and the estimated diets of slave gladiators.
If I were to ask you what you wanted for your children’s future, you’d probably say something like, ‘I would just want them to be happy and healthy.’ That’s the answer I would give, too, but our systems and actions do not support that parental desire.
Children are becoming less and less active. Children play fewer sports, spend less time outside, and most school systems see physical activity as a luxury to be minimized, not a necessity to be maximized.
We also understand the tight connection between movement and mental health. Yet how much effort is put into the structure (both familial and social) of daily activity for our kids?
The story of the sea squirt (a sea animal who eats its brain once it plants roots in the seabed) is a cautionary tale of the tight junction between movement and the mind. Without the need to move, the brain becomes less relevant.
I’m getting into the weeds a bit here, but you get the point. There is an incongruency between what we say we want for our kids and what we are providing for our children. We buy ‘baby Einstein’ toys and iPad games that are supposed to sharpen the minds of our little ones without recognizing the fact that play is an essential tool for learning in early years.
If you want a healthy and happy child, get her outside. Put him in Gymnastics. Roughhouse. Play hide and seek. Get off of your ass and be the example and the playground for your children. The inability to move is the inability to think (unless, of course, you are Stephen Hawking), so fight for your child’s right to movement.
The other day I was frying eggs and pork belly for a late breakfast. Upon transferring the food from the pan to my plate, my hand slipped. I dropped half of the food, resulting in a greasy mess on the kitchen floor and me yelling ‘FUCK’ at the top of my lungs. It may be hard to believe that there was a lesson to be learned, but there was.
As I crouched on all fours, still cursing in my head and scrubbing grease off of the floor, I had a moment of clarity. I dropped the food, I screamed ‘FUCK’, yet here I am with the same result. Whether I screamed out in anger and frustration or not, I would still be here scrubbing grease off of my floor.
This sounds like a silly, average thought, but it leaves space for an important question. When has your unhelpful reaction every contributed to a solution or changed the circumstances of what has already happened? If you’re like me, the answer is ‘never.’
When it comes to the act of self-judgment (as it pertains to food and exercise), there is a level of nuance that we must address. While checking out my Instagram feed this morning, I came across this post, and while I understand the author’s intentions, I must say that I disagree with the message. Most of it anyway.
I understand the importance of self-acceptance, empathy, and detaching your character from actions that you have difficulty controlling. I literally wrote the book on it when it comes to fitness. More times than I can count, I have expressed that the actions that lead to unhealthy outcomes- like overeating, late-night snacking, technological distraction, and laziness- are human issues rather than issues of personal character. You should not see yourself as a person of lesser value because of your physical shape or the behaviours that got you there, but you do need to take 100% responsibility for your health and stop being full of shit.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the line, ‘you don’t need to earn your food.’ The fact that human beings no longer need to earn the foods we eat is the underlying mechanism of the obesity epidemic. We have access to millions of calories, and we can have them delivered to our door, ready to consume. We don’t have to hunt. We don’t have to prepare or refine our own meals. WE DON’T HAVE TO EARN OUR FOOD. This is a problem with obvious consequences.
So let’s separate the two messages instead of pretending that they are the same. If you are overweight and you are struggling, it does not mean that you are not a person of value. It does not mean that you should feel bad about who you are or feel as though weight problems are issues of character. But to act as though being unhealthy is O.K. and there is nothing that needs to be done about it is absurd. There is no other self-destructive behavior that we would give that level of leniency.
Your should earn your food. Every comfort in your life should be earned. That is the true meaning of balance. You do your job when you’re at work so you can come home and focus on your family. You show up to social and familial events that are inconvenient for you so that you can tighten the bonds of your relationships. You move your body in a significant way so you can enjoy your abundant access to food without a massive health consequence.
If everyone earned their food, the world would be a healthier place.