Happy New Year! I love to see all the new faces in the gym during this time of year. Sure it’s packed but that only forces me to get more creative with my workouts and how I use my body in the given space. I do elicit some stares as I conduct my movement experiments but I don’t let that stop me from getting work done in the gym. Perhaps it was a little reflection on the crowded gym or maybe an article by a chef/MD I read today, but I felt especially inclined to provide a word on new years resolutions today.
Spend enough time in the fitness industry and you will run in to your fair share of trainers I like to call “Muscle Musolinis”. You know the type. They are the super motivational, dogmatic purists who tell you exactly what to do and how hard to do it. These guys and gals are full of fire and love to inflict pain for the betterment of your waistline. They know how to get results and are with you every step of the way to motivate you when you let up in the least bit.
This works well for most people seeking personal training however, it is hardly sustainable.
We’ll delve in to that specific dynamic in the near future. For now, I would like to explore an analogous dynamic that takes place in the doctors office.
There is no question that modern medicine has brought us great scientific advancements over the last 150 years. The most revolutionary development of modern medicine, however, has nothing to do with any of the core sciences at all. Medicine, as it is most widely practiced today, is based on the premise that when we fall ill, the body is actively destroying itself and nobody but the physician knows how to stop it. This makes sense since, afterall, this person spent nearly a decade eating, drinking and sleeping nothing but the core sciences. Whom better to come to the rescue but they physician?
I had never really given this concept much thought before my exploration of more traditional modalities. What I found was that never before the creation of what we call Conventional Medicine, has there been a power shift from the patient to the physician. Though lacking in the technology of today, traditional medicine has been effective at building health (as opposed to treating sickness) due to the belief that the body knows what is good for it and the physician is simply there as a facilitator. For better or for worse, we now go to our doctors office ready to report a basic chief complaint and provide a few brief symptoms. That’s it. We actively remove ourselves as much as possible from the care team. We then expect another human being to tell us how to rid ourselves of our ailments.
This is why, as much as I criticize modern medicine, I don’t fault physicians for our failing health status in this country. For as long as we continue to deny that our bodies inherently possess the potential to heal themselves, and that we know better than any other human being what is best for us, we will continue to flounder in a perpetual state of sub-clinical sickness. As long as we aren’t sick enough to notice, your doctor and the healthcare system at large, is happy….
…but where does that leave you?
geek speak for “this changes that”
Nearly everything in life is a balance between the good and bad. We find this articulated in the writings on morality in holy scriptures throughout history as well as Newton’s 3rd law of motion. The most obvious example of this in medicine is the balance between the potential benefit of a drug vs. the side effects.
There is a grander implication of this perpetual balancing act to which we are condemned. We all pretty much know what is good for us in terms of diet and exercise. I opened up with the image of a drill sergeant personal trainer because we all know that as long as we put in the work, we will get the results we desire. We all know what to do. It is the how that causes us to fail.
The easiest way to abandon a new year’s resolution of any other commitment to get healthy is to sacrifice too much of that precious commodity called quality of life (QOL). Sure, you may see some initial results and feel pretty good about yourself but if you don’t maintain and experience a healthy quality of life throughout the process of self-improvement, you will be faced with that inevitable question: “Why am I doing this?”
The spice of life
An article in The Atlantic hit my own personal Twittersphere today. It is a piece written by an interventional cardiologist who works as a professional chef. He goes by, “Dr. Mike” on his blog titled, “Grassroots Gourmet“.
Dr. Mike shares his opinions about the latest policy move by the FDA to reduce the amount of dietary salt available to the public. Not only does he elucidate the QOL costs of painting salt to be a villain with such a broad brush, but he also questions the science behind the governmental recommendations set forth.
As is usually the case, my favorite line of the article comes at the very end:
The government needs to leave the recipes and the cookery to the chefs. And leave the salt on my pommes frites.
In the end, we must enjoy life. This isn’t the usual declaration that moderation is the key to your fitness goals. Let me make that clear lest you accuse me of holding such a simplistic position. No, there are some things to be added and subtracted in varying degrees if we want to achieve any goal in the realm of health and fitness. The key is to know which guilty pleasures are ok and which will derail your efforts.
Part of that entails hard work (personal training) to right the wrongs of life of corporeal neglect. The other part of the balanced equation is informed strategizing (wellness coaching) to make sure YOU maintain the power and don’t put yourself at the mercy of the cookie-cutter plan some other human devised for you. We are all infinitely unique and require someone to help us ask the right questions of ourselves so that we may uncover our true potential.
We all make resolutions from differing starting points. This is why, as much as I love to see people just get up and move on their own, I always watch with a bit of morbid curiosity as I know that if they are anything like most people, they will sacrifice too much QOL for the sake of the image that comes to them as the clock strikes 12:00 every December, 31st.