Reality can be cruel. You won’t always get what you want or see the results you were hoping for. However, burying your head in the sand or throwing a tantrum won’t do anything other than make you look foolish. And many of us have delusional thoughts of what is right and wrong for our body or have idealized the perfect picture of health in our mind’s eye. We unfairly judge others, and ourselves, for eating processed foods, not exercising, or for imperfect practices at the gym. But, how we think and act should not be a pursuit of perfection; rather, it should be in pursuit of doing the best thing for our future selves.
Get Your Head Out Of Your…
Getting off our high horses and doing the right thing will benefit not only ourselves but those around us. Your diet and exercise program is not the best there is. How do I know this? Because you’re not a professional athlete being studied by top scientists with customized diet and exercise regimens designed by leading academics. You’re a human, who has decided to go with a program that works for you, even though it may not be the best. So before you go judging others for not eating organic, realize that they may not have the same values as you do. And before you get too down on yourself for falling off the wagon, realize that your fad diet probably isn’t as great as it’s cracked up to be in the first place.
No One Is Immune
Even fitness pros can fall into the trap of “all or nothing” thinking. Not all people are looking to lose weight, improve performance, have a beach body, or play professional sports. But I know trainers who think like this. Heck, I used to train people as if they were preparing for a physique contest against Arnold himself! But being healthy has nothing to do with those sorts of goals. And what do most people look for when starting a diet and exercise program? I mean, at the end of the day, what are you really looking to get out of all those hours at the gym? I bet the following benefits of exercise is/are more appealing than looking good in tight jeans:
- Decreased blood pressure and risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer (e.g., colon and breast cancers). (1)
- The preservation of bone mass and reduced risk of falling (particularly in older adults). (2)
- Prevention of and improved mood in people with mild to moderate depression while also potentially playing a supporting role in treating severe depression. Not only has research found that exercise’s effects last longer than those of antidepressants, but in regard to anxiety, research has shown that physical exercise reduces anxiety in humans by causing remodeling to take place in the brains of people who work out. This evidence suggests that active people might be less susceptible to certain undesirable aspects of stress and anxiety than sedentary people. (3)
- Improved sleep patterns, which can help you become more alert in the daytime and also help promote more sleepiness at night. (4)
- Enhanced feelings of “energy,” well-being, and quality of life. (5,6,7)
- The stimulation of brain growth through the production and preservation of new brain cells and neurons, which enhances learning and memory, and is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (8,9,10)
- The delay of all-cause mortality. (1)
Some trainers, both celebrity and local, can also falsely think that their way of doing this is the best. Because they know from experience that their method works! However, in reality, every trainer wants their method to work in the first place. This creates as massive confirmation bias (basically seeing what you want to see), and a failure to recognize failure. Because of all the conflicting anecdotal evidence based claims in the training, rehabilitation and nutrition arena clearly demonstrate the fallibility of humans to accurately judge the evidence of our own experiences when it comes to things like health interventions. Sometimes people will get better in spite of what a trainer or health professional is doing for them. There really is no “one true way” or “exercise everyone should be doing” because (prepared to be shocked) everyone is different.
Take Away Lessons
Don’t get down on yourself for missing a day or two, or even a week. Exercise comes with many valuable lessons and creates and environment where you can be the master of your destiny (when you pay close attention). Through exercise, we learn that there’s a direct, unmistakable causal relationship between hard work and reward. By going to the gym regularly, you attract people who are into the same stuff and having like-minded friends is powerful. These connections can open doors, keep you motivated, and improve your health all around. Lifting weights will teach you that nothing worth having comes easy, you must be adaptable, and it’s good to appreciate failure.
You may have gotten what you wanted last week, or maybe things didn’t go as planned. Don’t bask in the glow of success for too long, or wallow in self-pity for not getting what you wanted. Reflect, learn, and plan for the future. Make yourself great again by doing what needs to get done and being a positive supporting person for those around you.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, 2008 [Internet]. Washington (DC): ODPHP Publication No. U0049. 2008 [cited 2010 Sep 24]. 683 p.
2. Nelson ME, Rejeski WJ, Blair SN, et al. Physical activity and public health in older adults: recommendation from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007;39(8):1435-45.
3. Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, et al. Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. J Neurosci. 2013 May 1;33(18):7770-7.
4. Driver HS, Taylor SR. Exercise and sleep. Sleep Med Rev. 2000 Aug;4(4):387-402.
5. Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. Sports Med. 2006;36(9):767-80.
6. Yau MK. Tai chi exercise and the improvement of health and well-being in older adults. Med Sport Sci. 2008;52:155-65.
7. Conn VS, Hafdahl AR, Brown LM. Meta-analysis of quality-of-life outcomes from physical activity interventions. Nurs Res. 2009;58(3):175-83.
8. van Praag H, et al. Running enhances neurogenesis, learning, and long-term potentiation in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Nov 9;96(23):13427-31.
9. Laurin D, et al. Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Arch Neurol. 2001 Mar;58(3):498-504.
10. Robert P. Friedland, et al. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of USA. Vol. 98 no. 6: 3440–3445