So many of us kick off our efforts to improve how we look, feel, and perform by looking for answers.
We want to know exactly what, when, and how much to eat.
We want to know exactly how often to train, and what kind of training is ideal.
We just want somebody to tell us what to do.
While this approach might work when first getting started, it’s not an effective long-term approach. Our bodies adapt, and what’s working today might not keep working tomorrow.
We won’t always have somebody to tell us exactly what to do – especially when progress slows and eventually stalls.
Oh, and figuring out who to listen to or what to do can be a challenge in itself, especially when first getting started.
It doesn’t take much Googling to see that there is a lot of conflicting information out there when it comes to how to eat, move, and live.
Some say we shouldn’t eat any animal-based foods, while others suggest we shouldn’t any plant-based foods. Some say eating fat will clog our arteries and give you a heart attack, while others say eating carbs will make us fat and give us diabetes.
Some say we have to do cardio to stay healthy, while others say cardio will make us weak and skinny-fat. Some say we have to work with high weights for low reps to build muscle, while others say that we have to work with low weights for high reps to build muscle.
So, how do we filter out the noise and determine what to believe?
You might even be asking, “why is this even necessary?”
Why is it that in recent decades we had to start worrying at all about something so basic as eating?
Times have changed.
Our lifestyles no longer require physical activity to acquire food and shelter. We have to seek out and schedule opportunities for movement and physical effort in a world that’s all but eliminated its necessity.
We’re no longer limited to food immediately available within or around our town or village, grown from healthy soil and fed by green grass and sunshine. We have options – many of which don’t serve us well beyond calories and flavor.
In the face of these options, we also have nearly instantaneous amounts to seemingly infinite information.
While many – most, in my opinion – of the voices trying to help you navigate these options have your best interest in mind, others don’t (I’m looking at you, food manufacturers, marketers, and scientists).
Even those who do have your best interest in mind don’t understand that what’s working for them might not be applicable to you, might not understand why the strategies that work for them are working, or might even be promoting strategies that just straight up don’t work at all.
So, how so do we navigate this environment?
Have you ever heard the saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”?
Well, the same statement applies to health and fitness – the more you know HOW to eat and train – in the context of both basic human needs and your own unique circumstances – the better equipped you’ll be to make and maintain your progress for the long run.
Developing a basic understanding of how the human body operates, and how the body processes different foods and nutrients, can be an effective boon for identifying and discarding the nutrition, fitness, and health B.S. when you see it.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to go out and get a Ph.D. in physiology.
However, establishing a baseline understanding of the human body with respect to food and movement provides the foundation for you to be able to filter out all the noise in the health and fitness world, and identify what actions and behaviors may or may not work for you and why.
This cultivation of awareness doesn’t stop there, though, because we’re all different in terms of how we might respond to different specific nutrition, training, and lifestyle practices. While focusing on the basics will be plenty for many of us, some personalization is required for really nailing your health and fitness goals.
Fine-tuning the details like how much protein, carbohydrate, fat, or other nutrients you need, or what training modalities might work best for you, necessitates being in tune with how you feel and how changes to these factors affect you as an individual.
You see, there are two levels of self-awareness you might develop – basic understanding of the general human “self” to provide a framework for getting started, and then intimate understanding of your own unique needs, preferences, and goals for dialing things in.
The more you understand about how your body works – both generally and specifically – the better equipped you’ll be to determine who to listen to and what to do.
Taking ownership and personal responsibility for your own health is, while perhaps not so convenient, a necessity in our modern environment full of confusing and conflicting options and information.
Don’t be frightened or overwhelmed by this call for ownership and responsibility, though.
Responsibility is power, and power is freedom.
Once you’ve accepted this ownership and responsibility, and made self-awareness a priority, you’ll be free from food “rules”, diets, and the helplessness to which unawareness keeps you chained.
Unleash the power that comes with knowing how your body works and no long depending on others to tell you what to do.
You are your best advocate.
You may need a little bit of help, and you will almost undoubtedly make some missteps along the way, but you’ve got this.
Accept and embrace that responsibility, cultivate that self-awareness, harness that power, and delight in that freedom.