zenhabits : breathe

Dedicated but Balanced

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat.

Here is an experiment I’d like you to try:

Log in to your banking account. Check how much money you have.

Now log out.

Now log back in, check how much money you have.

Now Log out.

Repeat this two to three more times.

I’m willing to bet my money that your money did not change as a result of how many times you checked on it.

The point of this experiment is obsessing about things isn’t actually action. It rarely, if ever changes the circumstance you are obsessing about.

There are dozens of examples of this in life, but none that hit as close to home for me as health and fitness.

We’ve become obsessed with obsessing about health and fitness. We argue, debate, nitpick, research, tweet, blog, think, try and then give up on countless health fitness theories on a daily basis, all in the name of chasing the promise of ‘health’.

This is something I have grown tired of – especially the endless promotion of obsession as health, exhaustion as virtue and suffering as dedication.

In my eyes the very act of trying to achieve a healthy body is becoming extremely unhealthy, almost a form of self-mortification where people use the gym and the avoidance of their favorite foods as a way to ‘punish’ themselves for their past ‘unhealthy’ indiscretions.

Maybe we can blame the unrealistic goals people have of attaining 0% body fat and giant incredible-hulk style muscles, and the thought that our failure to achieve these goals must be a testament to our poor dedication and work ethic. Or it could be the wrong diet, or wrong workout, or wrong grip when performing curls … who knows?

Whatever the cause, the fact is that health and nutrition is sick.

Workouts have slowly progressed into competitions to see who can punish themselves the hardest, to the point where vomit on the floor is something to be celebrated.

Food is also transforming. It’s no longer about enjoying your meals as much as it is fueling the body. People are slowly forgetting how to eat, and as a result eating is becoming a means to an end – a way to control your body weight. And that’s it.

Food is either fuel, or a guilty bad habit.

Now, it is completely true that in my book Eat Stop Eat I talk about hormones, free fatty acids and how fasting sets up the ideal ‘fat loss metabolism’. However, it was more than just interesting science and a new style of eating (or not eating) that drove me to write that book – it was a desire to share a mind set.

That health can (and should) be about being ‘dedicated but balanced’, rather than ‘obsessed and inflexible’.

I call this the art of ‘detach and relax’ – and it’s one of the most important things I learned through fasting – the ability to focus your effort and attention, combined with the ability to scale them up and down as needed.

Health and fitness should be a part of your life, but it shouldn’t BE your life … at least, it doesn’t have to be.

You can be incredibly focused during your workout and put forth an amazing amount of effort. But then you can detach and relax. Don’t take it home with you, don’t obsess about it.

Your workout is done, your body is stimulated, now let it do what it does best. As much as you wish you could, you simply cannot control the finer aspects of how your body works. (If you doubt this then try to create a new vein in your right bicep, let me know how it goes)

You can be aware of what and when you are eating, but once you are done making a food decision, try to detach and relax. Don’t obsess about your food choices, don’t let your food control you. After all, food is your to be enjoyed.

Learn to be patient and to take breaks from eating. You do NOT have to eat all the time, and you certainly don’t need to fast all the time either.

Your food won’t disappear or become any less enjoyable because you waited. And really, small amount of patience – a slight pause – is all most of us need to realize “I don’t need this”, or “I can wait until diner” or even “I can wait until tomorrow – I’ve had enough today”.

Detach and Relax.

You simply can not be all health and fitness all the time.

Eat less, move more, don’t be afraid to break a sweat every once in a while, and remember to be balanced. When we obsess over health and nutrition, it is no longer healthy.

Give full focus and effort when it is appropriate. Be present during your workout session, but after that turn it off.

As much as some people may hate to hear it, and I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – there is more to life than chasing 0% body fat, blood and puke in the gym and the macro-nutrients on your plate.

Read more from Brad at his blog.



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