WHY MOST DIET AND EXERCISE ROUTINES DON’T WORK
How is it that we have access to so much information about nutrition and exercise, yet obesity and disease rates are still so alarmingly high in America?
This is a question I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and I think I’ve come up with an answer.
One thing I noticed prior to starting Philosopher of Fitness is that many bloggers and other fitness professionals are only focusing on showing people different exercise routines to do and different diets to eat. I do think this is a much needed service because once someone is ready to get in shape and become healthy, it’s essential that they have access to information that will help them do so. Unfortunately, I believe there is an element missing from this approach.
So what’s the problem?
Knowledge is not power, knowledge is potential power.
Let me provide a few examples to illustrate this point.
I know many very intelligent individuals who smoke cigarettes. Do they smoke because they are bad people or because they don’t know that cigarettes are bad for their health? Absolutely not!
Do most people who are overweight know that certain foods they eat are unhealthy and that they would benefit from beginning some sort of workout routine? Yes, of course! Do they eat poorly and lead inactive lifestyles because they don’t care about themselves, or because there is some flaw in their DNA? Absolutely not!
Our behaviors are not always driven by our intellect or rational mind. They are often driven by subconscious associations we have in place that were designed to help us avoid pain and move toward pleasure. The problem is that most of these associations are flawed and were not consciously formed by us, and many of us never take the time and energy required to consciously modify the associations that drive our behavior.
So what am I suggesting?
I am suggesting that until we help people modify their subconscious associations to diet and exercise, it simply does not matter how much information we throw at them, because they will go back to the behaviors that are embedded within them at a visceral level. This is the reason I choose to write more articles focusing on the mental aspect of health and wellness, as opposed to posting a bunch of information about workout routines or diet plans. As I said before, I think that information is important, but it’s all over the place and does not address the root element that is holding most people back.
So what about just using willpower?
Through recent studies, I have come to the conclusion that relying solely on willpower to make a positive change tends to provide, at best, only temporary results. This is due to something that psychologists call “decision fatigue”. It has been discovered that willpower is a finite resource. Willpower is exercised by the same part of the brain that handles complex computations─among other things─and once the energy this part of the brain uses is depleted, you’re in trouble if you’re placed in a situation that requires you to exercise willpower prior to your brain being refueled.
The good news is, once you change your associations, you do not need to use any willpower! It does not require willpower to do something you genuinely want to do, or to avoid something you genuinely do not want to do. This is a very important distinction to make. If you regularly do something that you intellectually know is a bad idea, it does not mean that you are stupid, it just means that you may need to reprogram your mind─while I have learned the tools necessary to use these techniques on myself, many people would probably benefit from working with a professional to do this.
I recently had the good fortune to come across multiple books on the sciences of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Neuro Associative Conditioning (NAC) and to use these techniques on myself to overcome a lifelong phobia I had.
As embarrassing as this is to admit coming from a guy who has a fitness blog, until recently, I did not eat any fruits or vegetables. What’s even more embarrassing is that I did not eat these foods because I had a lifelong phobia of fruits and vegetables. I know this is a pretty odd phobia, but I ended up realizing that it was spurred by something that happened all the way back when I was a baby.
*I would like to note that I wrote an article in the past called, The Power of Superfood Supplements,where I detailed the supplementation I was using to make sure I was still hitting my micronutrient needs each day during that time*
Being someone who has done intensive research on health and wellness, I obviously came across many studies that conclusively pointed out the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption. At a rational level, I really wanted to eat these foods. The problem was that until recently, I did not attack and modify the root associations that were holding me back from making the decisions I knew would be beneficial for me.
The reason I’m writing about this personal example is because I think it illustrates the powerful role our subconscious associations play in the decisions we make. For a long time, I wondered how I could consider myself to be an intelligent individual, yet not do something I knew was good for me. I feel like many people who continue to give up on diets and workout routines can probably relate.
The good news is, if I can go from not eating any fruits and vegetable since I was a baby, to eating avocados, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, and berries on nearly a daily basis, you can get into the gym, eat a healthier diet, and achieve the level of health and vitality you’ve always dreamed of! All it takes is addressing the root cause of your behaviors and realizing that what has been holding you back is the fact that you have been being pulled in directions by flawed subconscious associations you never consciously choose.
I can confidently say that you CAN take control of your life and choose the associations you want to drive your behavior, as long as you are willing to put in the work.
I am currently working on a way for me to personally assist you guys in improving the quality of your lives, by first helping you reprogram your mind, then by helping you sculpt the body you’ve always dreamed of. I will keep everyone posted on this as things materialize.