Diets promise quick and tasty meals that will get you down to a size 2 in six weeks or less. Exercise equipment is sold on the basis that it will get you six-pack abs in three minutes a day, without breaking a sweat. Internet ads promise to eliminate your belly with one secret trick.
These are all lies. In fact, they’re all the same lie. It’s the lie that much of the fitness industry is based on: That there is a magic pill, a quick and painless way to instantly become the person you want to be.
If this were really the case, we’d all be six-pack-having, marathon-running, 500-pound-squatting, athletic specimens who would be summiting Everest at age 80 and living for 120 years. If getting fit and being healthy were simply a matter of exercising three minutes a day, or taking a supplement, then everyone would do it.
But fitness isn’t that easy. It isn’t a five-minute fix, or a little pill to take with your morning coffee. Being fit and healthy requires a commitment to a lifestyle that looks very different from what most Americans think of as “normal.” But the good news is that while being healthy isn’t easy, it can be very simple. I think of a healthy lifestyle as having three main elements:
To live a healthy life, you must eat real food. There is no one-size fits all prescription, but a diet based on vegetables, meats, nuts, seeds, and fruits is almost infinitely variable and can be modified to meet anyone’s needs. If you can’t grow it, hunt it, or pick it, then don’t eat it — it’s that simple.
Activity can simply be thought of as the number of calories that you burn in a day. The more you move around during the course of your normal routine, the healthier you’ll be. This is where taking the stairs instead of the elevator, riding your bike to work, setting up a standing desk, or simply taking an evening stroll around your neighborhood are useful. Activity is different than exercise — you don’t need to break a sweat; you simply need to move around.
This is where that CrossFit stuff comes in handy. Getting your heart rate up, increasing your strength, and working up a good sweat at least 3 times per week is the minimum for maintaining your cardiovascular health and physical abilities. Exercise should be a little uncomfortable — you should be pushing the boundaries of your physical capabilities, since that’s the only way to improve those capabilities.
There is no magic pill for fitness. It requires a dedication to finding better ways to eat, live, and exercise. It requires cooking meals at home, and getting off of the couch, and sweating. It requires time and effort. But anyone can do it — all it takes is deciding that your health is worth it.