How Serious Should You Be About Making a Change?

An observation to begin to address this question:

I don’t know anyone over 40 who doesn’t have to watch what they eat.  The fit people are fit because they work at it.  Period.

There was a study done a year or so ago that determined that people who were fit tended to be friends with people who were fit.  People who were overweight tended to have friends who were overweight.  The message here is that you and your friends create your own reality.  The conversations you have and they way people behave around one another sets up a standard of what’s normal.  We judge our own behavior relative to the behavior of those we associate with.

I live in a very small (49 homes), pretty close-knit neighborhood.  We have developed norms here–not by design, but by opportunity and example. The kids here are incredibly active and fit.  The women have built workout coalitions and routines. From meeting for walks and/or carpooling to the gym at 5:30am to simply sharing information on best practices, there is a strong sense that being healthy matters.  During the summer, the guys have “Basketball Night” every week.  As families we play football and kickball, and our block parties are almost dangerous as the kids zoom past on foot, skateboards, or bikes.  Additionally, many of us have rules on “screentime,” limiting our kids to an hour a day, for example, on their choice of screen:  tv, computer (except for homework), video games, etc.

We have defined a healthy, active lifestyle as “normal” and we reinforce it constantly for one another.  The support and examples we provide one another–intentionally or not–are a great impetus for good behavior.

What are the norms for you and your friends?  Can you begin to set the tone by example and, perhaps, initiate change?  Does it matter?  And if so, how serious should you be about changing your eating and making activity the norm?

As I said, I don’t know anyone over 40 who doesn’t have to work at being fit.  And I would argue that doing it right is NOT about moderation. It’s about rejecting ALL the stuff that doesn’t help by rethinking the purpose and essence of food, and by having an honest reflection on where you’ve set the bar for yourself and by whose standards.

This isn’t about “giving up” things you love to eat, it’s about recognizing that many of those foods are predisposing us and our kids not to like the stuff that’s really good. In turn, it hurts our ability to develop a taste for natural foods. The stuff that hurts the most is the highly processed, corn syrupy, prepackaged, perservatived (my word), super salty, sugary crap created by corporations. As Michael Pollan says, these things aren’t food, they’re “edible food-like substances.”

We were not designed to be stagnant.  We were not designed to eat the sugar and salt and fats that have found their way into the American diet.

I hear people say things like, “I cut out soda” or “I’m cutting back.”  And that’s terrific.  But are you serious or not?  Getting healthy is not about cutting something out, it’s about creating a new set of norms for you, your family, your friends.  I know what that looks like for me.  You can see what that is by looking at my “Sample Menus” post (https://healthyisnormal.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/sample-menus/).  What it will mean for you might be different.  But whatever it is, I urge you to set the bar well.

How far you decide to go will be determined by how urgent you think it is that you make a change.  If your cholesterol is through the roof, I hope this serves as a kick in the butt for you.  If you’re diabetic or almost diabetic, here’s your kick in the butt.  If you just want to enter your later years with a good, healthy head-start, my foot is on your caboose.

Watching my father-in-law struggle with a variety of illnesses of late has been a reminder about coming to a fight well-armed. Someday, lots of us will have to deal with illness or the inevitable ramifications of wear and tear.  It seems to me that if we’re strong going into those challenges, we’ll have a better shot at getting through them well.

Really, there’s no reason that I can think of not to be serious about reshaping, re-norming your life.  What have you got to lose?

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