I grew up with a sort of tug and war going on in my approach to getting in shape.
On one hand, I was into the very American Macho style of fitness.
This was the world of “no pain, no gain” and “it’s you vs. you.” I was taught that getting in shape was all about engaging in a daily battle against my desires and cravings. There was also the notion that the human body was naturally set up to be slow, weak, lazy. That if I tuned into my thoughts and feelings that I would do nothing but sit on the couch and eat junk food all day. It was all about the internal fight, and the battle against my own natural and “evil” desires.
This sort of thinking left me with an approach that was focused on keeping the mind and the body separate. I learned to look at the body as a machine that I conditioned with mechanical and robotic routine. When contemplating diet, all that mattered was the nutrient profile in a food and how the body handled it. Nothing else was important outside of conditioning the “machine.”
On the other hand, I was also deep into Taekwon-Do and other fitness practices from the Far East.
These practices were not so much about keeping the mind and body from being disconnected but rather unified. Instead of fighting and doing battle with my cravings and desires I was encouraged to make peace with them and learn to work with them. In fact, I was taught that I continues to fight against my inner desires that I would never reach my full potential.
I learned that the body isn’t designed to be weak and lazy, but rather strong and capable.
While the body did have its mechanical ways of operating, I learned that we are anything but robotic machines. The eastern methods taught me that there was more to exercise than just movement. There is more to food than a nutritional profile and that there is more to fitness than just improving the appearance and function of the human body.
Over the years I’ve come to use the eastern approach as a much more realistic and practical way to fit diet and fitness into my life. Sure I still use hard work and sensible nutrition as a foundation to my continuing success, but I certainly don’t base my choices on those principals alone. I recognize that there is a difference between challenging myself and simply seeing how hard I can make my life.
As I always say, you can’t fight yourself and win. We already have enough friction and challenge from a heavy set of weights or a steep hiking trail. We don’t need to add any more stress by trying to beat ourselves up and fight ourselves on daily basis. Exercise is not meant to be punishment and healthy eating shouldn’t be based on deprivation.
Instead exercise should be based on challenge and growth while healthy eating is based on nourishment and satisfaction. When these perspectives are put in place the battle within is greatly demised and you become your own best ally rather than a loathed advisory. The results come a heck of a lot faster and much easier and this thing called a fitness lifestyle becomes a heck of a lot more enjoyable as well.