We all know the moment when we’re sitting around the table, or writing in our journals, and we have to think about what we’re thankful for. Many of us will say we are thankful for our health and the health of our family. But, when writing our to-do list, we find ourselves prioritizing going to work, sitting in the next meeting, drafting that report, whatever the work day brings. Our “thankful” list does not match our “priority” list. Despite being thankful for our health, we often do nothing to protect it.
We tell ourselves we “don’t have time for the gym.” Similarly, when we are budgeting for the week, and we have the option of spending $100 on whole foods and nutritious fuel that we will need to wash, prep, and cook or $50 on frozen pizza, ramen, and whatever easy foods are in the freezer or on the shelf, we often choose the path of least resistance, and stock up on cheap, easy-to-make foods.
But, why? Why do we choose convenience and cost over what we know is best for our bodies and the bodies of our loved ones? The easy answer – society has told us to do it. Society focuses on a treatment over prevention mindset in which we only focus on the problem once it becomes a problem rather than avoiding the issue to begin with. Society focuses on the curative treatment – the injury or illness has already occurred, and we are trying to fix it. It is the most common and most readily available form of treatment, and it is also the most expensive.
Changing Our Mindset
We want to change the mindset (and change the world) by focusing on preventative action – simply doing the things necessary to avoid injury or illness. Preventative care is less known and less understood than curative treatment, but it is also the least expensive. By working on health and wellness, we can often prevent those diseases and injuries that we would be forced to expensively treat down the road.
If someone told you they knew exactly what you needed to do to save your life every day, wouldn’t you do it? You put on your seat belt before driving because you know the extra few seconds of invested time could save your life. There’s a good chance you wouldn’t buy a car without seat belts if it saved you $50, right?
Many people do not see fitness and nutrition as preventative care. The overwhelming mindset around exercise and fitness is one that focuses on the aesthetic, and the grab-and-go culture of our fast-paced world tells us that we need things that are convenient, such as quick and easy food, devoid of nutrition. When faced with the time and money crunches many of us face, we think of what we can “let go” to allow resources for the other important tasks. We think of the things we don’t “need” to do, and when the gym is on the same level as putting on makeup or curling your hair, something purely aesthetic, it will be one of the first things to go. If you do not see the importance of nutritious food or fitness, it won’t be a priority.
But life (and our bodies) tell us that we actually CREATE time and money crunches by not putting our health and wellness first. Humans tend not to think of their mortality until faced with it. Most young and middle-aged people feel blindsided when diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease. But as soon as the diagnoses hits, they and their support systems rally around them to find every cure, to TREAT the illness that threatens their well-being. They fight tooth and nail because they are now faced with a real risk of death or a hindered life. They will do anything to stop that boulder from rolling down the hill. They will spend huge amounts of money, often to the point of bankruptcy, to get the best treatment and get back to living their lives. In fact, healthcare expenses are the number one cause of bankruptcy in our nation. People are left with nothing. They incur incredible expense to save their lives – to treat their illness when often they could have prevented it all along. 400,000 people a year will die from illnesses resulting from a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet.
Prevention over treatment is a mindset change. It takes the idea that the gym is purely aesthetic and that we don’t have time for healthy choices, and it says hell no. First, the gym isn’t about getting skinny. The joy you experience when you set and achieve a performance-based goals is SO MUCH GREATER than the feeling you get after swinging an hour away on the Elliptical. We should choose to work on fitness because we love our bodies and what they can do for us.
Becoming More Self Aware
Fitness is not punishing a body you hate for the food you put in it. It’s a celebration of your unmatched awesomeness. And nutritious food is the fuel you need to care for your body to keep it working and moving – to keep it awake at your desk in that boring conference call, to move it across the soccer field with your kiddos.
By choosing to love your body for what it does and can do, and choosing to fuel it properly, you can actually prevent many of the chronic illnesses that impact so many lives. For instance, E.C. Synkowski, creator of the 800 gram challenge (which you can find more information about on our podcast or in our Facebook group), developed the challenge after reading an independent study which found that individuals who ate 800 grams of fruit and vegetables on a regular basis were able to improve their health and reduce their risk of certain fatal illnesses significantly. Just by eating fruits and veggies! It’s been said that food is the best form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
We can feel the poison coursing through us when our bodies start experiencing symptoms of illness – pain, fatigue, migraines, etc. Symptoms are our bodies’ last-ditch effort to warn us that the body is in need of something it is not getting from us. Symptoms tell you that your body is unhappy with something that’s happening, and at that point, we have no choice but to treat the illness. But, if we change our mindset, we can simultaneously treat and heal the symptoms while working to prevent the next illness or the next injury.
Real Life Success Stories
We have heard and seen athletes who were suffering with chronic health issues who were able to address their issues directly by making changes to their diets and fitness. For instance, one athlete was exhausted every afternoon. Without fail, she would need a nap around 3pm. After some significant changes to her nutrition, she was able to find the energy she was missing. She didn’t need to take a pill to cure the issue or load up on caffeine; she just had to focus on her fuel, and the change was substantial.
Another athlete suffered from migraines so badly that she had prescription pills to help her deal with the pain. One day, she decided to make a change – she focused on hitting the gym 4 days a week, cut out added sugars, ate whole foods, and she was able to slowly cut down her medicine. Two years after she started dialing in on her health and wellness, she disposed of her remaining migraine medicine because she no longer needed it. This doesn’t just mean less pills; it means no side effects from pills. All the weird side effects you hear rattled off on pharmaceutical commercials no longer exist when you don’t have to take the pills.
Make Yourself A Priority
At the end of the day, we deserve to be happy, pain free, and side effect free. Our bodies are the only home we will have every day of our lives, and we need to keep it clean. A $10 gym membership isn’t expensive; $50 in nutritious food isn’t expensive. What is expensive? Missing work because your body is too sick to make it; paying for blood pressure medicine, migraine medicine, anxiety medicine, and all the other curative medicines required to address the warning signals your body is sending.
You are a priority. You wouldn’t say you can’t make it to your chemotherapy because you have to work. You wouldn’t miss your mammogram to create spreadsheets. So, why miss out on your workout for other “more important” things? If you take the time to buckle your seat belt, you can take the time to work your way toward a healthier lifestyle. Remember, it won’t change in a day. Just like one bad meal or one missed workout won’t make you sick, one good meal and one killer workout won’t give you instant results. You have to wake up every day and decide to save your own life. You have to train and fuel your body, so it will keep doing what you want and what you need. You can’t afford to give up on better nutrition and more exercise. No one can.
For more information on the 800 gram challenge, prioritizing the gym, nutritious shopping on a budget, free weekly workouts, and a collection of badass women lifting each other up and changing the world, visit our Facebook group (Fitness Programming by CVG) and listen to our podcast – The Thick Thighs Save Lives.