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Why We Avoid Healthy Living

broccoli

Growing up, were you bombarded with “eat your vegetables, exercise every day, and drink lots of water” and other such “healthy living” advice?

Did you have to eat your vegetables before you got dessert? Yeah, me too.

It’s good advice, but it’s often delivered in a “don’t question this” dogmatic style with accompanying pressure to follow it (and guilt or shame if you don’t do it). We hear it from parents, schools, and even the news. But then, a paradoxical result follows:

  • we become deaf to it 
  • we (sub)consciously rebel against it

What’s Freedom Got To Do With It?

The common reason for this reaction is that we all desire to be free to make our own decisions and be our own persons. Heck, that’s the core reason for ALL rebellions. So when a universally-accepted practice is shoved down our throats, we might be more inclined to choose to “go our own way” as a statement of independence. This isn’t a logical decision, but an emotional one.

In my teenage days, I actually did this with music. I looked around me and saw that everyone liked music. So with so much pressure and “pro-music dogma,” I decided that I didn’t like music. Take that, world! Eventually, I heard some catchy music and loved it, and now I’m a music freak like the rest of you whippersnappers (I can say that word because my beard has grey hair in it).

Unfortunately, this human tendency can be harmful if it keeps us away from what’s best for us.

Desire Is Made Counterintuitive By Curiosity

If desire were logical, nobody would want to go into a forbidden room with locked chests. Why? Well, it’s a lot easier to go into the non-forbidden rooms with open chests. 

Logic would say that we’d desire the easy access rooms because we could get in trouble for going in the forbidden room and we might waste hours trying to get into those locked chests. But the curiosity of “why is that room forbidden, and why are the chests locked too?” gives it a sense of intrigue and increased value. 

Treasure chest

“Dang, it’s underwater. Let’s just leave it there,” thought no one as they all dove in head first.

In the reverse way, I think that common wisdom is too often devalued for being common and freely available. Who hasn’t heard to “seize the day”? That might be the best advice in the history of the world: live your day to the max! But we’ve heard it so many times, we’re like, “yeah yeah…”

We know that eating vegetables and exercising are the building blocks of good health, but we’ve heard it so much that it’s become stale. That’s worthy of tears, because this “ancient advice” is extremely valuable and exciting when applied.

How To (re)Ignite Your Passion For Healthy Living 

The way to eat more broccoli is not to focus on “eating broccoli is good for me.” We covered how people rebel against broccoli and other things as an act of independence. The best way to go about getting back to the basics might be similar to my experience with music: I discovered music on my own, and then I embraced it. That’s step one.

Step 1: Discover it for yourself

vegetables

If you’ve rebelled against vegetables ever since mom made you eat them before dessert, perhaps you need to research them yourself. Look up tasty recipes. Once you’re accustomed to good, real food, things like candy start to lose their appeal. Seriously, I’ll take a fresh mango over a chocolate bar every time.

Find a vegetable that you love, or learn to love one. From there, you can expand your tastes to other vegetables, and soon enough, you might like the concept of vegetables more than you did. That’s just the first step, as it appeals to your basic, primal tastes. The next step is to fully engage your “higher self” with benefits.

Step 2: Find the compelling benefits

colorful mega salad

If we FULLY understood the health benefits of a salad like this, I bet we’d all be eating more of them. The opposite goes for fast food.

In a quick search, I found that broccoli:

  • has compounds like sulforaphane. Studies have found that sulforaphane kills cancer stem cells1, and broccoli sprouts in particular have the highest known concentration of it. Cancer stem cells are essentially the heart of cancer. And suddenly, broccoli and broccoli sprouts (which are the small white strands you see in the salad above) seem delicious! 
  • has other special compounds help to detoxify the body
  • is anti-inflammatory
  • contains a well-known cocktail of vitamins and minerals, each with their own set of health benefits.

How much more intriguing is that than “eat broccoli because it’s good for you!”? Yes, there is actually quite a bit of mystery in plain ol’ broccoli. We don’t fully understand this vegetable’s unique compounds and all they might do for us internally; all we know is that everything we find out is really good news. We could be missing out on some amazing, unknown broccoli health benefits. That makes it at least a little bit more appealing, doesn’t it?

The next thing you want to do is combine the first two steps to reframe the concept.

Step 3: Reframe it

Do you see exercise like this?

Do you see exercise like this? Dark, dreary, and boring?

Do you tend to frame good things in a vague, meaningless, or unappealing way? 

Exercise is a common case of poor framing because many of us see it as “dreaded work that makes us feel tired;” and we have to fight our brain the whole time, because it is telling us to stop and sit on the couch. But when you dig deeper into what exercise really is and what it does, it instantly becomes more appealing.

Exercise is moving. That’s it. You can move by just walking or running. You can move with some weight resistance too. That’s doesn’t sound so torturous, does it? To move? It sounds easy.

beach soccer

Or do you view exercise like this? These young boys who are having the time of their lives get the same exercise benefit doing this as begrudgingly running on a treadmill (and probably more because sand-running is difficult). Even if you don’t live near a beach or have a favorite sport, you can find other ways to view exercise as fun. Watch your favorite TV show as you run on the treadmill. Try to have a good time!

What exercise does for the body is fairly simple, yet exciting. Imagine your body as a road system. Transport cells need to get places to deliver goods and services (vitamins, minerals, repairs). But when the traffic is a bit congested, it makes many of the cells late or no shows to their destination. This would be seen in the form health problems, because your organs are not getting what they need to operate efficiently. Or your problem could be congestion itself in the main roads (arteries). 

Did you know that Ischaemic heart disease—or poor blood flow to the heart—is the #1 cause of death in Western countries? That’s not to “scare you” into exercising, because research shows that method of reasoning doesn’t work (see: smoking). What does work is reframing exercise into something appealing, easy, and fun. 

Exercise increases the speed of traffic inside your body, while at the same time, adding more lanes and roads to increase capacity and blood flow. This means more delivery cells can get through, and they can do it faster. Deliveries are on time, repairs are completed in a timely manner, and operations are smooth. 2

Exercise expands our blood vessels and increases our heart rate to move blood through faster. This is why it improves nearly every bodily function. When you exercise, you’re helping nutrient delivery to every single organ in your body. It also helps your body rid itself of waste and toxins by the same means of increased blood flow. It makes you body a more efficient machine overall, and that’s why we’ve been told so many times to get exercise every day.

People in great shape have lower resting heart rates because their body doesn’t have to work as hard to do what it needs to do. Since they are active and regularly expediting nutrient and waste processing, their body doesn’t need to rush things. But when you’re unhealthy and sedentary, your body is forced to try to expedite this process itself, which you can imagine is difficult when you’re not moving at all. The heart itself is tasked with pumping blood harder and harder, because it’s too weak to get the job done in fewer pumps. This is a good visual image of what happens when you let your heart sit on the couch.

Recap for reigniting your desire for healthy living:

  1. Discover it for yourself: find a way to genuinely like it on YOUR terms, not society’s terms.
  2. Find the compelling benefits: every aspect of healthy living has some seriously amazing benefits. Look them up!
  3. Reframe it: If vegetables are a “necessary evil” in your mind, you’ll struggle to eat healthy. I believe exercise and healthy eating can be reframed to be more appealing and less like a “sacrifice.” I have learned to love healthy living. I was once a halloween candy monster. Now, I don’t like candy because I’ve reframed it as fake food stuffed with harmful chemicals that some guys made in a lab. Vegetables used to be what mom made me eat, but now they’re delicious, life-giving foods. Exercise used to be a chore, and now it makes me feel alive.

You can do it. Start small.

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