Do you want to be more fit? Be in better health? Look better, move better, feel better?
What about saving money? If so, read on, and let’s see if you still want to save money by the time you get to the end of this article.
Most of us know. We see it every day. We might feel it every day. We wake up, and it either hits us in the face or we feel it in the knees. When we turn on the news, it might be there. When we read the journal, it might be there.
When was the last you made a health decision based on data? And do you think data alone is enough to keep you going?
I think this is important to discuss because there’s enough data. We’re not at a loss of health experts telling us why we should workout, whether it’s because it staves off Alzheimer’s or not doing so increases the chances that we die ten years earlier.
Study after study showing that we’re getting fatter each year. Healthcare costs are rising. People are getting sicker. There’s a bigger burden on the economy due to the aging population and the rising costs of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Healthcare costs the United States nearly $4 trillion and costs the average American over $11,000 per year. Of course, a primary reason healthcare costs are rising is because of the aging population and various technologies. And while rising healthcare costs isn’t a bad thing when looked at in relations to better health outcomes, that’s not the case with the U.S., where people are getting sicker each year.
At least that’s the picture data paints. While you may not need all the data because you can see the reality for yourself, you can understand quite clearly what it all may mean.
Data can only do so much to help you make the right decisions. In this case, decisions to improve and support your health.
What data do you need in order to start the process of change?
Despite most of us knowing, we sweep the data and science under the rug. Perhaps we conveniently ignore objectivity in favor of ‘enjoying our lives’ or not carrying the onus of taking responsibility for our health. For some of the older population, there’s the issue of “it’s always been the way we done things. Old habits die hard. You can’t just change something you’ve been doing for 30 years. I’m afraid it won’t work.”
I believe that’s absolutely true. The longer you’ve been doing something, the deeper, more etched, the neurological patterning is in the area of the brain that controls subconscious behaviors. The human body generally hates and is fearful of change. Combine length of time with emotions and you have a recipe for a concrete habit.
We know if we get more fit, we’ll save money. We probably won’t go out to each as much. We’ll save on healthcare costs. We’ll decrease our healthcare costs. We’ll be less of a burden to our friends, families, and social structures. We’ll save our country more money so more of it can be funneled to education, infrastructure, technological advancement, and food. Doing so may get you labeled as a… patriot?
We know if we drink alcohol, smoke, and eat trash, we’re going to look, feel, and move like trash. Most of us don’t take these habits to excess, but we do them enough that they prevent us from ‘achieving our fitness goals’ in a more timely manner.
Though smoking rates have gone down drastically in the United States (the evidence against smoking is just way too clear and there are many policies undermining the tobacco industry), we still drink and eat too much of the wrong things.
… for many people, especially those who have struggled with their weight, logic and reason isn’t usually the best remedy to combat emotion and mood.
Logic vs. emotions?
If someone is eating with their feelings, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to shape their behaviors through data.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Data shows eating processed sugars is bad for you. You should ditch the sodas, the cakes, the cookies.
Eating 2.5 cups of vegetables will decrease your chances of cancer by 14%. Decreasing red meat consumption will decrease your chances of colon cancer by 7%. Increasing your intake of red, peppery foods will help you sweat more.
If you eat ‘x’ amount of calories above ‘y’, you’ll gain weight (and you’ll probably be frustrated at it).
There are data points for nearly any nutritional inquiry out there. Some data points are stronger than others, giving us the ability to fine-tune how we approach customized solutions. However, people still aren’t taking action, despite having the minimal viable amount of information required to get healthier.
Money vs. emotions
And if money isn’t a strong enough incentive, what is? After all, there are two primary drivers of human fulfillment – love and work. Most people place pay and salary at the top of their list when looking for a job, but when it comes to saving money by taking care of their health, what happens?
Most people will probably look at the financial figures above and gasp in horror at how much money they’re flushing down the toilet. They’ll think, “wow, $10,000 – if I took care of myself for five years, I’d be able to be a BMW or a Benz.” Yes, you could.
The problem is, this scenario doesn’t apply to everyone. The average considers that there are people who spend an absurd amount of money trying to fix their health versus those who don’t. Most likely, it doesn’t apply to you.
If you’re generally health and under the age of 65, then the cost-savings most definitely may not apply to you. Trying to convince a 30-year old to take care of their health now so they don’t pay for their healthcare later is a battle in futility.
The benefits and realization of cost-savings don’t usually show up until later, way later.
If you’re 40, when do you think you’ll see cost savings? In 10, 20, 30 years? When you’re eligible for Medicare at age 65?
Do you really want to wait that long to realize the pay-off? It’s one thing to wait 10 years for your mortgage equity to build up so you make $100,000 when you sell the house. It’s another story if you go to the gym day-in and day-out in hopes of having better health later. Better health is just so… subjective, vague, and enigmatic.
While we know exercising is great to do right now, it’s generally not appealing, either. Results right now feel fantastic. And if we can’t get results right now, at least we shouldn’t have to work so hard for the later pay-off.
Fitness is not a mortgage. At the same time, it is. You’re building what’s called ‘sweat equity’. However, many people don’t see it that way, nor do they want to. The folks who are involved with fitness, like coaches, athletes, and adventurers, of course, see things differently; they’re a different breed, and they were brought up differently.
Having worked with over 300 clients, I have first-hand experience speaking with people in their 50’s and 60’s who don’t take the appropriate responses to their doctor’s warnings about losing weight. They’ll continue on their path of self-destruction until they blow out their knees while bending down to grab their kids, blow out their back while getting up from bed, or throw out their shoulder while reaching for a glass of water.
These types of things happen all too often, and they shouldn’t. But they do. And they happen despite having knowledge of the risks.
If someone understands the risks of undertaking a certain behavior after being warned many times, what does that mean? It may be ignorance. It may be gambling. It may be ‘I’m trying’. Whatever it is, it’s not good enough.
And that’s because for many people, logic and reason aren’t enough.
There’s that saying, you have to ‘fight fire with fire’.
What data do you need to be presented with to alter your behaviors?
I am all for enjoying ourselves with a night out on the town. I regularly enjoy a nice brew with the wife and friends, I like me a nice burger, and I’ll occasionally stay up late (writing articles on sleep, no less). I also train on a regular basis, eat well more often, and will prioritize hygiene and sleep.
It’s about the general, not the conditional and relative.
The point of this email is not to try to convince or persuade you. The point of this post is to let you know that no amount of data, research, science, or cost-savings analysis will help you if you’re not willing to commit to making some changes.
I believe the best way to battle emotions is with emotions. If you’re trying to alter a behavior that’s rooted in emotions, then it’ll probably be best to identify emotional reasons to alter that behavior.
Those changes can, and should, start small. No matter where you are in the fitness journey, start small. It’s easier to build up from there.