Why we’re all so unhealthy… and how to fix it!
I’ll get straight to it, unless something changes, we’re all f**ked. Lucky for you, you’re reading this, and therefore its now up to you whether you want to go with the flow and end up at the bottom of the pit, or you make the change and improve your health, fitness, physique and life. This will cover the problem, but also how to fix it!
The thing is, life has changed so much over the past few decades, mainly in awesome ways, but a few elements of this have left us overweight and/ or unhealthy. Here’s the killer points (so to speak)- 1. Activity- you know this, but we don’t exercise enough. 2. Stress- you know this, but you don’t see the MASSIVE physiological health impact this has. 3. Food- you know this, our diet is poor, but our attempts to make it healthy are often even worse! Here’s the details- followed by a step towards a solution to this complex, integrated problem.
Activity (and the lack thereof)
It amazes me more and more every time I hear the old “I don’t have time to work out” excuse. Crazy really. We know that in general, we don’t do enough exercise. We need to do more activity out of the gym too! Most of us sit working for long periods of time, meaning we burn less calories in a day. This give our body the opportunity to burn very little, and start to build all of the metabolic and physical issues that are now commonplace- low energy, physical pain, high BP, poor blood sugar control, high resting HR, obesity.
And to make things worse, the “solution” may be adding to the problem. Look at the list of issues- now, for someone starting at this point, if the exercise approach as I often hear is to “go all out” (the approach taken by many so called personal trainers- luckily here at FX we know better) then this leads to higher injury risk, more physical pain, less energy, increased BP, and all sorts of acute issues.
The fact is, that sitting all day, getting mentally exhausted at work, dreading the gym, getting to the gym with low energy, smashing a session, increasing physical pain, going home, not sleeping, feeling you’re incapable because you felt so shitty during the workout, and repeating it, all so you can tell yourself well done- isn’t going to help you to make a real change. And that brings us nicely onto our next area to be aware of- stress.
Stress is undoubtedly linked to all sorts of illnesses and issues, but lets focus on the metabolic issues. We are evolved perfectly to have our stress response work to prepare us to run away from the lion, chase and catch our food, or fight over the remote*. But we’re clever. Our stress response see’s danger and prepares us for activity via chemical and hormonal changes acting on us- increased Blood pressure, increased heart rate, and more in preparation for this intense burst of energy.
Here’s the problem, when you last got a massive stress response, chances are, it was to an email, or a meeting, or traffic. Not something that required a burst of intense activity. Unfortunately, our body struggles to differentiate the two when it comes to stress, so this preparation to work hard isn’t dealt with by physical work, and our body needs to kick the opposite into action to then control this response. The thing is, several times a day, for months on end, leads to a chronically stressed individual- which means a lot, but the key point is that this individual is far more likely to be physically and mentally unhealthy, in pain, less productive, and unhappy.
So, how do we manage this? There’s some great ways, such as meditation, organisation, and being realistic about how much you’re able to do. Then some less productive ways- namely, comfort food.
Here’s something you should really pay attention to with regards to food and our diet in general- and if comfort food is your go to, it only makes the issue worse.
*I’m not going to state the obvious here…..
Let’s be honest, as a society- our diet is pretty horrendous. We eat foods that are literally made to make you want to eat more than you need. In addition, they’re generally difficult for your body to cope with- high salt, high sugar, high fat, and can cause all sorts of digestion issues. And even worse the nutrient density of these foods is generally low, leading to deficiencies in various areas. This combination of low nutrient density, high calorie density, abundance of food, and the psychology of great advertising campaigns for junk food is making us fat.
And here’s another HUGE issue in the context of food- most of the advice you get on what’s important is probably not right for you. Go vegan? Go Carnivore? Just get the numbers and you’ve nothing else to consider?
All of these approaches are over simplified- great if the underlying advice is right for you- not so much if it doesn’t solve your problem. For example, a low carb diet may be great for someone who consumes an abundance of carbs a day and uses this advice to cut out a lot of junk foods- not so good for someone who see’s this as advice to cut out fruit and veg, but live off unlimited burgers and Bacon.
In general, people buy into a diet type (maybe based on bad advice), often falling between either a diet that’s too low on energy density, too low on nutrient density or generally unsustainable for other reasons, leading to the “diet” being dreaded*.
This leads to the “I can’t lose weight” attitude- leading to helplessness- leading to the lack of activity because “what’s the point?”….. leading to increased stress…. And so on.
*As a side note, I was told not to use the word diet when I was first studying nutrition, as it puts people off wanting to lose weight….. come on, really? Yes a “diet” may sound tough, but it will also help you to get control of your health, happiness, performance, and body. It’s not something to fear or avoid!
Now, the combined impact on health.
Activity, stress and nutrition are ALL crucial in health, and all impact each other. Exercise is a form of stress, but with a little planning, can be an awesome tool to improve health. Stress impacts nutrition- how we digest food, what foods we want, our metabolism, and more. Exercise can help to manage stress and metabolism. Adequate nutrition is needed to support exercise. It’s all linked- so let’s start to appreciate that fact a little more.
The above may all sound like doom and gloom, but the solution is generally pretty simple. Exercise, sleep enough, eat appropriately and manage stress.
This is where the usual “how the hell do you expect me to do that with ………?!”.
If that’s your response- go back to the start, and re read this article. Your current approach is probably leading you down a dark path…. Now is the time to change.
With regards to activity- make exercise a priority every day- even just a short walk- 10-15 minutes when you wake up in a morning. If you can add some aerobic training and resistance training in too then great- but don’t guess when it comes to exercise. Get some advice and go from there.
With regards to stress- take a step back… what tasks are essential, and what are adding to your stress that can be managed better or passed to someone else? Make sure you set aside time for yourself to relax (it’s ok to be selfish sometimes), sleep enough, meditate, and start to view controlling stress as a key part of your health.
And finally, with regards to nutrition, start to understand your food a little better. Appreciate the value of both the energy AND the nutrients in food- control calories by choosing nutrient dense foods and do this alongside consuming appropriate macronutrients. Eating a vegetarian diet with meat on the side, and calories somewhere reasonable is probably a great place to start.
Here at FX, all of these areas are key considerations for us, and taking an individual approach using our proven systems is guaranteed to get you great results. If you’re ready to make a change to your health, physique or performance, simply fire me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will help you to get started on your journey!
Thanks for sticking with this, and I really hope you use this as the inspiration you need to make a change. Take a look at our online courses for some advanced content here or check out the rest of the blog using the button below!
Josh Kennedy MSc, ASCC, CSCS
Personal Trainer/ Performance Coach