Your Own Worst Enemy: How We Can Create (And Avoid) An Unhealthy and Injurious Lifestyle

By Cristi Waterson

Posted 4 years agoHEALTH

Why does it seem so hard to stay in shape or otherwise live a healthy life? None of us wants to get out of breath tying our shoes, but that’s where a lot of us are. This sucks. What sucks harder though, is when that hard brick of reality slams us in the face and we are forced to admit that being out of shape and unhealthy is our fault.

We aren’t talking about people with diseases here or debilitating injuries. We are talking about people who lead a sedentary lifestyle and live off junk food. The choices we make determine what we are. 

That said, making a choice to get in shape and be healthy and doing it isn’t easy. Our brains are hardwired for routine and have a profound dislike when we try and change things around. It’s an old survival mechanism from back in the caveman days. If what our ancient ancestors did keep them alive, their brains told them to keep at it. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Now our survival driven caveman brains are struggling to adapt to the realities of modern life the same way our grandparents struggle to work a smartphone. Many of us are technically surviving by sitting around all day, eating fast food, and drinking sodas. Except we aren’t. We are slowly killing ourselves.

If our caveman brain could understand that, it would have us out at the gym every and eating fresh veggies instead of watching our third “just one more episode.” But no. It thinks, “Good. Lots of fat stored up for the winter, in case we run out of mammoth.

The survival instincts that kept humanity alive for 150,000 plus years is the thing killing so many of us right now by making us think two more slices of pizza after we’re full is a good idea. This makes us our own worst enemy when it comes to getting fit and living a healthy lifestyle. How can we change this? The first step is understanding why things are so hard on our old caveman brain.

Doing Nothing Has Never Been Easier or More Fun!!!

We are responsible for the choices we make regarding our health. Unfortunately, the world makes healthy decisions a little difficult to make. Back in our father’s and grandfather’s day, guys had to put in some effort to have some fun. What else was there to do? They only had three channels on TV – and maybe PBS or a UHF station. Watch some of the old shows on Hulu. They will make you appreciate Season 8 of Game of Thrones. Sure, they had classic games, but a quarter was a lot more money back then. Plus, you still had to walk to the arcade and stand around.

It isn’t exactly fair or accurate to say those earlier generations had it easier when it came to a healthy lifestyle. Especially given the fact that millennials are the fittest and healthiest generation ever – physically anyway (pops a Xanax). But it’s not entirely false or inaccurate either. It isn’t that older generations were inherently more inclined to be active, but the world gave them far more limited options when it came to having a life. If guys wanted to do something back then, they had to do something.

Want proof? Look at the newer Mountain Dew adds. They’re funny weird or all about sitting on your butt and playing video games. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Games are fun and as good for the mind as a workout is for the heart. Anyway, Mountain Dew’s core message in their ads is that they make what people do for fun better. Fun now being gaming and hanging out after some medicinal fried chicken.

Now, look at this old Mountain Dew Commercial. This isn’t “game fuel.” This is some dude doing real-life Tomb Raider shit swinging from rope to rope across a river. There’s a compilation of other old Mountain Dew commercials where people are waterskiing behind a horse and jumping off cliffs.

This is what people did when they were bored back in the day before we could binge every episode of Futurama or play PUBG until our eyeballs bled. It’s no wonder why it was easier to be in better shape – at least the ones who didn’t wind up in wheelchairs. The significant risk for us now is type 2 diabetes. 

Of course, the commercials are an exaggeration, but people did get out more and do things more often back then. Even going out took more effort. Now we can get dates via Tinder and apps like Grubhub bring us our food. And who else is counting the days before we get that one Charmin app we all know is coming?

Taking Responsibility and Changing Our Lives

It’s ultimately up to us what sort of life we live. On paper, the choice is easy. A sedentary life and poor nutrition zaps our energy, dampens all our good emotions while boosting the depression and anxiety, all while leading us to an early death.

On the other hand, a healthy lifestyle means more energy, a stronger body, better mental health, and exercise has been proven to enhance your sexual health. Who doesn’t want that?

That dumbass caveman. That’s who. So, what can we do about him?

More Than One Thing

This one is easier said than done. For something to become a habit, a person needs to do whatever new thing for a minimum of twenty-one days straight. It takes about a month for most people, though. Skipping a day resets the clock. This can make a reasonable workout schedule, like working out three days a week, hard to establish. Which shows us why going from unhealthy to healthy is so hard. It takes a multifaceted plan.

It isn’t just working out, a better diet, or making the time for self-care. It’s all of these things and more. It’s a new way of living that is well worth it. You aren’t making one task a habit. You are making a habit of that healthier new life. Sorry to sound like a cheap motivational speaker, but it is what is happening. And here’s what goes into that new life.

Healthy Foods

This is a “Well, Duh!” bit of advice, on the surface. Anybody who has gotten stuck watching late-night infomercials or didn’t fall asleep during health class knows that a proper diet is the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Starting and maintaining a healthy diet isn’t easy. 

The first enemy of healthy eating is convenience. Frozen dinners aren’t fit, but a few minutes in the microwave, while you’re on the toilet watching YouTube videos, is way easier than preparing the quickest healthy meal. And this isn’t counting the times when we’re at work or just out and order fast food.

Let’s be honest here; convenience is going to win more often than we want to admit. Still, cutting that number by half can have a seriously positive impact. This is where you need to strategize against the caveman’s brain. 

One trick is not to buy the frozen dinners, and instead only buy healthy food that you need to prepare. This will suck hard some nights, but it can also teach us a valuable lesson. If we aren’t hungry enough to get off the couch and cook something, chances are we were more bored than hungry in the first place.

The second enemy is cost. Many of us are on tight budgets, and as much as we might like to eat healthily, value meals and store brand frozen dinners with ramen noodles is what our bank statement put on the menu. Cheap food is rarely healthy though there are some exceptions and less expensive options. 

Brown rice, whole grain pasta or bread, frozen vegetables are all healthy and affordable, especially when you avoid the major brands. Canned food like beans and vegetables are an excellent choice too – check the labels and make sure they aren’t loaded down with sugar or salt. It’s incredible how cost-effective making your burritos and spaghetti dinner can be.

But man does not live by bread alone, even if it is on sale. We need more variety. One way to get it is to keep an eye out for deals and use coupons. You don’t even have to clip them anymore. They’re digital and are scanned off your phone — stock up on the sales when you can afford to. 

Don’t Exercise. Train

Jumping on the treadmill at the gym and lifting weights is boring. It’s like doing math problems in school. If there is no immediate point to doing some task, the boredom factor of it goes up to 11. A workout needs to have some meaning other than burning calories for the sake of burning calories.

There are two different ways you can go about this. One is to engage in a physically active sport like rock climbing or cycling. You can start small, like using a beginner climbing wall or only biking a few miles on a level area. Just engaging in the activity will make you stronger and get you in shape.  

The other is to directly link your time in the gym with a sport or activity. MMA, boxing, or even a flag football or softball league is an excellent motivator to hit the gym. These sports require some serious physical aptitude unless you enjoy getting hurt. Even softball is more demanding than most people realize. Ninety-four thousand two hundred seventy-three softbal injuries were reported in 2015, which ranks it 7th out of 33 sports when it comes to danger.

Get a Workout Buddy

A workout partner can be a friend or significant other who works out with you. It’s a great way to stay motivated or be guilt-tripped (in a good way) into working out on days you don’t want to. Looking for a workout partner is also a great way to meet people. Networking and socializing is a growing reason people are joining gyms.

What about working out with your girlfriend? That’s a great idea of boosting your stamina and bonding even closer!

Health is More than Physical Fitness

The mind and body are not separate things. Letting stress, worries, and the pressures of adulting every day get the better of you is an excellent way to develop serious health problems. Not correctly coping with stress can lead to an increased risk of everything from heart disease, diabetes, to cancer. 

Physical exercise is a way to cope with these problems. Which is one of the reasons millennials are more fit than previous generations – getting rid of all that depression and anxiety? Still, you can’t push all of those feelings away by hiding in the gym. Find other ways to take care of the other parts that make up who you are. Your mental health and emotional wellbeing are just as crucial as a healthy, fit body.

This is also one of those areas where things can get dicey since there are a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms out there to help us pretend our inner demons and daily aggravations aren’t continually kicking us in the spiritual gonads. A couple of drinks or medicinal fried chicken at the end of a hard day or going full-on hermit with a new game on your day off as a way to take the edge off is okay. Just don’t overdo it. A good rule of thumb is that if you want it, you’re good. If you need it, you’re staring down a long road of problems.

Also, there is a vast difference between being worried about something going on in your life or feeling blah for a day, and severe mental illness like anxiety and depression. If it seems like negative emotions are weighing you down, and you can’t shake them, it might be time to see a therapist.

About the author Cristi Waterson

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