Kindergarten Teacher: class, in a couple of weeks we're going to be getting a visit from... SANTA CLAUSE!
Five-year-old me: (in an aside to my buddy) you know, there's no such thing, right? That's baby stuff.
My buddy: (nods while internalizing the truth) huh. That makes so much make sense.
Rest of the class: *domino effect of whimpers leading to uproarious cacophony of wailing and gnashing of teeth*
Kindergarten Teacher: CLASS! Class. Listen to me. Of course it's not baby stuff. Listen. I'm 30 years old! And I STILL believe in Santa Clause.
Five-year-old me: Lady, there's no way (long pause) that you're 30 years old.
And off to the principal's office I went, again.
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be missing the basic human wiring which feels compelled to go with a crowd, seek their affirmation and acceptance, vie for their approval, eat like them, think like them, live like them. As American health and fitness is acceleratingly degenerating, this personality trait has helped me a lot. It makes it a lot easier for me to be healthy, because I just don’t ever make food choices or lifestyle behavior choices based on popularity, fitting in, or what everyone else is doing. I realize that that’s counter to the social nature of humans, and so it’s very difficult for others to entertain this thinking.
But, I would challenge you, every time you’re starting to feel “weird” for making a “different” food choice or stress management choice (Ie - going to bed on time) or grown-up decision, that counterculture feeling is leading you in the right direction. The sideward glances you get for skipping ice cream or alcohol are confirmation that you are on the right path. The judgmental tone of friends and family when you stop eating bread is a powerful acknowledgment that you are working your way into an ever-increasingly small sliver of Americans who have decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, strokes, cancers, neurodegeneration, and other metabolic conditions.
There might’ve been a time where adhering to your tribe’s principles would’ve kept you alive longer. It once made sense. That is no more the case. It hasn’t been for a while in the modern world.
A lot of times people get hung up on their healthy lifestyle efforts, thinking, “why do I have to try so much harder than everyone else?” Or, they think how difficult it is to “stay strong” in a sea of “normal” behavior. Or, they get self-conscious about their own “weird” meals and activities. But, at least 88 percent of Americans aren’t metabolically healthy:
So... to what are your comparing yourself? The norms and averages of our culture are abysmal with regard to human health. Noticing that there is a gap between how you live and the generally-accepted lifestyle of others around you is precisely what you want.
I recognize that personally I have a hard time relating to this struggle. For a very long time I’ve been confused by people telling me about parties and holidays and weekends as a factor in their self-sabotage. Whereas I’m repulsed by beliefs or behaviors that gain momentum and popularity, most people feel incapable of exerting a vote on their personal behavior if the tide is going a certain direction. I see it in their politics, their career choices, their food choices, and so on. And when confronted by an opposing popular belief or behavior, they tend to get defensive, because it creates a feeling of rift in their social hope. They want to join others or win people over to their side so that they can feel balanced in their tribal setting again. I’m telling you that there’s a better way, where you don’t have to let everyone around you run your emotions and life decisions.
I’m not saying that we’d all do best to be hermits or avoid social interaction. I’m just saying that you have to divest your health decisions from what’s popular. When you choose what to put in your stomach, that has to be based on how you fundamentally want to run your life. Why simply base it on what’s available, what’s popular, what others expect? Those others aren’t faced with the consequences of how you treated yourself.
And I’ve encountered the opposite incarnation of this same propensity. People will triumphantly announce to me that others at their work place have started a walking group to help everyone stay accountable to 10,000 steps per day. With hopeful anticipation, they look at my face to get a nod of assent. I just look at them dumbfounded. Why would you wait on others, average Americans no less, to get healthy? I don’t get it. I don’t understand that. I would never, ever, even imagine awaiting social approval to take care of myself or my family in a better manner. If I went with the tide, I would’ve drowned a long time ago.
I have a lot of clients who travel for business, run lunch meetings, etc. In total exasperation, they’ll ask me what they should do “when there’s no ‘good’ options”. DON’T EAT. “But I have to eat,” they think. No. No you don’t. Who told you that? Why do you think you need to be like every basic faltering American who can’t imagine skipping a few hours without food in their gullet? Be an individual. Be abnormal. Quit choosing every second of your day based on other people’s expectations.
Because somewhere around 90% of them are actively working themselves needlessly into an early grave.