This post was inspired by a recent article that I’m sure many of you saw. It documented the fact that people who underwent gastric bypass or other medical weight-loss procedures were more likely post-op to become suicidal. By the end of this post you’ll have a better idea of why that is than the author of that article.
The article reminded me of an important message that I would like to get out to anyone pursuing a better experience of life through health, fitness, and any related disciplines.
When our minds don’t work in a way that produces results (happiness, realizing desires for our lives, rich relationships, etc.), we often tend to turn to our bodies as an alternate way of achieving the results that we seek. This is more common that you think, and I saw it often in my coaching.
“(Weight-loss and fitness) are not the solution to anything non-physical. (They) will not make you happy or get you love. You may be surprised how many people believe that they will.“
Much of my life’s work has been about health and fitness, so I’m not suggesting that health and fitness are not important to your quality of life; quite the contrary. What I am suggesting is that (weight-loss and fitness) are not a substitute for anything, and they are not the solution to anything non-physical—like self-image and perceived worth. Weight-loss and fitness will not make you happy or get you love. You may be surprised how many people believe that they will.
In my years as a fitness and health coach, and the owner of an athletic conditioning gym, I couldn’t help but notice that I had a gym full of clients and employees who were just generally unhappy people, and who were certain that the solution to their low quality of life was getting or looking fit, or some variation on that theme like losing weight or generally addressing their appearance in some way. There was nothing unusual about my clientèle or staff; the percentage of people I just described I’m sure mirrors the general public, with the only difference being the chosen substitute for greater happiness.
Everything I could teach in the context of a gym was made by most to fit into their existing beliefs about life and fulfillment. Those beliefs were formed from the messaging in advertising campaigns and general misinformation. Which means, nothing would change for them except some temporary satisfaction and potential exhilaration from working out, and whatever praise and acknowledgment that came their way as a result of their improved appearance (if there was any). Sure, their health improved marginally, but to what end other than a bit more vitality and improved function. Some see those as an end unto themselves; I do not. I see them as merely a slice of what’s possible for someone in terms of the true quality of their day-in and day-out experience of being alive. In other words, being happy and excited about life. If they weren’t experiencing those things when they arrived, nothing that they were paying me for would change that. Changing that was what I really wanted for them and, I’m certain, what they actually wanted for themselves.
“You probably know someone who is basically unhappy, and using a relationship as a kind of substitute.“
Here’s a corollary: I think by now most people are now generally aware that, if you had to choose between diet and exercise as the most constructive way to the goal of health, the intelligent choice is diet. Even if you have the luxury of doing both, getting the diet right first makes the rest of the process significantly easier.
In the same way, between mental outlook and health, the one which will contribute more to your quality of life is definitely mental outlook. And again, when both are possible (as they are for all of us), mental outlook is the initial target. Yet, in both scenarios, that is not how people generally behave.
Instead addressing life head on, people will often look at completely unrelated areas of life as either another means to the end, or for results that will provide a compensating factor to their generally poor quality of life. You probably know someone who is basically unhappy, and using a relationship as a kind of substitute. From the outside, it’s easy to spot the folly in that, but at the same time many of us are susceptible to the same folly, only we would use things like money or weight loss or fitness in the place of a relationship. You know what you would tell the person looking to a relationship for the wrong reasons: get to the root of your unhappiness first. Not only can you bring far more to the relationship when you do, but it is also the only way you will know if this is actually a good relationship.
“Which would your children rather you be, healthy or happy?“
Maybe you see yourself in here somewhere.
If so, my sincere wish for you is that you take a quick stock of your mental outlook on life, and always put your energies into raising that bar if it needs it… first. Just as the folly of unhappy people getting married, seeking riches, or a thinner body, or bragging rights of any kind in advance of a thoroughly positive mental outlook is looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Answer this: which would your children rather you be, healthy or happy? You can be both, but the answer to that question tells you which you should be looking at first.
So I’m going to focus on mental outlook a lot in these posts so that when we do get around to talking about health we’ll be doing it from the best possible position: where we know what it is and what it does, and not foolishly expecting it to be the answer to our bigger quality of life.
Just so you know, the right reasons to pursue health and all of its qualities are more vitality, better functional capacity, and longevity. In my many years in the fitness business, I never had one person tell me that is why they came to see me.