The idea to humanize fitness and health has come up a lot with the people I work with, recently, with the new year coming around.
When I ask about what goals we want to set and the specifics of them. I hear some very specific and perfectionist ideas of how to become healthy.
Go to bed before 10 am. One glass of wine per week max. No more coffee creamer. Always exercise even if I don’t have time.
There is a very old model to explain human behavior called Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This model of human behavior explains what we as humans prioritize the most. When one layer is satisfied, we look to satisfy the next layer. If we ever try to skip layers, it typically leads to some depression, apathy, and burnout.
Layer 1 is food and water. Layer 2 is safety, shelter, and basic health. Layer 3 is social connections, belonging, and intimacy. Layer 4 is self-esteem, respect from others, and having a sense of achievement.
The reason I bring up the hierarchy of needs is that we often see influencers and unrealistic expectations of health and fitness to where we feel we have not satisfied that 4th layer at all (self-esteem and achievement). We then begin to sacrifice aspects in layers 1-3 to feel achievement. This becomes problematic.
As humans, we have to respect our needs and wants. We should all want achievement and high self-esteem, but not at the cost of everything else.
Here are some examples of how we can humanize fitness and our lifestyle:
There are roughly 700 hours in a month. Rather than dreading the few hours you engage in less healthy habits, emphasize the majority of hours on healthy ones.
I have had a few clients that love going out drinking every once in a while with friends. We estimated they spend 5-15 hours a month grabbing drinks. They expressed their concern about how they feel like it’s going to hinder their progress and even move them backward.
First, I asked them how much they value drinks with friends. My clients told me they really enjoy it as they work all week and like spending time with their friends. In addition, they would feel almost empty if they couldn’t do that.
So I would tell them the 10ish hours a month they spend on getting drinks with friends is about 1.5% of their month. What are you doing with the other 98.5% of the month?
Many explained they felt hyper-fixated on that 1.5% of their month. I finally explained if that small fraction of the month is spent recharging and making you happy, then keep doing it. Place emphasis on what you do with the rest of the month.
If maybe 20% of your time every month were spent engaging in bad habits, I would be concerned, but 1.5% isn’t much to be concerned with.
I say the same thing when it comes to calories!
I had a client obsessed with the coffee creamer she was drinking. She would constantly tell me she knows it was bad and she just couldn’t give it up no matter how hard she tried.
The creamer she used for coffee was maybe 30 calories and with some sugar. But it made her morning. She loved it, and it made her happy. At roughly 2000 calories per day, that is also 1.5% of her calories. I told her to emphasize the remaining calories and make good decisions there.
So when it comes to humanization.
We have to take a step back and understand there are some things we would feel empty if we didn’t have. Completely restricting yourself from all enjoyment for self-esteem and achievement will cause a rebound effect that will spiral you into feeling unfulfilled.
For the final takeaway…
Indulge in the small things. Place effort and focus on the big picture. Realize you are human. You have a job, friends, and family. And you also want to be the best version of yourself. You will never move backward due to 5% if the other 95% is strong and effortful.
Stay happy and determined, not empty and successful!