If you’ve ever turned on a television during America’s holiday season (and for all intents and purposes, it’s right around the corner), you’ve already seen it. The next greatest cure to the shortcomings you never knew you had, THE best way to get in shape, THE must-have supplement, THE “can’t miss” diet of <insert year here>. Everybody wants to help you lose weight, look great. And as long as you’re willing to shell out a few easy payments of $whatever.99 you’ll have this season’s “it” fix. Atkins. South Beach. P90X. Insanity. Hell, I heard that if you snort a few lines of OxiClean you can drop a couple extra pounds before fruitcake season (people, this is sarcasm, please do no snort OxiClean under any circumstances, then come complaining to me when you’re dead. RIP, Billy Mays). And the worst part is, they’re not wrong. These products/services/plans can get results, and oftentimes DO (I mean, those “after” pictures are coming from somewhere, right?). No, friends, these pitchmen (and women) and their latest wonder-products are not the reason you’re not seeing the results you want. To quote a truly bad Hoobastank lyric (even by Hoobastank standards), the reason is YOU.
Somehow, we — as a society — became convinced that a lifetime built around eating, overeating, 37% beef in our Taco Bell meat, and a sandwich called the McRib, could be undone/repaired/fixed with a couple weeks of not eating carbs. Then we got pissed when it didn’t work (and probably ate some more, in lieu of feeling feelings). We all bought in to the golden calf of the “diet” instead, provided it had a catchy-enough name and was broken into the proper amount of east payments.
Dieting is an easy go-to for self improvement because society has taught us that A) we need to be physically perfect to have self-worth and B) we will never be physically perfect, but should keep trying anyway. But what society fails to notice is that dieting is a temporary solution to a bigger problem — like trying to patch the hole in the Titanic with a Dora the Explorer Band-Aid. Because when you diet as a verb, what you’re really saying is that you want a quick, easy way to justify how you used to eat. The infomercial industry lives off this mentality…”Lose six pounds in six days!” … “Only 30 minutes gets you the abs you always wanted!” … “The Shake-Weight: now available in hetero!” …you know the pitch you’re gonna get from these guys as soon as you see the Ab-Rocker and that dude with the ponytail who for some reason thinks people want to look like he does.
The undeniable truth of the matter is that you don’t need a slogan, you need a life change. And you need the motivation to put it into place. If you ask any schmuck off the street how to get in better shape, they will give you some variation of the following: eat less, do more, make time. You already have all the answers right in front of you, you just need to come to terms with the fact that self-improvement (whether physical or otherwise) only happens after dedication, discipline, and time. Short-term solutions yield short-term results. Do gimmicks have their place? Sure they do. And they can be a great way to kick off a life change, but what happens if you make it through P90X with the results you want, then immediately return to the sedentary lifestyle that got you needing P90X in the first place? What you need is a catalyst that will enable you to lead the life you want in order to be the sort of person you want to be, and maintain that life working toward the best possible You that you can be. Does that mean you can’t be happy or enjoy the things you used? No way. Does it mean you can’t rest or be content until you achieve total and indisputable perfection? Absolutely not. Because then you’re just a slave to society’s standards of unattainable physical perfection, instead of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (but on the for reals, that stuff is so good. Chunky Monkey for life), but you’re still in servitude to some sort of vice, rather than living the life you were meant to. The life you were made for.
…If you hadn’t guessed already, with my subtle-as-a-jackhammer allusions, at this point I am speaking about more than just being physically fit. While I do see an immense value in staying healthy and physically active in a world that’s increasingly focused on limiting your movement to just switching from one glowing screen to another, the problem of short-term-fix vs. lifechange is much larger. Every day people, as a whole, seem to become more self-centered, less-caring creatures that only feed their egos with the empty calories of societal Big Macs (ex. self-worth based on occupation. social status, size of paycheck, etc.). Without getting too preachy (but it wouldn’t be a holiday-season preview if I didn’t whip out the ol’ soapbox, right?), this is sin in a nutshell. Now you might be the sort of person who believes sin is just a made up concept, and that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God belong in the same category of fictional creations as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Joakim Noah; but the fact remains that the cheat-the-system mentality (whether it be with Rogaine or an apple that will shortcut us to omniscience) is embedded in each of us from birth, and has been proven for millennia to be utterly ineffective. If you want a better body, lower cholesterol, or a stomach that will get you your own reality show (though I doubt hooking up with Snooki really requires 19-pack abs), you don’t need a diet, you need a lifestyle change. You need to turn away from the dollar-menu-caliber food of your old life and embrace the sustenance of friends, family, love, kindness to strangers, and the things that will make you the best You possible. For me, this includes a relationship with Jesus and his SuperFriends, and drawing on that positivity when the world has run out of everything except assholes and people who fancy themselves their own gods (and I’ll admit I fall into each of those categories on a regular basis).
Spiritual beliefs aside (and I’ll suggest that there isn’t a worse place than the internet for religious/theological debates), I just want to encourage all of you to adopt a lifechange that includes feasting on the vitalizing morsels of happiness and love and family, and ignore all the enticements of self-pity, self-centeredness, and self-importance. And I can promise you both about committing to a physical lifechange as well as a personal lifechange: It will not always be easy, it will not always be fun, and it will certainly not be over after 90 days. But it will be worth it. When you are able to look in the mirror and see yourself reflecting the results of your own unbending effort, sculpted into the person you always knew was within, it will all have been worth it. And by then, you won’t be able to go back to who you were. By then, you won’t want to.
Let’s see OxiClean do that.
PS I am happy to share my workout routine (either physical or spiritual) with anyone who would like to copy/adapt it for their own use. It’s pretty simple: I go to the gym 3-5 times a week, I eat about 2,500 calories a day (I try to eat more for what I want to do, physically, but usually don’t have time), and I keep myself motivated by watching Fight Club every night before bed. Brad, if you’re reading this, it’s not weird that I do that, ok?