A perfect mind, soul, and body are attainable! All you need is 30 seconds, Oprah's new coconut oil, a dash of Tim Ferriss turmeric, and a meditation session by Deepak Chopra that will liberate you from Saṃsāra. And once your every sense has been massaged by the lifestyle guru gods, you shall undergo an apotheosis making you perfectly efficient, productive, and happy.
Except not really, right?
Although many of us try to eat right, exercise regularly, and maybe even meditate once in a while, it isn't easy and none of us achieve it perfectly. Sometimes even those of us who feel like we know many of the answers are not following our own advice. You know why? Because it's hard. You know what I mean. And just when you think you've got it down pat and you've got the ultimate routine to conquer the world, that's usually when you realize that there's a point of tension or a blister or some infraction that you're committing somewhere else in your life that needs work. But here's the beauty of it: accepting these flaws and bad habits is the first step to correct them. While we don't want to wallow or indulge in these bad habits or vices, it's important to recognize our humanity and shortcomings in order to transcend them.
Knowing that we're all struggling on the same path, albeit in slightly different variations, can be helpful, encouraging, and empowering. So here are 3 bad habits that I'm working on for myself. Some with success, others not so much.
Bad Habit # 1: Eating Processed Carbs
I know bread isn't altogether evil. I don't think it's necessary to completely eradicate carbs from your diet – in fact, some carbs are helpful for rapid recovery between workouts. However, it's extremely clear to me that processed carbs are far from necessary. Even the long-held notion that carbs are necessary to deliver protein for hypertrophy-specific workouts has been debunked.
Sugar sucks. It ravages the body and while it's easy to pick on alcohol and dessert, most of my sugar intake comes from bread, rice, and pasta – oh, and pizza; that's basically its own carb category.
And guess what, knowing all this, knowing that these carbs are being processed into sugar and are destroying my body – I still eat them. Sure, I have systems in place to control my intake. I can rationalize and tell you that I want to be a socially active human being and that it's impractical to avoid processed carbs in every shape and form. I could tell you that. But the real reason I eat bread is that I'm used to eating bread. I still eat bread because it tastes good. And maybe because of Oprah...
Maybe someday I'll have the willpower and strength to eradicate all bread from my diet. Maybe I'll find a proper carb substitute and finally go full keto and blast away every single pre-cancer cell in my body. But I'm here to tell you that today, on April whatever, that I'm still eating bread. I will repent of this someday. Maybe.
Bad Habit #2: Being Self-Conscious At The Gym
Every week I go to the gym. I spend about an hour with the rest of the meatheads with arms like tree trunks and legs like behemoths...
...and I proceed to do the following:
- 5 reps of 5 sets of bench press
- 5 sets of 5 reps of back squats
- 5 reps 5 of bicep curls.
I don't row to balance my bench. I should, but I don't. The reason I should is that if you bench without rowing (or any other imbalanced muscle work) your pecs pull on your shoulders and put unnecessary stress on your scapula and whatever else is up there and you end up looking a little like a caveman. Now, I don't really look like a caveman but I think it's fair to say that if I continue in this manner, with heavier weight, I may someday resemble a neanderthal slightly more than I desire.
Despite this knowledge, I just don't want to do it. I like benching, I like squats, I like curls. I don't really want to row, or dead lift, or any other specific back exercises. Why? Because I'm not good at those things yet.
This is actually reflective of a much more systemic problem that I have: I don't like to look like I don't know what I'm doing. This is a much bigger problem than my workout routine. This is a life skill that I'm continually working on (and yes I'm actually working on this one) because it's really helpful to be able to fail in public. To look ridiculous in public, to ask for help and advice in public is almost guaranteed to make me stronger, more effective and, able to grow way faster than someone who has to learn in private. But I'm not great at it and this is why I haven't taken on a good back workout because I don't really know how to do it well and I'm too shy to ask somebody for help.
This is a sin that I'll be sure to repent of faster than others. Mostly because I'm vain and I know the benefits of a strong back are extremely valuable on a superficial as well as functional level. Nevertheless, this week I went to the gym and stuck to my normal routine. But next week will be different. Maybe.
Bad Habit # 3: Adding To My Routine Instead of Simplifying
This is a trap that many of us who are interested in optimizing our lives fall into and I am definitely guilty of it. I become attracted to the glitz and glam of a new routine or a new workout or a new product and think to myself, "YES! This is what I've been waiting for! Fame and fortune are sure to follow if I simply add this technique to my 30 minute morning routine. Never mind that it will require 4 more hours of my day; what I need is just one more tool in my toolbox."
I should clarify. Adding helpful tools that optimize your life isn't a bad thing. If 10 minutes of meditation in the morning decreases your stress or if your new pair of running shorts adds comfort to your afternoon jog then that's great. But it's important to remember that these tools are a means to an end and not the end itself. Instead of constantly adding more to our already busy lives, stripping unnecessary things away often results in a much more dramatic increase in well-being. Even the benefits of adding to our life can sometimes be more from the negative things they push out. While there are obvious quantifiable benefits to drinking more water and eating more vegetables, some of the benefits of these habits are that they fill your stomach and leave less room for soda or junk food.
I don't know if I'll ever truly be rid of this habit. I'm hard-wired to be on the look out for the latest productivity trend or nutritional buzz. Consumer culture feeds into this as well. But I'm aware of this tendency and I will continue to check in and make sure it doesn't overtake my life. I recently got rid of almost all my social media apps and it's been quite the revelation. It may not last, but it's provided some great perspective.
This List Could Be Massive
But you get the point. The writers and gatekeepers on lifestyle websites aren't perfect. We're all just trying to be a little bit better. And sometimes that's the most valuable information you can receive.
Whew, I feel better thanks for listening. Next week I'll be covering my selfie addiction...