Consistency Beats Intensity: Health, Part I

This is the second of a 3-part article about the Consistency Beats Intensity philosophy. On the first part we discussed the financial aspects of the compounding effect. On this article we will discuss how consistency and compounding will help us reach our goals relating to personal health and well-being.

Importance of Health

It would not be far-fetched to assume that all of us know the importance of health. Whenever we get sick, we experience discomfort, pain, and our normal routine gets disrupted. We know innately that having good health is important so that we can continue to do the things that we want to do.

This blog is about Technology and Financial Independence, so where does health fit in the picture? During our lifetime we work to earn money to pay for our living and lifestyle expenses. It is not uncommon for people to prioritize work or career instead of health, as the benefits of work is immediately apparent: we earn money that we spend so we can have things that we need and want. However, our bodies are not going to be the same as we get older, and when our physical capabilities for work diminish, our capacity to earn money tend to decline as well.

Having good health results in a longer and fruitful life so we can have more time doing the things we value. A longer and healthier life also allows us to be more productive in our work or other endeavors for longer. If you think about it, how useful is it to have much money accumulated through the years, only to get to enjoy it for a short time? It is better to enjoy a long life, good health, and good finances in a more balanced way. The same principles in compounding our finances as described in the first part of the series can also be applied to compounding our health.

Having good health is not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems. Some will face disability, most will experience sickness, and all of us will eventually face death. Good health however reduces your risks of sickness and disability and so we need to consider it as (if not more) important than our work or career.

Why is this so hard for us?

Given that we all know that health and our physical well-being is important in the long run, then why are most people (including me) not living healthy lives? Perhaps this can be explained by the following points:

  • Health is not really a priority for us until we experience the damaging effects of ignoring it. We hear stories of people who immediately change their lifestyle and eating habits after being diagnosed with a serious illness. Why wait until life punches you in the face to change direction?
  • We find it hard to incorporate healthy living in our routine. We are so busy with much more “important” stuff that we do not find time to exercise. In our busyness we also tend to eat quick, unhealthy snacks.
  • It is easier for us to not worry about our health. The world is filled with things that satisfy our cravings for immediate satisfaction. Smartphones, games, social media, and television series all entice us away from doing physical work.

These can be illustrated by the following examples which show how people tend to perform “binge” behaviors when it comes to personal health.

Binge Diet

Let’s say summer is approaching, so you and your friends decide to watch your diet so you can have a “beach-body” look when summer comes. As an additional motivation you make it a competitive endeavor by tracking who has lost the biggest weight before your predetermined deadline.

Due to the motivation to have a “beach-body” look or perhaps even to beat your friends in the “competition”, you have this burning desire to reduce your calorie intake and watch what you are eating. This is difficult for you of course as you begin to refuse foods and snacks that you enjoyed before, but you deem it worth the sacrifice. When summer came, you lost a significant amount of pounds and are proud of your achievement.

However, once summer has ended, the desire for a “beach-body” look has subsided and there is no more push among your friends to compete on who will lose weight the most. After this point, you go back to your usual eating habits, and then slowly but surely you go back to your original weight before the “competition” began. More often than not, since you craved so much for the foods that you were not able to eat before, you gained more weight than where you started before the summer.

Binge Exercise

This time, the Christmas season has ended and you decide that you need to shave off the excess fat and weight you accumulated during the holidays. Because of this you sign up for a gym membership and resolve to lose all of the “holiday fat” and more. You then go to the gym regularly for a few months, but then slowly your motivation to continue gets diminished (you are too busy at work, too tired, etc). Eventually the annual gym membership you purchased is no longer being used and in the end you have not lost all of the “holiday fat”.

This is probably one of the reasons why gyms are packed in January and February, and then start to slowly decrease in members as the months go on. While this can be good business for the gyms (memberships are already paid in full for the year and they are not being utilized), some coaches do not want this and choose not to accept members who are not in it for the long run.

The issue here is that the gym membership was prompted by a desire to shave off the weight due to bad eating habits in the holiday season, without any longer-term goal of achieving a healthier lifestyle. Also, the tendency of the person is to go “all-out” in the exercise regime, exhausting themselves after each session until they run out of willpower to continue further.

New years resolutions

Another phenomenon at the end of the holiday season is the creation of New Year’s Resolutions. These are the goals set by the individual in December or January, listing the things that he or she wants to accomplish for the following year. Usually these goals are big and sometimes ambitious, such as losing 50 pounds, eating only healthy food, refraining from soda and junk food, stopping smoking and drinking, etc.

While its not a bad idea to set goals at the start of the year, New Year’s Resolutions sometimes becomes more of a tradition rather than an actual vehicle for change. According to an article, 80% of Resolutions fail when February approaches, meaning that people really do not have the proper motivation and drive needed to accomplish those goals. As these goals are large and difficult, without the proper planning and willpower these goals are bound to fail.

 Stopping Binge Behavior

As the above examples show, binge activities that arise from temporary goals, such as the beginning or the end of a season tend not to work in the long run. The reason for this is simple: we humans resist change as part of our nature. Our tendency is to stay where we are and continue to do what is comfortable for us. Drastic changes in our lifestyle make us tired, irritated, exhausted, and unhappy.

Given that it is in our nature to resist change, what can we do about this? Perhaps we can “trick” our human nature that our environment and circumstances are not really changing, even when it is. This is where the Consistency philosophy comes in, which we will discuss in more detail in the next article.

2 thoughts on “Consistency Beats Intensity: Health, Part I

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *