A few years ago, at a dinner with school friends, the wife of an old friend who was complaining about being overweight responded to my simple generous offer to help with “No thanks, you’re just a freak”. Rather than create a scene, I played gentleman (heh!) and shut up politely (yes, just like one can speak impolitely, one can also shut up politely!).
It struck me that evening, and then whenever someone else says to me, “you’re a fitness freak”, that they are so out of touch with a harmonious existence. Of course, I am NOT a fitness freak. Perhaps, the one who proclaims that I am, is the fitness freak! I will now tell you why I think so.
A general definition of ‘freak’ alludes to an ‘aberration’. An ‘outlier’. If you look at this approximate ‘distribution of people’s characteristics in the general population’ you can see that most people are ‘kinda average’ and that there are some people who are outliers (at either end). This is true for most natural characteristics that you might look at, for example, “the weights of boys aged 20 in a college”.
Sometimes, to be an outlier is a good thing – it’s always nice to be one of the top performers in class, to be a high earner within your profession, or to win a race against many other participants. Of course, by definition, we can’t all be outliers. And, more importantly, those are examples of being an outlier in terms of outcome. For instance, I have also told you earlier why I don’t care much about your podium finish (or mine). That outcome is a combination of effort (what you did) and luck (who else turned up at the start line). So, let’s not think about that now. But let’s, instead, think about process rather than outcome.
I have talked about our ancestors numerous times in the past (see here, here and here) and the topic I typically address when I bring them to the present, from the distant past, is about how we have advanced significantly in the area of technology (a good thing) but not in terms of basic biology (perhaps not a good thing). What that means is that…
if you don’t respect the laws of biology your body follows you will end up being punished by the same laws.
When I talked about the accidental wisdom of pain seekers, I referred to this.
Not so long ago our ancestors were more aware that food was their daily medicine, the physically demanding activities of daily life did not require extra time to be made for ‘working out’, and darkness hours were typically for contemplation, rest and sleep.
Anthropologists have confirmed that, for the majority of history, humans lived a life of austerity. Food was not available 24/7. A fairly rigorous daily workout was mandatory for survival – either to hunt and gather or to escape predators or bad weather or tough terrains. Relatively long periods of daily rest were built into night life.
Lack of Harmony is Freaky
We do not need advanced scientific studies to tell us what is plainly obvious – our bodies are still pretty much like those of our distant ancestors. Our bodies have not yet evolved such that we can all have good quality long lives despite not being physically active, eating unmindfully, and sleeping in patterns that are not conducive to healthy physiological balances.
So, who is a fitness freak?
So, if, like me, you too are someone who, no matter what be your primary activity (homemaker, industrialist, professional etc) eat sensibly, try to be active on a daily basis and ensure that you sleep appropriately, then you are definitely not a ‘fitness freak’. You are doing what you are meant to. You have the wisdom and discipline to seek harmony. Perhaps you are also mindful that the details matter in driving results – be it in food and drink, exercise or rest. But that does not make you a freak! You are doing what is naturally good. You are normal!
On the other hand, someone who thinks that your lifestyle is unusual because their own waking hours are sedentary, they engage in mindless eating and drinking, and regularly have nights with low priority given to quality sleep in order to keep up with social appearances, then you can be sure that that person is a ‘fitness freak’. They are not doing what is naturally good. They are not normal!
Be a fitness enthusiast. Be a health focused human being. Be someone who lives life as per original design! Don’t be a fitness freak!
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.