We all know that breaking old habits is tough. I had a hard time getting back into the habit of exercising daily after I’d let it slip away, citing the hectic, energy-sapping lifestyle of a chef as the culprit and rationalizing my lack of motivation with excuses like, “I’m on my feet all day at work. That’s all the exercise I need.”
The truth was, I was fooling myself, and as time went on, I felt the effects: lower energy, higher stress, an expanding waistline, stiff joints, just to name a few. At first I thought I needed more rest, but that wasn’t it. The answer was more activity, good activity, the kind that gets your heart pumping and stretches and tones your muscles.
So, I started doing my sister’s program, 21 Day Fix. The first few weeks were brutal. I couldn’t keep up, had to modify often, felt drained afterward and had a hard time being on my feet when I was working. I thought about quitting because it felt like my lifestyle couldn’t support this much energy expenditure, but I had committed to 21 days and I was going to give it a chance.
Man, am I glad I did. By week three my body seemed to get the message: it was going to have to keep up. The soreness started to subside. It was there, but in a good way. My energy level shot up, and I found myself feeling much lighter on my feet while working. I was focused, had less stress, and was sleeping like a bear (something that had eluded me for quite some time, and which I’d also been blaming on the stress at work).
Looking back on it now, that two-week struggle seems so tiny in comparison to all the benefits I’ve been reaping since, and I’ve learned something, or perhaps re-learned something about perspective. In a very short period of time, a thing that had seemed so daunting was transformed into something I woke up looking forward to. The 30-minute workouts I’d derided as “feeling like an hour” suddenly had me saying, “wait, I’m done already?”
What had changed? Sure, my body had grown stronger. The body is an amazing machine, and the transformations it’s capable of with just a few weeks of dedicated exercise are remarkable, but it was more than that. Not only had my body accepted the change, my mind had embraced it as well. I had fought through the inevitable failures, uncovered untapped capacities, and through committed repetition I’d begun to succeed. The success was euphoric, and it brought me back for more. In short, I’d formed a new habit.
I’m sure many of you have committed to at least one of Beachbody’s many, fun and effective exercise programs, so you know the kind of change I’m talking about. That’s why I’m writing to say that the struggle, the inevitable failures, the perseverance and euphoria of uncovered potential, all the agony and ecstasy of lifestyle change doesn’t end with your workouts. I’ve heard Autumn say “You can’t out exercise a bad diet” so many times it’s become a kind of mantra.
Research suggests that what you put into your body isn’t just as important as your exercise, it’s more important! If you want to transform your body and improve your overall health and well-being, what you eat is more important than how often you work out, and that means shifting from passive eating to active eating.
In short, it’s time, once again, to form a new habit.
What Is Passive Eating?
What do I mean by passive eating? Passive eating is when take what’s put in front of us and put it into our bodies without asking questions.
Let’s look at how we got to passive eating. World War II saw massive advances in the industrial production of foods of convenience. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers needed rations, and that meant food had to be produced quickly and cheaply. It had to be non-perishable and ready-to-eat. While all of this was great for the war effort, it wasn’t so great when that approach was transferred to the home front.
Once the war ended, the market highly-processed convenience food dried up, and the companies that made turned to the average American. And while they did save people time and money, it was at the expense of our nation’s health and well-being. Here we are, 72 years later, fighting another war, the war on obesity. Our nation is suffering from alarming rates of not only obesity, but all its related degenerative diseases. Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, you name it. Many experts believe it can be traced back to our modern diet, riddled with salt, sugar, saturated fats, and preservatives and stripped of so much of its natural fiber and nutrients, served up in ridiculous portion sizes that are totally out of balance.
The 80’s saw a so-called food revolution, with food-processing companies marketing new “healthier” versions of the same old junk food. The formulas were simple, take the fat out and replace it with sugar and call it “fat-free.” Or take the sugar out, replace it with a manufactured, indigestible chemical and call it “sugar-free.” But America’s health kept declining and its waistline kept growing. What’s worse, we got discouraged. It seemed there was no point in trying. You could hear it in people’s expressions, “Everything gives you cancer,” “It’s all gonna kill you eventually”; it’s easy to fall into despair when you try to change for the better only to find out you’ve been duped. But there is an answer, and it’s really quite simple: America needs to get cooking again.
How to Take a More Active Approach to Your Diet
There’s only one way to really know what’s going into your body and that’s to prepare it yourself, but just like it doesn’t take hours a day in the gym to get in shape, it shouldn’t take hours in the kitchen to prepare a healthy, balanced, unprocessed, whole-food-based meal.
You do, however, have to commit to the process of cooking. Like Autumn always says, “If you want something you’ve never had, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done.” Sure, there’s rice in the supermarket that’s ready to eat in five minutes, but there’s not much left in it that’s worth eating anymore.
That can of soup is pretty convenient, but have you read the list of ingredients? If the first ingredient after water is corn syrup, it’s not soup, it’s hot tomato candy. Gross! Everything is better when it’s homemade, even if you’ve never cooked before. With a little guidance, a little time, a healthy dose of commitment, and some tolerance for failure early on, even if you’ve thought of yourself as a “terrible cook,” you can learn to make healthy, delicious, homemade meals that don’t take all day in the kitchen or empty your wallet.
Autumn and I firmly believe in that truth, and it’s our experience of that reality that lead us to create Fixate. It’s not like a lot of cooking shows that are designed mostly for entertainment and “food-porn,” where people watch and say, “that looks good,” but rarely make any of the recipes. We wanted a show that’s practical, that would help real people on real schedules prepare their meals on a regular basis.
Just like Beachbody’s realistic and achievable approach to physical fitness has helped millions of people change their perspective on exercise, unlock their potential and move from a passive to an active lifestyle, our cooking show is designed to give you those same results in the kitchen. It just requires a reasonable amount of commitment, perseverance, and patience to achieve results that will pay you back ten-fold.
I’d like to wrap up by saying one more thing. Autumn always talks about how you shouldn’t treat your workouts as something to just get through. Rather, you should see them as a moment you take out of your busy day to spend some time on you, a moment to leave the stress behind and enjoy some well-deserved self-care.
It’s exactly the same with cooking. Preparing a healthy dish with the natural, whole ingredients that nature intended is a beautiful thing. It’s a moment to focus on you, on nourishing your body and your soul, to connect with and be grateful for the gifts that nature has provided. Grasp it, indulge in it, for that moment let the worries of the day slip away.
Be in the moment and let the outcome take care of itself, and you’ll find yourself not only preparing healthy, delicious, successful dishes, but also looking forward to the next one.