Don't Compartmentalize Health & Fitness
Ever notice that everyone has their own niche at the gym? The meatheads always use the bars and dumbbells, the “functional people” are crawling all over the place barefoot and the KB guys… well they use KB’s obviously. They have become what they believe is most valuable to them and have embraced this identity through habits. This is NOT necessarily a bad thing, but what if they are ignoring other outside information and potentially better ways to accomplish the goals they have?
This idea of a “fitness identity” has permeated into the diet and nutrition world too. A person is a “carnivore,” “paleo,” or “keto,” and that somehow identifies them as a human being. Does that mean that any of these specific diets is the best one? Probably not. There is science to support and dismiss each one (see below for our FAQ on diet research). Why do people cling to these specific diets so hard that they become part of their identity?
Just like the lifters above, their actions are “votes” for their identity. Every time they eat a certain way or tell someone they “ARE paleo” it is another vote toward that identity. Look at the language they often use- they are not “eating paleo” or “trying paleo,” they “ARE paleo.” Now that diet or workout style has become such a major part of their persona that it becomes difficult for them to even consider other things and potentially easier answers for the problems they face.
You often hear the “growth” versus “closed” mindsets talked about. The growth mindset referring to someone who is open to change, new ideas, and information. The closed mindset being someone who is set in their ways and unlikely to venture out or change for improvement. This is a great example where someone has gotten some results or read enough about a specific diet or training that they have become closed to other options regardless of what the science, a coach’s empirical evidence, or their own stalled or failed results say.
This closed mindset and “fitness identity” becomes an even bigger problem when we coach people who compartmentalize certain exercises, stretches or ideologies into only working for specific populations. We often get weird looks when we tell our larger athletes to do some mindfulness… they love it and feel better after. Often, it is their parents, siblings, significant others, etc. who seem to think it is odd. Another example is when we have our older clients lift heavy stuff and recommend that they eat more protein. Somehow this has become relegated only to young athletes or bodybuilders and couldn’t possibly help someone else, even though the research tells us that most older individuals don’t consume enough protein (1). When people are uncomfortable with things, they compartmentalize them and assume only certain people, populations, or groups need to follow certain recommendations and rules.
At PP, we don’t see it that way- specifically when there are many scientifically proven benefits for some of these actions across a broad span of people. That’s why you’ll notice as a staff and company we DO NOT ever recommend just one type of diet. We figure out what is important to our client, their goals, where they are with their current eating level, and then proceed from there to make small habit changes towards their goal.
We do have clients who eat very close to “paleo” because they have certain allergens, personal beliefs, or other reasons and it works well for them, but we also approach the other components of their life, belief systems, and needs to make sure they are a well-rounded person who happens to eat a certain way. Their diet or fitness does not define them completely, they just play a small role in a complex, awesome person.
When a person chooses each action, remember that they are making a vote to either be the person they want to become or not. Each action adds up and identities are formed. Our goal is to help people form the best overall decisions and make the best person they possibly can, not JUST the best eater, exerciser, athlete, etc. We want each action to work together synergistically to help you become the best overall person we can possibly create. That’s the long term goal and how we work with you daily to create a the best version of you.
Want to learn more about how to start building better daily habits as votes for the best overall person you can be? Click here to speak with our staff of dietitians, coaches and counselors to give you all the tools you need on your journey today!