Imagine a phenomenon so powerful it can challenge big agra and the entire processed food industry and win. Something so strong that it breaks our cravings for sugar and salt, soda and chips. Something so game-changing that, if properly implemented, would collapse the food industry and reorient our culture toward eating and moving well. Imagine that there is a holy grail of healthy eating, and that we can implement it right now.
Fitness is the result of two things, diet and exercise. Our lives today are largely sedentary as compared to our hunting and gathering ancestors. Or modern work doesn’t require us to move in a way that keeps us fit. Keeping fit therefore requires us to engage in exercise multiple times per week, so that we give our bodies the physical work for which they were designed and used for eons. Maintaining our natural physical capacity, in other words, is a choice.
Food today is abundantly available without having to hunt or forage for it. For all of prehistory we lived with food scarcity. Over that time we developed a biological desire to consume sugar and fat wherever and whenever we found it, and the more the better. In a world where calories were hard won, this was a great biological adaptation. But today we can drive to the grocery store and forage the aisles for whatever we want, any time want. Worse, that food is processed, packaged and marketed to be addictive. Eating well has also become a choice, and a difficult one at that.
Knowledge isn’t enough: we can know everything there is to know about exercise and healthy eating, but it won’t do us any good if we can’t actually get ourselves to implement that knowledge. Yes, there are debates about the best exercise program and the ideal diet. But those arguments are purely academic if we don’t have the discipline to implement whatever we believe is optimal for our health.
The CrossFit model solves the challenge of exercise discipline. In a world where exercise has to compete with television, social media and video games for our time, our exercise program has to inspire us. Otherwise we won’t get off the couch. Herein lies the genius of CrossFit: it’s an incredibly intense, grueling exercise program, and yet people do it five and six times a week. Voluntarily. CrossFit is the holy grail of exercise.
There is no comparable model that solves the challenge of food discipline. We have gurus, we have doctors, we have diets, we have cookbooks, we have food delivery services. We have grocery stores filled with nutritious food. But is there an approach that turns eating healthy from something that taxes our will power into something that adds joy and energy to our lives? Is there anything that moves the needle in America away from our susceptibility to junk food and toward a healthy, sustainable diet? If there is, I don’t see it.
I suspect that there is a way of fostering food discipline based on the CrossFit model. I think that we can leverage community, friendly competition and accountability, and a no nonsense, evidence-based, data driven program to transform people’s eating habits. There is a holy grail of eating healthy. It is out there, waiting to be devised and implemented.
*This is the first in a series of four posts