Most of us don’t exercise often enough or intensely enough to keep fit over a lifetime. Most CrossFitters do, because there is something about CrossFit that keeps members coming to their boxes and doing WODs. But exercise is only one half of fitness. When it comes to the other half – our diets – it is the same story: most of us don’t have the will power to consistently eat healthy foods. Unfortunately, there is nothing analogous to CrossFit when it comes to making good food choices. We know what we should eat, but we can’t stay away from the junk. There is a huge opportunity here: if we can identify the secret ingredient that makes CrossFit such a successful fitness program, perhaps we can use it to keep ourselves eating well.
Here is a hypothesis: CrossFitters exercise more intensely and more consistently because they have the support of the CrossFit community. Here’s how it works, as described on the CrossFit webpage:
CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity … … By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness…The community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together is a key component of why CrossFit is so effective… Harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means.
https://www.crossfit.com/what-is-crossfit. It is true that a sense of community spontaneously arises when people do CrossFit together. And once that sense of connection and belonging forms, it becomes a powerful, added stimulant for us as athletes. As a species, we are hard wired to seek and participate in a community for mutual support and protection, and we light up when we find it. We find it at CrossFit, and the more we do it the more we feel a sense of well being that tells us we are doing something healthy for ourselves. We start CrossFit primarily for fitness, but the fulfillment of this other, primal need drives and sustains our commitment to intense exercise.
If community is the secret ingredient that keeps CrossFitters exercising, then perhaps it can also be used to encourage healthy eating habits. A program dedicated to healthy eating out of which a community arises could strengthen our resolve to maintain healthy eating habits. CrossFit made exercise into a social event and people have been thriving in it. If we do the same with healthy eating, then maybe people will thrive in that more supportive environment too.
The more I ponder healthy eating, CrossFit and community, the more I see a mutually reinforcing triumvirate. We are designed to eat a particular diet and have found it increasingly challenging to do so. We are built to maintain a certain level of fitness, but again we find our modern world distracting us from what we know we need. We are programmed to solve our challenges collectively and find deep satisfaction in working together for mutual benefit. Eating well, moving well and connecting well are vital to a healthy life, and we can do all three in conjunction with each other. Eat. Move. Connect. Three core concepts for creating the best versions of ourselves.
The programs that we see today – diets, blueprints, weight loss clinics, whatever – are not delivered with any answers to the biggest challenge to healthy eating: how to overcome the temptation to eat junk food and make eating healthy a habit. Perhaps the hypothesis suggested here gets to the root cause of our poor eating habits and points the way to a community based solution.
*This is the second in a series of four articles.