What does it mean to be healthy? I’ve asked myself that question approximately one million times in my health career. Never imagining it my diet plan could be to blame.
As I was trying to understand the extreme approaches to health while making sense of how the body responds.
Health has been about a set of principles that, if followed, promise a specific outcome. It’s the famous calories in equals calories out equation that sets specific metrics that must be followed precisely to see results.
It’s a life of perfection that runs from anything that may ruffle these feathers—shifting your energy to find the perfect life that will hold your perfect diet. You’re spending your energy to control what is out of your control, to begin with.
You’re fighting a losing battle and living for a life that doesn’t exist.
Doing everything right doesn’t work long-term.
I played this game myself. I was doing everything right and yet realizing that all of my rights could quickly become wrong as soon as my plan got crushed by unexpected life events.
You may have found this yourself, especially after a year of mass uncertainty. Maybe it was a job loss, a simple shift in habits, or another failed diet attempt. The life of health we’ve been trying to create required a level of perfection that never existed. In the process, allowing any abnormal or unexpected event to crush the plans you’ve created.
Nassim Taleb has coined this type of lifestyle as fragile. A life that relies on safety and perfection, running from adversity and pain as anything outside its norm can break it. It’s like a glass vase that can tip and break with the slightest change in movement.
The systems we’ve used in the health space have enhanced our ability to build a fragile life—a life running from pain.
The problem with this model is pain is the universal constant of life. There is no escaping it, no matter how you try to control it. But if you can learn to sit in pain, to be a friend to pain, you can learn how to use pain to create a life of growth and learning.
This is called an antifragile life.
What is an antifragile life?
Author Nassim Taleb defines the term antifragile this way:
“Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better. This property is behind everything that has changed with time, even a good recipe. Things that are antifragile benefit from randomness, uncertainty, and variation. They flow with life instead of fighting against it.”
What I want you to know is your body and mind are anything but fragile. It is strong and antifragile. When you see your body as resilient, you can free yourself of the perfect system. You can learn to provide what your body needs regardless of what is happening in the world around you.
The answer to health is not another perfect system but accepting the imperfection of life, allowing your body to work through the pain while nourishing it on the backside. To know that your body doesn’t just handle stress, change, and adversity. It grows stronger because of it.
But you have to train your mind and body for this. That begins by breaking free of the fragile lifestyle.
5 ways to create a diet plan that last
1. Focus on avoiding things that don’t work rather than trying to find out what does work
Acknowledging what doesn’t work goes against the fragile system because it makes you confront the pain and failure. It makes you recognize what isn’t working. Instead of running from it, you can learn from it. When you know better, you can do better.
- If you want to eat healthily, stop eating unhealthy foods before you focus on the perfect foods to eat.
- If you want to get fit, wake up earlier before focusing on how many miles you can run.
You must create space before you can fill yourself in that space. Start by confronting what hasn’t worked and let go of forcing these into your life.
2. Don’t get consumed by data
There is no perfect metric for building an antifragile life able to ebb and flow with change. Metrics tend to be a measure of perfection.
Clear some space away from counting, tracking, or stepping on the scale so you can focus on filling yourself. Creating a life of awareness helps you determine what your body needs rather than guessing what you think it needs.
3. Respect the old — look for habits and rules that have been around for a long time
There are a lot of long-standing health practices that have been around since the beginning of time. Go back to what has worked and what still consistently works. Some of those long-standing health practices include:
- Seasonality and eating what is in season.
- Eating at the table and with others.
- Sitting down to eat your food.
- Consistent meal times without snacking.
- Fasting or periods without food.
- Consistent movement or physical labor.
- Healthy sleep patterns with an average of 8-9 hours per night.
- Plenty of time outside and in the direct sunlight.
- Reading, learning, and growing.
- Building strong communities and relationships.
4. Your body was designed to work
We far too quickly do for our body rather than push it to do what it knows how to do. It’s in the doing that makes your body stronger, like the workout that breaks down your muscle to build it up better. Know it’s more than okay to push your body. It’s a lot stronger than you give it credit.
5. Stop waiting for perfection and prove that you can live healthy in imperfection.
Expect the unexpected. Life is constantly changing for good and sometimes for bad. But we have to know that it’s not the running from these changes but embracing them, knowing you are capable of handling whatever life throws your way, and you can nourish your body in the process.
You are stronger than you realize.
Your body is not fragile, and creating a lifestyle that treats your body as fragile sets you up for constant failure. Your body was designed to work. It is anything but fragile, it is resilient.
Health is not what you do to your body but how you work with your body – pushing it while refeeding and nourishing on the backside. This is what leads to health.
Your more powerful, more resilient, and more capable than you give yourself credit.
As Mark Manson states: “When we avoid pain, when we avoid stress and chaos, tragedy and disorder, we become fragile. Our tolerance for day-to-day setbacks diminishes, and our life must shrink accordingly for us to engage only in the little bit of the world we can handle at one time.”
It’s time to start living out of your strength, believing that failure creates a space for learning, making us better and more resilient in the long run. And in the process of building and walking into and through life changes, the more antifragile you become and the more graceful, in control, and principled your life gets.
You can have control, or you can have growth, but you can’t have both.
The question is will you engage with the hard and the pain? Will you sit in it knowing the pain produces happiness? Choose fragility or antifragility.