Great Expectations: Why Good Health Is Awesome (but Not a Panacea)

There is no silver bulletHow often do we bemoan people’s lack of expectations around their health? Their passivity. Their inertia. Their apathy. (Perhaps our own.) They just don’t seem to care or even expect that good health would offer them enough to justify the effort. I can feel heads shaking out there. Personally, I don’t get it either.

On the other hand, there are those people who hold good health on all encompassing pedestals. Maybe you know a few – or have identified as one yourself at some point. They’re the folks who believe that if they can only lose X pounds or get into great shape or achieve washboard abs that everything else in life will finally come together. They’d finally be happy, successful and otherwise “worthy.” And their thinking becomes a distortion that tells them they flat-out can’t be those things until they’ve achieved their physical end goals (as if there is such a thing). As odd as it might sound to some, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen latch onto this panacea principle.

I get it – why this discrepancy between expectation and reality. Is it much wonder people glom onto this notion when you consider how healthy, fit, athletic-looking people are often portrayed? It isn’t only that they’re active or doing exciting things in all the ads and entertainment news features. It’s that they supposedly have everything together. It’s suggested they have high-paying jobs with big titles. They have huge social circles and great relationships. Their kids do well in school. Can we just cut the bull already and remember what we’re doing here?

Let me back up and say that taking care of yourself can give you more energy (always a major plus). If your body is in good health, it will serve your hormonal balance and emotional resilience. You’ll likely sleep better and have a better immune response. You’ll be able to do more fun things like kayak or hike or surf for hours. There is almost no end to the benefits of being healthy and what it can do for your overall well-being.

That said, let’s be clear. Getting fit and healthy won’t make you more lovable. You won’t suddenly be showered with good fortune. You won’t be released from all your unhealthy tendencies and personal faults. Bad memories and past indiscretions won’t be carried away by a blue balloon. Insecurities won’t disintegrate. Life won’t suddenly morph into a convivial Miller High Life commercial.

Because the truth is that old mundane phrase – wherever you go, there you are – with all the baggage you came with.

That voice that seventy pounds ago told you were never as impressive as other people around you… That habit of always looking for a comparison between yourself and others… That uncomfortable feeling in crowds or fear of rejection… The propensity to live small and stay invisible… Guess what? They don’t vanish with lost pounds or muscle gained.

Whether it’s losing 20 or 120 pounds, running an endurance event or otherwise transforming your health, none of these accomplishments will give you what’s lacking in your emotional well-being.

This you have to claim from other kinds of work – a speaking back to those internal bogeys time and again. There’s no flip-switch here. Changing your inner environment takes effort in the same way transforming your physical state does. Taking the initiative to make substantive external changes surely can boost your confidence, but it’s still an inner job. Getting real about your health doesn’t preclude you from doing the necessary internal work to get right with your inner self.

The people I’ve seen meet with the most success in health goals are those who can appropriately distinguish their health endeavors from the overall outcome or meaningfulness of their lives. There’s an advantage to not hinging your success in life to a number on the scale or an athletic goal. It’s the difference between letting good health support our ability to go after other visions and expecting our dreams to be met if we achieve a certain fitness measure.

Why would anyone put that much pressure on their health process?

Instead of bringing impossible (i.e. self-defeating) expectations to our workouts and meals and nightly walks, how about we keep it simple? Getting healthy is worth getting healthy – all on its own without the push to fix every problem we perceive or elevate every dimension of our lives.

Gauge your expectations for the sake of your success. Consider the weight loss or fitness goal you’re going for as a positive base to expand from rather than the panacea for all that leaves us less satisfied or connected in our lives.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Let me know your thoughts, and have a good end to your week.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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