The last couple of posts, I’ve shared the big ideas I’ve learned from the Optimize Program over the past two years. Condensing it down wasn’t easy, but this part was by far the most difficult. We’re delving into the Fundamentals– eating, moving, sleeping, breathing, focusing, celebrating, and prospering. And it’s astounding how connected so many of these ideas have to conservation. The optimize program could easily be called the Fundamentals of Conservation, and not much of the content would change.
The first installment gave us our What- our calling to be the heroes the world needs. In our previous piece, we discussed the How– using operant conditioning, or algorithms, to change behavior and create healthy habits that run on autopilot.
Today, we discuss the Fundamentals of Conservation, focusing on Eating and Moving in Part 1, and Sleeping and Focus in Part 2. While Optimize discusses seven, we’re going to focus in on four– Eating Green (Eating), How Fitness Was Fun (Moving), Why We Sleep (Sleeping), and Station Training Our Brain (Focus and Breathing).
Big Idea #8- Fundamentals of Eating Green
The links between our eating habits and conservation are ridiculous. In Optimize, we learned many of the nefarious truths about the food industry and how it is actively deceiving us into eating unhealthy, even dangerous foods. But the deceit doesn’t stop with us, the consumers. Unfortunately, the food industry is digging a hole in the environment that will take a lot of people waking up to fix.
Be a Healthy Deviant
What’s even more unfortunate is how twisted society has become towards food, diet, and eating habits. In order to take care of ourselves so we can be the heroes the world needs, we’re going to have to break away from a lot of social norms. As Pilar Gerasimo put in her so appropriately titled book Healthy Deviant, we must break the rules, or break ourselves. Most of society isn’t playing the game we are playing. But if we are to change their minds, we can’t shove the gospel of Conservation down their throats. We must show them how the Fundamentals of Conservation work, by being daring enough to make choices against the grain, even when no one understands us, or when people ridicule us. And they will ridicule you. Because they aren’t in the know about the food industry.
But if you keep at it, practice eating your hero bars, and stick with your principles, others will begin to notice. They’ll start to want a little of what you’re having, and you can share ZooFit Fundamentals of Conservation with them. Change your life, change others’ lives, literally change the world.
The truth is sometimes harder to swallow than a fairy tale made up by the food industry. So, this can seem a little like Morpheus offering us a red pill to wake us up, or the blue pill to stay in our fantasy world. Take the red pill, and we start seeing the connections to the nefarious ways the food industry lies to us, keeps us sick, and destroys the environment.
The food industry uses loopholes in the labeling to hide sugar in many of their products. Using something like 60 different names for sugar leads to a lot of confusion. But it’s not just sugar that uses this bait and switch method to confuse and mislead consumers. There are more than 400 different derivatives of palm oil. It can be called anything from palm kernel oil to vegetable oil, from vegetable fat to mono and diglycerides. Some of the derivatives don’t even contain the word “palm oil” in them.
So, what do we do to combat this culprit invading our foods and impacting the environment? The stance of ZooFit is clear– stay away from processed foods. If you want a pie, or ice cream, or chocolate treats, make it yourself. It’s not just about “boycotting palm oil”, it’s about staying away from foods which are not, and never were, and never will be good for you, no matter what an expert from the food industry tells you. They are lying liars, and the only thing they care about is you spending your almighty dollars on their product.
Eating is a Spiritual Practice
Back in the old days, and I mean WAY back, in the Stoic philosopher days of Plato and Marcus Aurlelius, people had a very different opinion of food. Food was considered a way to health as medicine. This is still true today, but we ignore it. We gulp down burgers and sodas because they’re cheap, and pay handsomely at the pharmacy and doctor’s for diabetes medication, blood pressure meds, and other drugs to treat our symptoms. Why not let FOOD be our prescription? Pay for better quality ingredients, eat better, and invest in your health. It’s not easy, but it is better for us in the long run.
Take the stance of a religious practitioner with your diet and eating habits. If you were to say “I don’t eat pork because I’m Jewish” or “I don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent because I’m Catholic” no one will dispute your diet. But tell someone “I don’t eat food with palm oil” and you often get scoffs and eye rolls “well, it’s not going to hurt this time” or “Well, I already bought it”. No. Your body is your temple. Don’t desecrate it by eating junk you know is bad for you and the environment just to appease someone else. We wouldn’t tolerate someone spraying graffiti in a sacred holy place. Don’t tolerate it with yourself.
Big Idea #9: Fundamentals of Conservation- Moving
Wild Cavemen in a Zoo
I’m going to take a detour from what the Optimize wisdom shared in this section, because, well, as a zookeeper and animal trainer, I have a different take on the subject. The idea that we are wild cavemen in a zoo did spark something in me. It really does embody what ZooFit is about, honestly.
See, we are not very different from zoo animals. Food is readily available, often with a push of a button. We are not motivated to move as often as our bodies need, evolutionarily speaking and biologically speaking. Human brains still function very much like they did 100,000 years ago– searching for food, but looking for the easiest, most efficient source. Our brains are made for moving, but we want to be efficient about it.
It’s why predators go after weak, old, or very young prey. It’s easier for them. Zoo animals have it made in the shade, and left to their own devices, they would not move very much. They’d just hang out where their food appears and shovel it in their mouth. However, we know this isn’t healthy for them, just as it isn’t healthy for us. So, zookeepers and animal trainers work diligently to keep their animals healthy and thriving, by creating enrichment, and training husbandry and exercise behaviors.
Trainers override the animals’ cerebral cortex and motivate them to do more, move more, and be better versions of themselves. Even with everyone else seeking the easier, softer way of finding food, we too can override the system. “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” We need to be our own animal trainers– provide some enrichment, and positively train ourselves to move a little more.
How Fitness Was Fun
Most people view working out and fitness as a chore. Optimize and ZooFit are 100% on the same page here, though. We view it as a gift. Without dwelling, imagine if you were in an accident and told you would never walk again. How much would you wish you could run, jump, and exercise? So you see, exercise isn’t a chore. It’s a celebration of being able to move. Scientists recognize that the reason we have a brain at all is so we can move.
Instead of taking movement FOR granted, let’s take our ability to move AS granted. Celebrate and be grateful. But most importantly, let’s have some FUN.
Brian has his own way of creating a bit of a game with his movement. And, well, ZooFit has its own way. I absolutely LOVE playing games with my workouts– Fandom Fitness, Wildlife Wednesday, as well as my books ZooFit Exercise Guide and Reuse, Recycle, Reduce Your Waist. Talk about Fundamentals of Conservation. I put the fun in fundamentals. And with ZooFit, we create connections to conservation by experiencing nature, exploring the outdoors, and being our best for the animals we adore.
Movement doesn’t have to be a one time activity and then done for the day. Find Opportunities to Move (OTMs) and play the game anywhere you go. Find the furthest parking spot from the store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to a completely different area to use the washroom, and connect with other co-workers, or avoid the breakroom munchies along the way.
How can you have fun with your fitness? Try it today, and unleash your inner conservation hero.
The absolute largest positive impact that EVERYONE can have DAILY towards a more healthy planet is with the food we consume!
I love taking our eating habits into a spiritual practice, a ritual, not just a habit. It becomes our identity.