Over the past 20 plus years, fitness has gone mainstream.
Everyone from bodybuilders to soccer moms can be found drinking protein shakes and counting calories.
And more so than ever, people have very strong opinions on what they believe is the best way to approach health and fitness.
This prompts the question, is there a "right" approach that can be universally applied?
Well, emerging research tells us there are many right approaches.
Depending on who you ask, you’re going to hear a myriad of opinions regarding what works best, and those opinions will often be backed by research as well.
Take the Paleo diet, for example.
Anyone who wants to say this is the best way to eat could back up his or her claim with multiple studies showing how it can help you lose weight and increase heart health.
Case closed. You should just go Paleo, right?
Not so fast.
You could also look at a vegetarian diet.
Research links this style of eating with decreased chance of obesity, increased heart health and a number of other health benefits.
So, what the heck?
I can’t be Paleo and vegetarian. What’s a dude to do?
Here, my friends, is where we introduce the Zen philosophy.
It’s not a matter of what’s best to do; it's a matter of what's best for you.
That means giving up all attachment to what you think is right, and starting to ask this question: What do you enjoy, and what works best for your body?
Before diving deeper into this topic, let’s lay the foundation with a couple universal truths when it comes to nutrition and exercise.
If you eat in a calorie deficit (eat less calories than your body needs to maintain your bodyweight), you will lose weight.
If you eat in a calorie surplus (eat more calories than your body needs to maintain your bodyweight), you will gain weight.
If you participate in resistance training (making your muscles do work) and eat a decent diet, you will experience muscle growth and improved function of your body overall.
With that knowledge put into action, you’re going to see some decent results if you are consistent.
The best way to stay consistent is by doing something you can commit to fully.
For you, that might be Crossfit, yoga, bodybuilding or even badminton.
Whatever the case, find a way to move your body and play your ass off.
In the paraphrased words of philosopher Alan Watts, the real secret to life — or fitness, for that matter — is to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now.
And instead of calling it work (or working out), realize it is play.
Zen philosophy is all about finding out what works for you as an individual, instead of blinding following what is working for others.
This is what is called developing self-awareness.
When you develop self-awareness in regards to your nutrition and exercise, you will intuitively be able to tell what your body responds best to.
Because guess what? No matter what you may hear, there is no magic pill.
There is no one-size-fits-all model.
There is simply your fitness journey you need to embark on and figure out for yourself.
The best thing you can do is consider the two universal laws I previously mentioned and test some things out.
Your fitness doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s.
It’s your journey and your right to make it work for you.
I know we’ve entered an age of instant gratification in many respects, but no matter how you look at it, health and fitness is going to be one of those things that is going to take some time to figure out.
It will also most likely be ever-changing as you get older.
Accept and embrace this journey, and you will begin to actualize the body and health you’ve always wanted.