How Opinions Sabotage Fitness
Can you draw a bicycle from memory?
There is a huge divide between what people know and what people THINK they know. For example, what would you do if I asked you to draw a picture of a bike? Most people reading this would believe they could draw a rather accurate picture of a functioning bicycle. Nothing fancy, just a simple line drawing.
Try it yourself. Don't look up a picture on the internet or go outside to check one out. Do it right now, completely from memory. If you have to cheat, you've already failed.
The Italian-American designer Gianluca Gimini didn't think people could do it accurately. He knew people could identify a bike when shown a picture. But he didn't think they understood enough to draw something that would work.
Beginning in 2009, Gimini spent the next six years having hundreds of people attempt to draw a bicycle. There were a few that did a perfect job. Unfortunately, most failed. What they ended up with were things that resembled a bike, but were unable to turn, could not have been ridden uphill, were missing a chain, pedals or handlebars.
(Notice the bicycle shown on this page? It's missing a chain to make it work. And the seat is too far back to be effective.)
Even though every person who was asked to draw a bicycle had learned how to ride one, most hadn't spent time studying the mechanics of how bikes work. But that high level of exposure, made them confident they knew more than they did.
It's that belief we know more than we do, that makes us overly confident in our opinions. The more we interact with something, the better we think we understand it.
Now combine that unreasonable level of confidence with something people do every day; attempting to take care of our bodies. Most people are confident they know what they need to do to live a healthy life. In fact, the majority of people think they ARE doing what's needed to be healthy, but the numbers tell us otherwise.
If the majority of Americans were doing what they should for their health, then 66% of the population wouldn't be overweight or obese. Our flawed belief that we know what we should do is killing us.
That leads me to my big problem. Once you accept that what you're doing isn't correct, how do you fix it? In the health and fitness world, there are thousands of people claiming to be experts. Everyone wants to tell you how to get better. They're promoting diet and exercise programs that worked for them, without taking into account your time constraints, physical limitations or dietary requirements.
The problem isn't figuring out the answers. The answers are quite simple. Through rigorous testing we've figured out how to use interval training for better cardio. We know how to design strength building programs for maximum results. Several safe and effective diets help drop pounds. The step most people skip is how to motivate themself to do the work.
How do you move somebody from the couch to the gym? What incentive can you offer to make people put the chips down and pick up a vegetable? The greatest plan in the world is worthless if nobody is willing to start. The obesity epidemic will never be beaten unless we can figure out how to change habits.
That's where science comes in. Through trial and error, we're figuring out ways to move people. Some do better when they're joined by a friend. Some see success when they're working toward a reward. Some are encouraged by joining a group and others keep going when they see the results.
If you're not where you want to be, don't start by exploring diet plans or exercise routines. First ask yourself a simple question. What motivates ME? Look at the things you've kept doing for years. Figure what it is about those habits that make you keep repeating them. Then look for a diet and exercise program that can reward you the same way.
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