If you’ve ever seen the Seinfeld episode “The Opposite,” you’ll have a special appreciation for today’s topic.
If you haven’t seen it: Jerry tells George “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite…would have to be right.”
George, convinced, tests the theory and proceeds to approach a beautiful woman in the diner. He confesses that he’s “unemployed and lives with his parents” and she agrees to go on a date with him! Shocked, he keeps up with the theory.
By the end of the episode, after consistently doing “the opposite”, George’s life has completely turned around and he even lands a job with the New York Yankees.
It’s a great illustration of my favorite lesson in health and fitness…
Fitting out is using the habit of consistently and deliberately heading the opposite direction of conventional wisdom and the current norms of society as a viable strategy for bringing radically positive changes into your life.
Simply put, if everyone around you is doing something, sprint in the other direction. At the minimum, seriously consider the other direction.
Now, this may seem harsh. But hear me out:
What are the current norms?
- Currently, 70% of our population is overweight or obese.
- Americans’ lifetime risk of developing cancer is slightly less than 1 in 2 in men and a little more than 1 in 3 for women.
- 85+ million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke.
- An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some form of autoimmune disease.
- 86+ million Americans have pre-diabetes.
- 40 million Americans have some form of an anxiety disorder.
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful.
- 80% of adults consume caffeine every day, and the average adult has a daily intake of 200 mg.
- The average American adult watches 2.8 hours of television a day.
- Americans only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off.
- 48% of Americans get less than 25 minutes of physical activity a day.
- Only 2.2% of men and 3.5% of women 19 years or older meet the recommended fruit and vegetable intake. (and the fruits and vegetables they DO eat are highly domesticated versions with less nutrition and more sugar).
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to “fit in” to one single bit of that crowd!
But if you live the way these men and women live and do the things they do on a daily basis, it’s how you’ll end up: nutritionally starved, stressed out, sedentary, energy-drained, and on the fast track towards preventable chronic lifestyle disease. These outcomes are all side-effects of modern human domestication.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. It’s as simple as choosing to “fit out” instead of “fit in.”
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. From the time when we are very little, we are conditioned to start “fitting in.”
- We are told to “get along” and “don’t rock the boat.”
- We start to believe that having the “cool clothes” is a good thing.
- We don’t speak our mind out of fear of “looking stupid.”
- We give up hobbies that we love because they are seen as “silly” or “weird” or “nerdy.”
- Every institution we experience, from church to school, teaches us to be obedient to the norm.
As we move into adulthood, it’s very common for us to fall into the vortex of typical American culture. We quickly become a cookie-cutter version of who we aspire to be—who we are supposed to be.
It’s understandable…our brains equate “fitting in” with survival. Ten thousand years ago you didn’t want to be the one to piss off the tribe when they were your source of protection, shelter, and food.
We’re seemingly hardwired to follow the majority. “Group think” is a real thing. It’s certainly not easy to overcome.
Now, carry this notion into health and weight loss. We like to believe that if something is seen on Dr. Oz or in the latest issue of People Magazine; or has been popularized by years and years of marketing; or even told to us by our own trusted government health organizations, that it must be true.
It must be the right thing to do. Right?
But the evidence clearly tells us otherwise.
What if everything that we are doing to “fit in,” consciously or unconsciously, is actually hurting us?
What if everything that we’ve tried based on conventional diet and weight loss wisdom actually has been keeping us fat, tired, unhealthy, and sick?
Let’s examine this more closely. If you were trying to “fit in” with the conventional American idea of “eating pretty healthy”, your diet might look something like this:
- -Whole Wheat Waffles
- -Strawberry Greek Yogurt
- -Orange Juice
- Salad w/ Low Fat Caesar Dressing
- Cheesy Broccolli Bread Bowl Soup
- Conventionally Raised Chicken
- Baked Potato w/ Margarine
- Canned Green Beans
Eek. I cringe! Sugar galore. Generally low-fat—and the fat that’s there is highly inflammatory. Nutritionally poor “vegetables.” Poor quality, nutritionally poor poultry. Problematic wheat. And that’s typical of someone actually trying to be healthy in America!
Next, if you were attempting to “fit in” with the conventional American ideas of exercise/fitness, your beliefs might look something like this:
- The more I run, the skinnier I’ll be.
- No pain, no gain.
- The longer I spend in the gym, the quicker I’ll get results.
- You’re tired? Screw sleep…you make that morning bootcamp or you’re a failure!
- Well, they were here before me, I guess I’ll copy the same routine I see everyone else doing at the gym.
- A new “fat-blasting” belly busting exercise? Sign me up!
It’s the same thing over and over. Steady state running. Hours on the elliptical. Ignoring pain signals from your body. Improper rest and recovery. Chasing a “magic pill.” And following the advice of peers that haven’t seen any results in 5 years or who completely obsess over their body, going to any length to “make it happen.”
No good my friends! No good. Not a crowd we should be trying to fit into.
Convinced to do the opposite yet? If you’re ready, say it with me: “Screw fitting in! I want to start fitting out!”
How to Reverse Engineer Your Health and “Fit Out.”
There are three general guidelines to fitting out:
- If the majority of the population is doing something, question it like it’s on trial for murder. The masses are not doing so hot right now…therefore we must question, question, question. Kevin Geary said that “question everything” was one of his three biggest lessons of 2014.
- Don’t repeat old failures. Even if 99% of the population is doing something and swears by it (even doctors), if the evidence shows that it doesn’t work for you, trust yourself over all else.
- Get comfortable being uncomfortable and even being called “weird.” As soon as you step outside the box, you’re going to hear about it. Usually the yapping will come from family and friends who would prefer you stayed in the box. This is okay. It’s expected. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that they’re piloting the Titanic. You have a chance to captain your own ship into better waters if you can tune them out.
Some easy examples for how to start fitting out and getting awesome results quickly:
Instead of pulverizing your body into oblivion, DO THE OPPOSITE: Commit to walking for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. Take rest days when you just don’t have it. Be gentle.
Instead of blindly following marketing and product labels, DO THE OPPOSITE: Commit to eating real food without labels and crazy health claims.
Instead of coming home and plopping on the couch snuggled up with your iPad and “Dancing With the Stars” every night, DO THE OPPOSITE: Read a book on self-development and go to bed early. It doesn’t have to be every night, but there should be balance. You have a DVR right? Use it.
Instead of beating yourself up and cuing the guilt anytime you “slip up,” DO THE OPPOSITE: Forgive yourself immediately and have fearless faith that you will get to where you are going regardless of the “slip up.”
Instead of being terrified that fat is bad for you, DO THE OPPOSITE: Eat some coconut oil or grass-fed butter! It makes veggies delicious, by the way, and helps your body make better use of the nutrients.
Instead of waking up and forcing yourself to work out when your sleep is not on point and you have high stress levels, DO THE OPPOSITE: Get the extra sleep, do some meditation, and journal. If you need help rebooting your sleep, you’ll want to pick up a copy of REM Rehab: Reboot Your Sleep, Feel Amazing, and Light Your Productivity on Fire.
And my personal pet peeve…
Instead of not using your paid time off for fear of falling behind or being perceived as “lazy,” DO THE OPPOSITE: Take the damn vacation! 😉
To reverse engineer YOUR health, use the 3 Rules of Fitting Out and start examining your own life and the areas where you might be caught spinning your wheels. What have you tried that hasn’t worked? Where would doing the complete opposite of that lead you?
While fitting out isn’t completely infallible, it has proven to be an amazing tool for discovering some really cool breakthroughs in my own life and the lives of my clients.
What examples of fitting out have you discovered in your own health journey? Do you agree or disagree with the fitting out model? I’d love to discuss more with you in the comments below!
Zach Franke, also known as “Health Coach Zach,” is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor and coach at Rebooted Body. He is passionate about empowering his fellow humans with the tools, “aha” moments, and insights necessary for obtaining true health and living into the best version of themselves.