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A Culture of Fitness

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When it come to choosing our food, we have developed a habit of thinking all that really matters is whether something’s good or bad for our physical health.

You may have other concerns, like actually liking something, or whether it’s traditional in your family or culture, even whether it serves to bond you with others. But the only one that we really think should matter is whether something is physically good. Those other concerns are “excuses.” We even feel guilty when we use them, or think that we’ve made a “bad” choice that has to be balanced with a “good” one. Like if we only had enough discipline we’d be able to fight all of those urges and just do what’s right.

By now you may have started to develop a more nuanced picture. Right isn’t a matter of macronutrients and calories. Those other considerations aren’t excuses. Whether something brings you pleasure or unites you with other people isn’t trivial. And just like someone who considers only culture or tradition and ignores physical consequences will suffer, maybe in becoming so hyper-health conscious we’ve all suffered consequences.

Being human means having a body. It also means having intangible qualities like thought, emotions and spiritual experiences. Just because those can’t be measured doesn’t mean they’re not real. If all that mattered was your body, you’d be a robot. Taking care of your parts would be all that mattered. Well, we’re not robots and taking care of your inner experience is equally important.

The consequences we often face are internal. We’re ashamed. Or we feel disconnected from our culture when we convince ourselves that it’s not as important as making “good” choices. We suffer from the stress of constantly trying to avoid the smallest indulgence or get mad at ourselves for being “weak” when we give in. You’re a being of many dimensions. It will not serve you to serve only one of them.

There are four areas of our lives — the external experience of our body, the internal experience of our mind or spirit, the internal collective experience we call culture, and the external shared reality we call the environment. We can make food choices in each of these areas. If all you ever consider is your health, you’re missing out on a considerable part of being alive.

This doesn’t only apply to food. In the Challenge, you may have learned to use and master your body, how to appreciate what you can physically do and develop yourself around what you like. And you may have seen how much your growth has depended on your team and vice versa.

What we’re really talking about here is a culture of fitness. Experience ourselves as things that we can measure but aren’t meant to be measured. Letting go of what’s “perfect” when you discover there’s no metric for it. Accepting that your inner subjective experience is a legitimate guide.

It’s like going from two dimensions to three. Not throwing away the physical or the objective, but folding in the subjective. Numbers and logic and science have a place. We’re lucky to have them. But they have become too important.

Your choices aren’t simply bad or good. That’s way too two dimensional. And it brings guilt and shame. Neither of which end up being particularly productive in the long run.

Looking at our choices with respect to how they fulfill all aspects of our being human is the next level. Something that is “bad” physically might be “good” in the experience of fun and friends. The trick is consistently managing all aspects. If you’re stuck on physical only, body or ecological, life can get depressing and disconnected. Enjoyment or tradition only can get really unhealthy.

Creating a culture means mastering all of your choices. It means owning what matters to you for the sole reason that it matters to you. It’s being willing to make mistakes and keep going. Shoshaku jushaku.

Creating a culture is a contribution. For your life and the lives of everyone around you.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.

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