The Enemy of the Good
compliance CrossFit fitness marks daily apple nutrition paleo perfection primal
Give ‘Em What They Want
The problem with this outlook is twofold. First, not everyone is concerned with performance-based fitness in all three major metabolic pathways. Some people are only concerned with short bursts of speed or distance running. They know they can’t do what they don’t train, and they are okay with that. Some people don’t even care about how much work they can perform. They only want to look good naked, or have unusually large pecs.
CrossFitters will argue until blue that we should appreciate muscular women and a more naturalistic body image. We will attack other people’s priorities in order to get them to change their training program. This is both disrespectful and narrow-minded.
Second, by only accepting perfection, we discourage others from even making a decent effort. For someone who might not have had much fitness or nutrition experience, expecting them to subject their bodies and minds to a completely new regimen that ranges from heavy lifting to heavy breathing to heavy cooking is asking too much.
What if you only want to get in a bit better shape? Do you have to give up your momma’s pasta? That seems like a steep price to pay for a few pounds.
Instead, let’s start with just eliminating artificial foods. You knew those were bad for you anyway, and now we are simply asking you to respect your body.
Something For Everyone
A die-hard dieter might argue that pasta (or any other ‘bad’ food) isn’t respecting your body either, but for most people, eating lovingly-prepared home-cooked meals is an expression of self-respect. It is only when we start getting rushed and taking shortcuts that we stop respecting our food and bodies. So I would argue that, if the food is prepared with reverence and love, it is probably healthy for you (this does usually mean food prepared from scratch and high quality ingredients).
The blog Mark’s Daily Apple plays host to a massive community of Primal folk who differentiate themselves from the larger Paleo community by their distinctly more laid back attitude towards health and nutrition. Some dairy is okay on Primal, and 80% compliance is encouraged so that you can keep your sanity in a world that associates cookies and cakes with love. Mark Sisson, the writer of the blog and creator of the Primal Blueprint, has done a lot to bring healthy eating and living to a large population. His prescribed fitness plan is even similar to CrossFit in that it favors varied, full-body movements performed at a high intensity.
The thing about it that appeals to so many is that the Primal Blueprint is adaptable and accepting. So you eat dairy. No big deal. You can still be Primal. Just make sure its raw, fermented dairy from grassfed animals (which means look for the best quality and taste you can find). Have a hankering for something sweet? No problem. Just dig up some raw honey or maple syrup (just don’t go overboard). Just have to have some bread? Fine. Keep it high quality, fermented or sprouted if you can, and use it as a vehicle for olive oil or delicious grassfed butter, and don’t eat it often.
The focus here is on principles of nutrition, not simply on good food and bad food.
All or Nothing
Compare this with the Whole 9 Paleo program, which bans chocolate (even 100% dark chocolate) and grassfed butter. There is no wiggle room, no option for personalization, and no tolerance for excuses. You either follow the plan or you don’t, and if you pick the latter you are wasting your time and the rest of the Paleo community’s.
Having done the Whole 9 program, I know it works. If you want to lose weight fast, there is no better way than to go all out. That said, if you value independent choice, as I do, then you’ll quickly chafe at all the arbitrary restrictions. And if you have no need for perfection, or need some time to warm up to the idea, you’ll drop out.
I think that is the biggest mistake us trainers and coaches make. When someone asks for advice or help starting something, we try to give it all at once. You want to lose weight? Alright you’re going to have to lift heavy weights, sprint once a week until you feel like puking, and go as hard as you can every other day. Oh yeah and totally revamp your diet.
When they balk, we get frustrated or imply that they can’t meet their goals if they aren’t willing to commit.
A better approach I’ve found is to start people off slowly. Never give them more than they can handle at once (in fact, I usually give them much less than they can handle, especially at first). Let them ask for more. Let them be just good enough. When that becomes easy, then make things more intense or more restrictive.
We lose out on a lot of opportunities for new ideas when we only accept 100% compliance with our chosen program, whether that is fitness and nutrition or writing and travel. We also drive away a lot of people who can benefit from 90% compliance, or 80%, or even 70%. Many of these people will see results from the little effort they put in, and then be eager to go all the way. But we shouldn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good and refuse to accept those who can’t or won’t change their entire routine without first getting a bit of assurance it is worth the effort.
- We tend to think our way is the best and only way: In many fitness and diet circles, people will diminish the efforts of those who have different priorities or alternative methods. When we know something works, we tend to question the intelligence of those who don’t also follow it.
- Everyone has different priorities: Bodybuilders want to have large muscles. Powerlifters want to have strong muscles. Literary poets want to use complex rhyme schemes, while songwriters want to make catchy lyrics. If you want to help someone, understand their priorities instead of trying to put your own on them.
- By being too strict, we scare others off: If we demand and only accept 100% compliance, we basically bar entry to the majority of people who might benefit from a lower percentage of compliance.
- We do better to lower entry barriers and increase early rewards to encourage increased participation: If we allow people to get involved for very cheap, and show them how little work they need to do to see results, they will naturally want to get more involved.
- People can benefit from partial compliance: Just because the most effective way is to do things 100%, that doesn’t mean that other people, who may have lower expectations or aspirations, cannot benefit significantly from 90%, 80% or lower compliance.