“First of all come great dreams, then a feeling of laziness, and finally a witty or clever excuse for remaining in bed.” – Kierkegaard
A few years ago, I interviewed Pamela Peeke for a U.S. News piece about exercise. I’ll never forget our conversation. She had a husky voice and swore like a trucker, and I liked her instantly.
While the current mood of health advice is tender — we acknowledge that exercising and eating healthy are hard and “every little bit counts” — Peeke’s advice is to pull your head out of your ass and save your life.
Getting healthy “isn’t just to fit in your skinny jeans or run a 5K,” Dr. Peeke said during our call. “Let’s get down to the brass tacks: if the building was burning, could you get out?”
Peeke once hosted a Discovery miniseries called Could You Survive?, where average Americans were faced with “wild ass obstacles” (her wording) like scrambling up a rooftop to escape a simulated fire. All “died.”
Despite regular attendance at yoga and tango classes, I’m pretty sure I would be among the dead.
“You can’t just kick back and expect to slip-slide through life,” Peeke told me. As we age, “everyone, sedentary or not, will need to get creative” about how we preserve ourselves.
This seems obvious — we know that continual adaptation is the basis of survival. Yet, oddly, most Americans aren’t making much of an effort to survive. In fact, we often spend more time applying our creativity to coming up with reasons to do nothing at all.
Some write off dedicated diet and exercise regimens as a superficial preoccupation with physical appearance.
While I’ve managed (through considerable effort) to see beyond these stereotypes (sometimes), I’m guilty of another prejudice: automatically assuming that all diet and exercise fads are stupid.
But aren’t these just excuses for laziness? Regardless of whether organic foods and CrossFit are a guaranteed golden ticket to health, they’re worth a try. Or at the very least, the possibility that they might be inessential is not a reason to buy food with chemical residues and bury your kettlebells in the garage.