A “health expert” says:
“Don’t listen to health experts.”
You are the One
by Frank Forencich
Hi! I’m a health expert and I’m going to tell you how to live.
I’m going to tell you how to exercise, what to eat and when to eat it. I’m going to tell you how to succeed in athletic training and how to avoid injury. I’m going to tell you how much water to drink and how much sleep you need to get. I’m going to tell you what supplements to take and what products to buy. And since stress is such an important part of health, I’m even going to tell you what to think about your life and your world.
But what makes me such an omniscient health expert? Well, maybe I’ve read a big stack of books and/or I have a bunch of letters after my name and/or I’ve won some big athletic competitions and/or I have some testimonials from some really famous clients and/or I have a really hot bod and/or I’m just a good talker.
In any case, I’m claiming to know what’s good for your body and your life which, if you think about it, is a truly preposterous claim. After all, I don’t know you and I haven’t done any assessments of your body, your genes or your life. I don’t know your personality, your history or your life goals. I don’t know your biomechanical profile or your biochemistry. And even if I did know all of these things, it would be a outrageous leap to suggest that I could integrate all of that knowledge into a concrete, practical, personalized prescription for a healthy life.
So, why should you listen to me?
Well, perhaps you shouldn’t be listening to health experts at all. Maybe, just maybe, health experts are part of our problem. After all, health experts have been proliferating over the last several decades at just about the same rate as epidemic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, depression and heart disease. If health experts were the solution, we’d all be fit and happy. But we’re not.
In fact, we might even go so far to say that the proliferation of health information, advice and expertise is actually having a negative, disempowering effect on the very people it is supposed to be helping. Intimidated by the apparent complexity of health, fitness, nutrition and training, we balk. Afraid to take matters into our own hands, we give our innate intelligence over to others. Afraid to move our bodies, we hire personal trainers to hold the clipboard and count our reps. Afraid to make our own food choices, we hire nutritionists to tell us what to eat. At every decision point in the modern world, we come to a grinding halt, unwilling to take a chance with our own judgment. Awash in information, study becomes a substitute for authentic action.
Now maybe I’m writing myself out of a job here, but I’m trying to make an important point, which is: You are the ultimate authority on your health and your life. No one knows your body as well as you do. No one knows your life story as well as you do. No one knows your predicament, your stress profile, your passions or your dreams. Your nervous system knows millions of times more about your body than any trainer, physician or computer ever will.
Experts are nice if you’ve got them handy, but they can never be more than advisors. They have experience, knowledge and occasionally well-informed opinions, but ultimately, they’re just as flawed as you and me. They can offer some insight, direct our attention towards better habits and attitudes, but they can never be a substitute for authentic personal risk and engagement.
You are an animal, a fully-capable bipedal primate. Animals just like you have been taking health into their own hands and paws for millions of years. Given half a chance and a decent environment, any self-respecting mammal will find a way to express their vitality, vigor and exuberance. We are wired for beautiful movement. Health is who we are.
So take a chance. Take whatever health knowledge you’ve got and put it into practice.
Be your own scholar, your own expert, your own coach.
Frank Forencich is a columnist in Paleo magizine. He earned a B.A. at Stanford University in human biology and neuroscience, and has been teaching martial art and health education for 30 years.
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