Abby normal

I’m always studying why we Americans eat so astonishingly bad. What on earth keeps us committing suicide by fork? I’ve come up with about 9 major reasons so far, and one of them is a massive and deadly confusion about what’s "normal.” To wit:

I had this client some years back. We’ll call her Nancy, on accounta that being her name and all. Anyway, Nancy had been retired for almost a decade when she came to see me. She wanted to learn to eat better to lose a stubborn thirty pounds, something her doctor had encouraged her to do. Nancy also told me that she had high blood pressure, aching joints when she woke up—especially in her hands—and osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. Sometimes she suffered from a little indigestion, headaches and heartburn. All kinds of stuff. The usual suspects.

Over the course of our first discussion, Nancy revealed she had one of the nastiest little myths you can carry around with you, and it’s a belief that’s epidemic in this country. She believed that her ailments were “normal.” After all, every one of her friends had a list of health challenges just like hers. Our country is so plagued with poor health that most Americans have come to see chronic degenerative diseases (and a thousand other “minor complaints”) as normal. And the constant bombardment of pharmaceutical ads only drives the message deeper into our minds.

Headaches, indigestion, heartburn, fatigue, hypothyroid, hemorrhoids, aching joints, high blood pressure, constipation, IBS, gum disease—all normal as can be. They just "happen." Business as usual. Nothing to see here, folks, move along. Diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer—these are things we should all expect. Yippee!

There’s a funny way in which we even regard being overweight as normal. Yes, we say that obesity is caused by how we eat and by not exercising. But there’s an odd sense we have here in America that our body is always somehow “trying” to get fat. That’s why most people think they’re supposed to go through all sorts of struggles, their whole lives, to stop that from happening; to engage in the constant uphill battle to stave it off. It’s a very strange belief when you think about it. And it is big-time outer space silliness. When you eat clean, pure, whole food, with lots of raw plant food (fruits & veggies; nuts & seeds) you can eat virtually as much as you want, never counting or measuring anything, and remain always lithe and radiant.

Why? Because human beings are made for perfect health. All around the globe there have been cultures who show us this. These are peoples I’ve mentioned on this blog before, like the Hunzas of Northern Pakistan, the Vilcabambans of Ecuador, the Abkhasians or Georgians of Eastern Europe and many others. Chronic degenerative diseases—even dental cavities—were, at one time virtually unknown to these peoples. Before they became “modernized,” like us, illness of any kind was all but nonexistent. They were strong and vital and sharp into their hundreds! You can find photos of the Hunzas in their 90’s and even hundreds playing volleyball! These people aren’t mythical. They’ve been studied a lot and the conclusion is unavoidable: vibrant, dynamic health, including effortless slimness, is normal for us homo sapien types. It’s just how we’re made. It’s how you are made. I know it sounds odd, but you really have to work to get ill and overweight.

Here in the U.S. we’ve had many examples of this kind of health. These are people like nutritional pioneer Norman Walker who died at age 97. He drowned while doing one of his favorite activities: surfing. Or Paul Bragg, who, after his daily gardening work took his regular afternoon nap and died peacefully in his sleep. He was about 120 years old. Or Jack La Lane, who at age 95 is an incredible dynamo, lecturing around the world and working out two hours a day. There are countless examples like these. They are not the flukes or anomalies. They are examples of our true normal; the massive super-health we are structurally designed for. All we have to do is stop obstructing it, and a diet of fresh, whole, nutrient dense foods is the foundation and centerpiece of it all (exercise and happy emotions are key, too).

Super Healthy Eating With Zero Inspiration

The Myth From Hell
There is a popular myth that lifestyle change—eating clean, a new exercise program, quitting smoking, cutting down on your bank robbery habit, whatever—comes from feeling inspired or “motivated.” Hence, when people “fall off the wagon” of their new whatever-it-is, they say things like, “I just couldn’t stay motivated.”

There Is No Viagra For Inspiration
They may try to huff and puff to keep their motivation pumped up, listening to inspirational speakers, pasting affirmations up around their house (which invariably end up looking depressing and forlorn after a few weeks), all the usual suspects by which people try to “hype themselves” into sticking with some new program.

But the truth goes like this: The only reason loss of inspiration is an issue is because we make it one. It's just some bad education that's become a habit. It's superstition, really: a self-fulfilling prophecy. A sort of spell we're under. We think lack of inspiration is the death knell, and so it becomes. We have linked the two, like Pavlov’s dogs linking the bell and the food.

The Mighty Super Power of Indifference
One group of people who typically don’t make this mistake are professional creators. The artists, inventors, composers. They’ve learned a simple but powerful art: the art of not giving a damn what their fickle emotions are up to. Robert Fritz is an author and thought leader who’s spent his life studying and teaching about this stuff (I’ve studied with him and used his concepts in my nutritional coaching work for years).

According to Fritz, consummate creators are indifferent to whether they feel “inspired” or not. It’s simply not a relevant issue to them. Instead, they draw on something quite different, something Fritz calls Structural Tension. He says that Structural Tension is the singular essence of the creative process, whether you’re creating a painting or a super-healthy eating lifestyle. Structural Tension is made up of two things.

Structural Tension 101
First: Acute awareness of your current reality (i.e. “I eat fresh veggies 3 to 5 times per week, I eat refined flour products X times per week, I have such and such health issues, fatigue, headaches…” and so on).

Second: A vision of what you choose to create. A result or outcome (i.e. a radiantly healthy diet, vibrant health, boundless energy, no chronic degenerative issues at all, youthful appearance, slim, lithe, whatever). The point of the vision is not to “inspire you,” to manipulate your emotions or anything else. It’s just to guide and direct your actions.

Between these two—your awareness of your current reality and your vision of your creation—you will feel a tension, a disharmony, a dissonance that seems to compel resolution. It’s a little uncomfortable. That is Structural Tension. Creators simply know how to stay in that tension, to tolerate it. To use it. Most people, however, spend their time getting OUT of that tension. They do that either by watering down their awareness of current reality (denial, minimizing, kidding themselves) or by watering down their vision (compromising). Either one will reduce the discomfort of Structural Tension. But, if you don’t water down either; if you instead STAY in the dissonance of Structural Tension, it MUST resolve in the direction of your creation. How cool is that?

Willpower & Self-Discipline Suck
People (such as the creators Fritz talks about) who have learned this, look, to you and me, like people who simply have some steely magical gift called “willpower” or “self-discipline.” But it’s really just that they’ve learned to rely on Structural Tension instead of emotional motivation or inspiration. Willpower and self-discipline are when someone just grits their teeth, sets their jaw, hardens their resolve and makes themselves do stuff they don’t wanna do. Structural Tension is much easier and more natural. You’re just plugging into the Way of Things! It’s like going along with a strong current in the water and steering it the way you want.

Willpower and self-discipline are what people use to “solve problems.” Structural Tension is what creators use to bring something cool into existence. They don’t bully their way through the obstacles or resistances . They just don’t pay a ton of energy and attention to them. Instead of “making themselves do stuff they don’t want,” they’re doing stuff they do want, because they’re operating from a deeper, more dynamic and resilient kind of wanting. It’s the kind of wanting that is unique to the creative orientation. It’s more playful, agile and artful.

Start Making Cool Stuff (Including New Lifestyle Changes)
We can make that same shift. Anyone can learn it. Usually it’s simply that nobody’s ever told us that, when we notice our inspiration is gone, we can just shrug and continue creating whatever it is we’re creating. We just have an old, dumbass habit of thinking that feeling unmotivated is a problem. Like I said, it’s superstition.

Once you start to get the hang of this way of doing things, using Structural Tension, you get better and better at it. You get stronger with practice. It develops, like a muscle. The muscle is indifference to the “weather patterns” of your emotions, and focusing, instead, on Structural Tension (current reality plus the vision or outcome you’re choosing to create). This is what Robert Fritz calls the path of least resistance (it's also the title of his first book—it rocks!). I highly recommend using it in every area of your life, including transforming how you eat.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these ideas! Do you tend to think a loss of inspiration is a problem? Or do you tend naturally toward this creative orientation? Do let me know!