09 Sep Euro Thoughts II
I just counted, and it’s day 62 of my 100 day trip overseas right now. Other than it meaning I am nearing the three-quarter mark, it also means that it’s been 62 days away from consistently high levels of hot water showers, a bed that is large enough for my six foot or so body, and containers of peanut butter that are bigger than my index finger – and that cost a lot less than 5€ too.
You might be asking yourself where am I writing this particular introduction from. No? Well, I’m going to tell you anyway. Currently, I’m on a 9 hour bus trip from the city of Pula in Croatia to Split. Which is also in Croatia.
If you’re wondering what these two cities are like, Google them and be sure to check out the images. For those people that have indeed been to either of these cities, or hell, anywhere along the Adriatic Coast in Croatia, you know the scenery that I am currently viewing.
Considering how close all the countries are across Europe, it is always quite interesting to see how diverse each of them can be landscape-wise, how each of the people living there can vary so much, and how the language they speak can be so different when they’re living so close to one another’s border.
It’s a really long bus trip, but with a 9 hour trip down the winding roads of Croatia’s coastline, it has given me an awesome opportunity to get a lot of work done. I’ve managed to bang out programs for clients back home and online, organize some outlines for some badass projects in the works, read a ton of chapters of my book, and even make a start on planning my “return from Europe 12-week training program” – that will most likely be pretty damn intense after all this gelato and pizza.
On this trip I’ve met a lot of people from all over the world, and it’s always really interesting to me how little amount of really overweight people I have seen on this trip. Even when I have, they always turn out to not be from a European country.
At first I thought it might be due to the foods, but obviously that can’t be the case. And as I’m sure you are all aware of, the food isn’t all that different from our restaurant and takeaway foods either. Except of course, in the France and Italy areas of Europe where it consists mostly of pasta, pizza, fries, baguettes, and a very tasty assortment of pastries and gelato. I even sometimes found it hard to consume one of my all-time favourite food sources (chicken) at restaurants. Typical “protein food” doesn’t seem to be so, well, typical in those two countries. Green vegetables don’t seem to be at high levels of availability either. Which does suck. And even good training facilities, they don’t seem to be too frequently found in Western Europe. Luckily however, in certain places I have been, I have in fact managed to find gyms here and there that do stock more than the usual treadmills, 10kg dumbbells and smith machines.
Sometimes even ones that open up onto canals too.
But it really is apparent that hitting the gym isn’t a typical thing to do over here (yes, super generalized, I know, but confirmed by an Australian-living Norwegian). Even when going to gyms at normal peak-time hours that occur in Australia or America, they have been dead. Perhaps it could be that it’s summer and everyone decides against the gym and opts more for the overcrowded beaches. But one particular run-in (well, he was actually riding a bike) in a park in the middle of my workout, just outside of Gent, Belgium, started to sway my thoughts.
Apart from the memory that I felt like I was on show with all the dog-walkers and newspaper shoppers staring as they made their way past me, the man that stopped and decided to approach me, I remember clearly. His name was Walter, but pronounced Vool-tar, and began speaking to me in Flemish. Of course I, only knowing a handful of Flemish, did the typical tourist thing and said “uhh, English…?”. He, in turn, like a lot of the Dutch, was happy to take up the challenge and practice his English with a fluently skilled English speaker. If I do say so myself.
So after asking the normal “where are you from?” and “why are you in Belgium?” questions, he eventually filled me in with the fact that someone training is not a very common sight to see, and the reason why he had to approach me. “It’s just not a very common thing to see in this part of Europe”, he told me. Which definitely made me think well hey, bravo Australians (again, super generalized, of course), we at least have that habit semi-under control. And, as you all probably can agree on, for many of us, seeing someone working out isn’t something abnormal and definitely not something we would decide to approach them about and in fact question why they are there, and why they are performing chin ups on what looked like to be some sort of very weird Quidditch posts.
So, the food seems to be the same, or in some peoples eyes, possibly worse than back home, they don’t train as much as our possibly more pretentious civilization tends to be, what is going on? Why is it that we can walk down the street, and tend to see over 50% of the people in the high-end of the overweight category? What are we doing so wrong as a society?
It seems too easy to be the answer, but it has to fall towards the simple fact that our lifestyle habits really are so different. Something I have written about before, but something that just increasingly becomes more and more obvious the more I think about it. The common bad and good habits seem to be just like yin and yang. We can’t and don’t have one without the other. And since each yin habit can be viewed as “wrong” or “bad” in one persons eyes (or vice versa), each yang habit can be thought of in the same light too. So when it comes down to it, an individuals perspective of what is “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”, tends to then be reflected in their day-to-day habits.
But how to know, or hell, even verify what a “good” or “bad” habit is? Everyone’s perspective is relative to their own views, opinions and education. And if someone seems to be on a destructive path, it’s not even simply just a matter of telling them what they should or shouldn’t be doing to try and help them off it. Most humans are already stubborn enough, especially when they have been participating in their “good” and “bad” habits for a long period of time. And so what might just seem like a little bit of harmless “help” consisting of saying things like “oh, you shouldn’t be eating meat pies and chips at every meal. It’s bad for you” and “you should go to the gym so you can get fit, bae”, might actually stimulate more of a negative response and spiral them the opposite way.
To a lot of people, it’s already hard enough to add habits into their lives – perhaps even more difficult to subtract them. And rather than what could seem like an attack when trying to help someone, simply providing them with the education and awareness for what each yin or yang habit can result in, is much better to spark a change. After that, the right nudge in the right direction, possibly just consisting of some motivation, can help catapult them to a better way of life.
It’s hard to write a list of what might be good habits, and what might be bad habits in my eyes, but for a lot of the Europeans I have encountered, their (well my perception of) good habits seem to consist of walking or cycling to a lot of their destinations, not eating consistently huge volumes of food at their meals, and perhaps even their love for being outside rather than sitting indoors on their computers all day. One of their bad (again, in my eyes) habits would have to be the high level of chain smokers here. Maybe I just don’t know enough smokers back home, but here it seems to be very prevalent. Perhaps even less frowned upon too. Even now when I’m writing this, I’m watching our tag-team bus drivers smoke what would have to be at least their fifteenth or more cigarette in the space of now just going on our seventh hour of the journey. Loco.
But here’s the thing for these local Europeans: their habits have become so habitual to their way of life, it’s normal. We might see a 10-15 minute walk to work as an inconvenience in Australia and that we don’t have time for it, whereas it’s quite a normal task for people in the places I have visited – especially in Venezia, where cars and bikes are literally non-existent.
Although, simply adding such a simple habit, like walking to work or the shops for instance, into our lives isn’t always the answer for putting us on the path to where we want to be. Sometimes it takes more than that. And it could in fact be better to quit some old habits that can possibly be holding us back from reaching new potentials. Quitting those old habits that could be keeping us from getting on track with our goals could put us on track faster than adding new ones. And if you think about it, I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about. Simple habits like eating a sixth dessert for the week, putting off a training session because it’s too cold outside, or replacing getting outside and breathing some of that fresh air with those 5 hours of Family Guy.
There’s only so long we can go with putting ourselves consistently through bad habits without repercussions. But luckily, the good thing about us strangely complicated human beings, is that our brain is complex enough to be aware of what is happening at any exact moment. Even you, reading this very sentence right now, are aware that I am talking about you being aware of this sentence. Weird, right? But also very cool. So cool in fact, that that means you’re able to start putting in the motions to make some changes in our life before you even finish reading this article.
Another cool thing about us humans is the fact that once we start achieving certain things in life, we start wanting more. We start to raise the bar higher and higher each time we reach milestones. So much so, that we eventually look back at what we had first thought of as an achievement, but in the end, merely more of just a stepping stone towards what we’re working for now.
What we tend to find is that each time we create a bar to reach, habits that are holding us back from reaching the next level start to fall away, and habits that are required to reach it start to fall into place. And so what initially started out as a “task”, becomes more and more life-friendly. More and more possible to integrate into our lives fluidly. And so of course it can feel like millions of miles away when we’re starting out on a journey, but breaking the whole thing down into smaller bite-sized goals can be a lot more rewarding and achievable in the long term.
Let me ask you a quick question: have you ever heard someone say something along the lines of “I fell off the bandwagon”? All too often I hear these sorts of things. The big problem with people trying to do too much at once, restrict so much, change their life so dramatically when attempting to change their life, that “falling off” becomes such an easy feat to accomplish. The hundreds of diets and quick-fix programs out there that we see on infomercials, being sold in gyms and advertised by trainers is the wrong way of going about helping people in the long run develop proper life-long habits. Reward in the form of cheat days or binge-drinking parties at the end of 30, 60 or 90 day challenges, is not creating an overall healthy outlook on ticking off goals. Even giving people a huge challenge of “before summer, who can lose the most weight??!!” can possibly be, in the long run, setting them up for complete failure.
Instead, creating and integrating small and simple habits, taking away or even minimizing typically known bad habits can always seem to be a lot better way of going about reaching the highly sought after healthy and happy lifestyle. Simply giving ourselves some time out of our day to just think about where we want to be, what we want from life, and how we’re going to get there, is enough of a start to change our mind and our way of life from the inside out.
So here’s a good challenge for you right now: think about one or two of your “bad” habits that are stopping you from achieving more in life. Don’t have any? That’s cool. Think about one or two “good” habits that you could start to do to get you there quicker. Still don’t have any? Really think about it. Like I said a few paragraphs ago, one thing we humans all hold inside us is the drive to always reach better heights once we start aiming for things. So once we start to aim for things and start to in fact reach them, our desire to reach even higher becomes more and more prevalent.
And now, as my bus gets closer to our destination of Split, and with more than enough minutes left on this ride to put some energy towards what I’m going to aim for when I return to Australia, I say bring on the next 38 days of inconsistently high levels of cold water showers, bunk beds that squeak and move when the person above you simply scratches theirselves, and copious amounts of overpriced tiny peanut butter jars.