Ted Talks: Is it time to ditch the workout tips?

By Ted Spiker

In my role as a health writer, I’ve read, researched, and/or written hundreds—maybe thousands—of wellness tips. Do this. Do that. Don’t do this. Don’t, for the love of guacamole, ever eat 11 mashed avocados in 43 seconds!

Tricks. Strategies. Actions. Hacks. They’re the steps you can take to improve your health. When they come
from well-meaning and well- informed sources, these tips can lay the foundation for behavior change, give you ideas for small things you can do to alter your biology, and help you control your health destiny. They can and do help.

But I need another tip like I need another roll in the throat.

I mean, I feel like I accumulate tips the way I accumulate adipose tissue—it’s been a long life of storage indeed.

And maybe I don’t need any of the other things that come along with those tips, like the Instagrammable mantras or influencer recipes.* Maybe we all put too much emphasis on the fleeting “what to do” information and inspiration. Maybe we need to spend more time on the deep-in-the-gutdrive (you’ll find it right next to the digested enchiladas) that propels us to make decisions, to engage in healthy behaviors, to inspire us to slam off the 6 a.m. snooze button and slide on the sneakers.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching and writing about health motivation. Research has shown us that people who are intrinsically motivated to engage and continue an activity tend to have these three things—autonomy (they have some sense of control over what they do), competence (they have some success doing it), and relatedness (they can connect with others as some part of the process).

Here, I don’t have the space to unpack something as complex and important as the “why” that drives us. I don’t know your “why” and don’t pretend that a fancy app or cool toy can be THE ANSWER! WE’VE BEEN! SEARCHING FOR!

I constantly fight a battle between sweat and sweets, and that’s the tension that tortures my “why” even when I know what to do. In the end, I know that one simple idea or instruction can ignite a fire, but the question is and always be: What’s the thing that will keep stoking it?

*Strike that—I dig the easy baked-cheese-and-pickle concoction I saw on TikTok.

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