Fitness and nutrition are not a zero-sum game

zero-sum chess

Fitness and nutrition are not a zero-sum game.

Years ago, I made a decision to prioritize my health, fitness, and nutrition, aiming to integrate them more fully into my life. During that time, I held a “zero-sum” mindset.⁣

Zero-sum thinking is when we assume one person’s gain equals another person’s loss, or vice versa. We often fall into this trap when deciding to make health and fitness changes. ⁣

Examples of zero-sum thinking I had related to exercise, nutrition, self-care, and mental health:⁣

🏋️ Exercise: If I don’t exercise for a certain amount of time each day, I won’t see any benefits. If I take a day off from exercise, it will be at the expense of my progress and fitness goals.⁣

🥦 Nutrition: In order to be healthy, I must completely eliminate all “unhealthy” foods from my diet. If I eat a dessert or indulgent meal, it will be at the expense of my overall health.⁣

❤️ Self-care: In order to take care of myself, I must sacrifice time and energy I would otherwise use to help others. I thought that if they take time for me, it will be at the expense of my relationships and responsibilities.⁣

🧘 Mental health: If I take medication or seek therapy for mental health, I am weak and unable to handle problems on my own. If I admit to needing help, it will be at the expense of my independence and self-sufficiency.⁣

In each of these examples, I was operating under the assumption that there is a finite amount of resources (time, energy, willpower, etc.) and that any diversion from my “ideal” approach will lead to a net loss. ⁣

In reality, there are often multiple ways to achieve goals and take care of oneself, and it’s important to take an approach that acknowledges and addresses different needs and priorities.⁣

Fitness and nutrition are not a zero-sum game.

Are there certain tradeoffs we may have to make? Yes, but they’re often not as extreme as we believe.


Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash