What do you believe but cannot prove? What is your dangerous idea? What are you optimistic about?
These intriguing questions are the subjects of books whose author, John Brockman, challenges our thinking about almost everything. Each is a collection of essays from some of the smartest people on the planet. When exposed to the innovative thinking in the essays, I remind myself that ideas once considered radical, even heretical, in one century are widely accepted in the next. If nothing else, reading the essays stretches my imagination.
So what’s my dangerously radical idea?
My idea is that just as obesity is contagious, so is getting and staying fit. Becoming fit can be a fun-filled, lifelong adventure. I cannot prove this idea, although I can offer evidence in support of it.
When I chronicled my own fitness and weight-loss efforts and told the stories of others who had undertaken similar efforts, residents in our small community took notice.
When I issued an invitation in the local newspaper to join a weight-loss program, over 1,000 people showed up. Each week attendance grew, until we had over 200 teams. We lost nearly 4 tons in 8 weeks. From my perspective, that phenomenon demonstrated the truth of my idea.
Our local experiment triggered the next question: Will this idea spread? The increasing number of community weight-loss programs springing up across the country is a good sign.
According to an article by Michael Shermer in the September 2007 issue of Scientific American, several elements are needed for a movement or an idea to gain acceptance:
The idea takes a stand for something, not against something, and is based on a positive assertion.
The idea uses an intelligent, rational approach to tackle myths and raises consciousness and awareness.
The idea embraces the uniqueness of self and others, and it requires us to respect each other.
The idea encourages exploration, experimentation and a sense of adventure.
If I look at my idea for these characteristics, I think it passes the test.
First, my idea does not argue against obesity, poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles; rather, it asserts that getting fit can be fun, educational and enjoyable.
Second, my idea challenges the myth that losing weight involves dieting, deprivation and boring exercise—all requiring heroic amounts of willpower and discipline. It also challenges the myth that weight is inevitably regained. Instead, my idea is based on rational decisions about what and how much healthy, satisfying food to eat each day and how many hours to devote each week to fun-filled exercise.
Third, my idea acknowledges that the path to fitness is unique for every person, depending upon his or her age, size and time of life. Given that “one size does not fit all,” my idea requires respect for others’ choices.
And fourth, my idea asserts that the pursuit of fitness involves exploring new foods, experimenting with different exercises and learning new, healthful habits. The journey to fitness is a personal adventure.
Is my idea taking hold? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I’m having lots of fun promoting fitness and hope that more people will adopt the radical idea that getting fit is contagious and fun! (539)
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Dubbed “An Apostle for Fitness” by the Wall Street Journal, Carole Carson is the author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, which chronicles her own 62-pound weight loss and the Nevada County Meltdown. Visit www.fromfat2fit.com for more information.