The 10,000-Hour Rule of Health

Photo credit: Peter Koerhuis

Photo credit: Peter Koerhuis

You may have heard the concept that mastery in anything is obtained through 10,000 hours, or 10 years, of practice. This idea gained some traction through Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. What if this idea extended beyond physical skills? What if the poor food and lifestyle choices we make today, tomorrow and the next day are the reasons for health issues in 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

It’s not rocket science. You know you’re not supposed to eat junk food. You know that sugar isn’t the best thing for you. But you justify it by telling yourself that it’s just a little bit. I’ve been good lately, so I deserve it. It’s a tray of brownies here. A pizza there. A bowl of ice cream. A sleeve of Oreos. A little this day. A little that day. But all of those bites, gulps, nibbles and sips add up.

That bowl of ice cream today may not seem like much, and by itself it’s not. But you have to look at these sorts of things as an accumulation over time. It’s not that isolated slice of cake you have to watch out for. It’s the 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000th slice that gives you diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer. If you want to achieve mastery in largely preventable health issues it will probably take 10,000 meals, or 10 years, of crappy food and sugary drinks.

And maybe 10,000 meals is a lowball estimate. Maybe it’s 20,000 or 30,000. It shouldn’t surprise you if after 30 years of eating highly processed foods filled with chemicals that you developed some sort of serious health condition. I’m not saying that you can never have any fun and treat yo self. But you have to look at it all from a short and long-term perspective. The foods you eat affect your genes in real time. This isn’t science fiction. The bad choices you make today not only affect you down the road, but can also affect your kids and your grandkids. Drink that in for a second.

I want to get the most out of my years and actually live, not just be alive. The point is that you need to make more good decisions than bad ones. You may be able to out-train a crappy diet, but you can’t out-live one. It all catches up with you eventually.

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