The first wealth is health

5 minute read

If you want to persuade someone that something is inherently good, you first have to help them understand it. And imparting understanding can be quite a challenge given the complex and emotive nature of some topics.

This is why I love the art of of analogy.

Analogies and metaphors work by harnessing the power of comparison and similarity to make complex problems and concepts inherently more approachable. They essentially help someone get to that “ah ha” moment without having to fully understand the scope of the original problem.

A few years back, Arnold Schwarzenegger harnessed the power of analogy to try and get people aligned on the problems of global warming and climate change. Titled I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change, the article distilled the problem down to this:

“There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I’m guessing you chose Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door Number One is a fatal choice — who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

This is the choice the world is making right now.”

In this way, the controversial aspects of climate change [are there really any left?] were essentially sidelined by making the outcome of exposure to fossil fuel emissions a matter of personal life or death!

Talk about breaking down a complex concept! Oh, and a double fist-bump for the baller headline.

The best analogy for health and fitness?

Bringing this around to health and fitness, one of the biggest challenges coaches have with clients and diet is getting them to understand how small, incremental changes can add-up to make a huge difference to overall body composition. People also seem to think that weeks (or even months) of progress will instantly unravel on the back of a single episode of indulgence.

One of the best analogies I’ve found to help educate clients on these concepts is that of a health savings account. In this model of analogy we “invest” through exercise, diet, sleep and recovery, and “spend” through planned (and unplanned) bouts of downtime, indulgence, stress or sickness.

This analogy unfolds in a number of different ways depending on the core principle the coach is trying to emphasize.

Save a little every day

For the notion of incremental progress, the emphasis revolves around saving or depositing small sums of money on a regular basis.

Here, most people understand that saving a few dollars or pennies a day is not much of an investment in it’s own right. It might even seem pointless when each is viewed in isolation as a single transaction.

But we also seem to accept that over time these small sums add-up fast. And that months and years down the line, we could have a sizable amount saved toward potential “health expenses”.

So while one workout, one whole-food meal or one early night does not immediately equate to long-term health, the longer we invest in our future self, the greater our resilience to life’s inevitable challenges.

Let your savings grow

For added impact, we could use the analogy of daily compounding interest–the notion that the cumulative effect of these small investments is significantly increased over time. That the longer we invest, the greater the returns. The sort of returns you can only see if you are thinking and behaving for the long-term.

To make this more concrete, what kind of person will you be once you’ve completed 100 workouts? Eaten minimally processed foods for 90 days? Consistently gone to bed on time month after month? This level of consistency and follow-through has a compounding effect that permeates throughout all areas of your life.

Don’t fret one-off expenses

So what about that upcoming work trip or unplanned indulgence unraveling weeks of diligent exercise and healthful eating? Given this “health savings” analogy, it certainly seems much more unlikely when we think of this as an isolated withdrawal against our savings. In fact, if we’ve been saving regularly for a long time we can likely cover quite a few expenses without running out of money.

This is why you don’t lose all your gains when you’ve missed a couple of workouts. It’s also why you don’t get fat from a single indulgence. If we’ve been training hard and eating well for many weeks, we can easily ride-out these inevitable disruptions.

But don’t go overdrawn

But the same analogy also helps to emphasize the material cost of inconsistency with our saving. If we make infrequent or undersized deposits to our “health account”, how can we expect to cover the bills when they start to roll in? And if enough bills flood-in all at once, we could drain our account dry or even go overdrawn.

The great Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“The first wealth is health”

So keep your health savings account growing by:

  • Striving for consistency with your workouts
  • Eating widely from minimally-processed whole foods
  • Monitoring and regulating alcohol intake
  • Staying optimally hydrated
  • Ensuring adequate sleep and maintaining a regular sleep pattern
  • Minimizing stress and setting aside time to socialize with family and friends

To your health!


Constantly going overdrawn? Worried you’re not saving enough for a healthy future? Get in touch and we’ll talk about an investment strategy that will set you up for success!

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